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March of Dimes establishes 2 new perinatal bioethics awards

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCTOBER, 2009 A bioethicist who specializes in moral dilemmas families face when making medical decisions for critically-ill newborns was honored with the first-ever March of Dimes Distinguished Lectureship in Perinatal Bioethics.

John D. Lantos, MD, a nationally-recognized pediatrician and ethicist, delivered his lecture "Doctors are All Alike, Parents are All Different" at the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities' 11th annual meeting here Oct. 16. Dr. Lantos directs the Children's Mercy Bioethics Center at Children's Mercy Hospital, and holds the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics at the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City.

"Dr. Lantos has a deep appreciation for the choices doctors and parents face," said Alan R. Fleischman, MD, March of Dimes medical director. "He draws on his understanding of medicine and ethics as he explores the moral predicaments faced in neonatal intensive care units."

The March of Dimes established the two new awards the Distinguished Lectureship in Perinatal Bioethics and the Young Scholar Award in Perinatal Bioethics to honor the work of established scholars in perinatal ethics and to encourage young researchers to enter the field. Perinatal ethics address a broad range of moral issues that arise before, during and after pregnancy, such as deciding whether to use new reproductive technologies, to undergo genetic and diagnostic testing, or to pursue aggressive treatment when a baby's born sick or too soon, all of which involve the potential for benefit and the possibility of risk.

"Parents of critically ill babies face decisions that most of us cannot even imagine. They need information to make those decisions. They also need doctors to understand what they are going through," said Dr. Lantos.

"These two new awards from the March of Dimes will stimulate research in this crucial and complex area of pediatrics and bioethics. I'm proud to be chosen as the award's first recipient."

Dr. Lantos has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles, as well as books on medical ethics and neonatal care, including "Neonatal Bioethics; The Last Physician: Walker Percy and the Moral Life of Medicine; Do We Still Need Doctors?"; and "The Lazarus Case: Life and Death Issues in Neonatal Intensive Care", which explores the moral dilemma experienced in the NICU. His recent research focuses on the medical and social causes of rising preterm birth.

Dr. Lantos is visiting professor in pediatrics at the University of Chicago and past president of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities and American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics. He was the first named to the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics. Francis was a philanthropist who developed life-sustaining respiratory technology.

Also, the March of Dimes presented Sarah Clark Miller, Ph.D., assistant professor of Philosophy at the University of Memphis, Tennessee, the March of Dimes first-ever Young Scholar Award in Perinatal Bioethics for her paper entitled: "Visual Intimacies: Ultrasound, Reproductive Autonomy, and the Pregnancy Relationship."

"As a woman who went into preterm labor at 25 weeks and who now has avery healthy son, it is especially meaningful to receive an award sponsored by the March of Dimes, an organization that provided excellent information throughout my pregnancy," said Dr. Miller, whose work focuses on ethics, the history of moral philosophy, bioethics, feminist theory, and social and political philosophy.

Both awards are expected to be presented annually. Distinguished Lectureship recipients will receive a $3,000 prize, while the Young Scholars will receive $1,000.


Contact: Elizabeth Lynch
March of Dimes Foundation

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