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Dr Derrick Aarons: Pioneering Jamaica through abortion, mercy-killing, cloning, homosexuality… - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM
Dr Derrick Aarons: Pioneering Jamaica through abortion, mercy-killing, cloning, homosexuality.
If we live our lives as a tale that is told, the story of Dr Derrick Aarons
must, and will, echo through future ages.That he
was in place every time that an event was to unfold to steer him to his
seemingly appointed path, isn't that proof that we are all created for a purpose, which we must fulfill or else wander aimlessly through life?
Aarons. there is never any right or wrong about abortion
From as early as second form at Kingston College
, the hand of fate had pointed Aarons
in the direction of medicine.When Edgar Gallimore, KC old boy and then librarian, ushered a group of idling boys into the school library to spend their free time reading, Aarons
happened upon a book about human biology.
And then many years hence, as a member of the Medical Association of Jamaica's trail-blazing Ethics Committee, it oddly transpired that both the committee's president and vice-president could not make an ethics meeting in Barbados and Aarons
got to go.In that fateful conference plenary, he
found himself spellbound by the presentation of Professor Margaret Somerville, a Canadian expert on bio-ethics.By the end of day two, Aarons
knew that a new course had been set for him - in bio-ethics.He
returned to Jamaica a man on a mission, applied to McGill University
in Montreal, Canada and got accepted to do their Master's course in bio-ethics.Thinking now that getting a sponsor would be a cinch and that he
only had his
bags to pack, he
ran into a profound reality: Jamaicans had no use for a master of bio-ethics.
Two years later, his
Master's degree in hand and resisting the temptation to take a waiting job in Canada, Aarons
returned to Jamaica to be his
country's and the Caribbean's first trained bio-ethicist.Diligently he
searched for a job.Nobody, not even the University of the West Indies
(UWI) or the health ministry, wanted a bio-ethicist.The job description just did not exist in anyone's HR department.
For six months, Aarons
stubbornly followed his
dying hope flickered to life one morning when the UWI
called him for a discussion.They offered him a position as a temporary assistant lecturer in bio-ethics minus fringe benefits.
did a quick calculation, he
saw that the pay would be just enough to make his
monthly car payments and nothing else. "I had no choice but to turn it down.I'd be working for the bank," Aarons recalls.
Once again, Mrs Aarons
husband's despair.But it is the lot of the woman to be practical and she
spoke as an honest wife.The investment had been a failure.Nobody wanted a bio-ethicist.The bills had to be paid.He
should go back to his
There at least he
had a strong clientele to whom he
had grown very attached.Dr Aarons
swallowed hard.Ocho Rios was home and he
had integrated with the community, so much so that as a justice of the peace he
would act for the custos in his
wife was right!Tomorrow he
would head back to scenic Ocho Rios.
The dream lives
But a dream is hard to give up on, so he
did a lot of pro bono stuff to familiarise people with the concept of bio-ethics and what he
In 1999, as the Ministry of Health was pushing health reform, Aarons
was invited to provide ethics consultancy on attitude and communication of doctors and nurses with patients.
At last the government had come awake.His
research took him to every major hospital in Jamaica to record what actually took place on the ground, and he
submitted a draft policy document to the government.
Back to McGill
"Coming out of that I became interested in the aspect of communication between health care professionals and their patients.I went back to McGill University
in 2001 to do a PhD in bio-ethics and my thesis was on doctor-patient communication," recounts Aarons
didn't just get a PhD.His
thesis copped the second highest possible grading and his
oral defence the highest grade.And he was only the first Caribbean national and the second graduate from McGill to be a medical doctor with a PhD in bio-ethics.
Since 2003, Aarons
has been serving on the advisory panel on bio-ethics of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).Once a year he
goes to the bio-ethics centre in Chile to plan strategies for all 38 member-countries of PAHO, with special focus on the weakest members - Haiti, Guyana and Belize.
