PHILADELPHIA – A senior Army Reserve leader conducted a special seminar on biomedical ethics at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine here Jan. 22 for nearly two-dozen medical students attending the college as part of the military’s F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program.
Maj. Gen. William D. Razz Waff, commanding general of the 99th Regional Support Command headquartered at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., was invited to speak to the students at their Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons meeting.
“My intent was to raise the awareness of real-world issues they’ll be wrestling with in medical ethics,” explained Waff, who holds a doctorate in medical ethics and serves as the director of Pastoral Care, Ethics and Interpreter Services for Vista Health in Waukegan, Ill.
Waff received the invitation to speak at the students’ AMOPS meeting from Army 2nd Lt. Laura Chachula, a second-year medical student and AMOPS member.
“As part of our curriculum, we have classes on medical ethics,” explained Chachula. “We thought it would be good to integrate the medical ethics with what we do as physicians in the military.”
“That’s why we wanted (Waff) to come and give us that perspective on military medical ethics,” she added.
Waff spoke about several ethics issues the students may face in their civilian and military careers, to include living wills and powers of attorney, Do Not Resuscitate and Do Not Intubate orders, and technological advances in medicine that may be outpacing their own ethical implementation.
“With medical technology, we can do anything today,” Waff said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean we have to do everything.”
The American Medical Association offers guidance in the form of its Code of Medical Ethics, which offers nine Principles of Medical Ethics and states, “As a member of this profession, a physician must recognize responsibility to patients first and foremost, as well as to society, to other health professionals, and to self.”
As military doctors, these students may one day face unique ethical challenges on and off the battlefield including maintaining medical profiles at the unit level, certifying service members as fit for duty in a combat zone, and administering proper care to prisoners of war.
“Having a balance between chain-of-command and the doctor/physician relationship, that might be a little bit of a grey area,” said Army 2nd Lt. Sabrina Scabo, a second-year medical student and AMPOS member.
“Also, with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protecting Soldiers’ privacy rights, the commander has a right to some of that information so that he can carry out his duties with his Soldiers,” Chachula added.
Chachula, Scabo and the other military students who attended Waff’s address at the AMOPS meeting are all part of the military’s F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program, which offers qualifying students full tuition for any accredited medical, dental, veterinary, psychology or optometry program.
Upon graduation, participants in the program enter active-duty military service and advance to the rank of captain as they begin to fulfill their military obligation, which can range up to several years depending on their medical specialty.
As members of AMOPS, these students are also part of an association that was established in 1977 to serve and represent osteopathic physicians in the uniformed services. AMOPS promotes the advancement of osteopathic principles in military/federal practice and institutions, and conducts an annual Continuing Medical Education conference to support the maintenance of operational medicine for its members.
For more information on the F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program, please visit http://www.goarmy.com/amedd/education/hpsp.html
For more information on AMOPS, please visit http://www.amops.org/