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Minimally Conscious: Grey Matters in Medicine, Law and Ethics

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William J. Winslade, Ph.D., J.D., Ph.D., co-director of the Health Law & Policy Institute at the Law Center, helped create the hypothetical case involving a minimally conscious patient that teams will face in the Moot Court National Championship.  Intrigued by the issue, he also went a step further to help launch the three-day competition: he created a symposium to examine the real-life issues surrounding the hypothetical case. 

 “Minimally Conscious: Grey Matters in Medicine, Law and Ethics” is set for Thursday, Jan. 28, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Houston.  Four hours of MCLE ethics credit is included, along with lunch.

Dr. Winslade notes how the issues surrounding minimally conscious patients have provoked significant debate, dilemmas and ethical issues in both medicine and law.  Sponsors of the symposium include the University of Houston Law Alumni Association Moot Court Committee; the Blakely Advocacy Institute;  Edison, McDowell & Heatherington LLP; Institute for the Medical Humanities, UTMB Galveston; and Bracewell and Giuliani, LLP.

The symposium will feature three prominent experts working at the crossroad of medicine, law and ethics.   Dr. Winslade is co-director of the Health Law & Policy Institute at the Law Center and serves as the James Wade Rockwell Professor of Philosophy of Medicine, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and is a member of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas. Dr. Winslade is also a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Houston Health Law and Policy Institute. Dr. Winslade is the author of various publications and books including Confronting Traumatic Brain Injury: Devastation, Hope and Healing (Yale University Press 1998).  

The symposium also features Joseph J. Fins, M.D., F.A.C.P., Chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College where he serves as Professor of Medicine, Professor of Public Health and Professor of Medicine in Psychiatry.  Dr. Fins is also Director of Medical Ethics at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center and a member of the Adjunct Faculty of Rockefeller University and a Senior Attending Physician at The Rockefeller University Hospital. Dr. Fins is a recipient of a Robert Wood  Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, Dr. Fins is also a recipient of a Soros Open Society Institute Project on Death in America Faculty Scholars Award, a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Visiting Fellowship and support from the Dana and Buster Foundations. Dr. Fins was appointed by President Clinton to The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy and currently serves on The New York State Task Force on Life and the Law by gubernatorial appointment.

The Honorable Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, J.D. is also scheduled to speak at the symposium. 
Justice Werdegar currently sits on the California Supreme Court. Prior to her seat on the California Supreme Court, Justice Werdegar served on the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. Before her appointment to the bench, Justice Werdegar served with the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., was the director of the criminal law division of California Continuing Education of the Bar, was a senior staff attorney with the California Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court, and was a professor and Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs at the University of San Francisco School of Law. Justice Werdegar wrote the Conservatorship of Wendland (2001) 26 Cal. 4th 519 opinion, one of the leading decisions addressing the minimally conscious.

The symposium is open to all, and the $125 registration fee includes 4.0 hours of MCLE ethics credit and lunch.  To RSVP, click to or contact Ellie Parsa at  

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