After several years of virtual conferences, October 26th-29th 2022 marked the return of an in-person conference for the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH). CUB students and faculty had a robust presence at the 24th annual ASBH meeting in Portland, Oregon. The theme of the conference, Reimagining and Claiming the Role of Public Bioethics and Health Humanities, speaks to the need for practical and novel responses to the health and social injustices in modern America.
2022 marked the largest CUB representation to date at an ASBH! Faculty members Brian Tuohy, Nicolle Strand, Whitney Cabey, Sharon Herring, and Associate Director Nora Jones were represented, as were four current MD/MAUB students: Hannah Calvelli, Olivia Duffield, Shreya Thakur, and Julia Carp.
Supreme Court and Supreme Ethical Failures: Immigration, Bioethics, and the Courts
Hannah Calvelli, Olivia Duffield, and Dr. Brian Tuohy examined two 2022 Supreme Court cases (United States v. Texas and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) to show how legal status affords differential levels of legal rights and social membership for immigrants in the United States, including access to health and education.
Viewing these decisions through a lens of public bioethics highlights the gross ethical violations of society’s most vulnerable populations including the impacts on mental health and decision-making for both immigrants and citizens impacted by these cases.
Food as Medicine During the COVID 19 Pandemic
Julia Carp and Shreya Thakur presented their research (conducted alongside Dr. Sharon Herring and Dr. Brian Tuohy) arguing for the ethical responsibility of health systems to address food inequity and food apartheid amidst a public health crisis. They used CUB’s Farm to Families food distribution program as a model and interviewed 12 long-term clients to show how increasing access to nutritious, low-cost food can support clients’ capacity for health and autonomy.
Teaching to Transgress: Tools for Structural and Interpersonal Change in Medical Education
CUB faculty Dr. Whitney Cabey and Prof. Nicolle Strand (with CUB staff member Erin Marshall, MSS) designed and hosted a panel that explored models of education more amenable to curiosity, radical empathy, and compassion. Noting the ways in which traditional education perpetuates inequities and enacts systems of domination and control, they called for a greater engagement with the ideas of bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress and Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and called for an embrace of transgressive teaching to enable physicians to tap into the humanity of their patients, center lived experiences, and bring their full selves to both teacher-student and doctor-patient relationships. The panel itself was designed to be transgressive in that it incorporated meditation, self check-ins, and small group discussion.
Forgotten People: A Public Bioethics for Immigrants and Patients with Limited English Proficiency
In this panel discussion, Amelia Barwise, Brian Tuohy, and Samantha Chipman highlighted chronic and under-recognized ethical, legal and policy issues faced by immigrant populations. Arguing that immigrant communities, including undocumented immigrants, children living in mixed status families, and those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP’s) have become the nation’s “forgotten people”, the four panelists analyze the role that a public bioethics can play in potentially improving the lives of millions of people in the United States today. Dr. Tuohy described the significance that local context and state policies play on the lives of undocumented immigrants and mixed status families. He places this within the current federal policy context — notably, he points out the tremendous implications that result from the lack of comprehensive federal immigration reform since 1986. He argued that this situation has led to a variety of ethical and policy challenges and problems as decisions about immigrant lives are increasingly being made at state and more local levels. Further, he demonstrated the implications this has across multiple domains of health including unethical healthcare policies that exist throughout the country, economically irrational policies that cause undue societal and healthcare costs, and moral distress that can result for healthcare providers operating within legal, ethical and policy constrained contexts. He concluded his talk with recommendations for healthcare policy reform at both federal and local levels that would ensure equitable access to healthcare throughout the life course for all, regardless of legal status.
Interrogating Solidarity and Reimagining Public Bioethics
Sabrina Derrington led a panel discussion with Nora Jones, Patrick Smith, and Charlene Galarneau on ‘Interrogating Solidarity and Reimagining Public Bioethics.’ At a time when social cohesion and cooperation has been desperately needed to meet the many challenges of a global public health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted deep fragmentations in our society and exacerbated the effects of recalcitrant injustice. Seeing this unfold has left many bioethics and health humanities professionals with unsettled questions: What roles do bioethicists and humanities scholars play in creating and cultivating solidarity? Do the fields of bioethics and health humanities have a shared understanding, a common definition of solidarity, or is there disagreement or confusion about what solidarity means and whether it even ought to be a goal? Are there ways to foster authentic public moral discourse that might help us realize solidarity amidst diverse perspectives, lived experiences, and epistemologies? These questions led the group to this panel and to the critical examination of the concept of solidarity and its utility for public health, social justice, and human flourishing. The panel engaged attendees in thinking critically about different meanings and functions of solidarity, considering opportunities they have to cultivate solidarity as bioethicists and health humanities professionals within their own spheres of influence. Together the group reimagined ways of knowing, relating, and communicating within individual practice, within our profession, in local communities, and in the public at large.