Puget Sound Students Competed in 2019 National Bioethics Bowl

On April 5–6, students on the Puget Sound Ethics Bowl and their coach, Prof. Tubert, traveled to Mobile, AL to compete in the National Bioethics Bowl at University of South Alabama.

The National Bioethics Bowl is a college-level collaborative presentation and debate about pressing ethical issues in biomedicine and technology. Months prior to the competition, each team receives a case packet containing 15 cases about bioethical dilemmas. Each team conducts research relevant to the individual cases and defend a position using ethical reasoning and argumentation. The bowl entails several rounds of debate. In each round, two teams are given time to present their position and argument for a given case they prepared. Following each presentation, teams have the opportunity to hear and respond to replies from the opposing team. Finally, the teams engage in a Q&A session with judges who included professionals in healthcare, government, and philosophy.

Some of the cases the Puget Sound team presented on were about unrepresented patients, CRISPR babies, and therapeutic misconception.

Students reflected on the value of participating in this bowl:

Liam Grantham ’20: “Debating our positions against another team made us stronger public speakers and improved our ability to act professionally (even when we strongly believe our opponents’ position is flawed)…I would definitely recommend the ethics bowl club to other people who are genuinely interested in ethics as much as we are. It sometimes takes a lot to come to a consensus on some of the cases we were given, but if you are passionate about ethics (doing the right thing), then it is absolutely worth it.” 

Colleen Hanson ’19: “Bioethics bowl is … a necessary space to discuss pressing ethical dilemmas in medicine and biotechnology. There will always be a need for people to critically reflect and make decisions on these issues. Bioethics bowl integrates students and experts from various disciplines and backgrounds, providing a robust and diverse pool of perspectives. As such, I think bioethics bowl is an essential activity not only in the types of skills it develops in students, but in the purpose it serves for the greater bioethics field.”

Simone Moore ’20: “…this experience not only helped us strengthen our rhetorical skills, but challenged us to interrogate and apply the foundational philosophical information that we have gathered through our time at UPS thus far. I feel fortunate that I was able to participate in an event such as this, and I hope that I will be able to do it again…”

Holden Chen ’20: The event was certainly competitive, but at the same time, it was one that prompted a deliberative process that goes beyond itself. We now have familiarity with these timely ethical issues and have acquired the skills and knowledge to develop strong positions, but it doesn’t just stop there for us. The very fact that we were challenged at the competition shows that there’s always more to engage with and consider. The ethical discussions don’t stop, and we as ethicist of the now and of the future have come away from the experience with more appreciation for the process.”

August Malueg ’20: “Ethics bowl has helped me develop strong public speaking skills and has made me more confident in my ability to relate my thoughts to others… In Mobile I had the opportunity to meet students from various universities that traveled to the competition (such as Depauw and Loyola Chicago), as well as locals, who were overwhelmingly hospitable and welcoming. I think it is important to keep ethics bowl active at the university and to continue offering students the chance to travel to compete because it not only helps them in the professional and social sense, but also because they have the opportunity to continue to have novel experiences abroad.” 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_19aTop: Holden Chen ’20, Simone Moore ’20, Professor Ariela Tubert, August Malueg ’20, Liam Grantham ’20 / Bottom: Colleen Hanson ’19

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Colleen Hanson ’19: “A Philosophical Approach to the Standardization of Hospital Ethics Services.” 

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. 

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