Monday, September 23, 2019

Ethical Issues in OB/GYN Inspire Board Service

Sandra Stites, MD
Board Chair, Center for Practical Bioethics
My first exposure to the Center for Practical Bioethics was as a guest at the Annual Dinner event with my husband, who is a physician at the University of Kansas. But it was my experience as an OB/GYN physician that really sparked my desire to get more involved. 
In my practice as an OB/GYN, and especially in OB, ethics comes into play from day one throughout pregnancy. I can remember one of my first patients decades ago, a senior at a local high school, who wasn’t allowed to graduate because she was pregnant. 
And with the growth of technology in medicine we now have sophisticated prenatal testing, which raises questions about what to do with the information, how it’s presented, how it’s perceived and who makes decisions about what happens. Then we get to birth. If delivery is premature or there’s a problem with delivery or birth defects, again, questions arise about how this is handled, perceived and who makes decisions.
Lucky Kansas City
Knowing not only that there is help locally to address those types of situations but also of the Center’s national influence underscores how lucky Kansas City is to have this resource. 
Good friends, such as a former board chair of the Center, Cynthia Spaeth, advised me a few years ago that if I ever went looking for a place to devote my spare time, I should think about volunteering for the Center. 
I joined the Center’s board in 2015, and will soon start my second year as its chair. I can honestly say I have never worked with a governing board with 100% of its members so invested, from so many walks of life and diverse points of view, all of which allows for well-rounded discussion and constructive strategic guidance. People walk up to me and other board members asking how they can be part of this. That’s because of the work of the board and a small staff that works extremely hard.  
Community-Based Bioethics
If asked to name one challenge we face as an organization, I would say funding. Bioethics isn’t a typical funding category. The field’s breadth and complexity, involving multiple disciplines, makes general operating expenses especially difficult to secure. The one or two foundations that focus on bioethics are primarily interested in research, not practical community-based bioethics.
Nevertheless, I have no doubt that, as it has for nearly 36 years, the Center will continue to thrive. I am particularly encouraged by our growing emphasis on earned income through consulting contracts and fee-based agreements, such as the Clinical Ethics Service, offering hospitals support for ethics consultations, ethics committee management, protection of human subjects involved in research, and advance care planning programs. 
It is my honor and privilege to serve, to grow with the Center, and to further its vision to advance the health and dignity of all persons.
- - - - - - 

By Sandra Stites, MD

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Advance Care Planning and the Legacy of Dr. Richard Payne

The African American Advance Care Planning Palliative Care Network is the brainchild of the late Dr. Richard Payne, a man of great honor and distinguished character. I’ll always remember being introduced to him, initially by phone in 2006, when I was working on my Master’s in Social Work. My thesis was on African Americans at the end of life and I wanted to ask Dr. Payne if I could reference his work. He not only said yes but also became a mentor to me. I had the opportunity to work with him on multiple projects. 

Dr. Payne’s exemplary leadership was always balanced with his love for his family and his fellow man. I believe that God graced my life for 12 precious years to work with Dr. Payne and to become friends with him and his devoted wife, Terrie—the love of his life.

Our first Network meeting in Durham was indeed sacred. I learned that the meeting room where we gathered at Duke University’s Divinity School was the same place where Dr. Payne had first spoken on the topic of AA-ACP. We felt an air of peace and solidarity of mind for the work at hand—the right place, the right time, and for the right reason. Sacred indeed.

I believe I speak for us all in the Network when I say that we are committed to advancing equitable healthcare and service delivery to the most vulnerable persons in our society. I am honored to be a part of that mission. As we move forward in furthering the work of the AA-ACPN, we also continue the monumental legacy of Dr. Payne’s incredible lifework and vision.

Advance Care Planning & Health Living Through Faith
African American Advance Care Planning Palliative Care Network member

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 5, 2019

Walking Humbly with a Sacred Mission

When our colleague and mentor, Dr. Richard Payne, died suddenly in January 2019 following a short but aggressive illness, we gathered in Kansas City in April to celebrate his life and to explore how we might continue his legacy work in advance care planning with African American faith communities. 

