New in Hastings Center Report, July

The Hastings Center

Activism and the Clinical Ethicist

Christopher Meyers

Although clinical ethics scholarship and practice have largely avoided assuming an activist stance, the many health care crises of the last 18 months motivated a distinct change: activist language has permeated conversations over such issues as the impact of triage policies on persons with disabilities and of color, and how the health care system has historically failed African Americans. “This activism is, to my mind, an overdue and welcome turn, and my goal here is to defend it–generally and with particular emphasis on institutional activism,” writes Meyers, a professor emeritus of philosophy and a director emeritus of the Kegley Institute of Ethics at California State University, Bakersfield.

Other Voices:

Activism and Bioethics: Taking a Stand on Things That Matter

Wendy A. Rogers and Jackie Leach Scully take a broader view than Meyers, looking beyond activism within individual institutions and arguing that some issues are so morally egregious that bioethicists have a duty to take a stand against them, even if the prospects of success are dim.

Antiracism Activism in Clinical Ethics: What’s Stopping Us?

Holly Vo and Georgina D. Campelia write that clinical ethicists should recognize barriers imbedded in the field of clinical ethics itself and support antiracism work by altering their institutional structures to be more inclusive.

Why Clinical Ethicists Are Not Activists

Carl Elliott notes that activism is rare among clinical ethicists because they have little formal power and few job protections. “Asking the clinical ethicist to fix the problems of an academic health center is like asking the butler to fix the problems of the British monarchy. He is not there to rule, but to serve.”

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