As ethics continue to become increasingly essential in the health professional fields, there has been a movement towards well-rounded, morally-aware health professionals. The MCAT, for instance, has recently taken to including psychology, sociology, and ethics on the exam in an effort to identify morally-aware pre-med students.
Medicine requires an ethical approach to science, health, and humanity, especially as technology and new discoveries create increasingly delicate situations. Whether it be physician-assisted suicide, organ donation, pharmaceutical trials, or stem-cell research, it is impossible to deny how closely interwoven ethics and medicine have become in recent years. One need only to take Dr. Eric Smaw’s Medical Ethics class to become aware of the many issues that plague the health-care system from both an ethical and practical perspective.
Therefore, it is with great anticipation that many students have welcomed the newly formed Medical Ethics Club, here at Rollins. This club was founded by student Kendall Perkins ‘18, with faculty advisor, Dr. Smaw. According to Perkins, the purpose of the club will be to discuss and debate “topics of interest in the medical field through presentations by professors as well as physicians.” During the club’s first meeting on Tuesday, September 27, Biology Professor Dr. Pieczynski presented on the topic of Genome Editing Technologies.
According to Dr. Pieczynski, “[the] lecture concerned the topic of a technique for genome editing called CRISPR-Cas9. Theoretically, you can use this type of technology to edit, remove, or add any DNA to the genome of any organism, including humans… Imagine you have a child that has a genetic disorder such as Type I Diabetes. Hypothetically, using CRISPR-Cas9 we could target the defective alleles causing the Type I Diabetes and fix them before they become a problem for the child. I want to stress that we cannot do this yet, but it is not out of the question to think that it will be possible in future.”
The discussion which followed the lecture focused on how the advancement of technology would affect the Hippocratic Oath, who would have access to such technology, and the different ways in which such technology could be utilized.
Such discussions can open the door for other opportunities and new outlooks. Dr. Pieczynski really enjoyed having the opportunity to present, and said that he would also be willing to give the talk again if another group of students were interested. He “would also be interested in getting some of [his] colleagues from other departments, such as philosophy and religion, to join the discussion as [he] would be really interested in their viewpoint on the material… As with any other new technology, there are major moral and ethical questions associated with it.”
A space in which people can debate relevant issues from the perspectives of various different expertises and experiences has always been viewed as the pillar of a learning environment. After all, the resolution of ethical issues is as relevant to the advancement of health as scientific breakthroughs.
For those who were not able to attend the first Medical Ethics Club discussion, they can look forward to attending the next bi-weekly club meeting.