Center bids a fond farewell to Fellow Cecilia Dieuzeide

This month, the Center says farewell and best wishes to Cecilia Dieuzeide, the Center’s Thomas G. Bell Fellow for the past 15 months. Cecilia will be heading back to her home in Argentina to provide legal assistance to indigent clients for at least the next few years. In the interview below, she reflects on her time at UVA, which began in August 2017 at the law school, where she earned a Masters in Law (LLM) while on a Fulbright Scholarship. (Learn more about that here.) She soon found the Center, where she has been an integral and energizing force, working on projects relating to reproductive ethics and justice, end-of-life decision-making and more. We will miss her dearly.

Cecilia, what brought you to the Center?
Having been born and raised in a house of physicians, I was always interested in the connection between medicine and law. However, I had never analyzed medical issues from an ethical perspective until I took Bioethics and the Law and a Seminar in Ethical Values with Professors Lois Shepherd and Brad Worrall and the course Genetics and the Law with Professor Gil Siegal at the law school. It was then that I realized how fascinating ethical (and especially reproductive rights) issues can be as they are evolving continuously. Current debates in this area can have actual impact in the development of policies and regulations. As a result of this courses, I decided I wanted to continue my studies in this field and combine my human rights previous background with matters in reproductive ethics and justice. So, the program Studies in Reproductive Ethics and Justice at the Center was the perfect place for my fellowship. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn in a very friendly environment from a staff of extremely prestigious and experienced faculties, but I could also participate on the Clinical Ethics and Moral Distress Consult Services and the Medical Ethics Committee of UVA Health System and apply my academic expertise in practical settings within different clinical departments of the hospital.

What activities have you found most fulfilling?
All my activities at the Center were extremely enriching and I learned a lot in all of them. However, the one I enjoyed the most was organizing a free screening of the documentary “62 days” and a discussion which followed on brain death and pregnancy at Pinn Hall Conference Center Auditorium, School of Medicine in February 2019. The documentary by filmmaker Rebecca Haimowitz depicts the well-known Texan case of Marlise Muñoz and the painful distress her family went through when forced to keep her deceased body on mechanical support because she was pregnant. I was extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to organize this panel and bring together Director Haimowitz and experts in brain death and in health law in order to encourage a comprehensive analysis of such a complex issue.
I am also grateful for the opportunity I had to learn and interact daily with all its amazing staff and faculties. Not only are they extremely well known, professional and experienced but they are also very kind and generous, generating an incredible work environment and providing a lot of learning opportunities to interns and fellow (apart from a lot of chocolate! 😉). I couldn’t have asked for a better place and a more proficient team to help me expand my knowledge in Bioethics.

How would you compare medical ethics and health law in general terms between the U.S. and Argentina?
While biomedical ethics is still a new and continuously evolving field in the United States, it is even newer in Argentina and most medical centers there do not have ethics consult services like the one at the University of Virginia. We still don’t have a unified Argentinian Association of Bioethics and some of the debates that started taking place in the U.S. a long time ago (i.e, pregnant women’s right to abortion) are currently starting to be discussed in Argentina (abortion there is still illegal, with certain exceptions).
Another difference I perceived is that in some clinical fields physicians in the U.S. have access to more state-of-the-art technology, which leads to different types of ethical discussions (for instance, in terms of brain death and pregnancy, there are not so many cases in Argentina as in the U.S. in which a pregnant woman is kept on mechanical support until she delivers the fetus).
However, I feel that Argentina is a more inclusive country in terms of health care since everyone there has a right to free access to public health systems and even in those cases when people have private health insurance, co-pay policies are much more affordable than in the US. Therefore, whenever an ethical issue arises, the financial burden of the treatment is not a necessary part of the discussion, at least not in every case, and states can face liability if they do not provide the means a certain person needs to continue an appropriate treatment.

What are your plans upon your return to Argentina and beyond?
I will continue working at the Public Ministry of Defense of the City of Buenos Aires, where I will be able to apply most of the knowledge I acquired during my LLM and my fellowship at the University of Virginia, especially those issues related to social justice and women’s reproductive rights. The advocacy skills I developed through the interaction with physicians, lawyers and bioethicists will undoubtedly become extremely useful to enhance my work and provide better assistance to my clients, which are mostly low-income women and LTBGIQ people who are continuously denied access to reproductive health care services and contraception education.
Besides, during the next years I plan to do my Masters in Bioethics at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I hope one day to get my SJD in Law, with a focus in Bioethics and Human Rights.

What will you miss most when you leave the Center/UVA/Charlottesville?
I love Charlottesville and I will definitely miss its scenery, its small-town feel, my everyday ride/walk from North Grounds to Central Grounds, the charming Downtown Mall and its Friday’s after five concerts, the beautiful venues at the wineries, breweries and cideries surrounding the city and all the trails and sunsets at the impressive Blue Ridge Mountains (including the bears and deer, as we don’t see them so often in Buenos Aires). Besides, I will miss all the basketball games at John Paul Jones Arena as I became a huge fan of the UVA team (their winning the NCAA Championship and my having a chance to meet the coach of the team and some of the players were some of the peaks of my American experience). But foremost, I will miss the local community of Charlottesville. I arrived for the first time in this city on August 12, 2017 (not the nicest welcome, to be honest, as that was the day of the Unite the Right rally). That day was extremely confusing and by then I did not quite understand the seriousness of what was happening and why my family and friends wanted me to take the first flight back home.
However, I will never forget how kind everyone was with me and how local people kept telling me that they were happy that I had chosen UVA and that what was going on that dreadful day did not represent the real local people and the way they think. After having lived in Charlottesville for two years I can certainly agree that they were right. I could have not picked a better place to live and a more friendly community than UVA. Not only did they teach me, trust me and give me thousands of opportunities, but they also made me feel at home. And I will always be grateful for that.