Rosa Lynn Pinkus
Professor of Medicine/Neurosurgery
Associate Director, Center for Bioethics and Health Law
Director, Consortium Ethics Program
University of Pittsburgh


“Bioengineering Ethics: What IS It and Can You Teach It?”

If these questions have caused you to pause and reflect, then you have shifted into “ethical problem-solving” mode. We are all moral agents in the sense that we confront and resolve ethical dilemmas daily in both our personal and in our professional lives. When we “reflect” about our actions and our reasons for acting, we are, according to a definition from practical ethics, acting “ethically.”

This presentation will address these issues. Combining “practical wisdom” and a knowledge of how the field of practical ethics has evolved during the past 30 years, it is intended to provide a forum for participants to exchange experiences, questions, and suggestions about how best to teach ethics to bioengineers. The issues that will be discussed apply to the field of engineering in general. A case-based, interactive format will be used.

Rosa Lynn Pinkus, a historian, received both her master of arts degree (1973) and Ph.D. (1975) from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 1978 she completed a fellowship in the Medical Humanities at Penn State Hershey and joined the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1980. By 1986, her frontline clinical work in neurosurgery earned her an associate professorship in that department. She is currently professor of medicine/neurosurgery. Since 1990 she has been associate director of the Center for Bioethics and Health Law and director of the Consortium Ethics Program. She has extensive experience as an ethics consultant and has taught applied ethics for over 20 years in both the medical school and, most recently, the School of Engineering.

Pinkus is lead author of the book, Engineering Ethics: Balancing Cost, Risk and Schedules -- Lessons Learned from the Space Shuttle (Cambridge University Press, 1997) and co-author, with Mark Kuczewski, of An Ethics Casebook for Hospitals: Practical Approaches to Everyday Ethics (Georgetown University Press, 1999). Her current research (funded by the NSF-LIS Program) is an interdisciplinary study to understand how bioengineering students learn ethics by using a case-based approach and how a computer model of this reasoning process can aid future teaching. Still publishing historical articles examining the development of a “tacit ethic” in neurosurgery, Pinkus’ commitment to applying what the “academic” ethics center has learned to everyday practice of professionals is the common theme that runs through her career.

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