Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

News: O'Connor Hospital and Center Join Forces

Your widowed mother is in her 70s, suffering from Alzheimer's disease and heart trouble. Now the doctor says she needs a coronary bypass, but she is unable to give informed consent for the operation. What should you do?

If your mother were a patient at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, you would be able to draw on the expertise of the hospital Bioethics Committee and bioethicist Margaret McLean, thanks to an innovative joint project between O'Connor and the Markkula Center. McLean, a Center associate and lecturer in SCU's Department of Religious Studies, also serves as director of the 2-year-old O'Connor Applied Ethics Center. Recently, O'Connor joined a consortium of 22 hospitals, Catholic Health Care West, which has also begun collaborating with the Markkula Center.

Besides offering consultations, McLean helps plan educational programs on ethical decision making and health-care issues for hospital staff, patients, and community members. Also in the works are programs to bring SCU students on site, perhaps to attend meetings of the Bioethics Committee.

"It is unique to have an undergraduate institution and a hospital in collaboration like this," says McLean. "The major advantage for the hospital is that health-care ethics is on the horizon all the time, and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara can provide some tools and focus discussion around ethical issues."

But the advantages go both ways according to McLean. "The hospital can provide Santa Clara a context in which students can do some focused learning. To do ethics without a context is practically impossible," she says. "I can teach ethics all day long, but until the students use it in their lives, it just doesn't make much sense to them."