News & Highlights

April 11, 2018

Biomedical Ethics researcher Ross Graham recently published an essay in the Center for Humans and Nature's latest issue of MInding Nature journal.

We are an organization that explores and challenges ideas about who we are as humans and how we might better relate to each other and the whole community of life. 

In the essay titled "Grim Circularity," Ross writes about the competing media fallacies that encompass the climate change debate.

Ethics Grand Rounds will be held November 3, 2015 in 208 Light Hall.  "When It's Not Safe to Go Home, or There's No Home to Go To; The 'Medical Hold' for Incapacitated Patients".

October 26, 2015 Clinical Ethics Case Conference. Topic "When is Treatment Inappropriate?  The Importance of Process."  Dr. Fanning offers the following reading to support our conversation:  "An Official ATS/AACN/ACCP/ESICM/SCCM Policy Statement: Responding to Requests for Potentially Inappropriate Treatments in Intensive Care Units”


Elizabeth Heitman, PhD traveled to Indonesia and Malaysia in August 2015 to give workshops on Responsible Science for the Indonesian Academy of Sciencethe Academy of  Science – Malaysia , and the University of Malaya.   These were organized through the U.S. National Academy of Sciences with funding from the Department of State.


Sept 10, 2015 4pm in 214 Light Hall.  Flexner Discovery Lecture with Timothy S. Jost, JD. "Who should control health care costs: consumers, insurers, providers, or the government?"

Sept 21 12pm New York Psychiatric Institute, Seminar on Ethical, Legal, & Social Implications of Genetics  Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD will discuss "Genomics Over the Pediatric Life Course:  Addressing the Issues"

The ability to assay thousands or even millions of genetic variants at any time from birth (or before) to death raises particular ethical and legal issues for minors since they are rarely able to decide whether to undergo testing on their own.  Studies are underway to assess the impact of whole genome sequencing on newborns and their families.  Commentators disagree about whether parents can either demand or refuse some or all genomic information about their children, raising questions that go to the heart of parental authority and the ethical foundations of pediatrics.  What, if anything, should happen when minors attain cognitive capacity or legal majority, similarly, is hotly debated. The goal of this talk is to consider these debates together to develop a unified approach for addressing them.

Kate Payne, JD, RN, NC-BC spoke at "The Promise of Nursing for Tennessee Gala Evening" on August 11, 2015. The event is hosted by Johnson & Johnson and is part of their Campaign for Nursing's Future.  The event celebrated nurses and their contributions to our communities and raised over $285,000 for nursing education.  This money is used for scholarships for students at all levels, as well as grants to Tennessee nursing schools to expand their nursing program capacity.  In total over four years the gala has raised over $1.4 million Dollars.

The Center for Biomedical Ethics & Society has been awarded funding thru the new Trans-Institutional Program (TIPs) initiative. The project “Ethics of Health and Human Flourishing: Communities of Care and Everyday Ethics” partners the Center with the College of Arts & Science, Dean of Students, and Peabody College.   More information can be found at Vanderbilt News.

Dr. Ellen Clayton received the 2015 Frank H. Morriss Jr. Leadership Award from the University of Iowa.  Read More

Congratulations to Dr. Nanibaa' Garrison for being invited to serve on the NIH Advisory Committee of the Director's Working Group on Diversity. Read More

Dr. Jessica Turnbull was profiled in the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt's "Pioneers of Hope" feature. Read More

Dr. Larry Churchill co-edited the Winter 2014 edition of The Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics (Jan 6, 2015), entitled "The Buying and Selling of Health Care."  The 11 articles in this volume of JLMEexplore the pressures of commercialism on professional ethics in health care.  Read More

Drs. Churchill, Fanning and Schenck's recent books Healers: Extraordinary Clinicians at Work and What Patients Teach:  The Everyday Ethics of Health Care, were reviewed by Eric Casell for the Hastings Center Report. Read More

Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton authored the IOM report "Beyond Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.  Dr. Clayton will be appearing on the NPR series On Point on February 16 to discuss the contents of the report. Article at JAMA &  On Point episode

Bruce Jennings, Adjunct Associate Professor, coauthored the article "Forty Years of Work on End-of-Life Care - From Patients' Rights to Systemic Reform" recently published in The New England Journal of MedicineArticle at NEJM.  Additional discussion on


Recent Events

Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton recently presented a CRC Research Skills Workshop entitled "Individual Choice v Public Good?"  This presentation will explore the balance between individual choice and the public good. We will focus on autonomy and expanding choice in the era of big data. We will discuss genomic research, oversight and security, data sharing, and misuse.

Dr. Elizabeth Heitman recently presented the workshop "VHRPP News You Can Use: Accountability - The New Standard for Integrity in Authorship and Publication in Biomedical Research". The workshop was held January 26, at noon in 214 Light Hall.   Read More

Drs. Fanning, Garrison and Churchill's article "Beyond the Recommendation: Discerning Achievable Goals in Clinical Ethics Consultation" appeared in the American Journal of Bioethics.  Read the Article

Dr. Elizabeth Heitman's paper "Cross-cultural Considerations in U.S. Research Ethics Education" was recently published in the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education.  Read the Article

Dr. Larry Churchill was the keynote speaker at the Wake Forest Law Review's 2014 Fall Symposium on "Relationship-Centered Health Care: Implications for Law and Ethics," with Drs. Joe Fanning and David Schenck also attending as featured panelists.  Read More

As part of the Flexner Discovery Lecture Series, the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society and the Patricia Townsend Meador Lectureship recently hosted a lecture by Dr. Bernard Lo, MD entitled: "Decisions near the end of life: Can we make them less agonizing?" .Dr. Lo spoke on September 25, 2014 at 4:00 pm in 208 Light Hall. Poster  

Congratulations to Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton for receiving the David Rall Medal from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies at the IOM´s 43rd annual meeting.  The David Rall Medal is given to an IOM member who has demonstrated distinguished leadership as chair of a study committee or other such activity, showing commitment above and beyond the usual responsibilities of the position.   Read More

Drs. Churchill, Fanning and Schenck recently published  What Patients Teach: The Everyday Ethics of Health Care , available from Oxford University Press.   Read More.

