A new medical journal, edited by a Saint Louis University faculty member, is seeking to put a face on ethical debates about health care, human research and health policy. The first-of-its-kind, Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics will explore current issues in bioethics through personal stories or narratives, case studies and qualitative research studies.
|James M. DuBois, Ph.D., DSc.|
Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics is edited by James M. DuBois, Ph.D., DSc, director of the Bander Center for Medical Business Ethics at Saint Louis University, and Ana Iltis, Ph.D., director of the Center for Bioethics, Health & Society at Wake Forest University. It is published by the Johns Hopkins University Press and available electronically through Project MUSE.
According to DuBois, the personal narratives are what set the journal apart from other bioethics journals. These personal stories will address the experiences of patients, research participants,health care workers and researchers.
"We will invite people to tell us their stories in their own words. In contrast to most qualitative research, they are the authors and they get to choose which 2,000 words they want to tell. This is a socially important project; we're giving a voice to people who have typically not had a voice in these important ethical debates," DuBois said.
"In bioethics we often talk about cases, choices, people and issues, yet we rarely hear directly from many of the central players. Clinical ethics consultants and health care providers may hear firsthand accounts, but those personal stories rarely reach the rest of us. Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics allows all of us to develop a richer understanding of the experiences that lie behind our academic concerns," Iltis said.
The first issue, which was published this fall, featured 13 different firsthand accounts of patients' experiences with psychiatric hospitalization, as well as two commentaries from ethicists with personal experiences with psychiatric hospitalization.
Some of the stories highlighted severe mistreatment of patients within these treatment centers. Other patient stories focused on the opportunities for personal growth. Charles W. Lidz, research professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, edited the first issue's narrative symposium. In his introduction, he said, "Except for abortion, it is hard to think of another part of the health care system that is more controversial (than psychiatric hospitalization)."
Future issues will address how financial relationships affect medical practice and research, living organ donation and the role of nursing assistants in long-term care.
"Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics is the most original idea I have seen for a journal in decades." Lidz said. "Everyone agrees that respect for persons is a critical component of ethical behavior but somehow most of our journals are focused on the perspectives of academics, not the people who experience the difficult bioethical dilemmas. The journal is giving a voice to everyone who plays a role in health care. It is a long overdue innovation."
The editorial board for Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics is comprised of leaders in the fields of clinical ethics, narrative bioethics and qualitative research.
"Bioethics research can have very little to do with the real world. Our unofficial slogan is ‘research meets real life'," DuBois said. "My hopes for this journal are that it will start conversations across fields, shed light on perspectives that are often forgotten in bioethical discussions, and increase compassion among health care providers. Ultimately, I hope this will work to improve policies regarding how we treat and care for patients."
Inquiries or submissions to the journal should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.