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Published March 26th, 2014
Noted Physician Tackles Medical EthicsOLLI course at LLLC explores new and difficult questions
Submitted by Franette Armstrong
Dr. M. Michael Thaler Photo provided

Dr. M. Michael Thaler has a message for you: "If you haven't heard of 'personalized medicine' just wait a year. There is going to be a groundswell of forces that will put your entire DNA into your medical records for any doctor to see and use."
Whether this and other revolutionary new technologies are a good thing is the subject of a new 6-week course at the Lafayette Library. Through case studies it will delve into the advances in genetics, organ transplantation, robotics, imaging, and information technologies to ask students, "Is there a way to reduce cost and improve care without sacrificing patient rights? Who should get expensive new drugs and procedures and who should decide?"
Dr. Thaler promises you won't need a medical degree to understand and debate these issues.
The Nuremberg Code, the gold standard of medical ethics that arose after WWII, is of more than passing interest to Thaler, who began life in Nazi-invaded Poland and spent his early teens in a refugee camp. At 15 he was sent to Canada for high school and then medical school at the University of Toronto, where as a pathology resident he made a discovery that is saving lives every day - how to perform CPR on children without injuring them - which led to the first of his more than 200 scientific papers in a medical career spanning over four decades.
Residencies and fellowships took him to Paris and Harvard and led to a 34-year career in pediatric medicine at UCSF, where he is professor emeritus in the school of medicine and recipient of the Chancellor's Faculty Award for Outstanding Contributions to Society. It was as president of the Northern California Holocaust Center that he became interested in Nazi medicine.
When he gave up his active role at UCSF, Thaler didn't give up his passion for learning and teaching. He obtained a degree in the history of health science at UC Berkeley, and taught this and the history of the holocaust for 11 years at UC Santa Cruz. "But in the end there was too much driving over Hwy 17," he said, so he began teaching UC Extension, Cal undergraduate classes and an OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) course at least once a year.
Thaler is fluent in five languages and reads three others. Father of two and grandfather of five, he and his wife don't get a chance to travel like they used to. "We're into cruises now ... it's the only way to keep everybody together. Forced house arrest!"
His class begins Tuesday, April 1 from 10 a.m.-noon. For more information go to olli.berkeley.edu or call (510) 642-9934.
New OLLI Classes in Lafayette
Three new six-week courses from UC Berkeley's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute begin April 1 at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center:

Health Care Reform: Medical Practice and Medical Ethics taught by M. Michael Thaler, MD., will analyze the unprecedented ethical, economic and legal challenges brought about by new medical technologies - 10 a.m. to noon, Tuesdays.

Proust and His World taught by Larry Bensky, former national affairs correspondent for KPFA Radio and manager of Radio Proust explores the literature and times of Marcel Proust, one of the 20th century's most widely quoted authors, who was influenced by writers such as Anatole France, artists such as Monet and Picasso, and musicians such as Saint-Saens and Debussy - 10 a.m. to noon, Thursdays.

Art and Architecture of Turkey explores Turkey's culture through architecture, sculpture, paintings, mosaics and manuscripts in Ankara, Akhtamar Island, Yazikaya, Cappadocia and more. Art historian and former Cal State San Francisco professor Kerrin Meis has led tours and traveled extensively in Turkey and has taught many classes about Byzantine and Islamic art - 1:15 to 3:15 p.m., Thursdays.

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