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Rebecca Kukla CHANGED TO MARCH 6: "The Sedimentation of Bias in Medical Institutions"

March 6, 2015 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm  |  Stevenson Fireside Lounge



Bias is becoming an increasingly central topic in both moral psychology and bioethics. We have ample evidence that biases shape our interactions, including interactions between health professionals and patients, in complicated and penetrating ways that are resistant to first person access and to manipulation. Typically, biases are presumed to be distortions at the level of individual cognitive processes. I examine how bias can be built into the institutions, spaces, policies, and practices of medicine, quite apart from any person-level cognitive distortions. I examine three types of examples: (1) judgments of scientific uncertainty and epistemic risk in health care research and delivery; (2) material medical environments that perpetuate specific ideological distortions; (3) the inflation of drug-treatable diseases and the overvaluing of pharmaceutical interventions. The upshot is that bias in medicine requires structural solutions, not just the ‘education’ of individuals.


Rebecca Kukla is a Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University and a Senior Research Scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics. Her research interests include social epistemology (including the epistemology and methodology of medical research), philosophy of language, feminist philosophy, metaethics, reproductive ethics and the culture of pregnancy and motherhood, and research ethics. Much of her research bridges ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of language. She also has serious interests in eighteenth century philosophy, especially the work of Rousseau and Kant.

She received her B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Toronto in 1990 and her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh in 1996. From 2003-2005, she was a Greenwall Fellow in Bioethics and Health Policy at The Johns Hopkins University. In the summer of 2004, she was a Visiting Scholar at the USDA, studying ethical issues concerning food and nutrition assistance programs. She also received her Sommelier certification from Algonquin College in 2007.



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March 6, 2015
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
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Stevenson Fireside Lounge
Humanites 1 University of California, Santa Cruz Cowell College
Santa Cruz, CA 95064 United States
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