ASBH Statement on Racial Injustice and Professionalism in Bioethics and Health Humanities

As our nation and the world confront racism and racial injustice, we are called upon as professionals in the fields of bioethics and health humanities to recognize the harm and detriment of injustice and to understand the assumptions that have long upheld individual, institutional, and structural racism in our professional settings, violated our professional responsibilities, and undermined our ability to fulfill our professional obligations.

For professionals working in bioethics and health humanities, doing deeply meaningful work must include rejecting and eliminating racism and racial injustice in their professional arenas. Individuals working in bioethics and health humanities hold a variety of professional roles in different settings, including academic institutions, healthcare organizations, and government agencies. In all of these settings, hiring and promotion practices can be infected by racism as can historically embedded practices that limit students’ and trainees’ access to educational opportunities, thereby systematically restricting professional advancement. For individuals engaged in healthcare ethics consultation, the ASBH Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibilities for Healthcare Ethics Consultants identifies a professional obligation “to reduce disparities, discrimination, and inequities when providing consultations… to identify and include relevant voices in the discourse, particularly marginalized voices… [and] [w]hen possible, … identify systemic issues constraining fair outcomes in [healthcare ethics consultation].” Racism and racial injustice must be specifically recognized, combatted, and rejected as a matter of professionalism.

Racism and racial injustice stand in direct opposition to the goals of ASBH. As a result, ASBH is reflecting on how the current national conversation informs the work of the Society and, in particular, its focus on professionalism in bioethics and the health humanities. In light of the theme of the 2020 annual conference, “Justice and Flourishing in a Pluralistic World,” the Program Committee recently issued a call for proposals on Police Violence and Black Injustice in America. ASBH sought to highlight the critical importance not only of the theme – but also the national context – of this meeting and the opportunity it affords conference attendees to reflect together on these critical issues in the context of bioethics and health humanities.

ASBH is an educational organization devoted to fostering “dialogue, collegial endeavors, and membership with persons from diverse cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds.” Racism and racial injustice stifle this aim. In 2019, ASBH adopted the following strategic priority: “Define diversity, equity, and inclusion goals for ASBH as an organization and how those values will be reflected through ASBH programs.” We remain committed to this priority, including supporting a sense of belonging for ASBH members, conference attendees, and communities we serve and providing an environment for free expression of diverse points of view, scholarly exchange, and respectful debate and discussion on difficult questions and issues both within the organization and on behalf of ASBH members. This is a long-term commitment and investment to which ASBH is earnestly dedicated.