Monday, August 3, 2015

Tuesdays With Rosemary and Myra

Virtually everyone is familiar with Mitch Albom’s book, Tuesdays With Morrie. Myra Christopher and Rosemary Flanigan have decided to regularly contribute to the Center for Practical Bioethics’ blog and call it “Tuesdays with Rosemary and Myra” (even though it won’t necessarily be published on a Tuesday). The words will come from Myra’s pen (actually her computer), but the writing will happen together.

Why We Are Blogging

For several years before her retirement, Rosemary facilitated an online discussion group, primarily for ethics committee members, which had a faithful following. We hope some who participated and others will read our blog posts and respond with their thoughts on whatever subject we are writing about. We would also be grateful if you would provide suggestions for future blog topics. With your help, the two of us are moving into the 21st century, but for Pete’s sake, don’t expect us to tweet!

We have decided to write a regular blog for several reasons. First, there has never been a greater need for ethical reflection than there is today. We both agree about that, but we are very different people, and often disagree on issues. We hope it will be helpful for us to model respectful disagreement. In addition, we just finished writing a history of the Center which took us three years, and we enjoyed doing that so much that we need an excuse to continue writing together on a weekly basis. So, we don’t mind bothering you with our ideas.

I call myself a “philosophical Christian agnostic” and Rosemary is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet. Rosemary taught high school English and philosophy at Rockhurst University. She is a stickler for the “King’s English” and proper grammar. I grew up in Texas and just like to talk. We are both old; I turned 68 in July; Rosemary is older. We both have had training and education in ethics, but Rosemary has a PhD. We have both worked in bioethics for many years, and we both LOVE to argue. As Rosemary says, “Doing ethics is all about argument.” But ethics is not about mean-spirited disrespectful exchanges that are so prevalent today in a “red-state/blue-state culture.” Through blogging, we hope that our agreements and disagreements will demonstrate that we can argue respectfully and still love and care about one another.

Blowing Smoke vs. Shocking with Electricity

Rosemary and I decided to focus our inaugural blog post on efforts to resuscitate the newly dead because on August 12, the Center will host David Casarett, MD, author of Shocked: Adventures in Reviving the Recently Dead, to deliver the 21st Rosemary Flanigan Lecture which will, as always, be held at the St. Joseph Medical Center. David is a physician/bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, and he will talk about his book, which is a history of resuscitation methods, including some that are REALLY weird, such as blowing cigar smoke into the rectum of someone who has died. GEEZ!! Can you imagine? However, we all know that tobacco, i.e., nicotine is a cardiac stimulant. (I still remember the first time I smoked and recall that it was great and took me ten years to stop in part because I loved the rush it gave me.) So, the theory was that “blowing smoke” could possibly revive a dead person, and as distasteful as it might seem, it was worth trying. (Or maybe they were just sickos….)

Is this really any stranger than resuscitating ALL those who die in our hospitals UNLESS the poor soul’s doctor has written a DNR (Do No Resuscitate) order? Is it stranger than policy based on our society’s belief that “anything is better than dying”, including the things we do to those who die in our hospitals today? Stranger than when someone calls a “Code Blue” over the hospital’s PA, people run down the hall with a crash cart? Then someone pounds on the deceased’s chest, inject stimulants directly into his or her heart, and/or shocks them with electricity? The two of us think that, in many instances, the current practice seems just as odd as blowing smoke up a dead person’s rear. We wonder if healthcare professionals have thought about adding a cigar to crash carts ...

August 12 Flanigan Lecture

Please join us on August 12 to hear Dr. Casarett talk about his research and all the weird things he discovered while writing Shocked (you won’t even believe it), and to also discuss this important healthcare policy issue with him. If you are not able to be in KC for the lecture, it will be videotaped and posted on the Center’s website shortly thereafter. Regardless whether you are there or not, we encourage you to tell us what you think about the universal application of CPR for those who die in hospitals by commenting on this blog post.

For more information about the Flanigan Lecture or other Center events, go to the Center’s website at

Myra Christopher is the Kathleen M. Foley Chair for Pain and Palliative Care at the Center for Practical Bioethics. Rosemary Flanigan, PhD, joined the Center’s board in 1986, was its chairwoman in 1991 and, for 17 years following her 1992 retirement from Rockhurst University, served on the Center’s staff.

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