Walter Reed Bethesda held its first Healthcare Ethics Symposium, assisting caregivers in identifying and analyzing ethical situations.
Held in the Laurel Clark Memorial Auditorium, May 9-11, the continuing education accredited event was sponsored by the medical center’s Bioethics Committee along with Pastoral Care. The event touched on relevant ethical matters that military health-care professionals encounter daily. Additionally, the symposium applied current training in bioethics, while allowing caregivers to evaluate ethics programs using current medical ethics guidelines.
“Medicine is a moral and technical enterprise,” said Cmdr. (Dr.) Jason Higginson, chair of Walter Reed Bethesda’s Ethics Committee. “Health-care workers need to be well versed in the moral and ethical necessities of medicine. The health-care symposium was aimed at such an exploration.”
“We need this kind of forum to learn what is important,” said Galena Kuipera, a health-care professional who came from Rhode Island to attend the symposium. “There is a lot of new information, and things are complicated by new issues and technology.”
Dr. James J. Walter, one of the presenters at the symposium, spoke on the subject of “Effective Interaction with Patients and the Case of Medical Futility.” He said 74 percent of medical law suits are because of perceived poor doctor-patient relationships in which some patients believe the doctor “just didn’t care.“ “Communication skills are equally important as clinical skills,” Walter said. “Communication is the exchange of feelings, thoughts and attitude both verbal and nonverbal. It is an interpersonal rapport that is as much about listening as delivering a message.”
Army Chaplain (Maj.) Robert Miller, who serves as WRNMMC’s clinical ethicist, has coordinated five symposiums between the former National Naval Medical Center and the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He said everyone benefits from practicing good medical ethics.
“It’s more than just fairness it’s for the good of all, both future and present, not just the case at hand,” Miller said.
Ann Holman, a librarian in Walter Reed Bethesda’s Darnall Biomedical Learning Resource Center said, “the annual ethics symposium is always informative and thought provoking.”
"I think it's essential that we are aware of some of the darker spots in our history, and how they impacted the evolution of medical ethics and informed consent," said Holman.
Army Lt. Col. Nancy Petersmeyer, who traveled from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany to attend the symposium, agreed.
“I’m the officer-in-charge of the outpatient psychiatry in Landsthul and will be taking over as the chairperson of the Ethics Committee. This symposium has been very helpful getting me oriented to the subject,” said Petersmeyer.
For more information about the Bioethics Committee, call Cmdr. (Dr.) Jason Higginson at (301) 319-4594. For information about informed consent and the Five Wishes program at Walter Reed Bethesda, or to register for a future class, call Anne Hall at (301) 295-6360 or Paul Cauchon at (301) 319-8750.