50th Anniversary

KIE 50th Anniversary Symposium (June 1-5, 2021)

The Kennedy Institute of Ethics welcomes you to the archive of its 50th Anniversary Symposium on Bioethics. The symposium ran June 1-5, 2021, in collaboration with the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, which celebrated its 30th anniversary.  The event was entirely virtual and free of charge.

The full program can be found here.

Some basic information about the symposium:

Program of Events:



John KeownWelcome and Introduction to the Symposium 

President John J. DeGioia: A Welcome from The President of Georgetown University

Provost Robert M. Groves: A Welcome from The Provost of Georgetown University

Daniel P. SulmasyThe Kennedy Institute of Ethics

The new Director will give a brief presentation on the history of the KIE, its present programs and projects, and its exciting future.

Myles Sheehan SJThe Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics

Laura BishopThe Visiting Researcher Program and Bioethics Education

Laura Bishop speaks about the KIE’s Visiting Researcher program that began when the Institute was founded and continues to the present day. She also mentions the KIE’s work in education at the graduate, professional, and secondary school levels. Dr. Bishop focuses on the expansion of the KIE’s involvement in undergraduate bioethics education to the co-curricular and extracurricular space with the GU Undergraduate Bioethics Club (2012), the Philosophy and Bioethics Minor (first graduates in 2014), the GU Bioethics Bowl Debate Team (2013), and the Georgetown’s annual Undergraduate Bioethics Research Symposium (now in its 7th year). The minor and the debate team are collaborations with the GU Philosophy Department. 

Maggie LittleEthics Lab

Quill KuklaThe KIEJ (The Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal)

Daniel P. SulmasyTheoretical Medicine & Bioethics

The Editor-in-Chief of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, who is the Director and a Senior Research Scholar at the KIE, will give an overview of this journal–its history, aims and scope, and its place within the field of bioethics. TMBE is one of three scholarly journals currently housed at the KIE.


LeRoy WaltersAndré E Hellegers and the Early Years of the KIE

André E. Hellegers, a Dutch-born obstetrician and gynecologist, was the founder and first director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics. From 1964 on, André developed an intense interest in the ethical questions surrounding health care and biomedical research. In 1971, with the generous assistance of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, he created the first university-based research and teaching institute for the field of bioethics.

Day Two: June 2nd, 2021

John Keown: Day 2 Welcome


Tom BeauchampBioethics: Past, Present and Future 

This presentation offers reflections on the development of the discipline of bioethics over the last 50 years.

Karen StohrVirtue Ethics and the Skill of Good Judgment

This presentation is an overview of Aristotelian virtue ethics, with a particular emphasis on the virtue of practical wisdom. We will cover what it means to have practical wisdom, why it makes sense to think of it as a skill, and how practical wisdom enables its possessor to make good judgments about what to do.

Daniel P. SulmasyDignity and Bioethics

Dr. Sulmasy will distinguish three uses of the word ‘dignity’ (attributive, intrinsic, and inflorescent) and will discuss their history, meaning, interrelatedness, and relevance to bioethics.

Sean AasDisability, Health and the Aims of Medicine

People with disabilities can be healthy, even perfectly healthy. What does this teach us about health, and about health promotion as an aim of medicine and public health policy? In this talk, I explore how insights from disability scholarship and activism can help us to think about the relationship between society, embodiment, and value, as we think about what health is and what we should do about it. 

Day Three: June 3rd, 2021 CLINICAL BIOETHICS

John Keown: Day 3 Welcome

Myles Sheehan, SJ: Revisiting Professionalism

This presentation will review the concept of medicine as a profession with a focus on its moral commitments. Although some hold professionalism can be a source of maintaining power and prestige, an authentic view of medicine as a profession requires a progressive approach to contemporary problems like racism and a personal commitment to put the care of the patient above self-interest.

Allen Roberts: Medical Interventions: What to Stop and When?

In this lecture, we will consider the ethical principles and practical aspects of withdrawing life-sustaining treatments in cases of critically ill patients for whom such interventions are realized to have no benefit. The discussion is couched in considerations surrounding family meetings in which sensitivity and compassion are stressed. We affirm that the physician and medical team’s beneficence and virtue should be the guiding ethos for the principles of decision making, and we lament the erosion of the physician as a beneficent shepherd and guide in such discussions, in today’s culture.  

Sarah VittoneMoral Distress and the Entangled Experience

Moral Distress is a core topic in clinical ethics. Ethicists are called to move past the challenges of ethical dilemmas to address the personal, social and organizational constraints that influence individual and professional integrity leading to their moral distress. We describe an additional pandemic-related patient moral distress adding to the experience of medical professionals.

Claudia SotomayorA Review on Clinical Ethics Committees and Clinical Ethics Consultation

Hospital Ethics Committees (HECs) are developing a stronger presence of clinical ethics in the hospital through more proactive and efficient clinical consultation services.


John Keown: Day 4 Welcome

Maggie LittleData & Digital Ethics

Novel data and new data analytics, including machine learning, are transforming society, including in clinical and public health. These advances hold potential for both promise and peril. This presentation will outline issues in data and digital ethics key to ensuring their responsible design, deployment, and governance.

Gaël Girard SJ: Environmental Justice

I share a couple of ideas about the collaborative work that we could do, at the Emergent Ethics Network, working hand in hand with the Kennedy Institute. First, I would favour a problem-based approach, dealing with concrete issues and, then, building an iteratively universal (M. Walzer) understanding of how a sensible environmental ethics  might look like when dealing with health and bioethics. Transdisciplinarity should also be key, allowing not only a conversation between scholars stemming from different backgrounds but also actors working on the field (physicians, activists…). Here are a couple of concrete examples: 1) the Real World Data versus Randomised Control Trials controversy which takes place today both in empirical development economics and clinical trials in medicine; 2) the incompleteness of the language we try to speak when proceeding with DNA manipulations and what this implies with regard to our precautionary principle; 3) the need for exercises of hybrid prospective where scenarios  and numerical simulations should take into account both the environmental evolution of our planet, the social evolution of our human societies and the spreading diseases which interact with global warming and human activities; 4) the need to imagine and build new institutions capable of taking care of our global commons, health in the first place.

Jim GiordanoBold New Neuroscience; Brave New Neuroethics?

Prof. James Giordano provides insight to newly emerging tools and techniques of the brain sciences, and discusses the ethical issues they generate – and possible methods of addressing and resolving these questions and problems – on the 21st century global stage. 

Quill KuklaA Nonideal Theory of Sexual Consent

This paper explores how and when consent to sex can be possible for people whose decisional autonomy is compromised, such as people with moderate dementia and people in unequal power relationships. It argues that the possibility of consent is dependent not just on people’s capacities, but on their partners and their environment. It proposes tools for scaffolding and enabling the possibility of good quality sexual consent under nonideal conditions.

John KeownDesmond Tutu, George Carey and Euthanasia

This presentation outlines and evaluates the arguments of former Archbishops Desmond Tutu and George Carey in favor of legalizing voluntary euthanasia.

Day Five: June 5th, 2021 EXPERT PANEL

John Keown: Day 5 Welcome

Pandethics: An Expert Panel on Ethical Issues in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr. Daniel Sulmasy will moderate a live panel on ethical issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, including global health ethics, the ethics of public health messaging, the ethics of racial disparities in health outcomes exposed by COVID-19, and the everyday ethics of citizens during a pandemic. The panelists are: