In the May, 1960, issue of the American Bar Association Journal (vol. 499), Morton Birnbaum, a lawyer and physician, argued for a legal right to psychiatric treatment of the involuntarily committed mentally ill person. In the 18 years since his article appeared,, there have been several key court cases in which this concept of a right to psychiatric treatment has figured prominently and decisively. It is important to note that the language of the decisions have had at least an indirect (...) effect in the recently enacted mental Hygiene Law of the State of New York. While I shall not seek to establish the historical thesis that Birnbaum’s article has been efficacious in bringing about both these court decisions and changes in statutory laws, I do want to examine Birnbaum’s article and some of the opinions for three cases: Wyatt v. Stickney (1972), Wyatt v. Aderholt (1974), and O’Connor v. Donaldson (422 US 563, 1975), in an effort to understand both the significance of these changes in our laws and the underlying philosophical and ethical notions of which they are an expression. Birnbaum observed that the notable feature of the legal situation at the time was that there had not been recognized a constitutional requirement that one who had been institutionalized for mental illness according to due process must receive treatment. Birnbaum argued that the effects of an omission of such a requirement to treat were that mental institutions typically offered only custodial care, that patients who were held only under custodial care typically did not improve, and that the result was that involuntary incarceration in a mental institution was, at least from the point of view of the patient, functionally no different than would be imprisonment for an unspecified period of time. Birnbaum argued for a recognition and enforcement in the courts of the right to treatment “...as a necessary and overdue development of our present concept of due process of law,” i.e., as required by the 14th Amendment to the U.S.. (shrink)
Good Morning! When I was asked to talk on the subject of Dying in America at a breakfast meeting, It occurred to me that I might get to make some wisecracks about how we eat, at a breakfast where we would be served croissants, butter, sausage and eggs, and berries served with Devonshire cream: certainly the most tasteful form of dying in America! Nor have we been disappointed: quiche and ham should do quite nicely. Then, after last Tuesday’s election, someone (...) approached me and asked if my talk was gong to be on Democratic Party politics. I suppose the title “Dying in America: might fit that subject very nicely! Another wag asked whether I was going to discuss the Buffalo Bills’ current football season . . . . All of these possible applications of the phrase “Dying in America” point to the enormous importance we attach to the idea of dying, and the ways we use that idea in our very metaphorical language. That kind of richness of language is a sure sign, as Joseph Campbell would remind us, that culturally pervasive myths are constructed around the idea of dying. Now, I don’t intend to talk about Campbell’s views at all today, and I will avoid a short course on myths. But I will make just one or two observations about myths so that you are not uncomfortable with my later use of the term. For one of our myths about myths is that, in this educated and scientifically literate society, we don’t have any myths; myths are supposed to be the glue of fictional beliefs that holds primitive societies together, and we certainly are not primitive. Well, let me explain how I intend to use the idea of myth to illuminate some of our values and practices associated with the idea of dying in America. First, by a myth I mean a culturally pervasive set of beliefs and values that tends to center on a single, simple archetypal image or scenario. And second, by calling something mythic I mean to invoke perhaps a number of myths operating as a cluster of culturally important determinants of attitudes and behaviors.. (shrink)
on the part of physicians are most welcome and not to be disputed. If widely implemented, they should substantially improve the atmosphere of relations between patients and physicians. So, what, if anything, is to be said about his diagnoses and prescriptions, other than "Right on!?".
On October 26, 1984, Dr. Leonard Bailey and the transplant team of Loma Linda University Medical Center in California operated on a five-pound baby girl born a few weeks earlier with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. In babies born with this defect the left side of the heart is much smaller than the right and is unable to pump sufficient blood to sustain life for more than a few weeks. This rare defect occurs about once in every 12,000 live births; it (...) accounts for about a quarter of all cardiac deaths of newborns. In an operation known as a xenograft, involving cross-species transplantation of an organ, Dr. Bailey removed the defective heart from the baby and replaced it with the heart of a baboon. (shrink)
In this age of interdisciplinary interaction, we probably owe one another disclosures of our qualifications for commenting on each other’s profession. And you might well wonder why a philosopher would be asked to address this distinguished society of professiona l geologists. So, let me give what information I can about my qualifications to talk this evening about, of all things, the ethics of water geology.
The rule that a patient should give a free, fully-informed consent to any therapeutic intervention is traditionally thought to express merely a right of the patient against the physician, and a duty of the physician towards the patient. On this view, the patient may waive that right with impugnity, a fact sometimes expressed in the notion of a right not to know. This paper argues that the rule also expresses a duty of the patient towards the physician and a right (...) of the physician against the patient. The argument turns, first, on the truism that a physician has no obligation to commit a battery, or unauthorized touching, and, second, on the thesis that a patient necessarily cannot consent to something that is unknown to him. The conclusion is drawn that a patient is not free to receive treatment voluntarily without knowledgeably authorizing it. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)