The Bioethics Project is a signature program of The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School in which selected students engage in scholarly research and present on a pertinent topic in bioethics. A first-of-its-kind program in secondary schools, The Bioethics Project is modeled after The Hastings Center’s hallmark research methodology which emphasizes the importance of bringing stakeholders and experts together to explore the ethical and social implication of a given bioethical issue. Students are paired with mentors from Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics who provide guidance on the broadest aspects of students’ individual topics, and the ethical framework which must be taken into consideration throughout the research and writing processes. The contribution that the students make to the field of ethics is then shared through presentations at the annual Bioethics Project Symposium which is open to the public. The finished research papers are then published on the Bioethics Project website.
The annual Bioethics Symposium is the signature event of The Bioethics Project. It is an opportunity for the students to lead their community in educational workshops that showcase their research and ethical analysis.
Students take an intensive course in ethical decision-making and bioethics during which they are introduced to key ethical and bioethical concepts through engagement with a range of major topics and cases. These concepts are taught by experts in varying fields and visiting scholars so that students have a broad understanding of the breadth and depth of key ethical principles and the tensions between them.
Throughout the first trimester of intensive coursework, students are encouraged to consider the topics and determine for themselves which they find most compelling and for which they would like to pursue intensive research. Under the guidance of Kent Place School teachers and Georgetown University research specialists, the students conduct intensive research. They are then paired with a scholar from Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics who serves as a mentor throughout the research and presentation processes. In the winter, students present their preliminary findings to their teachers, mentors, and bioethics experts at a day-long Project Meeting. Students articulate their findings and main ethical questions/considerations, and provide feedback to one another about areas for further research and development.
Following the Symposium, students complete their individual research papers and create a Bioethics Project website page. Final papers are published on this website to serve as an ongoing educational resource for the greater community. The students’ research provides not only pertinent information on relevant bioethical topics, but also the ethical framework that one might utilize when considering these critical issues.
This year the Bioethics Project will explore the Principle of Justice by learning from expert guest speakers, engaging in ethical discussions and case analysis, and conducting independent research on the following questions:
How do we determine who benefits from the distribution of a scarce resource? (Who gets the vaccine, or the ventilator, when the demand overwhelms the supply?)
Should “social utility” be a consideration in the allocation of a scarce resource? Whom do we consider “essential” in society?
What are the ethical implications of differential access to medical testing and test results?
The ethics of “medical tourism:” Should people be allowed to travel country to country, or state to state, in order to receive the “best” medical treatment? Who pays for the treatment?
What are the ethical implications of disparities in healthcare among socioeconomic groups? Identity groups?
What access should be given to prison inmates with regard to medical procedures and treatments?
The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School is a first-of-its-kind institute at the primary and secondary school level. We believe that promoting the process and practice of ethical thinking and decision-making prepares people of all ages to be effective leaders and compassionate citizens.