Tag: doctors

Bioethics Blogs

Harvey and Irma: Bioethics in Natural Disasters

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

This is a time of disaster. Last week Hurricane Harvey devastated Southeast Texas, a place where I did my doctoral studies. This week we are awaiting Hurricane Irma, the strongest hurricane to head toward South Florida in 25 years. My family lays in the path of that coming storm. I first became interested in natural disaster in 1989 when my college campus was jolted by a 7.1 earthquake in Northern California.

Bioethics has a role in responding to and preparing for these natural disasters. Most every state, large city and county, and most hospitals have been working on crisis standards of care plans. In 2009 and again in 2012, the Institute of Medicine recommended governments to undertake such planning. Many of us working in bioethics have been involved in these efforts. More specifically, we have been involved with developing ethical frameworks for decision-making, policy-making, and operations during emergency planning.

I worked with Texas during its planning for pandemic flu and for the last 3 years have been part of the ethics subcommittee of Illinois’ workgroup, most recently as chair. Similar groups have produced excellent reports in many places such as Delaware, North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas and Toronto. They offer guidance and justification for a varied set of guiding principles and ethical frameworks. All of them hold certain core ideals in common.

First, all of the reports agree that transparency and open communication is essential. Planning needs to involve not only government officials, but also community members.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Judge Opens Door for Lawsuit Over Girl Declared Brain Dead

September 8, 2017

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Alameda County Judge Stephen Pulido ruled Tuesday that it’s up to a jury to determine whether Jahi McMath is alive, which would increase the damages jurors could award if they determine doctors at Children’s Hospital in Oakland botched a routine operation to remove the girl’s tonsils.

In California, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering are capped at $250,000 for medical malpractice. But juries can award unlimited economic damages far above that cap for ongoing medical care, which Jahi’s family could not claim if she were declared dead.

Jahi’s case has been at the center of national debate over brain death since the girl’s mother refused to remove her daughter from life support after doctors declared the then-13-year-old dead after surgery in December 2013.

… Read More

Image: By Blcksx – I took this photograph while visiting Riverside, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44291738

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

In Survey, Docs Say Unneeded Medical Care Is Common

September 7, 2017

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A national survey of more than 2,000 doctors across multiple specialties finds that physicians believe overtreatment is common and primarily perpetuated by fear of malpractice, as well as patient demand and some profit motives.

A report on the findings, published today in PLOS ONE, highlights physicians’ perspectives on unnecessary health care practices and the potential causes and solutions.

“Unnecessary medical care is a leading driver of the higher health insurance premiums affecting every American,” says Martin Makary, professor of surgery and health policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the paper’s senior author.

… Read More

Image: via Flickr AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by weiss_paarz_photos

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

A Surprising Way Health Insurance Might Save Your Life

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) speaks with members of the media at Trump Tower December 12, 2016 in New York. / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Back in May, an angry constituent asked Congressmen Raul Labrador why he voted for the Republican House Healthcare Bill, that the constituent claimed would cause people to die for lack of Medicaid funding. The Freedom Caucus member shot back with a now infamous retort: “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare.” Amidst backlash over what he now describes as an inelegant statement, Labrador tried to clarify his remarks: “I was trying to explain that all hospitals are required by law to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of their ability to pay, and that the Republican plan does not change that.”

But Labrador forgot to mention that, although hospitals are required to treat emergently ill patients regardless of ability to pay, they are also allowed to bill those patients for that care. That means people without insurance often find themselves either avoiding emergency rooms altogether, or driving long distances to hospitals known for being more forgiving of medical debt. Labrador overlooked the life-threatening risks that financially strapped people take to keep out of medical debt.

Insurance sometimes saves lives by enabling people to get emergency care close to home, without fear of financial insolvency.

This travel-and-die phenomenon is not what most insurance enthusiasts think about when they say insurance improves health. Instead, they talk about how insurance makes people more likely to receive the primary care that prevents life threatening illnesses – mammograms and colonoscopies; blood pressure pills and flu shots.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

‘Being a burden’: a illegitimate ground for assisted dying

The issue of the legality in England and Wales of physician-assisted suicide has recently been revisited by the Court of Appeal. Judgment is awaited. The judgment of the Court of Appeal, granting permission for judicial review, is here.

The basic issue before the Court of Appeal was the same as that in Nicklinson v Ministry of Justice and R (Purdy) v DPP: does the right to determine how one lives ones private life (protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights)  confer a right to have an assisted death?

Many factors have been said to be relevant to decisions about assisted dying. They include are intractable pain (rather a weak criterion, given modern palliative methods), hopeless prognosis – likely to result in death in a short time, and simple autonomy (‘It’s my right to determine where, when, and in what circumstances I end my life, and that’s an end of the matter’). One factor, commonly in the minds of patients asking for help in ending their lives, but rarely mentioned by advocates of assisted dying, is that the patient feels that she is a burden to her family and carers.

A recent systematic review of the literature concluded that 19-65% of terminally ill patients felt that they were a burden to others.  The 2016 Report relating to the Oregon Death with Dignity Act  concluded that 48.9% of patients whose lives were ended under the Act cited seeking an assisted death cited ‘being a burden’ as one of their concerns.

Concern about being a burden should not be a criterion to which any law relating to assisted dying should be permitted to have regard.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

An ‘Army Of People’ Helps Houston Cancer Patients Get Treatment

September 1, 2017

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As rains pounded Houston on Sunday, Dr. Karen Lu took to Twitter and conveyed both alarm and reassurance: “Roads around @MDAndersonNews impassable. Our on-site ride out team is caring for patients and we are all safe.

