Students and professors gathered Thursday for a screening of TedMed talks by two University of Wisconsin clinical law professors filmed earlier this month, followed by a brief question and answer from both speakers.

Professor of Law and Bioethics, Alta Charo, and clinical law professor, Meg Gaines, spoke on patient advocacy and navigating the health care system.

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In 1987, Charo’s work focused primarily on in vitro fertilization, an alternative process of conception, and studying the ethical implications of this new and growing option for having a child. Now, her work focuses more on a much broader set of issues related to biotechnology policy, both medical and agricultural.

She also looks at the influencing factors of being able to test for certain diseases and traits and detecting unforeseen issues that may influence a parents decision to keep the child.

While she believes in letting the choice be up to the parents, the overarching decision is up to government intervention and regulation.

“Like it or not, when it comes to the conflict between scientific progress and public fear, the power to decide who decides is usually in the hands of the legislature,” Charo said.

Professor Gaines, however, is a patient advocate that helps patients navigate the healthcare system. She helped found the Center for Patient Partnerships here at University of Wisconsin.

Her own experience with a false diagnosis of twelve ovarian cancer tumors and only a few remaining months to live fueled Gaines’ passion to help patients seek other options for treatment as she did.

“Our guiding principle is empowerment,” Gaines said.

The center looks to give future doctors, lawyers and people with an interest in healthcare an insight in the journey a patient takes while seeking treatment.

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Both professors also agreed that patients and clinicians need to take their health into their own hands.

“Medical professionals have the highest suicide rate and addiction rates compared to the general population, and over half of these professionals would not or do not recommend going into the medical field to their children,” Gaines said.


Correction: A previous version of this article suggested Charo’s work currently focuses on in vitro fertilization. While it was a focus of her work in 1987, she now focuses on a much broader set of issues related to biotechnology policy, both medical and agricultural. The Badger Herald regrets this error.