Research Programs

Neuroethics  Advances in neuroscience expand understandings of how the brain works and open the way for development of new technologies for neurological interventions, treatments, and even enhancements. Neuroethics is an interdisciplinary field, embracing law, the humanities and social sciences, that serves to anticipate and address the ethical questions raised by neuroscience research, as well as the broader social, ethical and legal implications of neuroscience. SCBE researchers ongoing neuroethics work is exemplified by participation and leadership in the U.S. BRAIN Initiative and the International Neuroethics Society.  

Clinical Ethics Clinical ethics usually involve situations where patient care is impacted by conflicts in values between and/or among patients, families, and/or their treatment providers.  In addition to the Clinical Ethics Consultation Service and Ethics Committees at Stanford Healthcare and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, ongoing work at the Center explores the degree of fit between the practices governing clinical care (Burgart et al., JAMA Pediatr., 2018), clinical decision making and values and preferences held by patients, families, and communities (Harman & Magnus, JAMA Intern Med., 2017; Burgart et al., Pediatrics., 2020; Lee et al., Genet Med., 2019; Mohabir et al., Psychosomatics, 2020).

Studies of Communication and Critical Illness/End of Life  Communication in medical settings is hard to do well. Ongoing collaborative and interdisciplinary research projects draw on linguistic anthropology and philosophy of language to understanding of communication and decision-making challenges in the setting of critical illness.  Relevant projects include: applications of pragmatic linguistics to medicine (Wong et al. Academic Med., 2020; Batten et al. Am J Bioeth., 2018), physician vs. non-physician interpretations of “treatable” (Batten et al. Crit Care Med., 2019; Batten et al., Camb Q Healthc Ethics, 2019; Kruse et al., Crit Care Med., 2016), candidacy/non-candidacy (Blythe et al., JAMA Intern Med., 2019), code status variation (Batten et al., BMJ Quality & Safety, 2020), and hedge language.   

Diverse Undiagnosed Families The goal of this research project is to characterize and compare European American, Asian, and Hispanic parent experiences of having an “undiagnosed” child and being on a diagnostic odyssey. Through semi-structured interviews, SCBE researchers explored parents’ experiences of participating in the Undiagnosed Diseases Network (UDN) and assessed qualitative outcomes of their involvement in this research program. This project leverages the diversity of the Stanford UDN population to fill gaps in knowledge about the experiences of these underrepresented and underserved groups both in the diagnostic process and as potential beneficiaries of precision medicine.

Artificial Intelligence  The use of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and big data are emerging as tools for healthcare and health research. Researchers at SCBE, along with collaborative partners, are engaged in research to better understand the ethical issues and considerations for the use of AI, machine learning, and big data in healthcare. The first research effort seeks to identify potential barriers to the development of safe and ethical machine learning in predictive analytic systems used to improve the efficiency of healthcare. The second, to determine how artificial intelligence and machine learning are being developed for precision medicine and how to encourage those developing this technology to be aware of values in their daily practice. The third, to identify the main ethical challenges of studies using predictive analytics and machine learning to predict HIV risk using publicly-available data in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Biomedical Ethics & Medical Humanities Scholarly Concentration (BEMH) is part of the initiative at Stanford University School of Medicine to enable medical students to study a chosen area in depth as a complement to the breadth of knowledge and skills gained by general medical education. BEMH is an opportunity for interested students to reflect on, analyze, and contribute to the meaning of medicine by focusing on one (or more!) of the diverse fields that contribute to bioethics and/or the arts and humanities as related to medicine.