Philosophy major Colleen Hanson ’19 received a Summer Research Award in the Humanities and Social Sciences (information on the Summer Research Grants in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is available here). She describes her experience working on her summer research project under the supervision of Prof. Ariela Tubert Department of Philosophy:
My inspiration for this research project came after I read a study called “Ethics Consultation in United States Hospitals: A National Survey” by Ellen Fox, Sarah Myers, and Robert A. Pearlman. The goal of the study was to investigate Ethics Consultation Services in hospitals throughout the United States. In healthcare, ethics consultation services (ECS) are committees of medical experts, social workers, philosophers, legal experts, chaplains, and others who work with patients to ensure their care is supported with the utmost ethical considerations. These committees investigate patient care through critical examinations of ethical principles and moral expectations. Fox et al. found the following information about ethics specific training for ethics consultation providers:
5% completed a fellowship or graduate degree program in bioethics; 41% had formal, direct training by a member of an ECS; 45% had NO formal, direct training by a member of an ECS. These numbers intrigued me, particularly the lack of formal education or training from experienced members of ECSs. Was this an indication that a fellowship or graduate degree program was not as valuable as intuition would suggest? Is it necessary to have a foundation in ethical theory in order to practice ethics consultation?
Given my philosophical background, I wanted to examine these considerations from a philosophical perspective. In particular, my project drew on research regarding the relation of normative ethical theories and applied ethics. To supplement these examinations, I shadowed a Bioethicist at MultiCare Health System and analyzed their policy decision making (specifically lung transplantation in cases of donation after circulatory death) and ethics case assessment. Ultimately, I urged hospital ethics consultation services to maintain a robust, interdisciplinary ethics committee. Furthermore, I emphasized the value of having at least one participant with a formal education in bioethics or a related ethics topic.
Conducting summer research enriched my passion for philosophy and clinical ethics. Not only did I enjoy the philosophical literature and the clinical field work, but I found new ways to be proud of my discipline and my academic pursuits. This project affirmed for me that I chose the right major and that philosophy is integral to every aspect of our lives. Graduation is only a few months away, but I cannot imagine my philosophical endeavors ending there.