The 2010-2011 Farley Lecture

The 2010/2011 Margaret Farley Lectureship took place on April 11th, 2011.

Daniel Sulmasy

Kilbride-Clinton Professor of Medicine and Ethics,

Department of Medicine and Divinity School;

Associate Director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics,

University of Chicago

Speaking of the Value of Life

Click here to be taken to a video of this lecture.

Abstract: The phrase ‘the value of life’ is ambiguous, and these ambiguities can lead to errors in medical ethical analysis.  This lecture will describe three sources of such ambiguity: (1) three senses of the verb ‘is’, (2) the difference between the transcendent and the transcendental, and (3) the difference between the transcendental and the empirical.  On the basis of these distinctions, it is argued that the intrinsic value of life can be characterized as biologically dependent, given, finite, and transcendental.  Dr. Sulmasy will argue that this conception of the intrinsic value of life serves to justify several traditional moral claims about care at the end of life.  Six common errors in applying the concept of the value of life to medical decision making are then explained and corrected.

About the Speaker: Dr. Sulmasy, a Franciscan Friar, is the Kilbride-Clinton Professor of Medicine and Ethics in the Department of Medicine and Divinity School at the University of Chicago, where he serves as Associate Director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics.  He has previously held faculty positions at New York Medical College and at Georgetown University.  He received his A.B. and M.D. degrees from Cornell University and completed his residency, chief residency, and post-doctoral fellowship in General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.  He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Georgetown University in 1995.  He has served on numerous governmental advisory committees, and was appointed to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues by President Obama in April, 2010.  His research interests encompass both theoretical and empirical investigations of the ethics of end-of-life decision-making, ethics education, and spirituality in medicine.  He is the author of four books—The Healer’s Calling (1997), Methods in Medical Ethics (2001; 2nd ed. 2010), The Rebirth of the Clinic (2006), and A Balm for Gilead (2006).   He serves as editor-in-chief of the journal, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics.  His numerous articles have appeared in medical, philosophical, and theological journals and he has lectured widely both in the U.S. and abroad.