Randomized trials depend on clinicians feeling that they are morally justified in allowing their patients to be randomized across treatment arms. Typically such justification rides on what has been called ?clinical equipoise??when there is disagreement of opinion among the community of experts about whether one treatment is better than another, then physicians can ethically enter their patients into a clinical trial, even if individual physicians are not at equipoise. Recent debates over prominent studies, however, illustrate that controversy can be easily (...) created rather than dispelled by trials, with many clinicians choosing not to use the proven therapy until they receive more convincing evidence of its superiority. In such situations, we propose that a new standard of equipoise be used to guide decisions about the ethical justifications for research trials?a standard of behavioral equipoise. Under behavioral equipoise, a trial is potentially justifiable if it addresses behavioral resistance to prior scientific evidence. (shrink)
: Samia Hurst and Marion Danis provide a thoughtful framework for how to judge the morality of bedside rationing decisions. In this commentary, I applaud Hurst and Danis for advancing the level of debate about bedside rationing. But when I attempt to apply the framework to my own clinical practice, I conclude that the framework comes up short.
Bioethicists often draw sharp distinctions between hope and states like denial, self-deception, and unrealistic optimism. But what, exactly, is the difference between hope and its more suspect cousins? One common way of drawing the distinction focuses on accuracy of belief about the desired outcome: Hope, though perhaps sometimes misplaced, does not involve inaccuracy in the way that these other states do. Because inaccurate beliefs are thought to compromise informed decision making, bioethicists have considered these states to be ones where intervention (...) is needed either to correct the person’s mental state or to persuade the person to behave differently, or even to deny the person certain options. In this article, we argue that it is difficult to determine whether a patient is really in denial, self-deceived, or unrealistically optimistic. Moreover, even when we are confident that beliefs are unrealistic, they are not always as harmful as critics contend. As a result, we need to be more permissive in our approach to patients who we believe are unrealistically optimistic, in denial, or self-deceived—that is, unless patients significantly misunderstand their situation and thus make decisions that are clearly bad for them, we should not intervene by trying to change their mental states or persuade them to behave differently, or by paternalistically denying them certain options. (shrink)
Many health care decisions depend not only upon medical facts, but also on value judgments—patient goals and preferences. Until recent decades, patients relied on doctors to tell them what to do. Then ethicists and others convinced clinicians to adopt a paradigm shift in medical practice, to recognize patient autonomy, by orienting decision making toward the unique goals of individual patients. Unfortunately, current medical practice often falls short of empowering patients. In this article, we reflect on whether the current state of (...) medical decision making effectively promotes patients' health care goals. We base our reflections, in part, on research in which we observed physicians making earnest efforts to partner with patients in making treatment decisions, but still struggling to empower patients—failing to communicate clearly to patients about decision-relevant information, overwhelming patients with irrelevant information, overlooking when patients' emotions made it hard to engage in choices, and making recommendations before discussing patients' goals. (shrink)
> ‘The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor conceal it. It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth—this indifference to how things really are—that is the essence of bullshit.’1 > —Harry Frankfurt In his paper, Nudging, informed consent, and bullshit, William (...) Simkulet accuses doctors of being bullshitters when they knowingly influence patient decision making through means other than argument and reasoning, that is, through ‘nudges.’ In these instances, he contends that they care little about patient understanding or communicating the truth about the options and, instead, care only about presenting alternatives in ways that cause patients to do what the physicians think they should do.2 However, doctors can intend to enhance patient understanding at the same time that they try to influence patients’ choices. Consider a physician who wants her patient to get a vaccine. …. (shrink)
: The move from a notion that community values ought to play a role in health care decision making to the creation of health care policies that in some way reflect such values is a challenging one. No single method will adequately measure community values in a way appropriate for setting health care priorities. Consequently, multiple methods to measure community values should be employed, thereby allowing the strengths and weaknesses of the various methods to complement each other. A preliminary research (...) agenda to bring together empirical research on community values with more traditional research on health care ethics is outlined, with the goal of identifying and measuring acceptable community values that are relatively consistent across measurement methods and, ultimately, developing ways to incorporate these values into health care priority decision making. (shrink)
