Issues in Medical Ethics

Science merely reveals what is; science does not and cannot tell us what should be done. Medicine, in contrast, is not merely a technical scientific vocation, but also a moral endeavor. In medicine, health professionals do not only gather and provide information to patients, they also advise patients as to what they should or should not do. Every medical recommendation to act, or not act, involves a moral choice predicated upon the physician’s philosophical worldview.


Dennis Sullivan, MD, MA (Ethics)

Dr. Sullivan serves as Chair of the Medical Ethics Committee of the American College of Pediatricians. He is professor of pharmacy practice and director of the Center for Bioethics at Cedarville College. He received his B.S. from Youngstown State University (1974) and his M.D. from Case Western Reserve University (1978). He has also completed an M.A. in bioethics from Trinity University (2004).

He is a member of several organizations, including the American Medical Association, the Christian Medical Association, and the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. His research and writing interests include biomedical ethics, moral philosophy, and reproductive ethics.

Medical Ethics: Rooted in Natural Law

by Dennis M. Sullivan, MD, MA (Ethics)

The American College of Pediatricians (the College) recognizes that medical science does not exist in a moral vacuum. Any claim of moral neutrality concerning the social questions that medical science confronts is but a pretense concealing a moral judgment of one kind or another. The College frankly acknowledges the existence of the natural law, i.e. a natural scientific order of the created universe and a set of moral absolutes, established by the Creator and discernible by all people through the use of reason alone.

Moreover, significant social science data, documented in College position statements, show that following the natural law requires respect for what human nature itself requires for physical and mental health. When this is achieved, individuals and societies both flourish. The College further recognizes the natural rights of all persons, which come with correlative duties under the natural law. It is within this framework of science and the natural law that the College pursues its mission to enable all children to reach their optimal physical and emotional well-being.

See the full statement here [coming soon]


Dr. John Patrick

Dr. PatrickDr. Patrick lectures throughout the world helping audiences, regardless of their beliefs, to understand the pivotal role played in all societies by faith and religion. He works with the Christian Medical and Dental Society in Canada and the Christian Medical and Dental Association in the United States.

Dr. Patrick trained at King’s College, London, UK and St. George’s Hospital Medical School, London, UK.

He taught at the University of Ottawa for 20 years where he served as Associate Professor in Clinical Nutrition in the Department of Biochemistry and Paediatrics until his retirement in 2002.

Dr. Patrick has done extensive research into the treatment of childhood nutritional deficiency and related diseases holding appointments in Britain, the West Indies and Canada. He worked in Central Africa assisting in the development of training programmes dealing with childhood protein-energy malnutrition.

Listen to some of his lectures:

“Hippocrates” Part One

“Hippocrates” Part Two

The Myth of Moral Neutrality


Felipe Vizcarrondo, MD, MA, FCPDr. Vizcarrondo

Dr. Vizcarrondo is currently on the faculty at Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, FL where he is a member of the Ethics Program.  He has been a member of the American College of Pediatricians since 2003, and formerly served as a Board member of the College.

He attended Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia and received a master’s degree, in bioethics from Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL. He completed a residency in pediatrics at University Hospital, University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus, and sub-specialty training in pediatric cardiology at University Hospital, Puerto Rico, and Kings County Medical Center at New York University.

An active duty U.S. Air Force officer, he held the positions of Pediatrics Chair, Pediatric Residency Program Director and Chief of the Medical Staff at major medical centers of the Department of Defense. Dr. Vizcarrondo retired from active duty but remained on the faculty at the Department of Pediatrics at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda.

Dr. Vizcarrondo was an Affiliated Scholar at Georgetown University’s Center for Clinical Bioethics where he taught clinical ethics. He has written on a variety of issues ranging from freedom of conscience of healthcare workers to the doctor-patient relationship. Following are two of his recent perspectives:

The Decline of Hippocratic Medicine 

Freedom of Conscience Revisited


Michelle Cretella, MD, President of the American College of Pediatricians, is featured in this Bioethikos Dr. Cretellapodcast speaking on Ethics and Transgender Children.

