With the Terri Schiavo case providing a vivid and tragic backdrop, healthcare professionals from Georgia and beyond are preparing for a two-day conference April 13-14 in which they will discuss how to make ethical decisions in the face of thorny medical, legal, and moral dilemmas.
Participants in the conference entitled "Managing Conflict Ethically: Collaboration in Bioethics and Health Law," will include physicians, nurses and pharmacists; hospital chaplains and members of hospital ethics committees; health lawyers; specialists in mediation and dispute resolution; social workers and case managers; and patients, family members and patient advocates.
The conference will explore effective methods for approaching conflicts with high stakes and high emotions, such as the Terri Schiavo case in which a Florida woman in a "persistent vegetative state" has been disconnected from food and water, even as her parents try to find a judge or legislature who will override her husband's end-of-life decision-making and restore her nutrition.
"There are many situations in health care in which there is disagreement about how difficult decisions should be made. There is no easy 'formula' you can turn to for a 'correct' outcome, but continued assessment of the goals of healthcare for the patient and a commitment to shared decision making are essential," says Kathy Kinlaw, M.Div., acting director of the Emory University Center for Ethics and one of the conference organizers. "As professional ethicists, we are dedicated to engaging all the important stakeholders -- patients, families, physicians, nurses, religious leaders, etc. -- and working with them to find the best possible resolution in what is often a complex and tragic situation."
The conference will include lectures, role-playing exercises, and small-group discussions on such topics as managing competing interests in decision-making, disclosing medical error, the role of apology and forgiveness, family mediation, and understanding diverse cultural values and assumptions.
A keynote address on "Mediating at the End of Life: Protecting the Patient and the Family from Harm" will be delivered by Nancy Dubler, LLB, Director of the Division of Bioethics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
The conference will be held at the Holiday Inn Select in Decatur. It is being planned by the Health Care Ethics Consortium of Georgia, Emory Center for Ethics and the Georgia State University Center for Law, Health & Society. Sponsors include Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory Healthcare, the Georgia Hospital Association, Institute of Continuing Legal Education in Georgia, Kennesaw State University Center for Conflict Management, Memorial Health University Medical Center, and the Health Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia.
For information on conference registration, please see www.hcecg.org or call 404-727-1476.