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Ethics Experts to Testify Before Oregon Health Fund Board

The experts were invited to discuss ethical issues that will arise as Oregon undergoes health care reform.


WHEN: 9:15 A.M., Wednesday, May 21, 2008

WHERE: Paradigm Conference Center, 3009 S.E. Chestnut, Milwaukie, Oregon

Susan W. Tolle, M.D., director of the Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), and John Forsyth, M.D., a retired cardiologist from Medford, have been invited by the Oregon Health Fund Board to discuss ethical issues that will arise as Oregon undergoes health care reform.

The Oregon Health Fund Board was established by the Legislature to ensure health care access to Oregon residents and contain costs while continuing to provide high-quality care.

"Tough decisions are guaranteed to accompany any kind of health reform that takes place," said Tolle. "As medical ethicists and health care professionals, we consider it our responsibility to discuss priorities and fairness in the delivery and availability of health care. These issues need to be on the table as reform is undertaken."

Topics expected to be discussed include: access to health care for children, the need for safety nets in the delivery of health care to ensure that the underserved are not excluded, access to dental and mental health services, and access to services for the disabled.

Interest of the Health Fund Board in ethical aspects of health care reform was piqued by an April conference in Medford called "Something's Gotta Give: Values and Ethics in Oregon Health Reform." Forsyth was chairman of the conference and Tolle presented a white paper on the subject; the conference was attended by several members of subcommittees of the Health Fund Board.

"Today in the U.S. we spend $7,000 a year on health care for every man, woman and child," said Forsyth. "That means the average U.S. family of four spends $28,000 annually. This is clearly unaffordable to the great majority of our population. The meteoric rise of health care costs is simply not sustainable, financially or morally. Ethics can help define the values we use in deciding about priorities in health care spending. Nonetheless, these decisions will be exceedingly difficult."


About OHSU
Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university, and Oregon's only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government), with 12,400 employees. OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state. 

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