This study examines the public's and physicians' willingness to support deception of insurance companies in order to obtain necessary healthcare services and how this support varies based on perceptions of physicians' time pressures. Based on surveys of 700 prospective jurors and 1617 physicians, the public was more than twice as likely as physicians to sanction deception (26% versus 11%) and half as likely to believe that physicians have adequate time to appeal coverage decisions (22% versus 59%). The odds of public (...) support for deception compared to that of physicians rose from 2.48 to 4.64 after controlling for differences in time perception. These findings highlight the ethical challenge facing physicians and patients in balancing patient advocacy with honesty in the setting of limited societal resources. (shrink)
Context Physicians are regularly confronted with research that is funded or presented by industry. Objective To assess whether physicians discount for conflicts of interest when weighing evidence for prescribing a new drug. Design and setting Participants were presented with an abstract from a single clinical trial finding positive results for a fictitious new drug. Physicians were randomly assigned one version of a hypothetical scenario, which varied on conflict of interest: ‘presenter conflict’, ‘researcher conflict’ and ‘no conflict’. Participants 515 randomly selected (...) Fellows in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Collaborative Ambulatory Research Network; 253 surveys (49%) were returned. Main object measures The self-reported likelihood that physicians would prescribe the new drug as a first-line therapy. Results Physicians do not significantly discount for conflicts of interest in their self-reported likelihood of prescribing the new drug after reading the single abstract and scenario. However, when asked explicitly to compare conflict and no conflict, 69% report that they would discount for researcher conflict and 57% report that they would discount for presenter conflict. When asked to guess how favourable the results of this study were towards the new drug, compared with the other trials published so far, their perceptions were not significantly influenced by conflict of interest information. Conclusion While physicians believe that they should discount the value of information from conflicted sources, they did not do so in the absence of a direct comparison between two studies. This brings into question the effectiveness of merely disclosing the funding sources of published studies. (shrink)
In face of the multiple controversies surrounding the DSM process in general and the development of DSM-5 in particular, we have organized a discussion around what we consider six essential questions in further work on the DSM. The six questions involve: 1) the nature of a mental disorder; 2) the definition of mental disorder; 3) the issue of whether, in the current state of psychiatric science, DSM-5 should assume a cautious, conservative posture or an assertive, transformative posture; 4) the role (...) of pragmatic considerations in the construction of DSM-5; 5) the issue of utility of the DSM - whether DSM-III and IV have been designed more for clinicians or researchers, and how this conflict should be dealt with in the new manual; and 6) the possibility and advisability, given all the problems with DSM-III and IV, of designing a different diagnostic system. Part 1 of this article took up the first two questions. Part 2 took up the second two questions. Part 3 now deals with Questions 5 & 6. Question 5 confronts the issue of utility, whether the manual design of DSM-III and IV favors clinicians or researchers, and what that means for DSM-5. Our final question, Question 6, takes up a concluding issue, whether the acknowledged problems with the earlier DSMs warrants a significant overhaul of DSM-5 and future manuals. As in Parts 1 & 2 of this article, the general introduction, as well as the introductions and conclusions for the specific questions, are written by James Phillips, and the responses to commentaries are written by Allen Frances. (shrink)
Objective: To determine whether a moral reasoning exercise can improve response quality to surveys of healthcare priorities Methods: A randomised internet survey focussing on patient age in healthcare allocation was repeated twice. From 2574 internet panel members from the USA and Canada, 2020 (79%) completed the baseline survey and 1247 (62%) completed the follow-up. We elicited respondent preferences for age via five allocation scenarios. In each scenario, a hypothetical health planner made a decision to fund one of two programmes identical (...) except for average patient age (35 vs 65 years). Half of the respondents (intervention group) were randomly assigned to receive an additional moral reasoning exercise. Responses were elicited again 7 weeks later. Numerical scores ranging from –5 (strongest preference for younger patients) to +5 (strongest preference for older patients); 0 indicates no age preference. Response quality was assessed by propensity to choose extreme or neutral values, internal consistency, temporal stability and appeal to prejudicial factors. Results: With the exception of a scenario offering palliative care, respondents preferred offering scarce resources to younger patients in all clinical contexts. This preference for younger patients was weaker in the intervention group. Indicators of response quality favoured the intervention group. Conclusions: Although people generally prefer allocating scarce resources to young patients over older ones, these preferences are significantly reduced when participants are encouraged to reflect carefully on a wide range of moral principles. A moral reasoning exercise is a promising strategy to improve response quality to surveys of healthcare priorities. (shrink)
