Rural and Non-Rural Differences in Membership of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities
Weeks, William B.
Journal of Medical Ethics 2006 July; 32(7): 411-413
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether bioethicists are distributed along a rural-to-urban continuum in a way that reflects potential need of those resources as determined by the general population, hospital facilities and hospital beds. METHODS: US members of a large, multidisciplinary professional society, the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH), the US population, hospital facilities and hospital beds were classified across a four-tier rural-to-urban continuum. The proportion of each group in rural settings was compared with that in urban settings, and odds ratios were calculated with 95% confidence intervals. RESULTS: Although 91% of ASBH members live or work in urban settings, only 66% of the US population did so. In contrast, 2% of ASBH members live or work in rural settings compared with 13% of the population. ASBH members were 10.7 times (95% CI 6.6 to 17.3) as likely to be represented in urban than in rural settings when compared with the general population, 25.6 times (95% CI 15.8 to 41.5) and 6.9 times (95% CI 4.3 to 11.1) as likely with regard to hospital facilities and hospital beds, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Using various comparisons it was found that ASBH members are under-represented in rural as compared with urban settings. Although not all bioethicists are ASBH members, these findings suggest that the availability of professional bioethical resources may be inadequate in rural America. The disparities that were found may have considerable effect on ethics scholarship, research, ethical committees and education, and adds to the argument that rural American communities are under-served.
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