Clarifying Gray Areas in Health Care Ethical Dilemmas

Ethical dilemmas can give anybody pause, but in the health care field, they can lead to gray areas, difficult questions and a need for clarity. The first biennial Carol Carfang Nursing & Healthcare Ethics Conference, hosted by the Duquesne University School of Nursing, will examine, reflect upon and confront the many difficult ethical and practical challenges that arise in health care today

 Advancing Ethical Practice: Exploring the Gray Areas will be held from Wednesday, Feb. 28, through Friday, March 2, in Clearwater, Fla. Together, presenters and participants at the conference will discuss and explore what health care professionals can do to help bring more clarity to situations in the field when ethical dilemmas arise.

"During the conference, we will examine, reflect upon and confront the many difficult ethical and practical challenges that arise in health care today," explained Dr. Mary Ellen Glasgow, dean and professor of the nursing school. "Our presenters range from nurses to philosophers, physicians to clinical ethicists and genetic counselors to health law and policy experts. The agenda reflects the diversity and depth of these challenges across multiple areas of health care, as well as the need for collaboration across those areas in addressing them."

Keynote speakers for Advancing Ethical Practice include:

  • Dr. Amy Haddad, director of the Center for Health Policy and Ethics, and the Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Endowed Chair in the Health Sciences at Creighton University; past-president of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities
  • Bonnie LeRoy, professor and director of the graduate program in genetic counseling in the Department of Genetics Cell Biology and Development at the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences
  • Dr. Alex John London, the Clara L. West Professor of Ethics and Philosophy, director of the Center for Ethics and Policy, and director of the ethics history and public policy program at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Dr. Robert Veatch, professor emeritus of medical ethics and senior research scholar at the Georgetown University Kennedy Institute of Ethics.

The topic for the inaugural conference was a good fit since, according to Glasgow, the nursing school at Duquesne is committed to interdisciplinary education, scholarship and the value of the humanistic aspects and ethical underpinnings of nursing practice. "At the heart of our approach to educating future nurses, advanced practice nurses and nurse researchers is the conviction that clinical work is a moral enterprise," she said. "Excellence in nursing practice requires not only acuity of mind and clinical competence, but also a firm moral identity and a responsiveness to the numerous ethical challenges arising from clinical care."

Participants will have the opportunity to attend keynote addresses, breakout sessions, poster presentations and panel discussions covering a wide variety of topics related to the conference theme. Among the subjects to be addressed include:

  • Acting on Values: Different Problems Need Different Approaches
  • Using Technology Tools to Teach Ethical Decision-Making
  • Military Ethics and Moral Injury
  • Consent and Authorization
  • Assessing the Moral Compass of a Health Care Organization.

For details on Advancing Ethical Practice: Exploring the Gray Areas, including cost, a detailed agenda, speaker bios and more, visit or call 412.396.5203.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim. 

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