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April 21, 2010

Ethics Expert Discusses Unresolved Tensions in American Health Care on May 6

A lecture on "Respecting Conscience, Protecting Patients: Unresolved Tensions in American Health Care" will be presented at the Library of Congress by James F. Childress, a distinguished professor from the University of Virginia.

Childress, who currently holds the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the Library's John W. Kluge Center, will give his talk at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 6, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Kluge Center, the lecture is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed.

In his lecture, Childress will examine the current controversies about whether and how far to respect the conscientious refusals of health professionals -- such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists or emergency medical personnel -- to provide legal but morally contested health-care services.

In the American tradition, there exists a strong presumption in favor of respecting conscientious refusals when it is possible to do so without putting others at risk, according to Childress. But patients' interests in obtaining legal, though morally contested, health services are also strong. Childress will discuss whether there are ways to resolve or at least reduce these tensions in U.S. health care.

Childress is the sixth holder of the Maguire Chair. He was appointed to the chair by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in January and will serve until mid-May. Childress is the John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics at the University of Virginia, where he teaches in the Department of Religious Studies and directs the Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life.

In 2004, Childress received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities. The award "recognizes outstanding contributions and significant publications that have helped shape the direction of the fields of bioethics and humanities." In 2002, he received the University of Virginia's highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award, and in 1990, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education named Childress as the Professor of the Year in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Childress has been actively involved in national committees examining ethics and public policy. From 1996 to 2001, Childress served on the presidentially appointed National Bioethics Advisory Commission. From 1985 to 1986, he was vice chair of the national Task Force on Organ Transplantation, and through the years he has served on the board of directors of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the UNOS Ethics Committee and many more organizations.

Childress received a bachelor's degree from Guilford College, a bachelor of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School and a master's degree and a Ph.D. from Yale University.

Previous holders of the Maguire Chair include John T. Noonan, a judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago; Mark Noll of Wheaton College; Louis Galambos of Johns Hopkins University; and William F. May of the University of Virginia.

The Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History is funded by a generous endowment from James Madison Council member, Cary M. Maguire, to address serious and important ethical issues of our time. The Maguire chair is appointed by the Librarian of Congress to conduct research in residence at the Library on ethical issues associated with American history. Research may include the conduct of politics and government at all levels of American life as well as the role of religion, business, urban affairs, law, science and medicine. Maguire chair holders add new substance to the intellectual and ethical life of Washington and bring both philosophical depth and historical perspective to their research. A major public address is given by each chair holder during their tenure.

For further information on the Kluge Center, visit

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PR 10-091
ISSN 0731-3527

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