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In The News

Featured Article

Lupkin, Sydney. Cannabis Oil Pills Helped Child Go Into Cancer Remission, Mom Says. ABC News.  27 November 2012.
When 7-year-old Mykayla Comstock was diagnosed with leukemia in July, it was less than three days before her mother filed Oregon medical marijuana paperwork so the child could take lime-flavored capsules filled with cannabis oil. The decision to give Mykayla the capsules came naturally to Erin Purchase, MyKayla's mother, who believes marijuana has healing power, but doctors aren't so sure it's a good idea. Continue reading…

End of Life

Hackman, Michelle and Clinton Want. Legislature could consider ‘right to die’ bill. Yale Daily News. 27 November 2012.
Connecticut’s legislature may reconsider its ban on physician-assisted suicide if a new bill is introduced in next year’s legislative session. The so-called “right-to-die” bill, modeled after existing statutes in Oregon and Washington, would allow terminally-ill patients to request prescriptions of lethal medication from doctors. Continue reading…

Disabilities

Cook, Gareth. The Autism Advantage. New York Times Magazine. 29 November 2012.
When Thorkil Sonne and his wife, Annette, learned that their 3-year-old son, Lars, had autism, they did what any parent who has faith in reason and research would do: They started reading. At first they were relieved that so much was written on the topic. “Then came sadness,” Annette says. Lars would have difficulty navigating the social world, they learned, and might never be completely independent. The bleak accounts of autistic adults who had to rely on their parents made them fear the future. What they read, however, didn’t square with the Lars they came home to every day. He was a happy, curious boy, and as he grew, he amazed them with his quirky and astonishing abilities.  Continue reading…

Health Care

Sullivan, Paul. Dealing With Doctors Who Take Only Cash. New York Times. 23 November 2012. A few weeks ago, my wife and I were at our wits’ end: our 4-month-old daughter wouldn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time at night. We had consulted books and seen our pediatrician, but nothing was working. So my wife called a pediatrician who specializes in babies who struggle with sleep problems. While we were none too happy with the insurance company, we remained impressed by the doctor: he had made our baby better and was compensated for it, all the while avoiding the hassle of dealing with insurance. Continue reading…

Stretching the safety net. The Economist. 24 November 2012.
In some rich countries it remains a distant hope, but in Mexico free universal health care became more or less a reality this year. Having insurance used to be contingent on having a salaried job, which left about half of Mexico’s population with only the most basic care. But since 2004 a programme called Seguro Popular (Popular Insurance) has been gradually rolled out all over the country to provide better services to those without employment-linked insurance. Continue reading…

Rau, Jordan. Hospitals Face Pressure to Avert Readmissions. New York Times. 26 November 2012.
After years of gently prodding hospitals to make sure discharged patients do not need to return, the federal government is now using its financial muscle to discourage readmissions. Continue reading…

Mental Health

Carey, Benedict. Thinking Clearly About Personality Disorders. New York Times. 26 November 2012.
For years they have lived as orphans and outliers, a colony of misfit characters on their own island: the bizarre one and the needy one, the untrusting and the crooked, the grandiose and the cowardly.Continue reading…

Public Health

ADHD treatment 'may reduce risk of criminal behavior.' BBC. 21 November 2012.
People with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder who are involved in crime are less likely to reoffend when on treatment than not, a Swedish study shows. Earlier studies suggest people with ADHD are more likely to commit offences than the general population. Providing better access to medication may reduce crime and save money, experts and support groups say. Continue reading…

Knox, Richard. More Women Choose Double Mastectomy, But Study Says Many Don't Need It. NPR. 28 November 2012.
It's a startling trend: Many women with cancer in one breast are choosing to have their healthy breast removed, too. But a study being presented later this week says more than three-quarters of women who opt for double mastectomies are not getting any benefit because their risk of cancer developing in the healthy breast is no greater than in women without cancer. Continue reading…

Reproduction

Wilson, Jacque. Pediatricians: Prescribe teens emergency contraception before they need it. 26 November 2012.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is fighting back against teen pregnancy with revised recommendations on emergency contraception. The organization is encouraging physicians to talk about medications like Plan B and Next Choice in their discussions with their adolescent patients - both boys and girls - on safe sex. Continue reading…

Research Ethics

Seligson, Hannah. Hatching Ideas, and Companies, by the Dozens at M.I.T. New York Times. 4 November 2012.
How do you take particles in a test tube, or components in a tiny chip, and turn them into a $100 million company? Dr. Robert Langer, 64, knows how. Since the 1980s, his Langer Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has spun out companies whose products treat cancer, diabetes, heart disease and schizophrenia, among other diseases, and even thicken hair. Continue reading…

