We Must Address Racism Now

The Center is committed to listening and taking action to move toward the highest ideals of racial justice.

The HMS Center for Bioethics stands in solidarity with our Black students, colleagues, patients, and communities in the United States and across the globe against racism in all its forms. Most recently the murder of George Floyd and the disproportionate number of COVID infections and deaths of Black Americans are just symptoms of the grave racial and ethnic injustices perpetuated in our culture, which are the result of centuries of profound discrimination and abuse. This is therefore a time when all of us who engage in the practice of bioethics must not only honestly acknowledge and reflect upon the complicity that our field has had in not doing more to address these issues. We commit to doing better in the future, not just with words, but to show with action that Black Lives Matter.

Our Center is embarking on both an immediate and long-term process of self-examination, education, and reform. (1) We have begun and will continue a course of directed listening to our communities to hear and understand their experiences regarding racism in health care and bioethics. (2) We are developing a study group to work on deepening our understanding of structural racism and possible responses. (3) We are intiating a review of our curricula and programs, and (4) we will develop and share a plan for how our Center can improve and contribute to countering racism most effectively. We recognize that the burden of addressing racial injustice has fallen on our Black colleagues, and we have failed to walk arm in arm with them. Today, and going forward, we at the Center, and all of us, must recognize and accept our obligation, not just to discuss racism, but take action to bring about meaningful and lasting change to permanently dismantle it.

The Center for Bioethics was created to ensure that values and ethics are always part of medical training, laboratory and clinical research, and professional education. We cannot truly fulfill this mission while racism exists in our field, in our institutions, in our educational systems, and in ourselves. To this end, we are urgently seeking input from our our entire community, across the medical school, university, and beyond. Your input will help guide us in developing a plan for how the activities and priorities of the Center can be realigned to better address these issues, including strategies for providing our faculty and students with the tools necessary to identify structural racism and address it—whether overt, implicit, institutional, or interpersonal. We will examine ways to proactively diversify our faculty and students, and seek to develop both normative and empirical projects to expand our research agenda to include equity, access, discrimination, health disparities, and more.

Our goal is to ensure that the field of bioethics becomes more inclusive and diverse, and to make a positive contribution towards creating a world where no one need fear receiving inequitable health care because of their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or national origin.

We welcome all members of the HMS community to join us in this endeavor. We encourage you to share your ideas and comments here: bioethics-racialjustice@hms.harvard.edu.