This is a book for reflective laypersons and health professionals who wish to better understand what the problem of healthcare rationing is all about. Ubel says clearly in the Introduction that it is unlikely that professional economists or philosophers are going to be very satisfied with this effort. For him it is more important (p. xix). This is a reasonable aim made achievable by Ubel's clear and engaging writing style. Probably the people who most need to be drawn (...) into these debates are physicians and medical students, this because one of Ubel's central claims is that the need for is both inescapable and sometimes morally permissible. What he wants to reject is the view of many physicians that bedside rationing by physicians is never morally permissible and that healthcare costs can be contained without having to resort to rationing of any kind. Before I explore this point any further, it is necessary to summarize the larger argument of this book. (shrink)
It was a little over ten years ago, 1967–8, that H. D. Lewis delivered the first series of Gifford lectures, The Elusive Mind, in the University of Edinburgh. It was my privilege that year to be an auditor in the Seminar at King's College that Professor Lewis was conducting with his students in the area of this topic. I had already read the works in which, in the midst of neo-orthodox and existentialist religious movements, he had devoted himself to critical (...) valuation of those doctrines - witness his Morals and the New Theology, and Morals and Revelation. This earlier work prepared for a comprehensive interpretation of religious experience in his book in 1960: Our Experience of God. (shrink)
I. On the morning of 28 November 1979 flight TE-901, a DC-10 operated by Air New Zealand Limited, took off from Auckland, New Zealand, on a sightseeing passenger flight over a portion of Antarctica. The pilot in command was Captain Collins. The following are paragraphs from the official Report of the Royal Commission that inquired into the events surrounding that flight.
(2010). Peter A. French and Howard K. Wettstein (eds): The American Philosophers (Midwest Studies in Philosophy, vol. XXVIII) British Journal for the History of Philosophy: Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 726-730.
The original essays in this book address the influential writings of Peter A. French on the nature of responsibility, ethics, and moral practices. French’s contributions to a wide spectrum of philosophical discussions have made him a dominant figure in the fields of normative ethics, meta-ethics, applied ethics, as well as legal and political philosophy. Many of French’s deepest insights come from identifying and exploring the scope and nature of moral responsibility and human agency as they appear in actual events, (...) real social and cultural practices, as well as in literature and film. This immediacy renders French’s scholarship vital and accessible to a wide variety of audiences. The authors, recognized for their own contributions to the understanding of the nature of morality and moral practices offer new and unique positions while exploring, expanding and responding to those of French. The final chapter is written by French, in which he provides both new philosophical insight as well as some reflection on his own work and its influence. This book will appeal to philosophers, as well as advanced students and researchers in the humanities, social sciences, law, and political science. (shrink)
In his recent book on the problem of evil, Peter van Inwagen argues that both the global and local arguments from evil are failures. In this paper, we engagevan Inwagen’s book at two main points. First, we consider his understanding of what it takes for a philosophical argument to succeed. We argue that while his criterion for success is interesting and helpful, there is good reason to think it is too stringent. Second, we consider his responses to the global (...) and local arguments from evil. We argue that although van Inwagen may have adequately responded to each of these arguments, his discussion points us toa third argument from evil to which he has yet to provide a response. (shrink)
Book review of Peter Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013, 280pp., $14.95, ISBN 978-1939578099 (paperback). Foreword by Michael Shermer. Science, Religion & Culture 1:2 (August 2014), 93-96 .
In responding to Peter Forrest’s defence of ‘tough-minded theodicy’, I point to some problematic features of theodicies of this sort, in particular their commitment to an anthropomorphic conception of God which tends to assimilate the Creator to the creaturely and so diminishes the otherness and mystery of God. This remains the case, I argue, even granted Forrest’s view that God may have a very different kind of morality from the one we mortals are subject to.