Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Programs in Health Care Ethics

Through longstanding working relationships with hospitals and other health care providers, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics has firsthand experience with the ethical dilemmas doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals face. We bring the University's resources to the exploration of these dilemmas, and draw on our community partners' resources to provide real-world experiences for our students. We also conduct programs on public policy issues in bioethics and on difficult medical ethics questions for individuals and communities.

Hospital Partnerships in Applied Ethics
For more than 15 years, the Center has worked closely with O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, Calif. Seton Medical Center in Daly City, St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, and Hospice of the Valley in San Jose are also Center partners. Through these partnerships, the Center offers counsel on mutual decision making for health care professionals, patients, and their families. Center staff also serve on regional Bioethics Committees including Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Stanford Hospital, and the Santa Clara County Medical Association.

Health Care Ethics Internship and Student Programs
Students contemplating a career in health care participate in a yearlong program, where they learn on site about ethical dilemmas from physicians, nurses, and other professionals. Rotations are completed at local hospitals and other health care facilities. To date, more than 100 SCU undergraduates have participated in the program. Center staff also teach core curriculum courses, including "Ethics in the Health Professions," "Social and Ethical Dimensions of Biotechnology," and "Theology, Sex, and Relationships."

Bioethics Research and Web Resources
The Center has undertaken research on various cutting edge issues in health care ethics and has a special interest in vulnerable patient populations. Through a grant from an anonymous donor, the Center conducted a major study of medical decision making for patients in the care of permanent public conservators. The study resulted in a series of policy recommendations and training in medical decision making for all public guardians in Santa Clara County. The Center also worked with the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health on a "Pandemic Ethics Toolkit" and has developed a series of case studies in culturally competent care—health care that is sensitive to the ways cultural differences can affect the clinical encounter. Current work focuses on decision making for patients who suffer from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia and have no legally recognized surrogate decision maker.


Margaret R. McLean, director, bioethics
Karen Peterson-Iyer, associate in health care ethics
Anna Kozas, bioethics program assistant
Zoe Bernatsky, health care ethics program assistant

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