Columns

From the category archives: Gordon Self

Gordon Self

Ethical investigations reach into daily life

Gordon Self

March 26, 2012

Constantly I am reminded of the ordinariness of ethics. Some might think the largest Catholic health care organization in Canada would be confronted everyday by sensational ethical dilemmas.

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Some folks' realities clash with ethics of Catholic providers

Gordon Self

February 27, 2012

John Steinbeck's literary classic, The Grapes of Wrath depicts a family's struggle for survival after being displaced from their Oklahoma farm in the wake of the Dust Bowl and economic collapse of the 1930's. Gathering what's left of their possessions on a rickety truck, the Joad family head west along Route 66 to California, hoping to start anew with the lure of fertile agricultural lands and plenty of work.

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Begin new year by discussing end of life

Gordon Self

January 30, 2012

New Year's heralds all kinds of personal resolutions to improve our lives - spend quality time with family, get back into shape, pray more, give to charities, and so forth.

But we know the dismal track record of Jan. 1 resolutions if they remain a half-hearted, private wish. Thinking them through, writing them down and publicly acknowledging what I resolve to do with a trusted friend or family member helps deepen the level of commitment and make it real.

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Bullying's venom poisons lives, workplaces

Gordon Self

December 26, 2011

My vision for this column is to present the everyday face of ethics – how we relate to one another and strive to live a moral life. In Catholic health care, there are unique and sometimes challenging issues related to clinical decision-making, for example, when to withhold or withdraw burdensome and futile treatment at the end-of-life, or questions around allocating scarce resources.

This month I would like to consider an even more basic ethical concern that impacts the moral fabric of any organization – the responsible use of power. In particular, when people abuse power and resort to bullying.

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Elder abuse: serious moral issue of our times

Gordon Self

November 28, 2011

Imagine the following: An elderly couple asks their niece to pick up some groceries for them. They give her their debit card and tell her to get some cash from the bank machine too.

She has committed to memory their PIN to use the card, and they trust her implicitly. After all, she looks after all their banking needs and reconciles every financial statement. Little do they know but she has been bilking hundreds of dollars for herself each month, not quite enough that the bank will become suspicious.

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Compassion means being present to others

Gordon Self

October 24, 2011

Those visiting the new statue on the Alberta Legislature grounds recognizing the historic contribution of the Catholic sisters in our province may experience what I did when I first looked up at the stained glass plate in the hands of the bronze figure.

The sister's face is framed in one of the central glass panels focusing an array of warm light around the statue. Seeing her face in this light underscores the creative vision of artist Herman Poulin who attests the sisters' work as one of service, reflecting ultimately the light and compassion of Christ.

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Slam the brakes on distracted driving

Gordon Self

September 26, 2011

Alberta's new Distracted Driver Legislation came into effect Sept. 1. It is now illegal to use hand-held cell phones, text, manually input GPS data, read, write or engage in personal grooming while driving.

Alberta has one of the toughest laws in Canada, joining other provinces in clamping down on the growing trend of inattentive drivers behind the wheel.

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We deserve a caring end of life journey

Gordon Self

August 29, 2011

In my ethics classes I often tell "the grizzly bear story," illustrating how our outlook on life can change when confronted by new information or experiences.

A hospital social worker once went hiking in the mountains with her son and sister. The son was a park ranger and knew all the backcountry trails. They decided to tackle a grueling hike but, despite being physically fit, the sisters huffed and puffed trying to keep up with the younger son.

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Imagination crucial in respecting dignity

Gordon Self

July 25, 2011

One memorable event I witnessed in hospital many years ago involved a patient who suffered a stroke and was left with severe expressive aphasia. He could only utter, "yes" to questions, requiring careful interpretation if his "yes" really meant "no."

Assuming he was comfortable and didn't need pain medication, for example, underscored the risk of misinterpreting his intended meaning.

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Technology often pushes ethical boundaries

Gordon Self

July 4, 2011

Earlier this month Covenant Health held its biannual ethics conference, entitled, Great Expectations? The allusion to Charles Dickens' masterpiece comes to mind, for the world of health care ethics today represents how both the "sun shines hot and the wind blows cold."

Ongoing advances in technology have created new possibilities, tempered, like a cold wind, by new ethical conundrums.

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