Monday, March 22, 2004

19th Annual Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference

The 19th Annual Philip and Doris Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference, which from its inception has been directed by Center Director David Solomon, was held March 19-21, 2004 at Notre Dame's Center for Continuing Education. Bringing together a prestigious line-up of philosophers, theologians and legal scholars with a core group of Notre Dame students and alumni working in the field of health care, the conference explored a variety of issues ranging from the Terri Schindler Schiavo feeding-tube case in Florida to the complexities of recent attempts at Medicare reform.

Among the conference highlights was the annual J. Philip Clarke Family Lecture on Medical Ethics, delivered on Friday afternoon by Ruiping Fan, BM, PhD, professor of philosophy at the City University of Hong Kong. Fan's lecture was entitled, Beyond Liberty and Equality: Some Confucian Reflections on the Place of the Family in Healthcare. In his lecture, Fan looked to expose certain limitations in liberal notions of individual autonomy and equality of opportunity as a prelude to a defense of a Confucian notion of the autonomy of the family. The most important moral values, Fan argued, are not individual liberty as self determination or equality of opportunity, but rather the virtues for preserving and promoting bonds for human flourishing, especially in the family.

On Saturday afternoon, Mark Rust, Notre Dame alumnus and a member of the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, delivered another plenary address, taking the conference audience with remarkable clarity through the difficulties and implications of the Medicare reform bill passed in the fall of 2003.

The core of the conference, as always, consisted in small-group discussion of case studies, studies provided by members of the conference audience. This year's discussions focused on various topics of current concern to health care practitioners. The Terri Schindler Schiavo case, taken up on Friday afternoon, raised the thorny issue of the morality of withdrawing artificial means of providing nutrition and hydration. The results of the small-group discussions were then highlighted in plenary discussion with a panel consisting of Fr. James Bresnahan, Joseph Incandela and Gilbert Meilander.

The conference banquet on Saturday evening was a festive affair, with the customary entertainment provided by the Notre Dame Glee Club. The conference concluded with a final session on Sunday morning, where a potpourri of issues were taken up in open discussion by the conference audience, in conjunction with a panel consisting of John Robinson, Margaret Monahan Hogan, Jorge Garcia, Mark Siegler, David Solomon and Tris Engelhardt.

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