Wednesday, March 26, 2014

@BioethxChat: Let Your Voice Be Heard

By: Jennifer Chevinsky

Bioethics is a field that should matter to everyone.  Whether you are a bioethicist, healthcare professional, student, patient, or member of the general public, you will encounter topics such as organ donation, body image, and end of life care. You will have decisions to make when you walk into your healthcare provider’s office, whether you choose to follow a treatment plan, or refuse traditional medicine.  Ethical questions are not always easy or straightforward, but having an opportunity to join with individuals from different fields and with varying levels of expertise can encourage a broader understanding of a multitude of aspects that alone, one may not have considered.
BioethxChat is a live tweetchat account, started in October of 2013 by @jchevinsky to reach an interdisciplinary group of students, professionals, and members of the general public. Live chats are hosted every Monday at 8:30PM EST, and cover a large range of disciplines, but specifically focus on the intersection of science and ethics.  The chat has gained a reputation of asking ‘the hard questions,’ and encouraging open, honest, and respectful discourse.  The goal of each chat is to unpack the ethical aspects of a number of complicated topics within a particular theme, helping individuals to reach better-informed positions.

In the short time that BioethxChat has existed, ‘#Bioethx’ has been called “one of the ‘alwaystrending’ influential hashtags in healthcare on Twitter,” and was also included in George Washington University Masters in Health Administration’s list of “Top 5 Twitter Chats for Health Administrators.” With the verification of the ‘Bioethx’ hashtag and addition to Symplur’s Healthcare Hashtag project, individuals can access transcripts, analytics, and other data about the chat for free.

Additionally, the chat has been a great platform to join with experts and activists to discuss important ethical issues.  For example, BioethxChat joined with the Death with Dignity National Center to bring forth a discussion on ‘A Dignified Death.’ Other topics that have been covered include ‘Sexuality and Gender,’ ‘Disability Ethics: Autonomy, Rights, andDignity,’ and ‘Domestic Violence.’ The BioethxChat website includes a full list of topics that have been covered, along with their associated transcripts, and helpful resources.

Bioethxchat will consider hosting a chat on any topic related to the broad field of bioethics, and supports the submission of topic suggestions from anyone with a passion for open, respectful dialogue. One of our most recent chats focused on ‘Professionalismand Conflicts of Interest in Healthcare,’ a topic suggested by two of our followers, who served as guest co-hosts for the chat. Among the other questions on our list, we discussed the connection between professionalism and ethics, as well as the complications of financial associations between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers.  The chat encourages references to foundational cases, current situations in the media, as well as personal encounters or experiences.

Social media, and Twitter in particular, has the power to unite individuals from across the world for a live, spirited conversation. Bioethxchat uses this medium to further its goal of making bioethics more accessible and inclusive, recognizing that while everyone has a perspective, not everyone is given a voice.

Let your voice be heard and join the #bioethx community this Monday at 8:30PM EST!

Jennifer Chevinsky is a medical student at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine SELECT, a collaborative program with the Lehigh Valley Health Network.  She is the Chair of the American Medical Association’s Medical Student Section (AMA-MSS) Committee on Bioethics and Humanities, as well as the Chair of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities Student Affinity Group. She is the creator and moderator of @BioethxChat (#Bioethx).

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