Ezekiel Emanuel is the Chair of the Department of Bioethics at the Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Emanuel is a well-known authority on the ethics of clinical research, end of life care issues, euthanasia and the ethics of managed care.
He has published in the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancent, JAMA, and many other medical journals. His book The Ends of Human Life: Medical Ethics in a Liberal Polity received an honorable mention for the Rosenhaupt Memorial Book Award by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Dr. Emanuel was educated at Amherst College, Oxford University and Harvard University, from which he holds both an MD and PhD in political philosophy. He also served on the ethics section of President Clinton's Health Care Task Force, on the National Bioethics Advisory Committee, and on the bioethics panel of the Pan American Health Organization.
Question: What inspires you?
Ezekiel Emanuel: It’s a good question. I think trying to do good by other people.
We have a lot of problems. I have lived an incredibly privileged life. I’ve been fortunate to grow up in America. I’ve been fortunate to get the best that the American educational system has, both in terms of the best primary school, the best high school; a fantastic college and a fantastic medical school. And I’ve been fortunate enough to have a pretty good life. The ability to give back and the ability to make a positive, sustained difference to people is what I try to do both in the United States and in other countries where I go.
Question: To whom do you look for inspiration?
Ezekiel Emanuel: I don’t think I have a real role model in that sense. There are a number of people – and again I’ve been incredibly fortunate at meeting a number of great people, great doctors, great economists, great philosophers, great scientific researchers – who have been just wonderful people.
And many things, and wonderful people in part, because they’ve taken the time to talk to me, and to help me, and to set me right.
Is any one of the more inspiring? I don’t think so.
When I think of the number – just the sheer number – of brilliant people that I’ve been able to interact with, it’s been phenomenal. Again, I can’t say it enough. I’ve been very privileged.
When you go to a great college in the United States; when you go to a great university and medical school; when you travel the world, you do meet lots of really smart people and you just want to learn from them. And I’d also say there’s a number of high school teachers who were just wonderful, who just taught their heart out. Not just to me but to my classmates. And that, in some ways is, to make you love learning, and to make you want to learn, and to want to excel. That gives you lifelong skills.
Question: What is the balance you’ve struck between political philosophy and scientific rigor?
Ezekiel Emanuel: Well for me, since I deal with values, that’s the sort of political philosophy part. I deal with public values that have to be shared among a very many Americans.
We try to use our understanding of values in relationship to scientific questions. So that’s the relationship. I’m not the only person, but I think there are only two of us in the country who are trained both in political philosophy and in medicine.
Recorded: July 5, 2007