Story Posted: 2024-06-19

Bioethics seminar shares the value of stories

June 13, 2024 – The W.F. Mitchell Bioethics Seminar was held in Pylypchuk Hall with Paul Costello, the founder of Storywise, presenting on, “The Ethics of the Stories We Tell.” Approximately 30 people attended the seminar in person in St. Paul’s Hospital’s Pylypchuk Hall, with 30 more joining via Webex.

Mr. Costello began the seminar by emphasizing that “if you want to change the world, you have to change the story – to see the world through the prism of meaning making and through the prism of interpretation because one story can mean a million things. Our stories somehow create what our world means to us, and then how we respond, how we choose, how we react.”

Through the sharing of stories, Mr. Costello highlighted that different cultures treat storytelling in different ways. Western culture often devalues the personal nature of stories, while Indigenous cultures have a tradition of valuing stories as maps of how we live that are shared through an ethical code that gives the storyteller the power to share or not share the story. Emphasis was placed on the ethical imperative to ensure that when decisions are made, the stories of the people most affected by the decision have been shared. This in turn leads to the articulation of an ethical position: “I must be able to tell the story in front of the people most likely to be effected by it.”

The seminar ended with a question and answer period. Mr. Costello reminded participants that each of us has an amazing story, the telling of which is good for us and for the people around us. He proposed that there is a story contract between listener and storyteller. “People will listen to you to the extent they feel you have listened to them. And another part of that contract… is: listen so that you draw out of the person speaking to you the very deepest, precious, cherished story that they want to tell. The teller’s responsibility is to tell the story in such a way that it draws the listener into that sacred space of your deepest longings and your deepest desires and what you want for your life.” He closed by encouraging St. Paul’s Hospital to create ways for stories to be shared to help us to live more ethically and to be amazed by one another.

The seminar was made possible by the W.F. Mitchell Endowment which is stewarded by the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation. William F. Mitchell was a Saskatoon business man, who recognized the value of ethical reflection both in the business world and in health care. The recording of the seminar is available below. The W.F. Mitchell Endowment was also engaged to help bring Paul Costello to the St. Paul’s Hospital Manager Retreat and the Diocese of Saskatoon’s Catholic Pastoral Centre staff.


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