Doctor shares expertise about bioethics

Dr. Nuala Kenny lectured about ethics in health care, and specifically, the 2012 Catholic Health Ethics Guide.

DR. NUALA KENNY recently shared her expertise about bioethics with staff at St. Joseph's General Hospital.

Ted Hicks

Special to the Record

Dr. Nuala Kenny — one of Canada’s foremost bioethicists — was in the Comox Valley recently to lecture and lead discussions regarding ethics in health care, and specifically, the 2012 Catholic Health Ethics Guide.

Kenny was invited by the Ethics Committee of St. Joseph’s Hospital as part of the hospital’s continuing commitment to the highest standards of clinical and organizational ethics.

Dr. Kenny addressed physicians Nov. 27 at Crown Isle, and on Nov. 28, she spoke in the hospital to a wider audience including physicians, staff, and board members.

Dr. Kenny emphasized that, “The revised Ethics Guide challenges Catholic Health Care facilities to reflect on the fundamental nature of faith-based health care and to wrestle with some of the complexities involved in providing care in the current context of technological and social changes.”

Eric Macdonald, vice-president of finance, capital, and support services at St. Joseph’s, found the presentation particularly helpful.

“I am often asked – and ask myself,” he says, “Is faith-based health care at St. Joseph’s different compared with other hospitals and, if so, then how?

“The guide helps us answer that question, not only when making difficult ethical choices, but also in helping us understand what faith-based health care offers in the context of today’s pluralist society. The guide also serves as a timely touchstone for St. Joseph’s to discern our evolving role in providing ‘Care with Compassion’ for our community when the new hospital is built.”

Despite her four-hour jetlag from Halifax, Dr. Kenny brought very evident enthusiasm and energy to her presentation.

Commented Natalia Richardson, who recently joined the Social Work Department in the Views and the Transition Unit, “I really appreciated Dr. Kenny’s passion. It seems to be so much more than just a job to her and it gives me something to aspire to in the development of my own career.”

Dr. Kenny is a member of the Sisters of Charity in Halifax. She received her MD from Dalhousie in 1972, did postgraduate training at Dalhousie and Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston, and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in Pediatrics in 1975.

Dr. Kenny founded the Department of Bioethics at Dalhousie in 1996. In 1999 she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for her contributions to child health and medical education.

Author of over 100 papers and three books, Dr. Kenny’s research includes pediatric ethics, professionalism, ethics in health policy and public health, end-of-life care and the clergy abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. Dr. Kenny was a founding member of the Canadian Institute for Health Research, the Health Council of Canada and Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

Through the ongoing work of the very robust Ethics Committee, chaired by Board member, Cynthia Davies, St. Joseph’s Hospital is committed to ethical integrity as the foundational principle of health care.

“We deeply appreciate Dr. Kenny’s insightful sessions,’ said Steve Hill, co-ordinator of Pastoral Care and Ethics. ‘Ethics education strengthens our capacity to provide excellent quality patient care.”

Ted Hicks is a St Joseph’s Hospital pastoral volunteer.

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