Tag: negligence

Bioethics Blogs

Current trends in clinical negligence litigation in the National Health Service (NHS)

By John Tingle NHS Resolution (the new operating name for the NHS LA, National Health Service Litigation Authority) occupies a central role in the NHS clinical negligence claims environment. They manage clinical negligence claims on behalf of NHS trusts (hospitals) … Continue reading

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 Feminist Neuroethics of Mental Health

By Ann E. Fink
Ann Fink is currently the Wittig Fellow in Feminist Biology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, with an appointment in Gender and Women’s Studies and concurrent affiliations with Psychology and the Center for Healthy Minds. Her research in cellular and behavioral neuroscience has appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Neurophysiology, PNAS and other journals. Ann’s interdisciplinary work addresses the ethics of neuroscience in relation to gender, mental health and social justice. 

Emotionality and gender are tied together in the popular imagination in ways that permeate mental health research. At first glance, gender, emotion, and mental health seem like a simple equation: when populations are divided in two, women show roughly double the incidence of depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders1-3. Innate biological explanations are easy to produce in the form of genes or hormones. It could be tempting to conclude that being born with XX chromosomes is simply the first step into a life of troubled mood. Yet, buried in the most simplistic formulations of mental illness as chemical imbalance or mis-wiring is the knowledge that human well-being is a shifting, psychosocial phenomenon. Learning and memory research offers a treasure trove of knowledge about how the physical and social environment changes the brain. Feminist scholarship adds to this understanding through critical inquiry into gender as a mode of interaction with the world. This essay explores how a feminist neuroethics framework enriches biological research into mental health. 
Problems with “Biology-from-birth” stories 
What if understanding gender and health isn’t a tale of two gonads (or genitalia, or chromosomes)?

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

Cyber Security & Implanted Bio-Monitoring Devices

Dylan Roskams Edris describes risks associated with implantable remote bio-monitoring devices.

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Over the past few years, there has been a rapid growth in the development of implantable remote bio-monitoring systems for medical purposes. For example, implantable monitors that allow for constant monitoring of blood glucose and heart status are being tested in clinical trials. A defining feature of implantable monitors for medical care is the ability to transmit the data they collect wirelessly without patient intervention. Suzanne E. Spaulding, former Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said that: “It has been predicted that by 2020 the internet will expand to include 50 billion connected devices.”  We can expect that this will include the expansion of bio-monitoring systems.

The appeal of such technology is clear. For chronic conditions like diabetes, the early detection of hypoglycemia can let the patient or healthcare professional take emergency action or notify paramedics before the patient has a potentially fatal seizure. In addition, if a physician or sufficiently sophisticated medical system can access data related to a chronic condition on a remote basis preventive measures can be taken to stop dangerous acute symptoms from occurring in the first place.

However, the uptake of implantable remote bio-monitoring also poses several risks. First, there is a risk that bio-monitoring devices could be illegally hacked or intercepted. If the operation of a device is dependent on the transfer of information between the device and some centralized healthcare system then interference with information going in either direction could affect the device’s function.

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

The Charlie Gard case. An ultimate dispassionate ethical reflexion

It is dangerous to exclude ethical judgment from medical decisions in which death is knocking at the door of life

In medical cases in which death comes knocking at the door of life, circumstances arise that are not easy to judge and even less easy to resolve. Such cases can be paradigmatic, like that of Charlie Gard. I believe, therefore, that the first thing we must do is to treat all parties with respect and courtesy, especially those who most suffer for being the protagonists of the events, in this instance the sick child and his parents.

From an ethical point of view, there are a number of aspects that should be evaluated. If I forget one, it is not with the intention Great Ormond Street Hospital doctors. Aspects that should be evaluatedof ignoring it, but because of my own limitations.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (NHS) doctors

To begin with, it should be said that Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) is a leading children’s hospital, one of the most prestigious in the United Kingdom, so we should assume that its medical team — and in all likelihood those who took care of Charlie — are highly professional.

Gosh pleaded for Charlie to be taken off the mechanical ventilation

In April this year, when Mr Justice Francis issued his first verdict, the team from the London hospital pleaded for Charlie to be taken off the mechanical ventilation keeping him alive. This meant the immediate death of the child.

Around the same time, a distinguished American doctor, Dr Michio Hirano, offered Charlie’s parents the possibility of treating the baby with a novel therapy, which, it seems, had shown some beneficial effect in another American child who had a disease similar to that of Charlie’s (Child tried by the experimental treatment Charlie Gard’s) In my opinion this offer ethically conditioned the decision taken by the doctors at GOSH.

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

The rising cost of clinical negligence:who pays the price?

By John Tingle The Medical Protection Society (MPS) have recently published a report arguing that the rising costs of clinical negligence needs to be urgently controlled. They state that the NHS is struggling under the increasing burden of clinical negligence … Continue reading

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

Lang v. Rogue Valley Medical Center – Unilateral DNR and Withholding Lawsuit

The Oregon Supreme Court has just issued a judgment allowing a medical futility lawsuit to proceed to trial.


In 2001, Ruth Miller was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Seven years later, in 2008, she executed an advance directive, naming Phillip Lang as her health care representative.  


On August 1, 2008, Miller was admitted into Rogue Valley Medical Center, where she died that night. Lang brought a lawsuit against the Medical Center and Miller’s oncologist, asserting claims for wrongful death, negligence, medical malpractice, and abuse of a vulnerable
person.


Lang alleges that Miller was not capable of making medical decisions when she was admitted. According to the complaint, when defendants admitted Miller, they listed her as “Do Not Resuscitate” and provided her with only palliative care instead of following plaintiff’s directions to insert a feeding tube and to take other measures to reverse Miller’s deteriorating condition. 

