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Georgetown Team Places Second at National Bioethics Bowl

Georgetown’s first ever Bioethics Bowl team, with support from the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, placed second at the 2011 National Bioethics Bowl.

The Bioethics Bowl, a debate-style competition, is a part of the annual National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference sponsored by the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. This year’s conference and Bioethics Bowl took place at Duke University, March 18-20.

The Georgetown team members—Elizabeth Bakacs (C’12), Grace McElhenny (NHS’14), Camila Idrovo (SFS’14), Michael Vu (C’14) and Will Hambley (C’12) — worked for several months with their coaches, four Ph.D. candidates in Philosophy: Cassie Herbert, Paddy McShane, Laura Guidry-Grimes, and Anne Langhorne.

At the Bowl, twelve college and university teams from across the country debated cases about the ethical nature of proposed taxes on sodas and energy drinks; government regulations on fetal testing; assistance from the United Nations to Afghan farmers for marijuana production; brain-enhancing drugs; minors refusing life-saving blood transfusions; medical treatment for illegal immigrants; monetary compensation for organs; and the role of the World Health Organization in preventing flu epidemics.

Preparing for and competing in the Bioethics Bowl offered team members, some of whom had never before studied philosophy or bioethics, the opportunity to dig deeply into compelling issues in practical ethics. Team Captain Elizabeth Bakacs, who has plans to become a medical doctor, explained:

“As a mathematics major, I have learned how to think logically, yet I had never before used these skills in ways that applied to real-life issues. In discussing and preparing these cases, we considered the issues from many different perspectives in order to arrive at conclusions that we could justify and support. This process has helped me bridge the gap between what I have learned in the classroom and the issues that I will face in my future. It has been an invaluable experience that has helped bring meaning to what I have learned so far at Georgetown.”

Teammate Will Hambley similarly noted:

“Participating in the Bioethics Bowl has made me realize the real possibility for me to utilize my various interests in Philosophy as I move onto medical school and enter into a career as a physician. Understanding the complexities of the human body is certainly importance to a physician, but the preparation and study for Bioethics bowl has shed light for me onto the inadequacy of simply knowing a slew of scientific knowledge.”

Team members and coaches are already looking forward to competing in the 2012 National Bioethics Bowl at the University of Denver in Colorado. The team’s recent success is particularly apt, as the 2013 National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference and Bioethics Bowl will be organized and hosted by Georgetown’s newly founded Undergraduate Bioethics Society.

Plans are also in the works for the team to compete next fall in another debate-style competition in practical ethics, the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. Competing in this year’s Bioethics Bowl has done more than just help team members to prepare for future competitions; it has helped team members to prepare for their longterm career goals. “Being able to compete was so much fun,” says team member Grace McElhenny, “but the best part of this whole experience is the knowledge that I can take with me beyond the competition and into a future career in healthcare.”