Lu is a professor of gynecologic oncology and interim chief medical officer at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, a top cancer hospital and research center. Earlier that morning, the hospital had sent a high-water vehicle — a box truck — to Lu’s neighborhood, and she walked eight blocks through flooded streets to meet it.

The storm forced the hospital to close to outpatients. Surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment and other appointments were put on hold for the 13,000 people MD Anderson sees each week.

Inside the hospital, doctors, nurses, technicians and facilities and food service staff were keeping things running for more than 500 inpatients and their families.

Lu spoke to Morning Edition host Mary Louise Kelly as the hospital was shifting into recovery mode Thursday.

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NPR: Shots

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

FDA Approves First CAR-T Cell Therapy for Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Caption: Cancer survivor Emily Whitehead with her dog Lucy.
Credit: Emily Whitehead Foundation

Tremendous progress continues to be made against the Emperor of All Maladies, cancer. One of the most exciting areas of progress involves immunotherapy, a treatment strategy that harnesses the natural ability of the body’s own immune cells to attack and kill tumor cells. A lot of extremely hard work has gone into this research, so I was thrilled to learn that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced today its first approval of a promising type of immunotherapy called CAR-T cell therapy for kids and young adults with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)—the most common childhood cancer in the U.S.

ALL is a cancer of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Its treatment with chemotherapy drugs, developed with NIH support, has transformed ALL’s prognosis in kids from often fatal to largely treatable: about 90 percent of young patients now recover. But for those for whom the treatment fails, the prognosis is grim.

In the spring of 2012, Emily Whitehead of Philipsburg, PA was one such patient. The little girl was deathly ill, and her parents were worried they’d run out of options. That’s when doctors at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, gave Emily and her parents new hope. Carl June and his team had successfully treated three adults with their version of CAR-T cell therapy, which is grounded in initial basic research supported by NIH [1,2]. Moving forward with additional clinical tests, they treated Emily—their first pediatric patient—that April. For a while, it was touch and go, and Emily almost died.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Are you a person or an animal?

The question in the title may sound like an insult. That is, not as a question, but as something one might say in anger to reprimand someone who misbehaves.

In philosophy, the question is asked seriously, without intention of insulting. A philosopher who misbehaves at a party and is reprimanded by another guest – “Are you a person or an animal?” – could answer, shamelessly: Eh, I really don’t know, philosophers have contemplated that question for hundreds of years.

What then is the philosophical question? It is usually described as the problem of personal identity. What are we, essentially? What constitutes “me”? What holds the self together? When does it arise and when does it disappear?

According to proponents of a psychological view, we (human beings) are persons with certain psychological capacities, such as self-awareness. That psychology holds the self together. If an unusual disease made my body deteriorate, but doctors managed to transplant my mental contents (self-awareness, memories, etc.) into another body, then I would survive in the other body. According to proponents of the rival, animalist view, however, we are animals with a certain biology. An animalist would probably deny that I could survive in a foreign body.

The difference between the two views can be illustrated by their consequences for a bioethical question: Is it permissible to harvest organs from brain-dead bodies to use as transplants? If we are essentially persons with self-awareness, then we cease to exist when the brain dies. Then it should be permissible to harvest organs; it would not violate personal autonomy.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Elder Abuse: ERs Learn How To Protect A Vulnerable Population

August 28, 2017

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Abuse often leads to depression and medical problems in older patients — even death within a year of an abusive incident.

Yet, those subjected to emotional, physical or financial abuse too often remain silent. Identifying victims and intervening poses challenges for doctors and nurses.

Because visits to the emergency room may be the only time an older adult leaves the house, staff in the ER can be a first line of defense, said Tony Rosen, founder and lead investigator of the Vulnerable Elder Protection Team (VEPT), a program launched in April at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center ER.

The most common kinds of elder abuse are emotional and financial, Rosen said, and usually when one form of abuse exists, so do others. According to a New York study, as few as 1 in 24 cases of abuse against residents age 60 and older were reported to authorities.

The VEPT program — initially funded by a small grant from The John A. Hartford Foundation (a Kaiser Health News funder) and now fully funded by the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation — includes Presbyterian Hospital emergency physicians Tony Rosen, Mary Mulcare and Michael Stern. These three doctors and two social workers take turns being on call to respond to signs of elder abuse. Also available when needed are psychiatrists, legal and ethical advisers, radiologists, geriatricians and security and patient-services personnel.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Book Review: Cells Are The New Cure (BenBella Books, Inc., 2017). ISBN 9781944648800.

$26.95. Reviewed by Michael S. Dauber, MA

 

Cells Are The New Cure, written by Robin Smith, MD, and Max Gomez, PhD, is a book about the history of medical research on cells, both human and non-human, and recent developments in these techniques that have made cellular medicine one of the most promising fields for therapeutic exploration. While the book’s title suggests an exclusive focus on the healing aspects of genetic modification and human stem cell therapy, the text is much more than that: it is a roadmap for understanding the origins of such techniques, the current state of affairs in cellular and genetic therapies, the administrative landscape investigators must traverse in conducting research, and the areas in which we still need to make progress.

Smith and Gomez make an argument that is structurally simple yet gripping: they suggest that targeted therapies involving stem cells and genetic modifications are the future of medicine by pointing to the immense amount of studies in those fields that have yielded beneficial results. While many readers might acknowledge this fact even before reading the book, many may not be aware of the full extent of the knowledge we have gained from research on cells and genetics, or the myriad ways this knowledge has been applied. Of course, Smith and Gomez cover the big diseases that most people think of when imagining medical research: cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative conditions, etc. However, the book also contains detailed information about how we age, what may cause certain allergies, how the body repairs itself, and the ways stem cell therapies, genetic editing techniques, and other complex medicines that build on these methods can be used to treat these conditions.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.