The Bioethics Project Symposium 2013
Over 500 guests graced Kent Place School’s campus for its first-ever Bioethics Project Symposium on Thursday, February 14. The Symposium was a culminating event, which marked the end of an intensive pilot program developed through a partnership with The Ethics Institute at Kent Place and The Hastings Center in Garrison, NY. The event was planned and hosted by the 12 Upper School student-scholars whose work was presented through a series of workshops. The sessions were designed by the students and were highly engaging with thought-provoking questions and case studies presented for groups to discuss and analyze.
The 12 students were selected last spring after an extensive application process to participate in this groundbreaking project titled, The Medically Modified Human: Is Better Always Good? Their work began with a summer internship, where faculty from both The Ethics Institute and The Hastings Center gathered for 20 hours per week to provide the students with intensive introductions to ethics, bioethics and advanced study of the ethics of medical enhancements, a growing field within medicine.
“The explosion in biomedical technologies means that educated citizens need to be able to think critically in the moral domain and with mutual respect on issues, where reasonable people often hold diverse views. Today's students will face decisions about their own lives – like whether to take a genetic test or to use cognitive-enhancing drugs,” said Mildred Z. Solomon, President of The Hastings Center. “They will also need to participate in the many public policy debates that our society faces - like how to ensure the allocation of scarce organs for everyone on the wait list. Preparing today's teenagers for these challenges is of central importance to The Hastings Center and it is why we are delighted by our collaboration with Kent Place School."
Upon the start of the school year, the students worked on their individual research projects through collaboration with Hastings Center researchers and Kent Place faculty, who served as mentors. These projects were presented at the Symposium and included topics such as cosmetic surgery, sports doping, memory enhancement, gender-variant individuals, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and prolonged life.
“Being able to work together with 11 other intellectual and outspoken young women as we explored different ethical issues and did our own individual research is an opportunity that I will never forget,” stated Bioethics Project Participant and senior Brianna Velez. “The Symposium was an experience that truly allowed us to get others interested in all that we've learned and worked towards these past eight months.”
The student-scholars were poised and impressive in their presentations. Several attendees left the workshops continuing the conversations that were fostered in the sessions. The questions posed lingered with them as they walked through the hallways and around campus: Do we compromise values for the sake of promoting appearances? Is the desire to improve your memory really your own choice, or does society’s value of intelligence play a bigger role? How long should people live? The sharing of ideas and months of research resonated and the results were inspiring.
“The Bioethics Symposium was a truly magnificent event – to witness the lively exchange of ideas and information between our twelve ethics scholars and their audience was incredible,” stated Dr. Karen Rezach, Director of the Ethics Institute. “Everyone who participated walked away with at least three things: new knowledge about complicated biomedical ethical issues, the desire to continue the conversation and an awed appreciation for the work of the 12 Bioethics Project students.”
The Symposium ended with a gathering in the Field House where the student-scholars announced the launch of the newly designed website for the Bioethics Project. The website, www.thebioethicsproject.org
, was designed by the students and provides information about the project as well as each of the 12 essays written by the participants.
Congratulations to the inaugural Bioethics Project participants: Natalie Camponovo ’13, Veronica Child ’14, Mariana Do Carmo ’13, Anna Fountain ’13, Ashley Gapusan ’14, Alexis Kim ’15, Natalie Kwan ’14, Madison Mastrangelo ’15, Olivia Parker ’15, Madeline Pensiero ’13, Brianna Velez ’13 and Nita Whelan ’14!
The Hastings Center has for over 40 years led the field of bioethics, conducting interdisciplinary research on some of the most contested in medicine and science. Over this time, it has developed a distinguished track record of bringing diverse people and perspectives together in workshops that are respectful and substantive. Its process is remarkably conducive to both finding areas of agreement and clarifying where moral differences exist.
The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School,
founded in 2007, fosters the study of ethics and ethical decision-making in primary and secondary school communities and provides ethics resources and programs to Kent Place constituents, independent schools, private schools, public schools and the greater community. For more information please visit www.kentplace.org/ethics