Do you ever watch a movie about a terrible epidemic, or a television drama set in a hospital and wonder: would they really peel back Gwyneth Paltrow’s face like that? Could Dr. House actually get away with being that big of a jerk? Believe it or not, Hollywood actually does consult with doctors, scientists, and bioethicists to make sure they get things right. And many of those consultants make their home at Johns Hopkins.
Ruth Faden, who runs Hopkins’ Berman Institute of Bioethics, has been doing behind-the-scenes consulting on Hollywood products since 2008. “Every time we’ve had an epidemic-based movie, we’ve had an opportunity to have a public discussion about the ethics of how we ought to respond — the limits of what is possible and what principles we should be using to allocate the resources we do have,” she told NPR the other day.
Faden recently participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Science and Entertainment Exchange, which aims to bring scientists and entertainment professionals together. Earlier this year, Hopkins prof Jeffrey Khan hosted a screening of the Ethan Hawke/Uma Thurman film Gattaca, followed by a discussion about the movie’s plausibility and the ethical dimensions of genetic testing. Who knew bioethics were so cool?