Park, Alice. Crowdfunding a Cure. Time Magazine. 3 December 2012.
On the popular site kickstarter, tens of thousands of users have tapped friends, family and strangers to help finance everything from comic books to movies to a dream-enhancing sleep mask. But can that same model work for medical bills? Continue reading…

Technology

Rubin, Rita. A new prenatal test for spotting genetic issues is less invasive, but it’s pricey. The Washington Post. 26 November 2012.
Tens of thousands of women are using a new genetic test that requires only a sample of the mother’s blood. But these new tests are not subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration, and questions have been raised about a technology whose accuracy and role are still being assessed. As a result, no major insurance company has yet agreed to cover the tests, whose list prices range up to $1,900. Continue reading…

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In The Journals

Alahmad, Ghiath. What do Islamic institutional fatwas say about medical and research confidentiality and breach of confidentiality? Developing World Bioethics. August 2012.
Protecting confidentiality is an essential value in all human relationships, no less in medical practice and research. Doctor-patient and researcher-participant relationships are built on trust and on the understanding those patients' secrets will not be disclosed. However, this confidentiality can be breached in some situations where it is necessary to meet a strong conflicting duty. Confidentiality, in a general sense, has received much interest in Islamic resources including the Qur'an, Sunnah and juristic writings. However, medical and research confidentiality have not been explored deeply. There are few fatwas about the issue, despite an increased effort by both individuals and Islamic medical organizations to use these institutional fatwas in their research. Infringements on confidentiality make up a significant portion of institutional fatwas, yet they have never been thoroughly investigated. Moreover, the efforts of organizations and authors in this regard still require further exploration, especially on the issue of research confidentiality. In this article, we explore medical and research confidentiality and potential conflicts with this practice as a result of fatwas released by international, regional, and national Islamic Sunni juristic councils. We discuss how these fatwas affect research and publication by Muslim doctors, researchers, and Islamic medical organizations. We argue that more specialized fatwas are needed to clarify Islamic juristic views about medical and research confidentiality, especially the circumstances in which infringements on this confidentiality are justified. Continue reading…

Alvargonzalez, David. Alzheimer’s disease and euthanasia. Journal of Aging Studies.  2012.
Employing the tenets of philosophical materialism, this paper discusses the ethical debate surrounding assisted suicide for persons suffering end-stage Alzheimer's. It first presents a classification of the dissociative situations between “human individual” and “human person”. It then moves on to discuss challenges to diagnosed persons and their caregivers in relation to the cardinal virtues of Spinozistic ethics — strength of character (fortitudo), firmness (animositas) and generosity (generositas). Finally, a number of ideas attached to the debate – “right of choice”, “death with dignity”, “quality of life” and “compassion in dying” – are discussed in order to clarify their foundations. Continue reading…

Lance, Wahlert. Questioning security: Bioethics, sexuality, and gender identity. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry. September 2012.
The clinic is a loaded space for LGBTQI persons. Historically a site of pathology and culturally a site of stigma, the contemporary clinic for queer patient populations and their loved ones is an ethically fraught space. This paper, which introduces the featured articles of this special issue of the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry on "Bioethics, Sexuality and Gender Identity” begins by offering an analysis of scrutiny itself. How do we scrutinize? When is it apt for us to scrutinize? And what are the benefits and perils of clinical and bioethical scrutiny? Bearing in mind these questions, the second half of this paper introduces the feature articles in this special issue in response to such forms of scrutiny. How, why, when, and in what ways to sensitively scrutinize LGBTQI persons in the clinic are the aims of this piece. Continue reading…

Taylor, James S. Bioethics and the metaphysics of death. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 2012.
In recent years there has been a tremendous resurgence in philosophical interest in the metaphysical issues surrounding death.(1) This is, perhaps, not surprising. Not only are these issues of perennial theoretical appeal but they also have significant practical importance for many debates within applied ethics-especially bioethics.(2) And the bioethical debates that these issues are relevant to happen to be some of those that are currently the most pressing, having risen to prominence either as a result of contemporary public health concerns or as a result of recent advances in medical technology. Continue reading…

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Opinion

 

