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The Bioethics Experience

by Winston Y. Cham, DDM

Dr. Winston Y. Cham and Dr.Arlissa D. Aguiluz finished courses for Diploma in Bioethics.

A Master of Science in Bioethics Program jointly offered by UP Diliman s College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) and UP Manila s College of Medicine was approved by the Board of Regents in May 2006. The project director, Dr. Leonardo de Castro and the academic staff started to offer Bioethics training as a one-year diploma course in June 2004. It has since spawned the interest of many in the health professions, as well as other professions involved not only in the care of patients but also those engaged in research involving human participants.

What exactly is bioethics? In a nutshell, it refers to a general interest in ethical issues arising from health care and the biomedical sciences. This includes issues on treatment of patients and inclusion of human participants in biomedical or social science researches. Bioethics involves a deeper understanding of the socio-cultural, legal, as well as medical issues and demands more critical thinking and reflection. It is not purely dependent on established codes of ethics but involves appreciation of human life as well as a more profound understanding of the significance of being human.

The Diploma Course in Bioethics helps professionals deal with ethical issues arising from medical practice, biomedical and social science researches, in a comprehensive and systematic manner. Core subjects delve into the understanding the value of the human being, the evaluation of risks to patients, the maximization of benefits to parties concerned and the carrying out of social justice and fairness in the distribution of benefits and risks. It emphasizes the legal system s role in the direction and regulation of science. This is an important consideration when evaluating or reviewing research protocols that involve legal issues. Appreciation of cultural diversity is stressed to emphasize the impracticality of applying a single ethical standard to all cultures within our country and the rest of the world.

Students learning is maximized through small group discussions, case analyses, presentations of oral and written reports and mini research works, which may involve interviews and group activities. There are film showings and lectures from both the faculty and guest lecturers from local and international bioethics organizations and ethical review boards. Learning opportunities are not only limited to in-school activities since students join the intensive training courses held in key cities around the country. These involve the students not only as participants but as facilitators/moderators and lecturers as well. It is espoused that the best way to learn something is to teach it.

For the author, the bioethics experience is a journey of revelations and never ending discovery. Bioethics training helps us realize that there are deeper issues involved in dealing with patients and research volunteers. Genuine patient care is never limited to delivery and reception of basic health care. A lot of it has to do with empathy to the people involved with the treatment or the research process. Though bioethics deals with concepts of right and wrong, it should not be a venue for moralizing. It should be about keeping an open mind for possible issues that may arise and handling each situation appropriately.

June 2006 is the first time that the Master of Science in Bioethics was offered by the two UP units. This marks the beginning for interested parties to learn more about PEOPLE the ones who are in need of medical aid, their health care providers, the families of the ailing parties, the society where they belong and the research volunteers who risk more than their lives to help bring benefit not only to themselves, but also to the rest of us.