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If You've Got an Ethics Problem, Yo, I'll Solve It (Or at Least Try to Help)

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

Sometimes medical decisions are hard, but talking through them can help

Hi! I’m your friendly neighborhood SheKnows health and sex editor, Elizabeth Yuko. Technically, it’s Dr. Elizabeth Yuko (if you ask my ethics students or my mother) because I have a Ph.D. in bioethics. That means that I look at difficult ethical questions and dilemmas relating to medicine, research and the human body. Basically, it’s all the stuff no one else wants to talk about — issues surrounding abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, experimental treatment, human-pig hybrid embryos, fertility tourism and so on.

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In real life, people like to ask me tough medical ethics questions... constantly. Unfortunately, my job as a bioethicist isn’t to make decisions for you, but to arm you with the tools and information to make them yourself. Medicine isn’t one-size-fits-all, so what’s right for one person or family might not be the best option for others.

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If you’ve read anything I’ve written for SheKnows since I started here in November, you may have noticed that I’m constantly banging on about paternalism in medicine. To condense all of medical history into one sentence: Medical research, diagnosis and treatment has primarily been based on what works for men, so when symptoms for certain conditions (like heart attacks) differ in women, we may miss them and people die. (Look for my upcoming article entitled “Paternalism Killed My Grandmother — and Probably Yours Too.”) Anyway, I very much identify as a feminist bioethicist, which means that I look at issues from perspectives other than that of an old white man.

Please note, I am not an M.D. and I am not qualified to diagnose or treat illnesses or write prescriptions. What I can do is help walk you through making difficult medical decisions, taking into consideration the different risks and benefits to help you make the most informed choice. I can let you know what the most up-to-date research on a subject is, and if necessary ask a medical doctor to weigh in.

Feel free to ask things like how to decide whether to bank your baby’s umbilical cord blood or how to handle situations in which family members disagree on the course of treatment for a loved one or what to consider if you’re thinking about becoming an organ donor.

Send any questions to health@sheknows.com and I’ll do my best to get back to you in a timely fashion. We'll select a few questions for publication (but don't worry, you can absolutely stay anonymous or we can make up a name for your like "Ethically Challenged in Evanston.") So much in the world (or at least this country) feels out of control right now, so we may as well make the most informed decisions possible when given the opportunity.

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