In this second portion of a two-part interview, Linda L. Emanuel, MD, PhD, discusses the future of bioethics. Part I highlighted end-of-life care and physician-assisted suicide, while part II focuses on organizational ethics and future issues in bioethics.
Dr. Emanuel is Buehler Professor of Aging and director of the Buehler Center on Aging, Northwestern University Medical School. She was formerly vice president for ethics standards at the American Medical Association (AMA).
Dr. Emanuel has written and lectured widely on bioethics, including editing the book Regulating How We Die: The Ethical, Medical, and Legal Issues Surrounding Physician-Assisted Suicide (Harvard University Press, 1998).
Oncology News International: What areas in the medical field are particularly lacking bioethics research?
Dr. Emanuel: Bioethics needs more empirical research in most of its areas. Facts matter in bioethics. There really isn’t a field in ethics that has a very strong body of research of an empirical nature. End-of-life care is the area in ethics that has the strongest empirical research. There are aspects of policy that are supported by decent survey research, and some that are empirical.
There is beginning to be some ethics research on aspects of clinical practice that are directed by ethics concepts. There is beginning to be some empirical work on research integrity, but most of the research is of a scholarly nature, and there is just so much to be done. Organizational ethics has a small amount of empirical research, but this is even more embryonic.
ONI: How do you perceive the role of bio-ethicists and bioethics committees in medicine in general? Do you think this field is going to continue to be more and more integrated into clinical care? Will it ultimately change the way that clinical care is aproached and delivered?