Letter: Bioethics in Israeli High Schools

- Frank J. Leavitt, Ph.D.

The Lord Immanuel Jakobovits Centre for Jewish Medical Ethics, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, ISRAEL.

Eubios Ethics Institute Newsletter 3 (1993), 44.

During Autumn term 5753 (1992-1993) the Jakobovits Centre for Jewish Medical Ethics, in partnership with the Blechner Chair in Jewish Values at Ben Gurion University, initiated an experimental pilot project in bioethical education at a local high school, Comprehensive School Number 7. A team of three fourth-year medical students who had previously undergone extensive training in bioethics at the Jakobovits Centre, designed and presented to the high school students a series of five lectures. Participation in the classes was voluntary, and the participating high school studetnts were among those interested in futures in biology, psychology and medicine. The classes dealt with (1) animal experimentation, (2) fertilization, embryos and abortion, (3) end-of-life and euthanasia, (4) the human genome project, (5) AIDS as a model for ethical issues in science. Participation was enthusiaitic and the discussions were lively.

The project serves three important purposes. Its provides a means to give the participating medical students much-needed supplementary employment. Since Israeli medical students are rather mature, having completed military service before entering medical school, they often must support families while studying. Secondly, it is a bioethical educational experience for the medical school student-teachers, who must devote serious research and discussion to preparing for the class sessions. Third, and most importantly, it introduces the high school students to bioethical thinking at a relatively young age. The medical, genetic and other biotechnologies which are raising the new ethical questions are progressing so quickly that we do not yet know how to formulate many of the questions clearly, let alone knowing how to find the answers. Todays young people will have the task of finding these answers in the future. It is best that they become aware of the ethical aspects of their studies as soon as possible.

The Jakobovits Centre is now working to expand the programme for the academic year 5754 (1993-1994), and we hope that others around the world who are working in bioethics in high schools will report their experiences to the newsletter.

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