Sunday, September 24, 2017

'Bioethics Club'

Who has a keener sense of injustice than the high school student? School teachers know that at this critical time of emotional and intellectual growth, students are often ready to ‘dig in’ to dauntingly complex ethical topics, including those surrounding medicine and health care.

This past year, Aliza Bloostein and Michelle Ryder, two seniors from The Rivers School, a small co-ed independent day school in the Boston suburb of Weston, participated in a pilot ‘Bioethics Club’ program.  The students met weekly with me (a Rivers teacher and Community Ethics Committee member)  to discuss ethical questions arising from such topics as transplantation, vaccination, and medical experimentation. Both busy high school students, neither Aliza nor Michelle was able to fit another course into their packed school schedules, but a weekly club, with a stimulating dose of preparatory reading each week, helped them explore in depth some of the social and moral questions arising from science courses and their science internship experiences. 

With the help of Community Ethics Committee mentors Carol Powers and Paul McLean, Aliza narrowed her research focus to a particular area of personal interest, physicians’ duties to non-compliant patients, while Michelle dived into the wave of current literature on CRISPR gene editing technology. At the end of their year in ‘Bioethics Club’, the students proudly presented their work at the April  meeting of the CEC, receiving warm applause and detailed feedback. Aliza’s and Michelle’s research papers can be found here:

In a separate interdisciplinary course on ethics, other Rivers School students have produced projects designed to engage the wider community in ethical reflection about issues in health care such as concussions, transplantation, opiates, and care for the dying. Some of these student projects can be found here:

We at the Community Ethics Committee hope you find the work of these engaged, creative students as thought provoking as we all did!