February 17, 2011

Lecture to explore conscience in care

The Vanderbilt University Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society is sponsoring the first Patricia Townsend Meador Lecture on Tuesday, March 1, at 4 p.m. in 202 Light Hall.

The presentation, titled “Conscience and Its Limits in Health Care,” will be given by M. Cathleen Kavney, J.D., Ph.D., the John P. Murphy Foundation professor of Law and professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.

M. Cathleen Kavney, J.D., Ph.D.

M. Cathleen Kavney, J.D., Ph.D.

The lecture will focus on the physician-patient relationship, where both parties can have strongly held beliefs based on religion or conscience.

Although patients' beliefs are generally entitled to great deference (except, to a limited degree, in the care of children), health care providers, until recently, had the legal right only to refuse to participate in abortion.

In recent years, however, health care providers, ranging from physicians to pharmacists, have asserted much more far-reaching rights to limit the care they are willing to provide to patients based on their own religious beliefs.

The result — a direct clash between the interests of patients and providers — is one of the most contentious issues in medical ethics today.

A reception in the North Lobby of Light Hall will immediately follow the lecture.