I was lucky enough to secure a summer internship at The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare in Techny, Illinois. The Center is a small, non-denominational, community-initiated nonprofit and NGO that educates and supports people regarding their right to make well-informed decisions about their healthcare needs regardless of religious beliefs, age, and gender. In addition, The Center offers educational programs on healthcare ethics issues; some topics include: spirituality and end of life issues; conflict resolution; learning to live with pain/suffering; and decision-making. Lecture series and guest speakers frequent The Center regularly. The Center also offers individual counseling for those people who want to talk to someone about a current medical dilemma.
I wanted to intern at the Center because it’s mission fits well with my interests. I am a Philosophy major, and I am very interested in ethics – specifically, bioethics. With each person that asks for assistance, the Center has to be able to comfort the person and guide them through whatever problem they are facing. This decision making process is what I am very interested in. In addition, this internship will teach me about healthcare on the local and global scale and how near-future Medicaid and Medicare cuts will affect people and their decisions about healthcare.
To secure the internship, I went to the Center’s website; I was so excited with what I read that I called the Director herself. She took a liking to me, as I did to her, and the rest is history! I also was able to find someone at Brandeis who had this internship a few years earlier, so I talked with her over coffee about her experience.
Another reason why I wanted to intern at The Center is because of the woman who runs it. The Director exudes so much joy, kindness and warmth. After talking with her a few times, I knew I could and would want to learn a lot from her. She is a nun and was a nurse in the Boston area for a while, until she chose to pursue Ethics. Her passion for helping people get through tough medical situations led her to found this nonprofit, which I think is an extremely laudable path to take, if you ask me!
My internship responsibilities include: clerical work (filing, printing, photo-copying, answering phone calls and email requests, cleaning), learning about the current healthcare climate on both local and global levels from the speakers who will speak to us, and learning how the Director helps people make tough decisions during trying times. She will teach me how she has helped people in all different situations get through whatever medical or financial dilemma they faced. Lastly, one of the employees at The Center will teach me how to apply ethics theories to real life, everyday situations. This is my main goal for this summer- to learn how to apply theoretical ideas to real situations.
My first week was great! I got to meet the Director and the other two interns, who are very nice. I did not realize how small the office would be, but it makes sense now, knowing that it is a nonprofit and that it exists only because of the people who donate money to help support it. A lot of people in the area donate to the Center because they think it serves a real need in a very personal way.
We met with a couple of people who work at the New Trier Township in the Health and Social Services department – a social worker and director of community services – to learn more about all the different social services being offered in the area to people who either do not have health insurance or who are unemployed and have few or no health benefits. We learned how the Township assists these people and how much of a need there is since the state of Illinois, not to mention the entire country, is in dire financial straits.
Also during the first week, we learned how some philosophical ideas tie into viewing healthcare. We discussed theories about how people think it best to approach healthcare decision making. One theory is beneficence, which states that we should always aim to do good and eliminate evil. But when one agrees with the idea of Respect for Autonomy, (s)he thinks we should respect whatever decision the person will make. We also talked about the two different views of Justice – Distributive Justice and Justice “as desert,” or Deserved Justice.
After meeting everyone and learning a lot already, the first week was a great introduction into the internship program and I’m really excited for the coming weeks!
My goals for the summer are to learn how the Director helps people get through tough medical situations by examining her decision making process, to learn more about the current state of healthcare on the local and international level, and to learn how to apply philosophical theories to real life situations.
To learn more about some of the issues within bioethics, look here!
– Emily Breitbart ’13