Video: 2016 George W. Gay Lecture with Martha Minow

Religion, Medicine, and Law: How to Heal When Values Conflict

2016 George W. Gay Lecture

 November 3, 2016

Martha Minow, Dean, Harvard Law School

Martha Minow, Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law, has taught at Harvard Law School since 1981, where her courses have included civil procedure, constitutional law, family law, international criminal justice, jurisprudence, law and education, nonprofit organizations, and the public law workshop.

An expert in human rights and advocacy for members of racial and religious minorities and for women, children, and persons with disabilities, she also writes and teaches about privatization, military justice, and ethnic and religious conflict. 

Religion, Medicine, and Law: How to Heal When Values Conflict

Calls for accommodating religious views have generated recent high profile litigation brought by nonprofit and business groups and by health care professionals; competing claims stress the rights and interests of patients in access to contraception, abortion, and end-of-life decision-making.  How do and how should hospitals, insurers, health care practices, and governments address these competing claims? Stepping back from immediate conflicts, one place to start acknowledges the presence of values-related arguments on each side of the debates; another possible resource comes from problem-solving in bioethics mediation as a contrast to the dynamics of litigation, framing issues in either-or-terms.  Negotiating conflicting values while adhering to principle is a daily practice in bioethics, law, religion, and medicine, which affords opportunity for shared learning and humility. 


The George W. Gay Lecture is the oldest endowed lectureship at Harvard Medical School, and quite possibly the oldest medical ethics lectureship in the United States. The lectureship was established in 1917 by a $1,000 gift from Dr. George Washington Gay, an 1868 graduate of HMS. Since its inception, many of the nation's most influential physicians, scientists, researchers and social observers, including Erich Fromm, Felix Frankfurter, Margaret Mead, Elizabeth Kübler Ross, E.O. Wilson, and Joshua Lederberg have given the Gay Lecture. Elie Wiesel, Marian Wright Edelman, Paul Krugman, Nicholas Kristof and Donald Berwick have given recent Gay Lectures.