Ethics in Action: Insights from a High School Ethics Bowl & Our Path of Excellence

2:39 PM

Author | Amanda Hernandez & Sharmi Amin

The Michigan High School Ethics Bowl is an annually judged tournament that challenges high school students to think and discuss ethical cases. The Bowl, held at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, is an opportunity for teams to present case studies to a panel of judges in a series of rounds. The cases are based on real-life situations and the students are tasked with deciding what should be done and be prepared to defend their decision. The winning team is eligible to compete in the National High School Ethics Bowl to represent the state of Michigan.

At the most recent Bowl, held in February, we served as a judge and a moderator for day one of the event. We arrived at Greenhills in the morning before the tournament began and watched the high schoolers nervously prepare for their day. Dressed up to the nines, the students looked focused and determined to argue their ethical dilemmas. We met our fellow judges and moderators with experiences ranging from OBGYN attendings to undergraduate ethic professors to ethical students to art collectors.

In the first case, students debated if simulating acts of torture in games like Legend of Zelda are inappropriate, and whether such actions make the game more violent than intended by its designers. One team argued that this type of "violence" may serve as an outlet for an internal aggression while another team debated that this may enable and inspire future violent acts in adolescents. The teams engaged in an organized debate, had the opportunity to be asked questions by the judges, and were scored based on intelligibility, focus, depth and judgment. After seven rounds of vigorous debate and competition, this year's Bowl winner was Saline High School! This is Saline High's first time winning the Hemlock Cup in their 11-year involvement in the tournament. A truly worthy feat!

The Ethics Bowl is just one of the engaging activities provided by the Ethics Path of Excellence. This extracurricular activity offers monthly sessions led by various Michigan faculty who are experts in bioethics. We've had the privilege of learning from Dr. Janice Firn, MD, who shared impactful ethics consult cases; Alethia Battles, JD, MSW, who discussed guardianship and the legal aspects of hospital ethics; and Drs. Naomi Laventhal, MD, MA, and Marin Arnolds, MD, who delved into neonatal ethics and the challenges of gestational viability. Beyond these enlightening lectures, Marisa Madrigal, our dedicated facilitator, keeps us informed about community ethics events, speaker sessions featuring bioethicists from around the country and writing opportunities.

I (Sharmi) was honored to present at the 2023 Michigan State Medical Society Bioethics Conference on the ethical implications of socioeconomic health disparities in pediatric post-traumatic brain injury care. This Path of Excellence has provided an incredible platform for connecting with fellow students and faculty from the Center of Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM). It gives us the opportunity to delve into challenging topics in health care and helps us develop the tools to navigate them. As roommates and fellow medical students, we enjoy sharing the Path experience and continuing to learn about ethics inside and outside the hospital together!

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