Rice professor to speak on medical ethics

By Sara Tirrito
Staff Writer

The Presidential Symposium Series will continue this semester with Dr. Baruch A. Brody speaking on “Ethics in the Twenty-first Century” at 3 p.m. today in Kayser Auditorium in the Hankamer School of Business.

Brody is the Leon Jaworski Professor of Biomedical Ethics and director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. At Rice University, Brody serves as the Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities.

Dr. James Marcum, associate professor of philosophy, said Brody has an impressive amount of experience in the fields of modern medical ethics and bioethics.

“I think he was there pretty much with the origin of modern medical ethics and bioethics,” Marcum said. “He’s just a very prominent figure within the field itself, so I think we’re very fortunate to have someone that’s been responsible for and has seen the growth of medical ethics and bioethics over the past three or four decades.”

With new drugs and medical technologies that have been and are being produced to help prolong patients’ lives, Marcum said medical ethics has become an important topic that most people will have to deal with at some point.

“I don’t think there’s one of us that these issues will not have an impact upon our life,” Marcum said.

Dr. Kay Toombs, a former student of Brody’s and associate professor emeritus of philosophy at Baylor, said Brody’s research, writing and knowledge have made him a leader in the field of biomedical ethics.

“He is internationally recognized as one of the primary leaders in the field of biomedical ethics, and at this particular time, there are so many issues that are very important in medical ethics that it’s very fortunate for us to have someone of his caliber who can discuss those kinds of issues with us,” Toombs said.

“He does incredible research, and he has written many books about bioethics. He’s very knowledgeable about the field. He’s just one of the absolute top people in the field.”

Dr. James Bennighof, professor of music theory and vice provost for academic affairs, said the topic of medical ethics is important for the Baylor family to hear about because of the university’s interest in ethics and its tradition of training students in pre-med programs.

“I think one of the things Baylor has always been interested in is putting pre-professional training– such as for medical professions– in the context of liberal learning and humanities and not just talking about the technological or scientific side of medicine, but also taking a philosophical and humanities kind of approach,” Bennighof said. “Baylor has a long tradition of doing pre-medical training, and we have also, because of our Christian mission, a great interest in ethics, so that’s a natural marriage for us as well.”

The next speaker in the Presidential Symposium Series, Lee S. Shulman, is slated to lecture on the future of higher education on March 31.