Emory Report
April 11, 2005
Volume 58, Number 26


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April 11, 2005
Schiavo case highlights needs for ethical health care management

BY kathi baker

With the Terri Schiavo case providing a vivid and tragic backdrop, health care professionals from Georgia and beyond are preparing for a two-day conference April 13–14 in which they will discuss how to make ethical decisions in the face of thorny medical, legal and moral dilemmas.

Participants in the conference, titled “Managing Conflict Ethically: Collaboration in Bioethics and Health Law,” will include physicians, nurses and pharmacists; hospital chaplains and members of hospital ethics committees; health lawyers; specialists in mediation and dispute resolution; social workers and case managers; and patients, family members and patient advocates.

The conference will explore effective methods for approaching conflicts with high stakes and high emotions, such as the Schiavo case.

“There are many situations in health care in which there is disagreement about how difficult decisions should be made,” said Kathy Kinlaw, acting director of the Center for Ethics and one of the conference organizers. “There is no easy formula you can turn to for a ‘correct’ outcome, but continued assessment of the goals of health care for the patient and a commitment to shared decision making are essential.

“As professional ethicists,” she continued, “we are dedicated to engaging all the important stakeholders—patients, families, physicians, nurses, religious leaders, etc.—and working with them to find the best possible resolution in what is often a complex and tragic situation.”

The conference will include lectures, role-playing exercises, and small-group discussions on such topics as managing competing interests in decision-making, disclosing medical error, the role of apology and forgiveness, family mediation, and understanding diverse cultural values and assumptions.

The keynote address, “Mediating at the End of Life: Protecting the Patient and the Family from Harm,” will be delivered by Nancy Dubler, director of bioethics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

The conference will be held at the Holiday Inn Select in Decatur. It is being planned by the Health Care Ethics Consortium of Georgia, Emory Center for Ethics and the Georgia State Center for Law, Health & Society. For more information or to register, visit www.hcecg.org or call 404-727-1476.