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 offered a free virtual surgical ethics conference over four weeks in September. Each week featured 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 learned how to accurately distinguish and discuss the ethical challenges associated with these surgical issues.

Event Details and Speakers

  • Ethical Considerations in Pig-to-Human Xenotransplants

    September 5, 2023 | Moderated by Douglas W. Hanto, MD, PhD, MBE
    Recording Available on YouTube
    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 on YouTube
    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 on YouTube
    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 on YouTube
    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.