Before asking what U.S. bioethics might learn from a more comprehensive and more nuanced understanding of Islamic religion, history, and culture, a prior question is, how should bioethics think about religion? Two sets of commonly held assumptions impede further progress and insight. The first involves what “religion” means and how one should study it. The second is a prominent philosophical view of the role of religion in a diverse, democratic society. To move beyond these assumptions, it helps to view religion (...) as lived experience as well as a body of doctrine and to see that religious differences and controversies should be welcomed in the public square of a diverse democratic society rather than merely tolerated. (shrink)
We argue that a turn toward virtue ethics as a way of understanding medical professionalism represents both a valuable corrective and a missed opportunity. We look at three ways in which a closer appeal to virtue ethics could help address current problems or issues in professionalism education—first, balancing professionalism training with demands for professional virtues as a prerequisite; second, preventing demands for the demonstrable achievement of competencies from working against ideal professionalism education as lifelong learning; and third, avoiding temptations to (...) dismiss moral distress as a mere “hidden curriculum” problem. As a further demonstration of how best to approach a lifelong practice of medical virtue, we will examine altruism as a mean between the extremes of self-sacrifice and selfishness. (shrink)
Bioethics' interdisciplinary base -- Patient-centered care -- Evidence-based medicine and pay-for-performance -- Community dialogue -- Overview : bioethics, power, and learning to see -- Cross-cultural concerns -- Race and health disparities -- Disabilities -- Environmental and global issues -- New technologies -- Conclusion.
The doctrine of clinical equipoise is appealing because it appears to permit physicians to maintain their therapeutic obligation to offer optimal medical care to patients while conducting randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The appearance, however, is deceptive. In this article we argue that clinical equipoise is defective and incoherent in multiple ways. First, it conflates the sound methodological principle that RCTs should begin with an honest null hypothesis with the questionable ethical norm that participants in these trials should never be randomized (...) to an intervention known to be inferior to standard treatment. Second, the claim that RCTs preserve the therapeutic obligation of physicians misrepresents the patient-centered orientation of medical care. Third, the appeal to clinical equipoise as a basic principle of risk-benefit assessment for RCTs is incoherent. Finally, the difficulties with clinical equipoise cannot be resolved by viewing it as a presumptive principle subject to exceptions. In the final sections of the article, we elaborate on the non-exploitation framework for the ethics clinical research and indicate issues that warrant further inquiry. (shrink)
*The opinions expressed are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy of the National Institutes of Health, the Public Health Service, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
: The "difference position" holds that clinical research and therapeutic medical practice are sufficiently distinct activities to require different ethical rules and principles. The "similarity position" holds instead that clinical investigators ought to be bound by the same fundamental principles that govern therapeutic medicine—specifically, a duty to provide the optimal therapeutic benefit to each patient or subject. Some defenders of the similarity position defend it because of the overlap between the role of attending physician and the role of investigator in (...) a research trial. This overlap is maximal when the same physician occupies both roles with respect to a particular patient-subject. We address the ethical tensions inherent in that role conflict and argue that the tensions are real but manageable. The difference position provides a sound ethical framework within which to manage those tensions, while the similarity position is unsatisfactory because it seeks to deny the existence of the tensions. (shrink)
The leading ethical position on placebo-controlled clinical trials is that whenever proven effective treatment exists for a given condition, it is unethical to test a new treatment for that condition against placebo. Invoking the principle of clinical equipoise, opponents of placebo-controlled trials in the face of proven effective treatment argue that they (1) violate the therapeutic obligation of physicians to offer optimal medical care and (2) lack both scientific and clinical merit. We contend that both of these arguments are mistaken. (...) Clinical equipoise provides erroneous ethical guidance in the case of placebo-controlled trials, because it ignores the ethically relevant distinction between clinical trials and treatment in the context of clinical medicine and the methodological limitations of active-controlled trials. Placebo controls are ethically justifiable when they are supported by sound methodological considerations and their use does not expose research participants to excessive risks of harm. (shrink)
A basic question of medical ethics is whether the norms governing medical practice should be understood as the application of principles and rules of the common morality to medicine or whether some of these norms are internal or proper to medicine. In this article we describe and defend an evolutionary perspective on the internal morality of medicine that is defined in terms of the goals of clinical medicine and a set of duties that constrain medical practice in pursuit of these (...) goals. This perspective is developed by means of a critical examination of the essentialist conception of the internal morality of medicine advocated by Edmund Pellegrino and the critique of internal morality approaches by Robert Veatch and Tom Beauchamp. (shrink)
The physician in Erde's clinical case study performed poorly in a number of aspects of informed consent and good physician-patient communication. However, the patient also failed to perform some of his own duties to participate in effective communication and so shares at least some responsibility for the bad outcome.
