BioethicsAs a first year medical student I discovered that my brain was slowly dying. Driven to desparation by the Krebs cycle and the agony of anatomy, I looked for something to keep me sane.

So I chose my old friend Philosophy. Specifically, I chose a Masters in Bioethics, that Temple had just designed the year I went looking for it. And it helped me a ton in many ways- here’s one that I’m especially fond of remembering.

As a 3rd year student on my neurology rotation, I sat in on a discussion between my 4th year resident and the family of a patient with a brain tumor. The family kept asking about radiation while my resident kept repeating “It’s not the best for this.” After ten minutes of this repetitive cycle I finally asked the family why they wanted radiation and what they understood about the situation.

After they explained that they thought radiation was less invasive and had minimal side effects, we explained that the superficial nature of the tumor and its minimal invasiveness meant that a surgical option was superior to radiation and that radiation was not without significant risks. Once we had all explained how we arrived at our decisions, they agreed to try neurosurgery. I realize that I wasn’t in any way a more skilled clinician than my resident- I had, however, asked the patient’s family the right questions in the right way. My bioethics training has developed my ability to look at things from multiple viewpoints, consider multiple equally valid options and select the right choice for the patient.


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