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Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society

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Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society

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"Healing Relationships in Medicine" is a joint project of the Vanderbilt Medical Center and the Baptist Healing Trust to identify skills that facilitate compassionate relationships with patients.
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We are devoted to creating research tools that can meet future health care needs while promoting the public´s acceptance and trust in research.
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One qualitative study is examining how a patient´s illness trajectory is interpreted in different ways by patients, families, and care providers.




Upcoming Events:

Scott Kim, MD 




Recent Events


Ethics Grand Rounds

Patricia Townsend Meador Lecture


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 Key Issues in Health Care Ethics Conference




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News, Highlights, & Lectures

Medical Student Certificate in Biomedical Ethics

Faculty Positions Available

Two recent books with Oxford-Schenck, David and
Churchill L.R., Healers: Extraordinary Clinicians at Work, 2012,
 and Churchill, L. R., Fanning, J. and Schenck, D., What Patients
Teach: The Everyday Ethics of Health Care,
2013----will be out in paper by
October.  Our editor at Oxford called them “highlights of the medical
ethics list.”

Congratulations to the first graduates with a Medical Student Certificate in Biomedical Ethics:  Kelley Wolenberg, Eric Rafla-Yuan, and Brittany Tielbur!

Faculty Research Seminar
Gerasimos Bastas, MD, PhD
Intentionality and Professionalism at the Limits of Knowledge and Knowing
May 16, 2016
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
2525 West End Ste 400

"Key Issues in Health Care Ethics" conference May 23 9:30 - 3:30 VCH Children's Theater with highlighted speakers from the Center: Joseph Fanning, Kate Payne, and Larry Churchill.  CME Credit available.

Registration Form pdf

Clinical Ethics Case Conference
March 28 3:30-5pm Ste400 2525. Topic: "Fact...Factitious: What are the Ethical Issues"

Ethics Grand Rounds
April 5, 2016
"Advance Directives and Advance Planning for End of Life Care
12 noon * 208 Light Hall


Faculty Research Seminar: Autumn Fiester, Ph.D. "Why the Clinical Ethics We Teach Fails Patients" March 21, 2016

Ecological Ethics: "Why Sustainable Agriculture Matters" Thursday, February 4 at 4pm Light Hall 214.

November 3, 2015 Ethics Grand Rounds at noon in 208 LH "When it's Not Safe to Go Home, or There's No Home to Go To; The "Medical Hold" for Incapacitated Patients"

Dr Andrew Nickels will be giving a Faculty Research Seminar on November 16 at 3:30pm. Topic: "E-Cigarettes: Clinical, Ethical, and Policy Challenges."

Willis Jenkins, PhD, Associate Professor of Religion, Ethics, & Environment at University of Virginia will speak in the Center on November 12 from 12-1pm.  Topic is "Wickedness and Goodness in the Anthropocene: the turn to virtue in climate ethics". Please RSVP to by Nov 6.

Elizabeth Heitman, co-chair of National Academy of Science committee charged to undertake a study "Gene Drive Research in Non-Human Organisms: Recommendations for Responsible Conduct".The Committee's task is to review the state of the science in this new application of gene editing and examining oversight mechanisms, including guidelines and regulations, for the use of gene drives.  As day-long public workshop was held October 2015 where Bruce Jennings provided expert commentary on "Ethics in Science and Governance of Science. "

Bruce Jennings, MA is a spotlight in The Hastings Center Conversation Series: Children & Families in October 2015.  View the conversation here.

Joe Fanning, PhD and Julia Morris, Deputy General Counsel will be giving Surgery Grand Rounds Friday, September 25 at 7:00am in 208 Light Hall. "Medically Inappropriate Treatment and Futility: Ethical and Legal Concerns”.

 Kate Payne, JD, RN, NC-BC will be presenting at the Department of Cardiology Grand Rounds on September 30 at 12 Noon in Room 5053 MCE North Tower. She will be discussing "Death and Devices: Ethical Issues".

Bruce Jennings, MA will be speaking at Yale School of Medicine Program for Biomedical Ethics on October 8, 2015. The topic is "The Limits of Unlimited Selection: Medical, Ethical, and Regulatory Aspects of Pre-implanation Genetic Diagnosis.