Expanded description available at Oxford University Press.

Dr. Larry Churchill was the keynote speaker at the Wake Forest Law Review's 2014 Fall Symposium on "Relationship-Centered Health Care: Implications for Law and Ethics," with Drs. Joe Fanning and David Schenck also attending as featured panelists.  Read More

Ethics Grand Rounds were recently held November 4, 12 noon, 208 Light Hall.

"Boarding Patients in a Full House: Ethical Responses to Overcrowding in Vanderbilt's EDs"

Read More

Dr. Elizabeth Heitman was quoted in the most recent edition of Medical Ethics Advisor , Oct, 2014, in the article entitled "Providers don't always meet ethical obligations for patients with limited English proficiency."  Vanderbilt faculty and staff can access the e-journal through the VU library.

Dr. Elizabeth Heitman was recently an invited guest to the China-US Scientific Morality/Integrity Development Seminar hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the China Association for Science and Technology.

Read More

As part of the Flexner Discovery Lecture Series, the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society and the Patricia Townsend Meador Lectureship recently hosted a lecture by Dr. Bernard Lo, MD entitled:

"Decisions near the end of life: Can we make them less agonizing?"

Dr. Lo spoke on September 25 at 4:00 pm in 208 Light Hall.


Bruce Jennings, Director of Bioethics, Center for Humans and Nature (previously Executive Director of the Hastings Center) presented a talk entitled "Bioethics and Climate Change" on Friday, April 25, 2014, 12 noon to 1pm at the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, 2525 West End Ave, Suite 400.



Spring Ethics  Grand Rounds "Addiction as Co-Morbidity" will be Tuesday, April 1. 12 noon, 208 Light Hall.  Panelists include John Corey, MD, Julie T. Redding, LMSW, MA and Amanda G. Wilson, MD.


Additional Information

Dr. David Schenck was recently a featured expert in the NPT Reports "Aging Matters: End of Life" on National Public Television

Additional information and the full video is available on the NPT website.

 Drs. Churchill, Fanning and Schenck recently published What Patients Teach: The Everyday Ethics of Health Care , available from Oxford University Press.

"Being a patient is a unique interpersonal experience but it is also a universal human experience. The relationships bookformed when we are patients can also teach some of life´s most important lessons, and these relationships provide a special window into ethics, especially the ethics of healthcare professionals. This book answers two basic questions: As patients see it, what things allow relationships with healthcare providers to become therapeutic? What can this teach us about healthcare ethics? This volume presents detailed descriptions and analyses of 50 interviews with 58 patients, representing a wide spectrum of illnesses and clinician specialties. The authors argue that the structure, rhythm, and horizon of routine patient care are ultimately grounded in patient vulnerability and clinician responsiveness. From the short interview segments, the longer vignettes and the full patient stories presented here emerge the neglected dimensions of healthcare and healthcare ethics. What becomes visible is an ethics of everyday interdependence, with mutual responsibilities that follow from this moral symbiosis. Both professional expressions of healthcare ethics and the field of bioethics need to be informed and reformed by this distinctive, more patient-centered, turn in how we understand both patient care as a whole and the ethics of care more specifically. The final chapters present revised codes of ethics for health professionals, as well as the implications for medical and health professions education."

Expanded description available at Oxford University Press.

Vanderbilt University’s Elizabeth Heitman, Ph.D., has been appointed to the National Academies’ Board on Life Sciences, which advises the government and scientific community on a wide range of topics, from stem cell research to bioterrorism.
Read More.

Congratulations to Ellen Wright Clayton, M.D., J.D., for being elected to the American Pediatric Society.   Read More 

Dr. Elizabeth Heitman Heitman was a panelist in the Bridging Science and Security for Biological Research: International Science and Security meeting hosted by AAAS, AAU, APLU, and the FBI.  Proceedings of the meeting are available on the AAAS website.  Read More.

Dr. Elizabeth Heitman was elected to the Executive Board of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, effective July 1.  Read More .

Recent Publications

Churchill, Larry R, Joseph B. Fanning, and David Schenck. What Patients Teach: The Everyday Ethics of Health Care. , 2013. Print.

Churchill, L. R. “Beneficence.” Encyclopedia of Bioethics, 4th edition, Bruce Jennings, editor (2013, forthcoming)

Churchill, L. R. “American Healthcare: Ethical Dimensions of Financing Healthcare Reform.” Grand Rapids, MI: DeVos Medical Ethics Colloquy, 2013, pp.8-22.

Ellen Wright Clayton, et. al., "Managing Incidental Genomic Findings: Legal Obligations of Clinicians." Genetics in Medicine (in press, 2013)


Also see the Center Calendar