Conscience, Integrity, and Ethics in Medicine & Psychology

On Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023, the Center for Ethics Education hosted a Zoom conversation on the topic of “Conscience, Integrity, and Ethics in Medicine & Psychology.” This was the second installment of the Center’s Spring 2023 Webinar Series. The invited speakers, Celia Fisher, PhD, Professor of Psychology and Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics, Alison Reiheld, PhD,Associate Professor of Philosophy, and facilitator, Steven Swartzer, PhD, Associate Director of Academic Programs and Strategic Initiatives, engaged in a discussion on the issues of conscience and professional ethics in medicine, followed by a Q&A. 

Dr. Celia Fisher

Celia Fisher is the Marie Ward Doty Endowed University Chair in Ethics and Professor of Psychology, and founding Director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education. She currently directs the NIDA funded  Fordham University HIV/Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute. Dr. Fisher has over 300 publications and 8 edited volumes on children’s health research and services among diverse racial/ethnic, sexual and gender minority groups in the U.S. and internationally.  Recent publications include research on health equity for BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and economically marginalized children, youth and young adults in areas including social determinants of sexual health, substance use, social media and offline discrimination, mental health and COVID-related distress and racial bias among Asian, Indigenous, Hispanic, Black and White adolescents and adults, and parental COVID-19 pediatric vaccine hesitancy across diverse populations.

Dr. Alison Reiheld

Alison Reiheld is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and formerly Director of Women’s Studies at SIUE, specializing in ethics and value theory, with a focus on medical ethics and feminist philosophy. In addition to her research on the ethics of memory, Dr. Reiheld’s work covers a broad array of issues – disability, gender, transgender, reproduction, civility – unified by concerns about how power operates upon vulnerable persons in social institutions, including health care settings. Her teaching is primarily in bioethics, serving SIUE’s nursing and allied health students. Dr. Reiheld also writes for the scholarly Blog of the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics.

The webinar began with Dr. Fisher and her presentation on the involvement of psychologists in death penalty cases and the human rights concerns that arise with such situations. This discussion was divided into four sections beginning with the legal history of the death penalty, citing various Supreme Court decisions and subsequent challenges that have emerged with the use of the capital punishment, Historically, psychologists have played a vital role in determining the outcomes for criminal defendants, and the standard by which the law treats these individuals, whether guilty or not guilty. An example of these ethical dilemmas can be seen via psychologists’ involvement in post-9/11 detainee interrogations. Fisher examined how easily ethical codes of conduct are overseen and the human rights violations that emerge due to lack of standardization amongst other issues. The remainder of her presentation was dedicated to the ethical arguments for and against psychologists involvement in death penalty cases. The most notable arguments included concerns of moral fallibility in diagnosing, biases that obscure judgement, and serious inequities in capital cases.

The second half of the webinar was led by Dr. Reiheld and her presentation, Conscientious Provision of Care to Trans Folks, which emphasized access to care in light of growing restrictions for transgender individuals across the U.S. Reiheld began her discussion by establishing “transgender” as someone whose physical presentation does not match the social gender nor the physiological sex they were labeled with at birth, though noting how the range of transgender presentation is broad. Gender-affirming care, social transition, and general health care conditions emerge as crucial resources that are not only life-saving, but are morbidity-reducing for “trans folks.” However, many fear seeking medical treatment due to clinicians’ lack of professionality and ignorance, lack of specialized clinicians with skills, discrimination without legal protections, and most recently, an increasingly hostile legal climate banning access to gender-affirming care. It is within these challenges that According to Reiheld, health professionals must actively practice to provide care for trans patients driven by human rights as currently the profession does not prioritize such care. This is evident in numerous states across the country where various laws have been recently passed to effectively remove healthcare for transgender patients. The remainder of the discussion is dedicated to the demands we must make in light of these bans, which Reiheld describes as, “the conscientious refusal to comply with immoral laws.”

The Q&A portion of the webinar was led by Dr. Steven Swartzer, prompting an insightful discussion regarding medical codes, treatment of patients, and what this particularly means for vulnerable populations such as transgender individuals and those who are being sentenced to the death. Both Fisher and Reiheld, in response to their respective questions, recognized the issue of power as it pertains to the health and legal professions, as well as what institutions are currently doing and what could be done better.

Dr. Steven Swartzer 

Dr. Steven Swartzer is the Associate Director for Academic Programs and Strategic Initiatives in Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education. In this role, he directs Fordham’s interdisciplinary master’s degree Program in Ethics and Society, and interdisciplinary undergraduate Bioethics minor. He is also the coach and advisor for Fordham’s Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl team. He earned a B.A. from the University of Minnesota in Philosophy and Political Science, and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in Philosophy. 

Please visit the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education’s Events Page for upcoming events and webinars. For questions on the series, please email Dr. Steven Swartzer, Associate Director of Academic Programs, at To watch the full webinar, click here.

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