Michigan Ethics Economy Initiative Podcast Series

Michigan Ethics Economy Podcast Series

We all know the economic and social impact of manufacturing, education and the agricultural sectors on the Michigan economy. Likewise, reports outlining the economic roles played by nonprofit organizations, among them the arts and culture, are available for us to pore over.

We don't know, however, whether the economic impact of jobs and professions in ethics, that is, ethics careers. At A2Ethics.org, we are very interested in finding out whether ethics careers have any impact on our economy. To that end, we have created an ongoing project called the Michigan Ethics Economy Initiative.

What is the Michigan Ethics Economy? We believe it is that part of Michigan's economic activity, production and services that are ethics-focused or ethics-centric.

To describe and measure this activity, we can start by:

  •  Talking with people who work in ethics-focused jobs. Our goal is to get a clear appreciation of what these jobs involve. We want to know about common career pathways. How it is that people get these jobs? What education and training do they have? What professional experiences do they have in common? Do they typically have mentors? And are they in fields that are growing? Moreover, are some of these jobs part-time, contingent and easily outsourced?
  • Counting and mapping the number and types of jobs where ethics education, expertise and experience are qualifications for getting a job?
  • Counting and mapping the number and types of jobs where dealing with ethics issues, problems, concerns and regulations is the principal responsibility.

As our conversations reveal, the Michigan Ethics Economy is comprised of talented individuals attracted to professional work that challenges us all to think about the value of our work in our communities. 

Our conversation with Don Welch, PhD, President and CEO of Michigan's member-owned Merit Network begins with a lively discussion on a very pressing concern: how to ethically train students and workforce personnel to protect and defend institutional networks against cyberattacks and security breaches. As an early innovator in computer networking services for researchers and educators, Merit is uniquely positioned in this field. 

Dr. Andrew Barnosky, Director of the Adult Clinical Ethics Consultation Service and Chair of the Adult Ethics Committee at the University of Michigan Health System conducts a valuable clinic for us--on the vital role and reasons for the increasing use of ethics consultations in patient care. 

One of the first resources A2Ethics offered on our website was a map showing permanent ethics initiatives distinguishing our state. Notably unique among them in our view was--and still remains--The Center for Law, Ethics and Health at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. The Center was founded in 2005 and is directed by Peter Jacobson, Professor of Health Law and Policy.

Before A2Ethics talked with Darlene Wahlberg, an IRB administrator for St. Joseph Mercy Health Care System, we had to get her informed consent. We thought it meant getting her to talk with us about her responsibility for managing and documenting the work of one of St. Joseph Mercy's Institutional Review Boards. Institutional Review Boards, more commonly known as IRBs, have been part of the structure of health care and foundations of medical ethics for forty years.

There are many centers doing ethics work and contributing to the growing global "ethics economy." As far as we know, however, there is only one center which combines study of bioethical issues with the social sciences in medicine. Notably, it is in Michigan--at the University of Michigan Medical School--and known as CBSSM, a felicitous acronym for The Center for Bioethics and the Social Sciences in Medicine.  

"If I major in philosophy or ethics, what will I be able to do? Other than teach?"

We didn't pose those questions to distinguished ethics teacher Brian Miller. Such questions would never occur to us. After all, what better life than teaching ethics and philosophy? 

Media recognition of social enterprise overwhelmingly focuses on social entrepreneurs whose initiatives are the passions of the technology moguls and philanthropists of Silicon Valley. Here in Michigan, however, social entrepreneurs are relying, not only on innovative ways to deal with large ethical problems, from food justice to restorative justice, they are relying on a new legal form to do something and to make a difference.

Public awareness of pediatric bioethics dilemmas is often limited to media reports dramatizing conflicts over the rights of families and doctors in determining the circumstances for performing highly experimental surgeries or limiting life-saving treatments to seriously ill newborns, today remembered as educational case studies or lawsuit names--from Baby Fae to Baby K. 

Perhaps you have had a discussion with friends about the best attributes you want in your own doctor.

At A2Ethics.org, we have recently had such a chat (More on an entirely different kind of chat in a moment). One quality we decided is truly essential: the doctor who listens, not only to our hearts and lungs, but who actually listens to what we say and hears us out. In other words, we want our doctor to give us a fair amount of time. We don’t need all day. Just enough to get our concerns circulated and aired in a fair-minded and nonjudgmental manner.  

Imagine meeting each month with a small group of doctors, nurses and a few fellow residents of your community at a local hospital. No, you are not organizing the gala benefit that annually raises funds for the hospital. Nor are you talking over your monthly assignment as a member of  the hospital's auxiliary and volunteer corps. 

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