The body of knowledge on bio-ethical issues at the Ministry of Health is growing, thanks to Aarons
.From 2000 to 2003, he
chaired the ministry's inaugural advisory panel on ethics and medico-legal affairs.At the ministry, he
established, for the first time, guidelines for the conduct of research with human subjects across Jamaica.
"Prior to that, research was ad hoc.Now once the government knows of the planned research, it is required that the project proposal goes to the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) in the respective parish, for approval, in respect of projects of minimal risks.
Larger projects, such as multi-centre ones or those coming from overseas, have to go to the ministry itself," he
says.To prepare the MOHs for the necessary evaluation of research projects, Aarons
conducted a training workshop.
Breaking medical confidentialityThe Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ), of which he is an active member and former chairman of its ethics committee, has accepted his policy submission on several issues, including decriminalisation of ganja; abortion and a code of ethics governing the confidentiality of doctors regarding HIV/AIDS patients.
led the MAJ submission before the Ganja Commission
, arguing that ganja should be decriminalised on the basis that while the weed causes harm, it was less harmful than cigarette/tobacco which was not illegal.
On abortion, Aarons
and the MAJ
argued that the antiquated abortion laws which dated back to 1875 be updated.
The matter of homosexuality was more complex and Aarons
says "it is hardly likely that persons on the different sides of the issue will ever see eye-to-eye on homosexuality"."It can only be debated by dispassionate persons," he
But the bio-ethicist suggests that instead of approaching the debate from a position of right or wrong, debaters should look at the more fundamental issue of what makes us male or female."Is it our chromosomes, the genital organs, the sexual hormones that flow through us, or how we are brought up to look at ourselves?"he
asks."If we were to look at all of these inputs, it would not be as easy to come to a conclusion on homosexuality."He
points to overwhelming medical evidence showing that one in 500 infants are born with ambiguous sexual organs, meaning they have both male and female sexual organs.
Dr Peter Figueroa, then medical officer of health for the island, promptly contacted Aarons
The Jamaican delegation voted as Aarons
...Aarons continues his practice as a family doctor and a community man in St Ann.He
writes and reviews articles on bio-ethical issues, sharing generously of is knowledge.He was recently appointed to the prestigious Editorial Board of the journal Developing World Bio-ethics.
And still he
stands alone, for his
time has not yet fully come.
...Dr Derrick Aarons
. Congratulations on providing greater exposure to the wider populace of one of the most outstanding medical heroes and community stalwarts, Dr Derrick Aarons
achievement and great contribution to the community of Ocho Rios, he
has remained a humble and thoroughly approachable human.
. Great article on Dr Aarons
.It is important that you continue to highlight the brilliance and dedication of Jamaicans like Dr Aarons
is one of the many distinguished persons who were fortunate enough to live on Taylor Hall.
. I have just read the interview with my father, Dr Derrick Aarons
.I am just now discovering things that were in motion in his
life coinciding with the period of my own existence, and I'm not sure what to make of that.
DR DERRICK ...
DR DERRICK AARONS
Dr. Derrick Aarons
wanted from a very young age to help people.
service and help in St Ann go way beyond dealing with health related problems and are felt in various ways in many communities.
is probably best known for the quality care he
offers patients as a family doctor and also in his
specialized areas of bioethics and palliative care, but he
is also deeply involved in community work and volunteerism in the parish.
deep involvement in the community and the desire of always wanting to give back, particularly in rural areas, to his
upbringing and principles instilled in him from very early in his
life, by his
mother Sylvia Bailey.
"From as far back as I know myself I have always wanted to help others, I can remember growing up as a youngster and, in my early teen, reaching out to help others whether it was friend or an uncle or an aunt," Dr. Aarons
said that continued through medical school and after he
desire was to serve areas which were underserved.
explained to the North Coast Times
that unlike some of his
colleagues who opted to do their internship at the University Hospital
and Kingston Public Hospital, he
asked to be placed in an area which was underserved and was placed at Spanish Town Hospital
What he experienced at Spanish Town pushed him further to want to go deeper into the rural areas and he later ended up at the Ocho Rios Health Centre as the district medical officer, after he enquired of the Ministry of Health about positions in rural Jamaica.
