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Unheard heroes
  1. T Koch
  1. Adj Professor of Gerontology, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada and Adj Professor of Geography (Medical), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; Bioethicist, Canadian Down Syndrome Society (Resource Council) Calgary, Canada;

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    The online symposium concerning the Olivieri case provides a wealth of information, and lessons for the future.1 The articles, especially the one by Francois Baylis,2 and the e-letters concerning the articles, expand the teaching value of this case.

    After reading both articles and letters I believe my own article3 requires a slight revision. As with others writing in the symposium, my assumption had been that while institutionally involved, Hospital for Sick Children bioethicist Mary Rowell was publicly silent about the affair. However, her letter details a public as well as an institutional advocacy.

    “I was not silent, even at a very ordinary and public level,” she writes. But her voice was not heard because, “I was simply not recorded in any detail”.

    The lesson is that the public (and academic) record is often incomplete, and those of us who write about the work of others must seek beyond that record, even to conversations with individual participants in cases like this. Let me therefore apologise to Mary Rowell for any inadvertent slighting of her activity and position in this case.

    Indeed if (as Francois Baylis suggests) we seek the heroes of bioethics, one might argue Mary Rowell’s heroism. Indeed, few are as heroic as those who labour namelessly and without public or collegial regard, a condition that seems to describe her place in this affair.


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