Informed consent is a perennial topic in bioethics. It has given the field a place in clinical practice and the law and is often the starting point for introductory instruction in medical ethics. One would think that nearly everything has been said and done on this well-worn topic.
Without exaggeration, it could be said that we are entering a golden age of neuroscience. Informed by recent developments in neuroimaging that allow us to peer into the working brain at both a structural and functional level, neuroscientists are beginning to untangle mechanisms of recovery after brain injury and grapple with age-old questions about brain and mind and their correlates neural mechanisms and consciousness. Neuroimaging, coupled with new diagnostic categories and assessment scales are helping us develop a new diagnostic nosology (...) about disorders of consciousness which will likely improve prognostication and suggest therapeutic advances. Historically such diagnostic refinement has yield therapeutic advances in medicine and there is no reason to doubt that this will be the case for disorders of consciousness, perhaps bringing relief to a marginalized population now on the periphery of the therapeutic agenda. In spite of this promise, the translation of research findings into the clinical context will be difficult. As we move from descriptive categories about disorders of consciousness, like the vegetative or minimally conscious states, to ones further specified by integrating behavioral and neuroimaging findings, humility not hubris should be the virtue that guides the ethical conduct of research and practice. (shrink)
The application of neuroimaging technology to the study of the injured brain has transformed how neuroscientists understand disorders of consciousness, such as the vegetative and minimally conscious states, and deepened our understanding of mechanisms of recovery. This scientific progress, and its potential clinical translation, provides an opportunity for ethical reflection. It was against this scientific backdrop that we convened a conference of leading investigators in neuroimaging, disorders of consciousness and neuroethics. Our goal was to develop an ethical frame to move (...) these investigative techniques into mature clinical tools. This paper presents the recommendations and analysis of a Working Meeting on Ethics, Neuroimaging and Limited States of Consciousness held at Stanford University during June 2007. It represents an interdisciplinary approach to the challenges posed by the emerging use of neuroimaging technologies to describe and characterize disorders of consciousness. (shrink)
: This essay considers the implications of President George W. Bush's proposal for human embryonic stem cell research. Through the perspective of patent law, privacy, and informed consent, we elucidate the ongoing controversy about the moral standing of human embryonic stem cells and their derivatives and consider how the inconsistencies in the president's proposal will affect clinical practice and research.
When addressing cultural and religious differences in the clinical setting we need to be realists. Despite our public homage to pluralism and good intentions, it is just not possible to overcome all the differences that might exist and achieve perfect understanding of others. Try as we may, we will never be able to see perfectly the world through another's eyes. Instead of reaching for such perfection, we should instead reach for an approximation of shared understanding that will promote discourse and (...) civility when peoples of different races, genders, cultures, religions, and sexual preferences interact in the clinic. (shrink)
: This response to Lynn Jansen's critique of clinical pragmatism concentrates on two themes: (1) contrasting approaches to moral epistemology and (2) the connection between theory and practice in clinical ethics. Particular attention is paid to the status of principles and the role of consensus, with some closing speculations on how Dewey might view the current state of bioethics.
: This paper presents a method of moral problem solving in clinical practice that is inspired by the philosophy of John Dewey. This method, called "clinical pragmatism," integrates clinical and ethical decision making. Clinical pragmatism focuses on the interpersonal processes of assessment and consensus formation as well as the ethical analysis of relevant moral considerations. The steps in this method are delineated and then illustrated through a detailed case study. The implications of clinical pragmatism for the use of principles in (...) moral problem solving are discussed. (shrink)