Karen Stohr, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, recently joined the Kennedy Institute of Ethics as a Senior Research Scholar. Dr. Stohr’s research in bioethics focuses on disputed issues within the Catholic medical tradition, such as treatment for ectopic pregnancies, extension of life, and advanced directives. She has taught courses in bioethics at UNC-Chapel Hill, Mount Saint Mary’s University, and Georgetown University. Dr. Stohr has also served on ethics committees at Catholic hospitals where she has witnessed firsthand how philosophical considerations come to bear on medical practices at the bedside.
Dr. Stohr also publishes extensively on both Kantian and Aristotelian ethics; her latest book, On Manners (Routledge, 2011), came out in print this October. As is clear from her book, Dr. Stohr seeks to build bridges between ethical theory and daily life. “I think it’s important that the theoretical work is responsive to people’s actual experiences,” Stohr says. Her own experiences as a mother of two, for instance, have shaped her work on the textured and intricate issues surrounding pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood.
In the classroom, she creatively weaves together narratives from news articles, movies, and books pertaining to bioethics to help her students inhabit perspectives different from their own as they consider contentious issues. Forging a metaphor from the play Into the Woods, Stohr tells her students that doing bioethics is like going into the woods: new medical technologies can be daunting, because they force us to reconsider how we engage with our world. People can also find themselves thrown into the woods, so to speak, when faced with sudden bioethical crises. The views we have when we enter the “woods” of bioethics may very well not be the same views once we emerge.
Dr. Stohr’s current project focuses on the virtue of self-sacrifice and the role it can play in issuing advanced directives.