Charles Nailen/The Hoya The Rev. Kevin FitzGerald, S.J., reviews an assignment of post-doctoral fellow Thane Govindan.

Last week, Professor Kevin Wildes, S.J., gave two bioethics lectures and made one appearance on Nightline. It’s all in a week’s work for this Georgetown Jesuit.

Although Jesuits still remain grounded in the same Catholic and Jesuit ideals since their 1540 inception, the Jesuits here at Georgetown are more than just an academic order of men in the Catholic Church. They are a dynamic group actively working to extend their academic prowess and Catholic beliefs well beyond Healy Gates Not only do they teach theology and philosophy, they teach teaching hard-core biology classes and are considered national experts in their fields.

Early in the afternoon of Oct. 21, Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) ordered that a brain-damaged woman in a vegetative state have her feeding tube reinserted after it had been removed at her husband’s request.

A few hours later on the same day, Wildes received a phone call asking him to appear on Nightline to discuss the ethical ramifications of this controversial decision. Wildes, who is no newcomer to the national television scene, agreed.

Wildes explains that he wanted to share his knowledge in bioethics and Christianity in order to have some positive impact on the Terri Schiavo case and to prevent a similar situation from occurring again. Television is an important medium to reach people and “lend an educational arm,” he says.

The Rev. Kevin FitzGerald, S.J., a research associate professor at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, is similarly involved with bioethical issues. He initially joined the Jesuits in the pursuit of truth and meaning in scientific research, he says, because “science needed to be set within a framework that gave meaning.”

Early on, he realized the importance of sharing his understanding of this framework. Information and ideas must be shared to ensure their full understanding, FitzGerald says, because the enormous ramifications of modern scientific discoveries are forcing people to examine the effects these advances will have on people and society.

“The best way of proceeding is through dialogue,” he notes, adding that good scientific information as well as a sound conception of moral structures and how they interact are both essential in this constructive discourse.

Such was the dialogue Wildes brought to Nightline last week. He used both Catholic ideas and biological facts to support his position that Schiavo be allowed to die peacefully.

There is a distinction in Catholic moral thought between ordinary and extraordinary means of prolonging life, Wildes explained, and when there is no hope of recovery, “there is no obligation to continue any kind of treatment,” he said. “We are not in the business of keeping people alive just to keep them alive.”

On the medical side, Wildes maintained that Schiavo’s situation falls into the “extraordinary means” category. Numerous medical experts, according to Wildes, have concluded that there is no hope for Schiavo’s recovery.

Last week’s interview was not Wildes’ first television appearance. He has been interviewed before on Nightline as well as on other shows, including CNN’s Crossfire, where he spoke about similar bioethical issues.

Even though the Jesuit has received some criticism from right-to-life advocates regarding his recent interview, he remains confident in his opinion, he says.

Wildes’ desire to spread knowledge extends beyond the medium of television. Among his other work, Wildes is the associate editor of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, the leading journal in bioethics and philosophy of medicine. Through this publication, aimed specifically toward bioethicisits, philosophers of medicine, theologians and religious studies scholars, Wildes is helping to open up a forum through which the field of bioethics may be debated and discussed.

Additionally, he delivered the keynote address last year for the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s annual meeting of Notre Dame alumni physicians, a speech that investigated the relationship between organizational ethics and bioethics.

But beyond sharing his knowledge with the world beyond Georgetown’s campus, Wildes also brings real-world issues into the classroom. In fact, much of the same dialogue about the distinction between life and death heard on Nightline could also be heard in his bioethics lecture last week.

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