Thursday, June 20, 2013

In memoriam: Edmund D. Pellegrino

Georgetown University photo in Washington Post
The Washington Post reports the death of Dr. Edmund D. Pellegrino, "a physician and former Catholic University president who was a leading figure in bioethics, a field of inquiry that has pushed doctors, patients and society at large to confront essential quandaries of caring for the sick."

Here are some excerpts, including some quotes that remain extremely pertinent:

Both physician and philosopher, Dr. Pellegrino was recognized as a founder of bioethics as a formal academic pursuit. The questions he explored, such as whether and when to let a patient die, had existed for millennia. But they became more urgently important as medical advances gave doctors ever greater power to extend and alter human life.

Medical ethics, he argued, matter as much in everyday bedside treatment as they do in dramatic ­choices involving organ donation or ventilators.

A doctor “binds himself to competence as a moral obligation” and “places the well-being of those he presumes to help above his own personal gain,” Dr. Pellegrino wrote, according to a 1986 profile in The Washington Post. “If these two considerations do not shape every medical act and every encounter with the patient, the profession becomes a lie: The physician is a fraud and his whole enterprise undiluted hypocrisy.”

His critics at times found Dr. Pellegrino’s views naive and out of touch with real-world economics. He was insistent.

“We keep talking about the cost of dialysis, which is $2.5 billion a year, but we spend that much a year on dogs at the track,” he told The Post in 1986. “We have to decide. . . . What kind of society do we want?”

“The capacity to make moral judgments, and to be self-critical, is part of being an educated person,” Dr. Pellegrino told The Post. “That’s what I do with ethics. I don’t set out to make trouble, but, when I do cause a stir, it’s only because I raise questions that strike me as unavoidable.”

1 comment:

Neville Sarkari MD, FACP said...

Thanks for posting this. He was the Chair of Medicine at the University of Kentucky, where I trained, though long before I was there. His influence, though, remained.