Why Ethics Matters
Kenneth W. Goodman, Ph.D. ’91, describes the work of the Miller School’s Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy, which he directs
Edited by Bob Woods
What is the mission of the Institute?
The Institute has evolved over 28 years in response to the need for education, policy development, consultations of all kinds, and a presence signaling that the Miller School values attention to ethics. We help clinicians, researchers and students use critical thinking to solve practical problems. The Institute is home to the Florida Bioethics Network, conducting statewide ethics workshops. It is also a WHO Collaborating Center in Ethics, one of 10 in the world, part of our international mission.
What is the greatest challenge facing the Institute right now?
Our biggest project is information technology ethics. Every patient life is touched by IT, including software that helps physicians make diagnoses and prognoses, and research that analyzes huge data sets to guide medical practice and public health. Beyond IT systems in hospitals, there are great challenges in managing emails, texts and other mobile communications.
How difficult is it to be an impartial arbiter of ethical standards?
Our mission is analysis and support, not advocacy. Reasonable people can disagree about end-of-life care, say, or how best to protect privacy. We need to cut through advocacy and identify the best solutions. High-quality patient care — our greatest responsibility — requires a suite of positive attributes, and critical thinking skills undergird all of them.