Diagnostic Ethics: Parameters for safe, ethical and socially just management of medically unexplained symptoms with Diane O’Leary, PhD

Monday, Mar 28, 2022
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Passcode: Seminar

Diagnostic science fails to yield answers in a very large portion of cases, particularly in outpatient care.  For the last 40 years, practice in these cases has been based on research in psychiatry, but symptoms are rarely improved with this approach and patient frustration has grown into public anger with the profession.  Dr. O’Leary will argue that we are urgently in need of a new approach that’s driven by ethics rather than psychiatry, and she’ll provide an ethical framework that allows us to imagine it in practice.

Diane O’Leary, PhD, is a philosopher and bioethicist, a disabled independent scholar whose research crosses disciplines to consider mind and body in medicine.  She has been a Visiting Fellow at major international institutions specializing in philosophy of science, philosophy of mind and bioethics, including the Center for Philosophy of Science at University of Pittsburgh (USA), the Rotman Institute of Philosophy in Ontario (Canada), and the Brocher Foundation in Geneva (Switzerland).  She regularly engages in policy and public writing about mind and body in medicine, with contributions in STAT News, BMJ and the Boston Globe.

Dr. O’Leary’s research appears in journals such as American Journal of Bioethics and Synthese, and collections such as Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind and Oxford Handbook of Psychotherapy Ethics.  Her 2018 target article calls for attention within bioethics to care of persons with MUS.  In her 2020 article, “Medicine’s metaphysical morass: How confusion about dualism threatens public health”, Dr. O’Leary shows how philosophical misunderstanding leads to problematic clinical practice, with prescient attention to the challenge of long covid.  In her recent article, “How to be a holist who rejects the biopsychosocial model”, she lays the groundwork for a new conceptual foundation for medicine.

Dr. O’Leary occasionally serves as an expert witness in legal cases where clinicians challenge parental decision-making about medically unexplained symptoms in children.  She has been a featured speaker in diverse international settings, including the Society for Improving Diagnosis in Medicine in Washington, D.C., the Workshop on Consciousness and Medical Ethics at Rice University in Houston and, in the UK House of Lords, at meetings of primary UK patient organizations concerned with management of ME/CFS.  She is a member of the Primary-Care Research in Diagnosis Errors (PRIDE) Learning Network led by Brigham and Women’s Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice.  Dr. O’Leary is at work on a book, Medicine’s Mind-Body Problem: A Safe, Sound, and Readily Actionable Solution.