Between Policy and Politics: When Bioethics Ventures into Public Debate


Dissemination of and discussion about research results are increasingly recognized as a necessary part of research, to the point that knowledge transfer (KT) is viewed by many researchers and institutions as an ethical obligation and is increasingly expected (and even required) by research funders. KT is especially important for population health researchers, whose research has a direct impact on the lives of individuals and communities. However, it is not easy to transfer knowledge to the general public, especially when the subject is sensitive or highly political. The advice of academic experts may be ignored or contested by policy makers, for example, due to differences in values and priorities, or because it does not fit political objectives. In this context, we—a group of bioethics students, with the support of a professor—produced a YouTube video explaining the current state of knowledge and the potential consequences of a bill that would massively reorganise healthcare administration in the province of Québec, Canada. Our goal was to stimulate debate about the bill and its impact on the healthcare system. This paper recounts, in narrative form, a fictional dialogue between the students and two professors regarding the development, dissemination and ensuing critique of the video, and their reflections on how junior and established bioethics scholars can and should engage in innovative KT on topics of public importance, that have significant political ramifications for a variety of stakeholders.

In Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics.