Bioethics at the Movies

Posted On March 15, 2018
Categories CLHS, Events, Faculty, Students

In March, the Student Health Law Association and the Center for Law, Health & Society sponsored the 12th Annual Bioethics at the Movies. This popular series explores health-related themes in film and television through lively discussion among faculty and students. The Family Law Society, Black Law Students Association and Muslim Law Students Association partnered with SHLA as co-hosts for sessions relevant to their organizations.

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s classic novel, the series kicked off with “It’s Alive! Scenes from Frankenstein,” with clips from the 1931 film featuring Boris Karloff as the monster. Panelists included Yaniv Heled, associate professor of law and co-director of the Center for Intellectual Property, Paul Lombardo, Bobby Lee Cook Professor of Law, and Jack Williams, professor of law, who has taught courses on the film to law and graduate engineering and science students. The panelists discussed themes of morality, biotechnology, what it means to be human and who in the story is more human, the scientist or monster?

At the second session, center director and professor of law Leslie Wolf presented “Choosing Death: Scenes from Me Before You.” The movie, based on the book by Jojo Moyes, explores themes of disability, autonomy and assisted suicide. “The story forces us to think about what is a life worth living and who should make that determination,” Wolf said. “Tackling these questions in the context of a romantic comedy make them a little easier to discuss.”

Next, assistant professor Courtney Anderson presented “Scary Disparities and Exposing Experiments: Scenes from Get Out.” The Academy Award winning film takes a classic horror story outline and provides a framework for illustrating and analyzing the manifestation of racism in medical experiments, social interactions and relationships. “Though the premise seems exaggerated, even the most outrageous depictions are rooted in truth and actual events,” said Anderson. “The students provided great insight into the effects of racism on physical and mental health.”

Closing the series, HeLP Legal Services Clinic supervising attorney Jimmy Mitchell presented “Examining the Funny Bone: Medicine and Ethics in The Big Sick.” Based on a true story, the movie centers on a woman who falls under a mysterious illness, and her romantic partner who is caught in a conflict of ethics and love. “In a fun and lighthearted way, the movie raises some serious ethical issues related to informed consent and surrogate decision-making,” said Mitchell.

“Bioethics at the Movies remains a student favorite,” said Caitlin Fox (J.D. 18), SHLA co-president. “Clips from the movies provide a great jumping-off point for discussion of important topics in health law.”