Dr. Michelle Cretella was elected to the College’s Board of Directors in 2005 and has served in various positions and on different committees prior to being elected President in 2015.  She is a board certified general pediatrician who retired after nearly 20 years of group practice to devote more time to her family and the College. She received her medical degree in 1994 from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.  She completed her internship and residency in pediatrics in 1997 at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut.  After completing a fellowship in College Health through the University of Virginia, she and her husband settled in Westerly, Rhode Island to be close to family.

Dr. Cretella serves on the Medical Committee of the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice; she served as a member of their Board of Directors from 2010-2015.  She has been the director of and an instructor for the Creating Positive Relationships Sexual Risk Avoidance curriculum for St. Pius X Middle School in Westerly, RI since 2008. She has been a dedicated pro-life and traditional values advocate for more than 25 years, contributing articles to various local and national publications.


Dr. YatesFerdinand Yates, Jr., MD, MA  serves on the Board of Directors for the American College of Pediatricians. Dr. Yates earned his Medical degree from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1978.  Subsequently, he went to Buffalo, New York where he trained in general pediatrics and practiced general pediatrics for nearly 34 years.  His time in western New York culminated with his becoming Medical Director of an inner-city clinic and being appointed Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Dr. Yates also holds a Master of Arts in Bioethics (from Trinity International University), and has published articles in several medical journals, and teaches medical ethics.

Ethics for the Pediatrician: The Persuasion of Enhancement in Pediatrics
Pediatric. Rev. 2010; 31:216-218

This article highlights some of the foundational ethical issues that interface with the use of enhancements in the pediatric population.  While presenting the dichotomy of therapeutic and non- therapeutic uses of enhancements, the author considers the off-label use of traditional medications and other modalities – such as growth hormone – and draws a distinction between treating (restoring to or near baseline function) and enhancing (exceeding the baseline function: therefore, better than well). The ethical notions in this decision process are 1) autonomy (both patient and practitioner), 2) leveling the playing field (‘everybody is doing it’), and 3) fairness (equal access for all involved).  While the time-honored goals of medicine are preventative and restorative, access to new therapeutic modalities pushes practitioners to the vanguard of using or doing something only because the option is available. In these situations, we must not ignore our ethical underpinnings and acquiesce to request of services without due consideration of the medical-ethical-social ramifications of the action. As we safeguard the patient and future generations, autonomy and justice ‘bookend’ the notion of doing no harm.

Ethics for the Pediatrician: Religion and Spirituality in Pediatrics

Pediatrics in Review 2011; 32:e91-94

This article gives consideration to the notions of religion and spirituality primarily from the perspective of the patient and the patient’s family. Two major categories are identified: medical scenarios where there appears to be minimal ostensible effect, and scenarios where there is identifiable interaction – albeit not always only at the bedside. Whereas the author identifies ‘religion’ as participation with worship patterns and belief, and ‘spirituality’ as a dynamic personal experience, the article does not distinguish between the two notions (RS) while interfacing the medical system.  Prayer, sacraments and artifacts are examples of RS that are important to the family and the faith community, and whereas the practitioner may not embrace these, (s)he should certainly openly tolerate and encourage the use of the family preferences. Those who engage in active prayer (not only in health care situations) acknowledge that whereas prayer may not always attend health recovery, it often ushers the restoration of community and the ability to engage life after tragedy.  The author also considers RS preferences – such as the refusal of blood products and vaccinations – in the direct management of healthcare. These healthcare choices may be directly antagonistic to the practitioner’s care recommendations – but if so – the practitioner must never abandon his/her duty to the patient and the family.  Thoughtful discussion of these issues prior to establishing a formal patient-doctor relationship may be very useful. Nonetheless, the practitioner must remain cordial and professional in approaching these situations.


Other articles of interest regarding Medical Ethics: