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Medical School Obtains Large Grant To Establish New Program in Ethics

DeCamp Foundation Provides Program Nearly $1 Million

By Lori E. Smith

The University has received a grant of nearly $1 million to fund a newly-established ethics program at the Medical School, administrators said yesterday.

The $935,000 grant from the Ira W. DeCamp Foundation will be distributed over five years to the Division of Medical Ethics, which was created six months ago but has lacked major funding, said Dr. Lynn M. Peterson, who directs the Medical School program.

Peterson said the study of ethics was particularly important for doctors at a time when there seems to be growing public dissatisfaction with the traditional professions such as medicine.

"Professional authority is being challenged. 'Because the doctor said so' isn't always the best reason to do something," said Peterson.

It is also imperative to consider ethical questions in a medical profession that is changing rapidly, Peterson said. "We're trying to understand and define boundaries. Technology has advanced and led to alternatives, other possibilities."

Peterson said the Medical School's program is likely to discuss ethical questions surrounding the AIDS epidemic, ending medical care in terminal cases, malpractice and involuntary commitment.

The ethics of the Medical School itself and those of its affiliates have been under scrutiny in recent years.

In September, 1989, the Medical School unveiled a controversial plan that would blend medical research with private-sector profit. The program created a $30 million venture capital program that markets the discoveries of faculty members through a network of affiliated companies.

The Med School was later jolted by two highly publicized scandals.

Last academic year, Sheffer C.G. Tseng, an ophthalmology fellow, was deemed by an investigating committee to have exaggerated research results in favor of a drug in which he had financial interests.

And Dr. Shervert H. Frazier, former head of the Med School's Department of Psychology, was forced to resign last year after admitting that he had plagiarized an article many years ago.

Dennis F. Thompson, director of theUniversity's Program in Ethics and Professions,said he did not think that last year'scontroversies were related to the formation of theMedical School ethics division or the donation ofthe foundation money.

"These are not the sort of problems that theDivision of Medical Ethics is centered on. Corruptdoctors, violation of established rules--these arehandled by disciplinary action," Thompson said."The Medical Ethics Division is interested inquestions where the right answer might not be soobvious."

The DeCamp grant was formally given to theUniversity-wide ethics program headed by Thompson.

"They gave [the grant] on the understandingthat it would be the Medical School who used it,"Thompson said. "I think one of the reasons we gotthe grant is that the [Medical School] division isunique. DeCamp appreciated the fact that there wasa link between the Medical School and other partsof the University."

Peterson said that the division intended to usethe new money to support a visiting lecture seriesin hospitals, support fellows and develop moremedical ethics teaching materials.

The division has already sponsored courses suchas "Moral Dilemmas in Medical Practice" It hasalso been active in the Med School's revolutionaryNew Pathways curriculum program, which emphasizedcase studies and problem-based learning,administrators said

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