Thomasine Kushner

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Thomasine Kushner is a philosopher with a special interest in international bioethics.  She is founder and Co-Editor of CQ, the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, a leading journal in the field devoted to engaging a world community of bioethicists.  CQ, published by Cambridge University Press, celebrated 20 years of publication in 2011. 

Dr. Kushner joined the faculty at University of California, Berkeley, in 1985, first serving as the Executive Officer for the Committee for Protection of Human Subjects, later as Clinical Professor of Bioethics in the UCSF/Berkeley Joint Medical Program and as Senior Research Fellow in the Human Rights Center.  For 15 years, she taught bioethics to medical students, other graduate students on the Berkeley campus, and supervised Masters and PhD theses in the School of Public Health.

Currently, Dr. Kushner serves as Senior Bioethicist in the Program in Medicine and Human Values at California Pacific Medical Center.  She lives part time in Paris where she continues her editorial work for the journal and promotes international bioethics by coordinating the International Bioethics Retreat, an opportunity for bioethicists from around the world to share their current research projects, and the Cambridge Consortium for Bioethics Education, a growing network of bioethics educators.

Prior to moving to California, Dr. Kushner was a faculty member in the Philosophy Department at Florida International University in Miami. In 1983, she became an early activist in bioethics when invited to provide ethics consultation and bioethics course development at the University of Miami School of Medicine.   She held an appointment in the Department of Psychiatry while coordinating the pre-clinical course in Medicine and Behavioral Sciences, serving as ethics coordinator for the Health and Human Values program, co-founding the clinical ethics committee for the hospital and establishing ethics rounds in the Department of Pediatric Surgery.   

Her work in clinical ethics education continued when she served as principal investigator on the first national grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to develop curricula in healthcare ethics for hospital ethics committees and also directed three generations of surveys on clinical ethics committees in the United States.

In addition to her work as teacher and researcher, Dr. Kushner has published more than 40 articles, edited “What Do I Do Now?”, a column for the student British Medical Journal, BMJ Publishing Group, and authored books, along with David Thomasma, Birth to Death: Science and Bioethics (Cambridge University Press), Asking to Die: Inside the Dutch Debate about Euthanasia (Kluwer Academic Publishers), and Ward Ethics: A Case Book for Doctors-in-Training (Cambridge University Press).  Her most recent book, Surviving Health Care: A Guide for Patients and Their Families (Cambridge University Press), gives patients tools to navigate the world of health care on their own terms – and with their dignity intact.  

But there is another side to the story.  Her PhD thesis in philosophy from the University of Florida was in aesthetics (augmented by study at the University of Stirling, Scotland), and her subsequent revisionist book on art theory, “The Anatomy of Art,” remained in print for over two decades.  She taught both aesthetics and ethics before being called to the medical school to develop the bioethics activities.  Dr. Kushner suggests that “The two areas of aesthetics and ethics are not as unrelated as one might suppose.   Both may be classified under the “value field” of philosophy and their arguments have the same general point, to show that something is “good” --  whether it be works of art or people or activities. In both instances, the arguments deserve to be based on sound critical analysis.” The lesson she takes from her own career trajectory is to advise students to caution against being so rigid and narrowly focused in pursuing their own professional path that they bypass doors that unexpectedly open – in so doing, they may miss the opportunity of a lifetime.