September 06, 2007

Law, medical students to discuss ethical dilemmas

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Even though their cases differ, future attorneys and physicians will likely encounter similar ethical questions.

Exploring the critical and ethical issues in both professions is the focus of Professional Responsibility Day, Saturday, Sept. 8, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The annual event — in its 12th year — will bring together about 247 first-year students from the SIU School of Law, the SIU School of Medicine, and MEDPREP programs. MEDPREP helps eligible students prepare for careers in medicine, dentistry or other health-related fields.

The three-hour seminar begins at 9 a.m. at the Hiram H. Lesar Law School Building.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover some of the small group discussions that start at 10:15 a.m. in various classrooms, but should be unobtrusive. Students and faculty will be available for interviews at noon. For more information, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school's director of communications and outreach, at 618/453-8700.


Topics of discussion include how to address errors with patients and the obligations of a lawyer or physician when a client or patient might pose a threat to a third party in contrast with confidentiality issues.

W. Eugene Basanta, who holds the Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law post in the SIU School of Law, said both professions are interested in such topics. Too often, medical and legal professionals view each other as adversaries rather than professional colleagues who face many of the same types of issues, he said.

"One of the program's goals is to introduce students very early in their professional education to the idea that many of the ethical and professional issues that are faced by physicians and attorneys involve similar kinds of questions, and by talking about them together maybe get some new insights," he said.

Students will break into smaller groups during the seminars. With the help from law school and medical school faculty, they will discuss the different scenarios, each featuring specific issues and problems.

Students are expected to recognize "that even though doctors and lawyers face different factual circumstances, many times the ethical principles they deal with are the same," said Marshall B. Kapp, the law school's Garwin Distinguished Professor of Law and Medicine.

The program is part of the law school's nationally recognized Professional Development Workshop Series. The series earned the law school the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association in August 2004 for projects that contribute to professionalism among attorneys.

Sharon K. Hull, interim chair of the medical school's medical humanities department, and law school Dean Peter C. Alexander will deliver opening remarks.