Dr. Taylor Interview Part One
This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Julia Taylor. Dr. Taylor is a pediatrician and founding member of the Center for Biomedical Ethics & Humanities at The University of Virginia. This is part one of a two-part interview series, in which we will discuss clinical ethics, ethics consults, and fertility preservation.
What health care advances/innovations currently interest you the most?
Fertility preservation options that can be extended to children, adolescents, and transgender individuals who undergo treatments (chemotherapy, hormones, surgery, etc.) that threaten their fertility. These advances in reproductive medicine are still not widely available and many are only accessible as part of a research protocol, but there is strong interest in furthering treatment options for the prevention of infertility or subfertility.
Is there a tenet of clinical ethics that you find to be most important?
This is a hard one.
I think the most important aspect of clinical ethics is to regard the perspectives of all involved as important and valuable for expanding possible solutions to complex ethical problems. Too often we learn the principles of biomedical/clinical ethics in our silos (medicine, nursing, chaplaincy, etc.), but the actual work of clinical ethics requires a diverse team and [a] broader understanding of the facts, conflicts, and nuances of any ethically challenging situation.
Ethics consults face a number of difficult situations. What do you do to release after a stressful consult?
I find that reflecting on what was most difficult about a particular case is essential. Trying to identify why I struggled with a particular case or aspects of a case helps me to understand my personal biases and values. Keeping a reflection journal allows me to move out of my head and onto paper thoughts and emotions that would otherwise take up too much brain space and potentially cloud my thinking about other cases.
It is also super important to debrief with colleagues. Ethics consultants work best as a team and bouncing ideas and hard cases off one another is essential to maintaining perspective and the capacity to engage in complex cases and appreciate alternative understandings.
If you were to triage the healthcare industry, what would you prescribe as the most urgent and critical care priorities?
Access to quality care, including preventative care for all regardless of location, insurance status, or any other factor that should never limit an individual’s opportunity for health and well being.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.