In this article, we address the relevance of J.S. Mill’s political philosophy for a framework of public health ethics. In contrast to some readings of Mill, we reject the view that in the formulation of public policies liberties of all kinds enjoy an equal presumption in their favor. We argue that Mill also rejects this view and discuss the distinction that Mill makes between three kinds of liberty interests: interests that are immune from state interference; interests that enjoy a presumption (...) in favor of liberty; and interests that enjoy no such presumption. We argue that what is of focal importance for Mill in protecting liberty is captured by the essential role that the value of self-determination plays in human well-being. Finally, we make the case for the plausibility of a more complex and nuanced Millian framework for public health ethics that would modify how the balancing of some liberty and public health interests should proceed by taking the thumb off the liberty end of the scale. Mill’s arguments and the legacy of liberalism support certain forms of state interference with marketplace liberties for the sake of public health objectives without any presumption in favor of liberty. (shrink)
Emily Largent, Steven Joffe, and Franklin Miller offer a stimulating contribution to the literature on integrating medical research and practice. We agree on both the need to move toward what the Institute of Medicine has called a learning health care system and the need for new conceptions for integrating research and practice within it. We also agree with the authors’ view, first advanced by Robert Truog and colleagues in 1999, that it can be ethically acceptable to randomize patients without express (...) consent in trials comparing widely used, approved interventions that pose no additional risk. With appropriate oversight, learning health care systems ought to conduct such trials on a regular basis. Our .. (shrink)
Current strategies to address global inequities in access to life-saving vaccines use averaged national income data to determine eligibility. While largely successful in the lowest income countries, we argue that this approach could lead to significant inefficiencies from the standpoint of justice if applied to middle-income countries, where income inequalities are large and lead to national averages that obscure truly needy populations. Instead, we suggest alternative indicators more sensitive to social justice concerns that merit consideration by policy-makers developing new initiatives (...) to redress health inequities in middle-income countries. (shrink)
Television medical dramas frequently depict the practice of medicine and bioethical issues in a strikingly realistic but sometimes inaccurate fashion. Because these shows depict medicine so vividly and are so relevant to the career interests of medical and nursing students, they may affect these students' beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions regarding the practice of medicine and bioethical issues. We conducted a web-based survey of medical and nursing students to determine the medical drama viewing habits and impressions of bioethical issues depicted in (...) them. More than 80% of medical and nursing students watch television medical dramas. Students with more clinical experience tended to have impressions that were more negative than those of students without clinical experience. Furthermore, viewing of television medical dramas is a social event and many students discuss the bioethical issues they observe with friends and family. Television medical dramas may stimulate students to think about and discuss bioethical issues. (shrink)
Though much progress has been made on inclusion of non-pregnant women in research, thoughtful discussion about including pregnant women has lagged behind. We outline resulting knowledge gaps and their costs and then highlight four reasons why ethically we are obliged to confront the challenges of including pregnant women in clinical research. These are: the need for effective treatment for women during pregnancy, fetal safety, harm from the reticence to prescribe potentially beneficial medication, and the broader issues of justice and access (...) to benefits of research participation. Going forward requires shifting the burden of justification from inclusion to exclusion and developing an adequate ethical framework that specifies suitable justifications for excluding pregnant women from research. (shrink)
In bioethics, discussions of justice have tended to focus on questions of fairness in access to health care: is there a right to medical treatment, and how should priorities be set when medical resources are scarce. But health care is only one of many factors that determine the extent to which people live healthy lives, and fairness is not the only consideration in determining whether a health policy is just. In this pathbreaking book, senior bioethicists Powers and Faden confront foundational (...) issues about health and justice. How much inequality in health can a just society tolerate. The audience for the book is scholars and students of bioethics and moral and political philosophy, as well as anyone interested in public health and health policy. (shrink)
: Because an influenza pandemic would create the most serious hardships for those who already face most serious hardships, countries should take special measures to mitigate the effect of a pandemic on existing social inequalities. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that anybody is thinking about that.
Vulnerability is one of the least examined concepts in research ethics. Vulnerability was linked in the Belmont Report to questions of justice in the selection of subjects. Regulations and policy documents regarding the ethical conduct of research have focused on vulnerability in terms of limitations of the capacity to provide informed consent. Other interpretations of vulnerability have emphasized unequal power relationships between politically and economically disadvantaged groups and investigators or sponsors. So many groups are now considered to be vulnerable in (...) the context of research, particularly international research, that the concept has lost force. In addition, classifying groups as vulnerable not only stereotypes them, but also may not reliably protect many individuals from harm. Certain individuals require ongoing protections of the kind already established in law and regulation, but attention must also be focused on characteristics of the research protocol and environment that present ethical challenges. (shrink)
If stem cell-based therapies are developed, we will likely confront a difficult problem of justice: for biological reasons alone, the new therapies might benefit only a limited range of patients. In fact, they might benefit primarily white Americans, thereby exacerbating long-standing differences in health and health care.
The use of aggregated quality of life estimatesin the formation of public policy and practiceguidelines raises concerns about the moralrelevance of variability in values inpreferences for health care. This variabilitymay reflect unique and deeply held beliefs thatmay be lost when averaged with the preferencesof other individuals. Feminist moral theorieswhich argue for attention to context andparticularity underline the importance ofascertaining the extent to which differences inpreferences for health states revealinformation which is morally relevant toclinicians and policymakers. To facilitatethese considerations, we present (...) an empiricalstudy of preferences for the timing andoccurrence of health states associated withhormone replacement therapy (HRT). Sixteenwomen between the ages of 45 and 55 wereenrolled in this pilot study. Theirpreferences regarding five health statesassociated with HRT (menopausal symptoms, sideeffects of HRT, breast cancer, myocardialinfarction, and osteoporosis) were assessed inquantitative terms known as utilities. Twostandard methods, the visual analog scale (VAS) and the standard gamble (SG), were used toassess utility and time preference (calculatedas a discount rate). The wide variability ofresponses underlines the importance oftailoring health care to individual women'spreferences. Policy guidelines whichincorporate utility analysis must recognize thenormative limitations of aggregatedpreferences, and the moral relevance ofindividual conceptions of health. (shrink)
: The focus of questions of justice in health policy has shifted during the last 20 years, beginning with questions about rights to health care, and then, by the late 1980s, turning to issues of rationing. More recently, attention has focused on alternatives to cost-effectiveness analysis. In addition, health inequalities, and not just inequalities in access to health care, have become the subject of moral analysis. This article examines how such trends have transformed the philosophical landscape and encouraged some in (...) bioethics to seek guidance on normative questions from outside of the contours of traditional philosophical arguments about justice. (shrink)
: Arguments for efficiency in health care delivery have been used to support some level of withholding of information about available treatment options from patients in managed care systems. To the extent that such arguments prevail, they may necessitate changes in the established understanding of and commitment to informed consent and the disclosure of information to patients.