St. George’s University Hosts 2nd Annual Bioethics Forum

Dr. Derrick Aarons, BSEC President

Dr. Derrick Aarons, BSEC President

On Saturday, October 11, St. George’s University hosted the 2nd Annual Bioethics Forum of the Bioethics Society of the English-Speaking Caribbean (BSEC). The primary objective of this forum was to communicate bioethical concerns with regard to patient care in the Caribbean and advocate for the development of ethical policies to improve the current standards. Dr. Derrick Aarons, BSEC President and founder, welcomed an audience of SGU faculty, medical students, physicians, nurses and paramedical staff representing local communities and the region.

As the first speaker, Dr. Cheryl Macpherson, Professor and Chair, Bioethics Department and Vice President of BSEC, addressed concerns about untreated pain and pain management and its social and economic implications. Having worked with the former Minister of Health, the Honorable Ann David Antoine, Dr. Macpherson drew upon her experience as Chair of the Steering Committee to Develop Palliative and Hospice Care (CDPHC). Since 2003, the CDPHC has been working to expand patient care to include aspects of palliative and hospice services for the terminally and chronically ill patients in Grenada.

On behalf of CDPHC, SGU’s Bioethics Department is developing a grant proposal to support further efforts that foster continuing education in pain relief and palliation in Grenada. This effort translates to work on campus as well, as the Bioethics Department has assisted Dr. Chamarthy Subbarao, Director of SGU Health Services and Planning Committee Chair, in organizing Continuing Medical Education (CME) programs for Caribbean health providers about pain relief.

Other speakers included founder Dr. Derrick Aarons who discussed “Ethical Issues in Health Care for Patients with HIV.” Dr. Aarons, a Consultant Bioethicist and Member, International Advisory Board for Bioethics, PAHO, was recently awarded a Consultancy Contract to develop a Regional Model Code of Practice for Medical Practitioners and Medical Associations across the Caribbean in response to HIV and AIDS from The Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS.

Merle Mendonca, a Human Rights Advocate from Guyana, offered insight into an individual’s right with regard to medical science and health care delivery. Dr. James Appleyard, Professor of Pediatrics, and Past President of the World Medical Association spoke of “Ethical Issues in Medical Research on Children.” Dr. Donald Simeon, Director of the Caribbean Health Research Council, spoke about other aspects of research ethics relevant to the region. With respect to the many topics covered throughout the Forum, several opportunities for questions and answers and open discussions were made available to the participants.

Since its inception in 2006, the BSEC has positioned itself to offer guidance and support through discussions, consultations, publications and workshops that address regional concerns regarding ethics and professionalism. Dr. Derrick Aarons, a successful and respected physician and bioethicist, is credited with its formation and its continued effort to encourage and enhance further development in public and professional arenas. The Society encompasses about 60 members who include physicians, medical educators, and public health specialists from many different Caribbean nations.

The Annual BSEC Forum plays a critical role in the continued expansion of the Bioethics Society, as it provides a dynamic arena to communicate the many facets of bioethics and professionalism and its current and future impact on the Caribbean. This year’s event was jointly sponsored by St. George’s University School of Medicine and the Caribbean College of Family Physicians.  The 2009 Forum will focus on ethics and the environment and will be hosted in Trinidad. For more information, visit the BSEC online at bioethicscaribe.org.