Ars Technica

Shaw, Kate. Shifting sexes and sequential hermaphrodites. November 23, 2012.
It is easy to regard sex as clear-cut, black and white. We regularly have to check the “male” or “female” box on various forms, we go to separate sporting events to see men and women compete, and we often choose baby clothes based on whether the bundle of joy is a boy or a girl. But in the natural world, sex is a very gray area—it is diverse, intricate, and often incredibly malleable. Our sexual configuration is just one of many in the animal kingdom, each of which has evolved over many generations to solve particular problems or to ensure success in challenging environments. Sex is simply another tool in the evolutionary toolbox. It allows animals with completely different lifestyles and demands to thrive in an amazing array of ways. Continue reading…

Timmer, John. Three climate contrarians vie to lead House Science Committee. November 20, 2012.
The House Committee on Space, Science, and Technology hears testimony on climate change in March 2011. If you had the chance to ask questions of one of the world's leading climatologists, would you select a set of topics that would be at home in the heated discussions that take place in the Ars forums? If you watch the video below, you'd find that's precisely what Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) chose to do when Penn State's Richard Alley (a fellow Republican) was called before the House Science Committee, which has already had issues with its grasp of science. Rohrabacher took Alley on a tour of some of the least convincing arguments about climate change, all trying to convince him changes in the Sun were to blame for a changing climate. (Alley, for his part, noted that we have actually measured the Sun, and we've seen no such changes.) Continue reading…

Boston Globe

Editorial. Kids’ use of energy drinks merits greater FDA scrutiny. November 26, 2012.
The caffeine-loaded “energy drinks” that are marketed to teenagers certainly provide a massive jolt for the companies that make them, with last year’s sales of $9 billion projected to more than double next year. That makes it all the more important for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate them, as evidence suggests that the jolt from these products may be too great for some growing bodies. The number of people going to emergency rooms for energy drink-related visits has exploded 10-fold since 2005, to more than 13,000 in 2009. Continue reading…

Houston Chronicle

Editorial. Drug test fails. November 15, 2012.
Starting off the early filings before the upcoming legislative session, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced their support for a bill that would allow drug testing for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and unemployment benefit recipients. We have to ask: What are they smoking? Continue reading…

Los Angeles Times

Editorial. Uganda’s ignominious anti-gay bill is back in play. November 27, 2012.
Uganda's ignominious anti-gay bill is back in play. After being deservedly relegated to legislative limbo last year, the bill, which would expand the definition of what constitutes a homosexual "crime" in the country's statute books, is once again under consideration in the Ugandan parliament. In its original form, the anti-homosexuality bill would have allowed for the death penalty against serial offenders. Now, a legislative committee has apparently recommended that the bill be brought before the full parliament for debate, but with the death penalty replaced with life imprisonment. Obviously, that's still ludicrous punishment for something that shouldn't be considered a crime at all. Continue reading…

Editorial. HIV testing for us all. November 23, 2012.
Early treatment for HIV is more successful than later treatment. But that's not the only reason to praise the recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that doctors should test almost everyone ages 15 to 64 for the virus that causes AIDS. Continue reading…

New York Times

Editorial. Health Care Entitlements. November 28, 2012.
Congressional Republicans are insisting that big cuts to Medicare and Medicaid be on the table in the negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff and deficit reduction. That stance is largely a political move against two programs, which have been critical to the public welfare for the past half-century. Continue reading…

Editorial. A Stubborn Drug Shortage. November 25, 2012.
The drug shortages that have disrupted care for critically ill patients show no signs of going away anytime soon. As Katie Thomas reported in The Times this month, a rural ambulance squad in Ohio withheld its last vial of morphine from a patient in pain with a broken leg in case someone else needed it more. Continue reading…

Editorial. Care at the end of life. November 24, 2012.
Three years ago, at the height of the debate over health care reform, there was an uproar over a voluntary provision that encouraged doctors to discuss with Medicare patients the kinds of treatments they would want as they neared the end of life. That thoughtful provision was left out of the final bill after right-wing commentators and Republican politicians denounced it falsely as a step toward euthanasia and “death panels.” Continue reading…

Washington Post

Editorial. Death of a toddler raises questions in Montgomery. November 26, 2012.
Prince McLeod Rams, age 15 1 / 2 months, was taken off life support after being declared brain-dead at 8:38 p.m. Oct. 21 at Inova Fairfax Hospital. A day earlier, paramedics had found him unresponsive, cold and without a pulse at his father’s home in Manassas, where he had been on his fourth unsupervised visit permitted by Montgomery County Circuit Court amid a bitter custody battle. His mother had fiercely opposed unsupervised visits. “If anything happens to Prince, he can’t say anything. He’s not old enough to be talking,” Hera McLeod of Gaithersburg testified at a court hearing on July 12. Continue reading…

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