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Fifth Annual Bioethics Symposium Set for April 11

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Learn more about the bioethics symposium, including the complete schedule


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Madison, Wisconsin - Should obese people have to pay for two seats on an airplane? What should government do about America’s expanding waistline and its love for extra-large sodas? Is obesity just a marketing scare tactic or is it really an epidemic?


These are the issues that experts will discuss at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s fifthannual Bioethics Symposium.


“The symposiums started because of the wide public interest in ethical issues in health care,” said Dr. Norman Fost, professor of pediatrics and bioethics at the school. “The obesity epidemic, both in children and adults, has been a rising public health concern contributing to the epidemic of diabetes and rising health care costs in a country in which health care is the major driver of bankruptcy - personal, business and government.


“Medicare and Medicaid are the major drivers of our budget crisis. Obesity is one element of that, or at least a useful case study of how to control runaway health care costs, so it seemed timely to address it.”


Bioethics symposiumThis year’s theme, “Ethical Issues in Obesity,” focuses on four main topics:

  • Whether the obesity epidemic is real
  • Government intervention and incentives in reducing obesity
  • Child obesity as a form of neglect
  • Obese people as a persecuted sub-population

“There was a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that purported to show that people who are overweight actually live longer than people of normal weight,” cited Fost. “There’s been lots of criticism of the methodology of the article, but it’s just one example of a set of arguments on the other side that argues this is not as big a problem as people make it out to be.


“We have a stellar collection of experts on both sides of these public policy and health care issues. We want to present opposing views from people who feel strongly about their perspective and are very thoughtful about their point of view in a debate format. They’ll present their best arguments and we’ll let the audience decide.”


Featured guest speakers include:

  • Jennifer Livingston, the WKBT-TV news anchor who gained national attention after being publicly attacked about her weight in October of last year
  • Dr. Peter Ubel, author of “Free Market Madness: Why Human Nature is at Odds with Economics - and Why It Matters”
  • Jacob Sullum, senior editor of “Reason” magazine and, which explore how government actions affect individual liberty and personal responsibility
  • Dr. David Orentlicher, attorney and author of “Matters of Life and Death: Making Moral Theory Work in Medical Ethics and the Law.”

The event will take place on Thursday, April 11, at 1pm in the Health Sciences Learning Center, Room 1306, at 750 Highland Ave., Madison. The symposium is presented by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and the Department of Medical History and Bioethics.


Admission is free and registration is not required. 

Date Published: 04/03/2013

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Fifth Annual Bioethics Symposium Set for April 11

Last updated: 06/03/2014
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