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A Conversation with Jose A. Bufill 

Should healthcare professionals who refuse to cooperate in medical procedures they deem to be morally objectionable be forced to participate in those actions despite their moral repugnance, or be penalized for their recusal? Answering “yes” or “no”  to this question defines a critical debate in bioethics today.


As with any debate, agreement regarding the premises and definitions of basic concepts being debated is necessary for any dialogue. In contemporary conscience debates, dialogue has been complicated because opposing camps hold contradictory and mutually exclusive conceptualizations of human moral agency.  When the word “conscience” means one thing to one group and a completely different notion to another group, dialogue becomes difficult, if not impossible.


For healthcare professionals to understand the sources of this conflict, this conversation will review the "genealogy" of the word “conscience”: we consider its etymology; how the word gradually emerged as an ethical concept; how broad cultural and philosophical trends have affected our understanding of human moral agency; and how this process has led to our current state of confusion regarding the “conscience”. We'll conclude with an evaluation of the current state of affairs of the conscience debates and consider areas for further dialogue.

thursdays, march 14 & 21, 2024

Preferred attendance given to Medical Students
Taubman Health Science Library
Room 6000
from 6 to 7:30 PM
Light dinner & Refreshments Served

Registration limited to 15 participants


Jose A. Bufill, MD, FACP

Dr Bufill is a medical oncologist in clinical practice for the past 30 years in northwest Indiana. For ten years, he served as Director of Medical Education at a tertiary care medical center in South Bend.

He serves on the clinical faculty of Indiana University School of Medicine (South Bend Campus), where he has mentored medical students and residents, and lectured on topics related to hematology, oncology and cancer genetics. He also participates in the Patient Advocacy Initiative for undergraduate students at the University of Notre Dame.

He has cultivated a lifelong interest in bioethics, leading to oral presentations in academic bioethics conferences and published articles in national and international media outlets. He is completing a collaboration on the intellectual history of "conscience" with Xavier Symons of the Human Flourishing Program (Harvard School of Public Health) and Director of the Plunkett Center for Bioethics (Sydney, Australia). This work will serve as the basis of his talk.

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