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Students visit library to explore the bioethics of Frankenstein

“Dr. Frankenstein never received consent from the monster,” explained students from Our Lady of Good Counsel High School at the KIE’s Bioethics Research Library on Tuesday. “This is actually a violation of his rights as a patient.”

The students are members of St. Mary’s Scholars, a group of high-achieving students from the high school who visit the library every summer as part of a four-day seminar to examine an assigned text through philosophical, scientific, literary, and theological lenses.

Today, teachers Dino Remedios, Andy Collins, and Dusan Turcan led the group in a bioethical exploration of the novel Frankenstein, looking at how it relates to topics such as human experimentation, death and dying, cloning, and enhancement technologies.

“We worked closely with the BRL to narrow it down to seven topics which were assigned to seven small groups,” said Remedios. “Today about getting the students out of a classroom and giving them that real-world experience of research and reflection. They’re young scholars, so this is at the heart of our educational approach. It’s about combining faith and reason and not being afraid to ask big questions.”

Rachel Pocratsky, one of the students in the program, is a member of the small group studying the topic of human experimentation. “The monster made Dr. Frankenstein create another monster to be his wife … but that’s a problem because it could alter the rest of human life as we know it.”

After spending some time examining their topics using research materials assembled by BRL librarian Martina Darragh, the students presented their findings on topics and talked about how they connect with themes in the book, with some students referencing everything from the Nuremberg Code of ethics to their own experiences with adoption. The teachers then led an engaging discussion about the controversial topics.

“We love the bioethics library,” said Remedios. “It’s beautiful, and the fact that it’s the largest bioethics library in the world is great. We wish we could do our entire seminar here at the library because it’s really at the heart of what we want to offer to these young scholars.”

This is the 10th year of the partnership with St. Mary’s Scholars and the Kennedy Institute of Ethics. The seminar is set to continue next summer.

The partnership is a part of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics’ pioneering secondary education outreach efforts, coordinated by KIE Academic Program Officer Laura Bishop, where KIE and BRL staff members provide secondary school educators with teaching suggestions and topical expertise, helping them lead bioethics discussions in the classroom.

“The BRL is so excited by this partnership,” says BRL Director Janice Swiatek-Kelley. “It is wonderful to not only see students learning to research, but delving into bioethics, a topic that will follow them their entire lives.”