Richard had an idea of establishing a network of leaders, believers, doers, mentors and healers – ministers of the body and physicians of the soul – to bring this sacred work to fruition. We knew his death meant that without his physical presence, we had to capture his essence in another way. So, we invited the most dedicated, brilliant, innovative and inspirational group of leaders we could find already at work in this space, often inspired and encouraged by Dr. Payne’s life and work. We asked them to join us at the end of July and first of August in a gathering at Duke Divinity School – if not in person, then virtually.  Nearly everyone in the room and online had been profoundly touched and nurtured by Dr. Payne in our work as ministers and pastors, social workers and community advocates, physicians and researchers, nurses and ethicists. They all said yes and many added, “Amen.”

Terrie Payne opened our meeting asking us to determine how we would act on the conviction about her Richie’s life that called us to chart the next steps of this journey.  And so, we began. Rolling up our sleeves, we got to work.

CPB’s role as convener was to facilitate and unleash the energy and imagination of one of the most powerful group of leaders ever assembled to discern this unchartered, and as yet incomplete, journey.

Our work will require investigating and recalling dozens of efforts and myriad resources spanning decades of work while re-creating new approaches and tools. We will discern the leadership and evolving network to carry this work deeper into our communities and beyond. This will be Rich’s legacy and it will become ours. Stay tuned and join in the journey.

Pictured below are those who were with us in person on Day 2. In addition, we were joined online by Yvonne Delk, Chris Brady, Lauren Van Scoy and Vivian Anugwom. 

From left to right on the Back Row:
Kimberly Johnson, Patrick Smith, Janice Bell, Cindy Leyland, Cynthia Carter Perilliatt, Marisette Hasan, Tammie Quest, Julie Boudreau, Corey Kennard, Harriet Holloway, Diane Deese, Ronit Elk

Front Row:   
Gloria Ramsey, John Carney, Karen Bullock, Toya Booth, Gloria Anderson, Terrie Payne, Gloria White-Hammond, Pamela Witt

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Film Series: Frankenstein Asks Us to Ponder What Is Monstrous

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus. The 1931 Universal Studios’ film adaptation of Frankenstein brought Shelly’s story to a mass audience. The mad Dr. Frankenstein, consumed with the desire to discover and control the secret of life, and the Monster he created have shaped our cultural narrative around the tension between science and technology and nature and the divine ever since.

Frankenstein typifies our perennial worries about the dangers of human hubris in pursuit of scientific knowledge and control over the natural world. In the film, when Dr. Frankenstein sees the first twitching movements of his creation, he exclaims “It’s alive! In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!” In this pivotal scene, we find Dr. Frankenstein not only marveling at his creative power, but implicitly declaring that artificial life will inevitably be monstrous because it lacks the sacred touch of the (truly) divine. With each new advance in technology, like reproductive technologies from IVF to gene editing, there are those who worry that humanity is overstepping the natural bounds of our domain.

The film raises additional interesting questions. Dr. Frankenstein unknowingly inserts the abnormal brain of a criminal into the patchwork body he has created. Before discovering this mistake, he is confident in his experiment. After it is revealed, he too becomes horrified by his creation.

The film also introduces Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant Fritz who has a physical disability, a hunchback. (Universal Studios’ Rule #4 for horror films requires a secondary character of weird appearance.) Fritz torments the Monster, terrorizing him with a lighted torch. The film version of the Monster is not just scary but scared himself.

Is Frankenstein’s creation monstrous because he is unnatural or because of his damaged brain or because he is abused and unloved? Were the outcomes determined by the very act of crossing sacred boundaries or only by the subsequent failure to engage with human artifice in ways that honor everyday human values?  In the tradition of all great literature and film, Frankenstein does not neatly answer these timeless but ever more urgent questions. We, the audience, must wrestle with them ourselves and with each other.

Written by Leslie Ann McNolty, DPS, Program Associate with the Center for Practical Bioethics

- - - - - - -

Bioethics Film Series

From reproduction to end of life, bioethical issues affect all of us. What better and more fun way to think about them than film? 

The Center for Practical Bioethics is thrilled to partner with the Tivoli Cinema in Kansas City to present the Bioethics Film Series featuring three iconic films. 

Following screenings at 7:00 pm, Center staff will lead discussion of each film’s major themes. Tickets may be purchased from the Tivoli in advance or at the door (Adults $9, Students $7)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Tivoli Cinemas 

4050 Pennsylvania 

Kansas City, MO 64111

Labels: , ,