Bruce Jennings has a new book in production:  Ecological Governance: Toward a New Social Contract with the Earth. Ecological Governance is an ethicist’s reckoning with how our political culture, broadly construed, must change in response to climate change.

Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD will be speaking at the Division of General Internal Medicine on October 21 "Addressing Misconceptions about SEID (formerly ME/CFS)"

Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD will be presenting at the Boston University School of Public Health's "Turning the Tide: New Directions in Population Health series" on October 27.  "Why Public Health is Essential in a Priscision Medicine World":

Dr Clayton will give a talk at the Hastings Center on November 9 on possible limits on disorders reported in newborn screenings.

Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD along with Biomedical Informatics professor Dr Malin will be speaking at the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard University on "Modelling Risk to Privacy in Genomics Research and Why It Matters".

HIV/AIDS-related Research: Fogarty has approved Dr Liz Heitman and Dr Moon's (VIGH) application for a $50K supplement for the Mozambique ethics education grant.  It will fund a short course for the Mozambican National Institute of Health next spring in Maputo.

While in Maputo Dr Heitman will meet with various colleagues in the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, National Bioethics Committee, and Ministry of Health.  Following travel to Nampula (in the north of Mozambique) to the Universidade Lurio to carry out an Educators’ course there September 2015. 

Autumn Fiester, PhD from Penn will be presenting at our Faculty Seminar on Monday 2/15/16 from 3:30 – 5:00pm. Her topic as proposed by her and discussed with Joe will be   "Why the Clinical Ethics We Teach Fails Patients".


Save the Date: Sept 10, 2015 4pm in 214 Light Hall.  Flexner Discovery Lecture with Timothy S. Jost, JD. "Who should control health care costs: consumers, insurers, providers, or the government?"  see more

Sept 21 12pm New York Psychiatric Institute, Seminar on Ethical, Legal, & Social Implications of Genetics Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD will discuss "Genomics Over the Pediatric Life Course:  Addressing the Issues"

Kate Payne, JD, RN, NC-BC spoke at "The Promise of Nursing for Tennessee Gala Evening" on August 11, 2015. The event is hosted by Johnson & Johnson and is part of their Campaign for Nursing's Future.  The event celebrated nurses and their contributions to our communities and raised over $285,000 for nursing education.  This money is used for scholarships for students at all levels, as well as grants to Tennessee nursing schools to expand their nursing program capacity.  In total over four years the gala has raised over $1.4 million Dollars.

The Center for Biomedical Ethics & Society has been awarded funding thru the new Trans-Institutional Program (TIPs) initiative. The project “Ethics of Health and Human Flourishing: Communities of Care and Everyday Ethics” partners the Center with the College of Arts & Science, Dean of Students, and Peabody College.  More information can be found at Vanderbilt News.

Dr. Ellen Clayton received the 2015 Frank H. Morriss Jr. Leadership Award from the University of Iowa.  Read More

Congratulations to Dr. Nanibaa' Garrison for being invited to serve on the NIH Advisory Committee of the Director's Working Group on Diversity. Read More

Dr. Jessica Turnbull was profiled in the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt's "Pioneers of Hope" feature. Read More

Dr. Larry Churchill co-edited the Winter 2014 edition of The Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics (Jan 6, 2015), entitled "The Buying and Selling of Health Care."  The 11 articles in this volume of JLME explore the pressures of commercialism on professional ethics in health care.  Read More

Drs. Churchill, Fanning and Schenck's recent books Healers: Extraordinary Clinicians at Work and What Patients Teach:  The Everyday Ethics of Health Care, were reviewed by Eric Casell for the Hastings Center Report. Read More

Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton authored the IOM report "Beyond Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.  Dr. Clayton will be appearing on the NPR series On Point on February 16 to discuss the contents of the report. Article at JAMA &  On Point episode

Bruce Jennings, Adjunct Associate Professor, coauthored the article "Forty Years of Work on End-of-Life Care - From Patients' Rights to Systemic Reform" recently published in The New England Journal of MedicineArticle at NEJM.  Additional discussion on

Additional Highlights