Bioethics: Questions Nobody Wants to Ask

Jacob Appel
Jacob Appel
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Jacob Appel is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Education, and Director of Ethics Education in Psychiatry, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. A bioethicist, physician, lawyer, author and social critic, he is best known for his short stories, his work as a playwright, and his writing in the fields of reproductive ethics, organ donation, neuroethics and euthanasia. Appel’s novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the Dundee International Book Prize in 2012. He has taught medical ethics at New York University, Columbia University, and Brown University’s Alpert Medical School.

Overview

Medical Ethical Questions, Dilemmas & Issues

The same medical technologies that have brought us miracle drugs and unprecedented longevity are also forcing us to confront increasingly difficult ethical dilemmas. Should taxpayers spend several million dollars to prolong one patient’s life for one month? Can genes be patented? How ought judges respond when doctors and family members disagree on the very definition of death? May a seventeen-year-old boy refuse to give a life-saving bone marrow transplant to his fifteen-year-old cousin? Thirty years ago, debates in medical ethics focused on the same questions that had once puzzled Hippocrates and Galen many centuries earlier. When does life begin? When may confidentiality be broken? Must a physician help a stranger in need?

Ethical Issues In Modern Medicine

Today, most challenges in bioethics arise from two relatively novel sets of issues: 1.) conflicts over scarce healthcare resources and 2.) the desire of philosophical and religious minorities to be opt out of established medical norms. How society ultimately resolves these questions is not simply an abstract matter for debate by philosophers and ethicists. Rather, the outcome of these controversies is likely to affect each and every one of us when we or our loved ones become ill. This lecture will examine some paradigmatic recent cases in the field of bioethics and will offer students a framework for analyzing future cases on their own.

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