He explained that once he settled down as district medical officer where he was in charge of three health centres, he also sought other areas in which he could serve and, shortly after, started the north east branch of the Medical Association of Jamaica on the north coast.
He also joined the Lions Club and through that group he has contributed widely to the parish.
"Wherever I was invited, I participated giving talks and building capacity in terms of developing persons, their knowledge, their understanding of their health and their responsibility to the community," he
SENSE OF PURPOSE
From very humble beginnings in Kingston, the Kingston College old boy strongly believes that everybody must have a sense of purpose and he
explained that his
sense of purpose has never revolved around self.
A medical doctor for over 30 years, Dr. Aarons explained that there is nothing else he would do as he believes his job has been quite rewarding and although there have been challenges he has impacted many lives in a positive way.
"Looking back I think I made a difference in terms of people's lives and being able to empower them both physically and in terms of their psychosocial preparedness, challenges that they meet in life, literally providing a crutch that they could always lean on," he
time as the district medical officer for Ocho Rios
also doubled as the medical officer of health (MOH) for the parish and was very instrumental in developing the first disaster preparedness programme for St Ann.
left the government service to open his
practice in Ocho Rios
during an era when Government was experiencing serious financial problems and had great difficulty paying doctors employed in the public health system.
Dr. Aarons is a pioneer in the field of Bioethics in Jamaica and across the Caribbean since 1996, and is the only trained Ph.D. consultant in this specialty in the Caribbean region.
He has also served as an Ethics Consultant in the Ministry of Health.
He also served as the Bioethicist on the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI, and has given numerous lectures to various groups across Jamaica and the Caribbean.
He is the founding president of the Bioethics Society of the English Speaking Caribbean and he has done extensive work including writing numerous articles on bioethics.
explained that the demand for this specialty is growing, especially in Kingston where the bulk of his
involvement is concentrated.
A pioneer also in volunteerism and community involvement, Dr. Aarons' service in the community spans back to 1983 when he joined the Lions Club shortly after taking on the job at the Ocho Rios Health Centre.
Since then he
has served numerous organizations including being a Justice of the Peace for many years.
is also heavily involved in mentoring and he
has mentored several young persons.
explained that as a JP working in the Children's Court he
has come across some heart-rending cases of youths who are in need of serious intervention and he
told The Timesthat with the knowledge that he
has as a medical doctor about families and how young people think and the need to motivate them, he
has been able to give back in that regard.
"I measure my existence here on earth by what I can do for others and so I get a sense of satisfaction in so doing.(((blurb))) Each person has to have a frame of reference and that is why some people might feel hopeless because they don't have a sense of purpose," he
explained that he
also encourages people who visit his
practice to aim towards making a difference in somebody else's life.
said people should not be limited in their desire to help because of financial challenges.
"I am hoping that along life's journey, the path persons take, that they will hopefully develop a similar sense of purpose that they can make a difference, no matter how small, in other persons' lives," he
is very appreciative of opportunities he
has received; one of the most notable being a government scholarship to study medicine, and he
explained that his
giving back to the country is one of the ways in which he
is married to Maureen and has four children, two sons and two daughters.
hobbies include cycling, reading, and watching sports.
Medical Association of Jamaica
Dr. Derrick Aarons, Bio-ethicist & Palliative Care Physician
bioethics.net :: Article Topics: Bioethics
Feb 16, 2009 (Jamaica Observer) Jamaican family physician, Dr Derrick Aarons, who is spearheading the Medical Council of Jamaica's ethics seminars for doctors, is one of only three people in Jamaica who are qualified bio-ethicists.
Bioethics - News, Pictures and More on Zeal
Jamaica's Dr Derrick Aarons elected to UNESCO bioethics network
Women Only JAMAICAN Dr Derrick Aarons, immediate past president of the Bioethics Society of the English-speaking Caribbean, has now been elected to the Executive Council of RedBioetica UNESCO.