Each decade over the last 50 years has witnessed a marked increase in formal bioethics activities in health care institutions. Formal ethics involvement at Sanford Health, formerly Sioux Valley Hospital, came early when a medical staff bioethics committee was founded in 1984. The committee had a multidisciplinary composition and continues today as an active institutional ethics committee.
First named the Center for Biomedical Ethics, the Center was founded in 1987 to respond to the growing interest and emphasis on ethics in health care. By 1990, interest and participation in the Center had increased, and the newly established board of directors adopted its mission statement: “To promote the understanding of ethics and caring issues among health care professionals and community members.” 1991 was a pivotal year for the Center for Biomedical Ethics as a benefactor established a $30,000 educational endowment fund to support the Center’s activities. In 1992, to enhance its focus and signify mutual efforts and interests, the Center's name was changed to The Center for Ethics and Caring at Sioux Valley Hospital.
In 1996 the goals of the Center were further defined and continue to be foundation for its current mission:
- To assess the educational needs of the community, health care professionals, and patients and families, and provide educational programs to enhance their knowledge base in the area of health care ethics
- To provide a forum for community dialogue on current and emerging issues in health care ethics
- To provide an extensive library of resources to assist in the study, research and teaching of ethics
- To develop a speakers’ bureau to assist in community education
- To support the graduate and undergraduate education programs in health care ethics at Augustana University and other institutions of higher education
- To encourage study, research and writing in the area of health care ethics
Now recognized as the Abel and Norma DeGroot Endowment for Bioethics, Humanities, and the Healing Arts, these funds support ongoing efforts of the Center and afford opportunity to invite speakers of national and international renown. Now the Center has evolved into a shared community endeavor. One of the major successes of the Center has been the fostering of institutional relationships. Center activities are supported by Sanford Health USD Medical Center, the USD Sanford School of Medicine, Augustana University and the Good Samaritan Society. The Center works closely in conjunction with the USD Sanford School of Medicine where the Department of Neurosciences has established a Section of Ethics and Humanities. The section provides a four-year curriculum in ethics for medical students and sponsors various projects and leadership opportunities.
Norma DeGroot’s support of ethics at Sanford Health began over two decades ago when she established an endowment dedicated to the DeGroot Center: Bioethics, Humanities, and the Healing Arts in honor and memory of her husband, Abel. Abel was a longtime member of the Sioux Valley Board, and visionary charter member of the Sioux Valley Foundation’s Board of Directors in the 1980s. The family’s support has been a driving force, making a great impact in the region on the study and teaching of issues in ethics and care in the health care arena. Sanford Health Foundation Past-President Brian Mortenson said, “Norma’s philanthropic investment in the Center has paved the way for this important work to be done, and forever will be a cornerstone of best practices in the study, teaching and implementation of biomedical ethics for the betterment of Sanford Health.”