KC-based Center for Practical Bioethics helps guide families, doctors during pandemic

Posted at 6:33 AM, Aug 18, 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When a family, doctor or government leader faces an ethical dilemma during COVID-19, they often reach out to the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Missouri.

The nonprofit organization has been guiding decisions to ethical healthcare-related dilemmas since 1984 but has ramped up its involvement during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It now has a COVID-19 resources page on its website, publishes regular webinars on a variety of topics and amplifies the message of the community to government policy-makers.

A lot of the work the center does is consulting with doctors or families about individual cases. Oftentimes a patient can no longer make decisions and did not designate a legal agent to make decisions on their behalf.

“We’re not going to be able to take the burden of the decision away from you, that’s not our job. Our job is to help make sure the best decision can come from this, especially when we look at it from different perspectives, different views and try to reconcile some of the misinformation or conflict,” explained John Carney, the center’s president, and CEO.

He said the pandemic has highlighted the need for everyone, no matter how healthy they are, to have an advanced care plan. The center offers free resources to help people create such a plan. Doctors and families use plans to make the best decisions for patients when they can no longer make decisions on their own.

“This can hit any of us at any point in time and I think for the first time we’re all realizing that we’re mortal, even younger people are realizing they’re mortal and that they have an obligation and a duty to take care of loved ones, especially older folks,” Carney explained.

When it comes to testing a new vaccine, the Center for Practical Bioethics said it will help pharmaceutical companies with a risk analysis so they balance the risk of rushing things and putting people in danger versus taking too long and costing people’s lives.

Once a vaccine is ready to roll out, the Center for Practical Bioethics will help guide decision-makers to answer questions like, who will receive the vaccine first?

Carney said historically, women and children are the first to receive a new vaccine. In this case, COVID-19 more strongly affects the elderly, so they may need to be the first to get vaccinated.

Carney said communities that are suffering from COVID-19, like the elderly and minorities, have lost trust in the medical field so they may not volunteer to be first in line for a new vaccine.

“We have just failed them, yet we say you’re going to be fist in line for the vaccine,” Carney said. “We have really got to prove this time around that it is going to happen and those people are worth saving because right now many of them don’t believe they are.”

Members of the Center for Practical Bioethics said they feel a sense of humility when they are able to help a physician or family.

“That is an incredible honor, a privilege to be able to do that and to be able to help these wonderful care providers who are doing their best encountering sometimes patients or family members who have been misinformed, getting their info from the wrong sources and lacking trust,” Tarris Rosell, DMin, Ph.D., explained.

To learn more about the center, visit its website.