Bioethicist Finds High Demand for Her Help on Medical Issues

Article excerpt

Byline: Marcia Mattson, Times-Union staff writer

Assya Pascalev's job is to get people thinking about what's right and wrong in health care.

Pascalev became Northeast Florida's only bioethicist when she joined the University of North Florida in August as an assistant professor of philosophy.

Her specialty is medical ethics. And she's finding medical groups are clamoring for her help in working through their ethical questions.

"There's quite a lot of interest. In fact, it's hard to meet the demand," she said.

Pascalev also is associate director of UNF's new Center for Ethics, Public Policy, and the Professions. In the last several months the center has arranged speakers on cloning and health care in the 21st century.

The center won't come out with positions on what's right and wrong -- just raise the issues, said Andrew Buchwalter, the center's director and chairman of UNF's philosophy department.

Pascalev also will do research in which she will come to conclusions about what constitutes ethical behavior.

Pascalev said cloning is not intrinsically wrong.

Neither, she believes, is assisted suicide.

"But if a country does not have equitable health care, it could put pressure on people to do it," she said.

Pascalev is a member of the Northeast Florida Bioethics Forum and attended the recent meeting on the ideas and activities of German doctors before and during World War II.

"I think it's scary," she said. "I don't think we are immune."

She currently is doing research on the ethics of genetically-altered food.

"We as consumers know almost nothing about it," Pascalev noted.

The center plans to host a conference on the controversial topic in Jacksonville in the fall. …