Medical bioethics symposium set at Prindle Institute March 11-13

Friday, March 8, 2013

There are few issues in our society that raise as many complex ethics questions as end-of-life concerns, and DePauw University's Prindle Institute for Ethics will conduct a symposium to explore the ethics issues at the intersection of medicine, public policy and economics.

Citizens from Greencastle, Putnam County and beyond are invited to attend the symposium to join health care professionals, ethicists, journalists and legal scholars in discussion of end-of-life issues.

Two of the nation's premier bioethicists will come to DePauw for the three-day symposium, "Dying in a Democracy: Ethics, Economics, Politics and Policy."

The event, presented as the 2013 Hampton and Esther Boswell Symposium, will take place March 11-13 at the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics, located within the DePauw Nature Park.

"All of us will encounter challenging ethical issues related to end-of-life concerns," notes Bob Steele, director of the Prindle Institute and professor of journalism ethics at DePauw.

"Many of us have gone through it with our parents and other loved ones," he continued. "And, our children and nieces and nephews will be part of those complex conversations in years to come, including helping us make our personal decisions at critical moments.

"The ethics issues are often intertwined with issues of economics and politics and medical science and religion," Steele added, "and our personal decisions are part of a process that can be confusing and, at times, contentious as other stakeholders get involved. We look forward to stimulating, thought-provoking dialogue on these issues and invite all to attend."

How are life and death decisions made? What are the criteria? What about the economics of these decisions? Those are just a few of the questions to be explored in the sessions.

Speakers will include:

-- Robert M. Veatch, professor of medical ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and a professor in the philosophy department at Georgetown University.

One of the pioneers of contemporary medical ethics, Dr. Veatch served as an ethics consultant in the early legal case of Karen Ann Quinlan. His books include "Death, Dying and the Biological Revolution" and "Patient, Heal Thyself: How the 'New' Medicine Puts the Patient in Charge."

-- Art Caplan, the Drs. William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty Professor and head of the division of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Dr. Caplan is also the founding director of the division of medical ethics in the department of population health at NYU. He is the author or editor of 25 books and more than 500 papers in journals of medicine, science, philosophy, bioethics and health policy. He also writes a regular column on bioethics for

Among the other speakers will be journalist Kelley Benham, enterprise editor for the Tampa Bay Times, telling the story of her own experience of making exceptionally difficult medical and ethical decisions related to the premature birth of her daughter.

Benham wrote about the decisions in a three-part series last December. Those stories are available online at

Also participating will be Dr. Gary Wright, ethicist and surgeon at St. Vincent Hospital, and Dr. Ben Rich, University of California, Davis.

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