2023 Harvard Surgical Ethics Conference

4 Virtual Sessions: September 5, 12, 19 and 26

The Surgical Ethics Working Group (SEWG) at Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics will offer a free virtual surgical ethics conference over four weeks in September. Each week will feature a different topic that explores timely and controversial questions in surgery today. Topics are relevant to practicing surgeons, surgery residents, medical students, nurses, nursing students, advanced practice providers, bioethicists, graduate students, and other health care professionals. Participants will learn how to accurately distinguish and discuss the ethical challenges associated with these surgical issues.

When and where is the conference taking place this year?

All four sessions will be hosted live on Zoom from 7:00-8:30 p.m. ET. The Zoom webinar link and call-in details will be provided in the registration confirmation email. The one Zoom link will grant you access to all four sessions in the series. The session dates are as follows:

  • September 5, 2023: Ethical Considerations in Pig-to-Human Xenotransplants
  • September 12, 2023: Challenges to the Patient-Surgeon Relationship
  • September 19, 2023: Ethical Implications of New Biomedical Technologies in Neuroscience
  • September 26, 2023: How Non-medical Factors Affect Surgical Decision-making and Patient Care
Where are the Zoom links and call-in details?

Upon registering, you will automatically and immediately receive a confirmation email with the Zoom details. We highly recommend pinning/saving this confirmation email in your inbox. Please ensure that you have entered your email address correctly during registration. If you are having trouble finding your confirmation email, we recommend checking your spam folders, junk filters, and quarantines. Before registering, you may want to add Constant Contact and the Center for Bioethics to your "safe-sender" lists.

How do I get a certificate of attendance?

Registrants who are verified as attending all four sessions live on Zoom will receive a certificate of attendance in the weeks following the conference. It is important that you enter your details correctly during the registration process and access the sessions with an up-to-date Zoom account that displays your full name. If we cannot identify you, we cannot verify your attendance. Learn how to change your name on Zoom prior to the conference. The Center staff will use this information to verify your attendance across the four sessions and determine your eligibility for a certificate.

Will this conference be recorded?

Yes, all four sessions will be recorded. The videos will be published on the Center's YouTube channel after the conference. Watching the videos later on YouTube does not make you eligible for a certificate of attendance.

Event Details and Speakers

  • Ethical Considerations in Pig-to-Human Xenotransplants

    September 5, 2023 | Moderated by Douglas W. Hanto, MD, PhD, MBE
    Recording Available
    Watch the recording on our YouTube channel.

    This session discusses the risks of spreading animal pathogens into humans and under what circumstances are these risks low enough to proceed, unique problems in the protection of human research subjects because of unforeseen risks and benefits, and the ethical concerns regarding animal welfare protection in light of the use of genetically modified animals as an organ source.

    1. Jay Fishman, MD will present "Overview and Risk of Infection of Recipients with Animal Pathogens."
    2. Douglas W. Hanto, MD, PhD, MBE will present "Protection of Xenograft Recipients as Human Research Subjects."
    3. Lisa Moses, VMD will present "Animal Welfare and Animal Ethics."
    4. Lucy Jefferson, MD will provide introductory discussion.


  • Challenges to the Patient-Surgeon Relationship

    September 12, 2023 | Moderated by Jonathan Marron, MD, MPH
    Recording Available
    Watch the recording on our YouTube channel.

    There are various types of patient-surgeon relationships that have been described, some more desirable than others. In this session we will discuss how the lack of a diverse workforce can impact the patient-surgeon relationship and healthcare outcomes, explore the limits of healthcare providers duty-to-care, and discuss the impact of the Dobbs decision on the patient-physician relationship.

    1. Richard Whyte, MD, MBA will present "Brief Intro to the Patient-surgeon Relationship."
    2. Leisha C. Elmore, MD will present "Lack of a Diverse Workforce."
    3. Jonathan Marron, MD, MPH, HEC-C will present "Duties and Boundaries: What are the limits of clinician’s obligations to their patients?"
    4. Louise P. King, MD, JD will present "Impact of the Dobbs Decision on the Patient-physician Relationship."


  • Ethical Implications of New Biomedical Technologies in Neuroscience

    September 19, 2023 | Moderated by Theresa Williamson, MD
    Recording Available
    Watch the recording on our YouTube channel.

    Rapidly advancing neurotechnologies have improved the management of neurological and psychiatric conditions, revealed new insights about cognition, and have been used by hospitals, employers, schools, and governments.  Surgeons play a key role in the development, use, and patient informed consent for implantable devices. In this session we will address these and key ethical issues that arise for surgeons in the burgeoning field of neurotechnology.

    1. Francis X. Shen, JD, PhD will present "Evaluating Harms, Benefits, and Boundaries for New Neurotechnology."
    2. Gabriel Lázaro-Muñoz, PhD, JD will present "Clinical Research or Patient Care in Deep Brain Stimulation."
    3. Theresa Williamson, MD will present "Utilizing Neurotechnology Under Diagnostic and Prognostic Uncertainty."


  • How Non-medical Factors Affect Surgical Decision-making and Patient Care

    September 26, 2023 | Moderated by John E. Mayer Jr., MD
    Recording Available
    Watch the recording on our YouTube channel.

    As members of a profession, surgeons have multiple responsibilities to their patients, including placing patients’ interests above their own and cherishing performance above personal reward, but also fairly distributing finite medical resources. In this session we will explore the impact of external forces, including insurers and government on access to surgical care and the potential impact of conflicts of interest relating to device development and utilization.

    1. John E. Mayer Jr., MD will present "Who Makes the Rules: Ethics of Prior Approval and Other Healthcare Insurance Policies."
    2. Alex Everhart, PhD will present "Conflicts of Interest in Device Development and Utilization."
    3. Sabrina Sanchez, MD, MPH will present "Access to Surgical Care for the Underinsured and Uninsured."
    4. Dane Paneitz, MD will provide introductory discussion.