University of Colorado’s new medical ethicist wants to engage public

April 24, 2014
Photo: The Fulginiti Pavilion Photo: CPR/Elaine Grant
The Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado

Physician Matthew Wynia, of the University of Chicago Hospital, treats patients with infectious diseases. But he spends at least as much time worrying about ethical dilemmas, such as balancing the best medical treatments against the costs to patients, insurance companies and taxpayers when those treatments are costly.

Now Wynia is bringing those ideas to Colorado, as the new top medical ethicist at the University of Colorado. He is directing CU’s Center for Bioethics and Humanities. Wynia plans to commute between Colorado and Chicago until the summer of 2015, when he’ll move here permanently. In addition to treating patients in Chicago, Wynia directed the American Medical Association’s Institute on Ethics for 15 years and continues to play a role at the AMA.  

Wynia says he was drawn to the job in Colorado in part because of what he calls CU's dedication to engaging the public in thorny ethical dilemmas.

The center he will lead, which is housed the new Fulginiti Pavilion on the Anschutz Medical campus, features a theater in the round. When Wynia first saw the space, he dreamed of staging forums on various public policy issues for CU students and professors, and for the public.

Wynia imagines fashioning the forums like the PBS Fred Friendly seminars he watched as a child, in which experts explored the consequences of hypothetical ethical dilemmas revolving around subjects as varied as end-of-life care and politics and the press.

Wynia also hopes that in his new role in Colorado he'll be able to tackle issues involving the ethics of health care teams, medical decision-making and inter-professional education.