Taylor Goodspeed is a first year law student in the joint-degree Masters in Bioethics program at the University of Pennsylvania. Her interests lie at the nexus of medical ethics, law and health policy. She previously worked at the President’s Commission for Bioethical Issues in Washington, D.C. and Stanford University’s School of Medicine. She graduated from Stanford in 2012 with a double degree in Human Biology and Classics and at graduation received an Award of Excellence for the Class of 2012.
I am currently immersed in my first year of law school at the University of Pennsylvania, and I am
in conjunction pursuing a dual-degree of Master in Bioethics in the Department of Medical Ethics
and Health Policy.
I decided to apply to, and matriculate at, Penn Law this past fall specifically because of the
opportunity to pursue this double-degree. I need training as a lawyer to pursue my goals in the field
of medicine, focusing on my specific interest in bioethics. This combination will help me solidify
two major possible career paths. The first will potentially allow me to be the main legal decision
maker in a hospital. The other will provide the opportunity to work on federal policy, challenging
patent monopolies on various medical technologies.
My first career choice would lead to my becoming the general counsel of an academic medical
center, working on a local level in the context of federal and state decisions regarding major ethical
issues. In addition to having responsibility for system-wide policies and procedures, I also want to
help specific individuals navigate the legal processes of a medical center. Many medical decisions
involve ethical and legal dilemmas which require balancing the preferences and requirements of all
the parties involved, while at the same time considering hospital regulations, state and federal laws,
and the individual patient’s right to autonomy and privacy. These cases extend from genetic testing
access to advanced directives for end of life care. I find myself reading and re-reading case studies
ranging from end of life directives to informed consent disputes. I can imagine myself being the
person who weighs all of the medical, legal, and ethical issues together in, for example, overseeing
an adolescent’s medical decision-making process at a hospital. My work will both influence the
local policies of the surrounding medical centers and extend to state laws and legislatures, as we
adapt to growing and changing technology needs.
My other potential career path is more nuanced. As I learn more and more about our health care
system and its ever-rising costs, I want to study how moral issues affect both the system and the
patients within it and also to identify ways to ensure that no one is left without available resources.
How can we provide affordable health care to those who need it most without compromising the
rights of individuals? On a policy level, I hope to use my legal background to influence bio-patent
legislation. What legal meaning will “intellectual property” rights possibly have if the term can be
applied to objects that are synthetic but similar to those in nature? The United States has always
valued autonomy and freedom at the individual level, but our current medical system frequently
fails to honor those values.
I previously worked at the Center for the Integration of Genetics and Ethics (CIRGE) at Stanford
University while I was an undergraduate. Under the leadership of Dr. Mildred Cho, I published a
first-authored scientific paper on cell-free fetal DNA testing papers on biopatents and their role in
shaping genetic testing and genomic materials. Prenatal technology and patent regulation will become
significant policy issues within the coming decade, and I look forward to having the legal background
to be an active participant in the discussion. I want to work to protect the rights and decision-making
abilities of individual patients. I also believe that companies should determine which innovations to
pursue based to a greater degree on identifying gaps in current care and filling those needs, rather than
pursuing incremental advances primarily for profitability. By reforming laws governing patents and individual
property rights and by incentivizing smaller companies to pursue new technologies, I hope to steer medical
innovation toward those areas of treatment with the greatest need for improvement and advancement.
I find that studying health law today cannot be extricated from the many moral implications for both
health practitioners and patients. A law degree will provide me with the tools both to question such
decisions on a micro level in a hospital and to broadly challenge patent monopolies on various vital
medical technologies on a macro level through the legislative process.