Medical ethics conference takes on current health issues

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A health care ethics conference in Columbia this week will cover what have become hot topics in health care, such as access to health care and procedures for handling a pandemic.

The 5th Annual Health Ethics Conference 2009 will begin Thursday and will continue through Saturday.

Most events are closed except to those who have preregistered, but a keynote address on Thursday honoring Edmund Pellegrino is open to the public. Pellegrino is chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, and he has authored 24 books and more than 550 published articles, according to the council's Web site.

The keynote will be given at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Reynolds Alumni Center.

Coordinator Travis Dixon said emphasis will be placed on the ethics of health care reform and the allocation of resources, not necessarily advocating for a particular reform.

“It’s not about promoting or not promoting,” he said. “It’s about the ethics.”

Dixon said one purpose of the conference is to heighten awareness of current health issues. He said there will be an update on proposed health care reform that will provide more facts about the present debate.

“It’s really unfortunate that this is such a red flag with people, because there is so much more to it than just what you see on TV,” Dixon said. “Our biggest thing is to inform people onto what this really means on an ethics level.”

The conference audience will contain a wide variety of members of the health community. Doctors, social workers, nurses, chaplains and professors are expected to attend, Dixon said.

“It’s a very diverse group, and the input is going to be tremendous,” he said. “We want everyone to walk out of there with a better understanding and carry that on to their practice, or to their job, or to the people they influence or speak with.”

Previous conferences have focused on ethics of issues like health professions in society, spirituality of health and dying patients.

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