Some ethical issues facing contemporary medicine cannot be fully understood without addressing medicine's internal morality. Medicine as a profession is characterized by certain moral goals and morally acceptable means for achieving those goals. The list of appropriate goals and means allows some medical actions to be classified as clear violations of the internal morality, and others as borderline or controversial cases. Replies are available for common objections, including the superfluity of internal morality for ethical analysis, the argument that internal morality (...) is merely an apology for medicine's traditional power and authority, and the claim that there is no single, "core" internal morality. The value of addressing the internal morality of medicine may be illustrated by a detailed investigation of ethical issues posed by managed care. Managed care poses some fundamental challenges for medicine's internal morality, but also calls for thoughtful reflection and reconsideration of some traditionally held moral views on patient fidelity in particular. (shrink)
Family medicine has grown as a specialty from its early days of general practice. It was established as a Board Certified specialty in 1969. This growth and maturation can be traced in the philosophy of family medicine as articulated by Edmund D. Pellegrino, M.D. Long before it was popular to do so, Pellegrino supported the development of family medicine. In this essay I examine the development of Pellegrino's philosophical thought about family practice, and contrast it to other thinkers like Ian (...) McWhinney, Kerr White, Walter Spitzer, Donald Ransom, and Hebert Vandervoort. The arguments focus on whether the goals of family medicine and family practice (possibly two distinct entities) can be articulated, especially considering the definitional problems of family and community. I conclude by echoing Pellegrino's hope that family medicine can contribute a fresh alternative to isolated, individualistic and technological thinking in medicine. (shrink)
Knight has shown how the moral growth of medical students involves a spiritual journey. He may, however, present too sanguine a portrayal of the extent to which the medical education environment promotes this moral and spiritual growth. Medical school may indeed be more abusive than supportive. Admitting more women to medical school and teaching more humanities courses, while worthwhile, will not necessarily promote the goals that Knight appropriately advocates.
Froom and Froom all attention to referral bias as a frequent cause for misinterpreting the medical literature. This is particularly a source of false certainty, and therefore false science, in U.S. practice, where referral centers are often seen as the only legitimate source of medical knowledge and where primary care is discounted as a source of scientific observations. Appreciation of the primary care setting is therefore a critical element in theoretical understanding of medical epistemology.
Computer technology as well as the need to conduct research in primary care settings, has stimulated the creation in the U.S. of information networks linking private physicians' offices and other primary care practice sights. These networks give rise to several problems which have philosophic interest. One is a numerator problem created by the difficulty in primary care of using the more complicated or invasive diagnostic technologies commonly employed in tertiary care research. Another is a denominator problem arising from the difficulties (...) in determining which and how many patients constitute the population from which a practice is drawn. Finally, this mode of research raises questions about the social construction of medical reality and how objective medical truth is actually based on carefully selected patient experience. All these questions combine to challenge the gold standard view on medical research: the idea that some sorts of medical knowledge are epistemologically privileged and can serve as a bench-mark to determine whether new data are valid. (shrink)
Cost containment by means of prospective payment and other mechanisms is widely seen as a challenge to modern medicine; but the challenge is seldom articulated clearly in terms of core professional values and the moral content of a claim to professionalism. Medical ethics, as it has evolved as a field of study in the past twenty years, has contributed little to the concept of professionalism in medicine. For an investigation of professionalism in the face of cost containment to evolve fruitfully, (...) several things must occur. The true nature of today's challenge to medicine must be appreciated. The balance between tradition and response to social change in defining a professional value system must be appreciated. Physician income must be explicitly addressed as a moral issue. And practical strategies for investigating and affirming core professional values must be developed for health delivery systems and medical education settings. (shrink)
A review of the philosophical debate on theoretical models for the physician-patient relationship over the past fifteen years may point to some of the more productive questions for future research. Contractual models have been criticized for promoting a legalistic and minimalistic image of the relationship, such that another form of model (such as convenant) is required. Shifting from a contractual to a contractarian model (in keeping with Rawls' notion of an original position) provides an adequate response to many criticisms of (...) this type. A deeper criticism, however, is one that advocates a shift to a virtue-based approach. A creative amalgam between a contractarian model and elements of the virtue-based approach, combined with appropriate empirical investigation, may yield richer models in the future. (shrink)
A less analytic and more wholistic approach to philosophy, described as best overall fit or seeing how things all hang together, is defended in recent works by John Rawls and Richard Rorty and can usefully be applied to problems in philosophy of medicine. Looking at sickness and its impact upon the person as a central problem for philosophy of medicine, this approach discourages a search for necessary and sufficient conditions for being sick, and instead encourages a listing of true and (...) interesting observations about sickness which reflect the convergence of a number of different viewpoints. Among the relevant viewpoints are other humanities disciplines besides philosophy and the social sciences. Literature, in particular, provides insights into the meaning and the uniqueness of episodes of sickness in a way that philosophers may otherwise fail to grasp. (shrink)
Minogue's criticism of MacIntyre and Gorovitz's concept of medicine as a science of individuals is flawed by an assumption of the perfectibility of science that is not well supported by experience to date. More significantly, both Minogue and MacIntyre and Gorovitz have been led astray by choosing to use the malpractice issue as a philosophical point of departure for an inquiry into medical error. The problem of error in medicine, and moral culpability for error, is of great philosophical interest but (...) requires a more detailed contextual approach than these two studies provide. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)