Loyola University Chicago

Department of Philosophy


John F. Grant MD Endowment funds Lively Health Care Ethics Seminar

John F. Grant MD Endowment funds Lively Health Care Ethics Seminar

By Molly Clasen

Should patients have the right to refuse life-saving treatment? When can a doctor breach a patient’s confidentiality? Should a parent always have the final say in her child’s medical care? Today’s expanding medical field grapples increasingly with complex issues like these, making health care ethics one of the fastest growing fields in philosophy. The John F. Grant Seminar (PHIL 398/BIET 398) allows students to engage with critical topics pertaining to health care ethics, including gender and medicine, feminist bioethics, goals of medicine, and autonomy and consent. “The seminar combines philosophical concerns with a specific practical bent,” says Philosophy Department Chair Dr. Mark Waymack. “And because the class is capped at 15 students, we can have lively back-and-forth discussions.”

This course is funded by the John F. Grant, MD, Endowment for the Study of Health Care Ethics. Dr. Grant attended Loyola University Chicago and enrolled in various philosophy classes as an undergraduate. After serving as a medic in World War II, he returned to Loyola to earn his medical degree and went on to become a prominent cardiothoracic surgeon. He spoke often of how the lessons he learned in his philosophy courses influenced his medical career. His passion for medicine and philosophy compelled him to establish an endowment in 1999 to foster the study of health care ethics for future Loyola students. This endowment now funds an annual public lecture in Health Care Ethics, various awards for essay competitions in bioethics, as well as the guest speakers for the John F. Grant Seminar.

Faculty members invite three to five guest speakers each semester to expand on specific course topics. Discussions with visiting experts lead to fruitful discoveries for both students and lecturers. “I remember having a guest speaker once,” recalls Dr. Waymack, “who was a practicing, teaching, and publishing professional.  At the close of the evening, he told me that he had never before encountered such challenging questions during a presentation—even when presenting for medical students. The experience had actually made the guest rethink some of his positions!”

“Informed Consent in Medicine,” this semester’s John F. Grant Seminar taught by Dr. Pamela Lomelino, provides students with a general overview of informed consent. A diverse selection of guest speakers will participate, including Dr. Emily Anderson (assistant professor at the Loyola’s Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics), Dr. Timothy Buckley (physician at the Heartland Clinic), Dr. Katie Watson (assistant professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern), and Dr. Eric Chwang (assistant professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado). Dr. Lomelino hopes that the dynamic format will encourage students to contemplate medical and ethical issues long after the semester ends.  “I would like the students to take away fond memories of an inspiring course filled with insights about the complexities of informed consent in the medical context.”

The John F. Grant seminar combines rigorous class discussions with in-depth lectures from leading experts across disciplines. Whether listening to a doctor discuss treatment of vulnerable populations or writing an essay that debates using human specimens for medical research, students will ask difficult questions with no simple answers. After experiencing such an enriching learning environment, students just might discover an enduring passion for philosophy just as Dr. John F. Grant did over 70 years ago.