Ethicists Confront Cancer: When the Professional Becomes Personal

Date & Time

Wed, 06/04/2014


This program is the seventh in a series of 2013-2014 programs with a focus on cancer, particularly as seen through the lens of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book The Emperor of All Maladies.

In 2006, Dresser was diagnosed with cancer. Having cancer was both a personal calamity and an education. Despite years of teaching and writing about medical ethics, she found herself unprepared for the experience. She views herself as one of the lucky people whose treatment was successful. After returning to work she wanted to share what she had learned. With six colleagues who had been cancer patients or cared for spouses with cancer, Dresser authored a book called Malignant: Medical Ethicists Confront Cancer. In Malignant, ethicists tell their cancer stories. They describe how their views on medical ethics changed after personal cancer experiences, and point to neglected issues in cancer care. In the midst of serious illness, people can be helped and harmed in ways that ethicists, medical professionals, and the public must understand.



Rebecca Dresser
Washington University in St. Louis

Rebecca Dresser is the Daniel Noyes Kirby Professor of Law and Professor of Ethics in Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. Since 1983, she has taught medical and law students about legal and ethical issues in end-of-life care, biomedical research, genetics, assisted reproduction, and related topics. Before coming to Washington University, she taught at Baylor College of Medicine and Case Western Reserve University. In 2003, she was a Visiting Research Scholar at the University of Tokyo, where she taught a short course in law and bioethics. Dresser received her law degree from Harvard Law School. Her book, When Science Offers Salvation: Patient Advocacy and Research Ethics, was published by Oxford University Press in 2001. She also edited and contributed to Malignant: Medical Ethicists Confront Cancer (Oxford University Press, 2012). She is a co-author of The Human Use of Animals: Case Studies in Ethical Choice (Oxford University Press, 2d Edition, 2008) and Bioethics and Law: Cases, Materials and Problems (West Publishing Co., 2003). Dresser has written numerous journal articles, as well as commissioned papers for the National Academy of Sciences and National Bioethics Advisory Commission. She is Vice-Chair of the Hastings Center Fellows Council and an “At Law” columnist for the Hastings Center Report. From 2002-2009, she was a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics. In 2011, she was appointed to a four-year term on the National Institutes of Health Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee.


Michael Kalichman, Moderator
UC San Diego

Dr. Kalichman is the founding director of the UC San Diego Research Ethics Program, director of the San Diego Research Ethics Consortium, the founding and past president for the Responsible Conduct of Research Education Consortium (RCREC), project director for a Web-based resource for instructors of courses in the responsible conduct of research, the director of NIH-funded research to assess the effectiveness of teaching research ethics and the standards of conduct in research, co-founder and co-director of the Center for Ethics in Science and Technology, and chair of the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight (ESCRO) Committee at UC San Diego.