Ethical Issues in OB/GYN Inspire Board Service

Ethical Issues in OB/GYN Inspire Board Service

My first exposure to the Center for Practical Bioethics was as a guest at the Annual Dinner event with my husband, who is a physician at the University of Kansas. But it was my experience as an OB/GYN physician that really sparked my desire to get more involved.

In my practice as an OB/GYN, and especially in OB, ethics comes into play from day one throughout pregnancy. I can remember one of my first patients decades ago, a senior at a local high school, who wasn’t allowed to graduate because she was pregnant.

And with the growth of technology in medicine we now have sophisticated prenatal testing, which raises questions about what to do with the information, how it’s presented, how it’s perceived and who makes decisions about what happens. Then we get to birth. If delivery is premature or there’s a problem with delivery or birth defects, again, questions arise about how this is handled, perceived and who makes decisions.

Lucky Kansas City

Knowing not only that there is help locally to address those types of situations but also of the Center’s national influence underscores how lucky Kansas City is to have this resource.

Good friends, such as a former board chair of the Center, Cynthia Spaeth, advised me a few years ago that if I ever went looking for a place to devote my spare time, I should think about volunteering for the Center.

I joined the Center’s board in 2015, and will soon start my second year as its chair. I can honestly say I have never worked with a governing board with 100% of its members so invested, from so many walks of life and diverse points of view, all of which allows for well-rounded discussion and constructive strategic guidance. People walk up to me and other board members asking how they can be part of this. That’s because of the work of the board and a small staff that works extremely hard.

Community-Based Bioethics

If asked to name one challenge we face as an organization, I would say funding. Bioethics isn’t a typical funding category. The field’s breadth and complexity, involving multiple disciplines, makes general operating expenses especially difficult to secure. The one or two foundations that focus on bioethics are primarily interested in research, not practical community-based bioethics.

Nevertheless, I have no doubt that, as it has for nearly 36 years, the Center will continue to thrive. I am particularly encouraged by our growing emphasis on earned income through consulting contracts and fee-based agreements, such as the Clinical Ethics Service, offering hospitals support for ethics consultations, ethics committee management, protection of human subjects involved in research, and advance care planning programs.

It is my honor and privilege to serve, to grow with the Center, and to further its vision to advance the health and dignity of all persons.


By Sandra Stites, MD

Board Chair, Center for Practical Bioethics