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

Medical Futility and Religious Free Exercise

University of Utah law professor Teneille Brown has just posted a copy of “Medical Futility and Religious Free Exercise” recently published in First Amendment Law Review.


“A tragic scenario has become all too common in hospitals across the United States. Dying patients pray for medical miracles when their physicians think that continuing treatment would render no meaningful benefit. This situation is unfortunately referred to as ‘medical futility.’”


“In these cases, physicians, who are less likely than their patients to rely on God as a means of coping with major illness, are at an impasse. Their patients request everything be done so that they can have more time for God to intervene, but in the physician’s professional experience, everything will probably do nothing. What is the physician to do?”


“The conundrum is a modern one: medical technologies such as breathing machines and dialysis units can support human bodies almost indefinitely when many of our organs fail. But is there any limit on this technological imperative?”


“Every state and the U.S. Constitution recognize that a patient has the legal right to refuse unwanted treatment, even if it is life-sustaining. However, there is no corresponding constitutional right to demand specific treatments. Further, most states have passed so-called ‘medical futility statutes.’ These statutes make it explicit that physicians have immunity from negligence claims if a physician refuses to offer futile treatment, so long as particular statutory safeguards are met.”


“Even if there is no general legal entitlement to medical care and physicians may be immunized from negligence claims, can the invocation of a state’s medical futility statute violate free exercise under state RFRAs, or the U.S.

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

The Unusual Case of Ian Paterson and Criminally Harmful Surgery

Guest post by Alex Mullock, University of Manchester

On 28th April 2017 in the case of breast surgeon, Ian Paterson, the jury in Nottingham Crown Court agreed that in carrying out unnecessary and mutilating surgery the defendant had done what no reasonable surgeon would do.  Paterson was convicted of seventeen counts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) and three counts of unlawful wounding (under, respectively, sections 18 and 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861) against nine women and one man. These ten victims, however, have been reported to represent a tiny proportion of all Paterson’s alleged victims, a group that might amount to hundreds from his many years of practice in the NHS and private sector.

The “obscure motives” that compelled Paterson may forever remain a mystery but it is interesting that the charges against him relate only to patients he treated in his private practice.  This enabled the prosecution to create a narrative that suggested that financial gain could have been the motivating factor for Paterson’s crimes.  Without greed as a possible motive his actions are baffling, and the prosecution’s case, in alleging that surgery which Paterson argued was performed in the patient’s best interests actually constituted GBH or unlawful wounding, would be more challenging because of the medical context of the allegations.  Importantly, the medical exception to the criminal law – the principle that consensual surgery carried out by qualified professionals is legitimate (“proper medical treatment”) – means that there is an assumption that harm caused by surgery is not a matter for the criminal law because it is a risk that we accept in order to enjoy the benefits of surgical medicine.

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

Damages and communitarianism

By Charles Foster

The Lord Chancellor recently announced that the discount rate under the Damages Act 1996 would be decreased from 2.5% to minus 0.75%. This sounds dull. In fact it is financially tectonic, and raises some important ethical questions.

In the law of tort, damages are intended to put a claimant in the position that she would have been in had the tort not occurred. A claimant who, as result of negligence on the part of a defendant, suffers personal injury, will be entitled to, inter alia, damages representing future loss of earnings, the future cost of care and, often, private medical and other treatment.

Where damages are awarded as a lump sum, there is a risk of over-compensating a claimant. Suppose that the claimant is 10 years old at the time of the award, and will live for 70 years, and the future care costs are £1000 a year for life. Should the sum awarded be £1000 x 70 years = £70,000? (70, here, is what lawyers call the ‘multiplier’). It depends on the assumption one makes about what the claimant will do with the lump sum. If she invests it in equities that give her (say) an annual 5% return, £70,000 would over-compensate her.

In the case of Wells v Wells1, the House of Lords decided that, to avoid the risk of under-compensation, claimants should be treated as risk-averse investors. It should be assumed, said the House, that the discount rate should be fixed by reference to the return on index-linked gilts – Government securities.

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

Mandatory Reporting of Pharmacy Prescription Errors?

Following the widely-reported 2014 case of a Cincinnati pharmacist incorrectly filling a prescription which led to a serious patient injury, the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy is now poised to promulgate a new regulation requiring pharmacists to report errors and to the board. This may be the first attempt by a US state board of pharmacy to require dispensing error reporting. (However, about six years ago, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia instituted a required reporting system that has resulted in over 20,000 reports of errors and “near-misses” each year.)

The facts of the 2014 case are direct: A pharmacist was responsible for mistakenly filling a prescription written to supply labetalol but instead dispensed lamotrigine. As a result, the patient suffered permanent kidney damage requiring long-term dialysis. However, because of more in-depth news reporting, an investigator for a local television station made the claim that pharmacists deal with mistakes in “secrecy” and recommended that prescription errors reporting be mandated.

Regrettably, dispensing errors are an unfortunately fact of a pharmacist’s life. In a 2003 observational study attempting to assess prescription dispensing accuracy in 50 pharmacies in six US cities, pharmacy researchers Elizabeth Flynn, Kenneth Barker, and Brian Carnahan showed that the error rate was 1.7% for the 4481 prescriptions reviewed. Of the 77 identified mistakes, the team considered five to “clinically important.” (J Am Pharm Assoc. 2003;43:191-200). Interestingly, the accuracy rate did not vary significantly by pharmacy type or city.

In a 1998 report, a national pharmacist liability carrier provided information to authors Walter Fitzgerald and Dennis Wilson that 85% of its claims resulted from “mechanical errors,” including dispensing the wrong drug or dose, or labeling the prescription incorrectly.

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.