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.
We report on the deliberations of an interdisciplinary group of experts in science, law, and philosophy who convened to discuss novel ethical and policy challenges in stem cell research. In this report we discuss the ethical and policy implications of safety concerns in the transition from basic laboratory research to clinical applications of cell-based therapies derived from stem cells. Although many features of this transition from lab to clinic are common to other therapies, three aspects of stem cell biology pose (...) unique challenges. First, tension regarding the use of human embryos may complicate the scientific development of safe and effective cell lines. Second, because human stem cells were not developed in the laboratory until 1998, few safety questions relating to human applications have been addressed in animal research. Third, preclinical and clinical testing of biologic agents, particularly those as inherently complex as mammalian cells, present formidable challenges, such as the need to develop suitable standardized assays and the difficulty of selecting appropriate patient populations for early phase trials. We recommend that scientists, policy makers, and the public discuss these issues responsibly, and further, that a national advisory committee to oversee human trials of cell therapies be established. **NB we did not reccommend a NAC, we think it might be appropriate**. (shrink)
Decision making capacity (DMC) is a fundamental concept grounding the principle of respect for autonomy and the practice of obtaining informed consent. DMC must be determined and documented every time a patient undergoes a hospital procedure and for routine care when there is reason to believe decision making ability is compromised. In this paper we explore a path toward ethically informed development and implementation of a hospital policy related to DMC assessment. We begin with a review of the context of (...) DMC assessment before discussing some considerations relevant to policy creation by healthcare ethics committees. The discussion concludes in a presentation of a typology of capacity assessment policies, which draws upon a sampling of currently used hospital policies to illustrate relevant ethical considerations. (shrink)
Euthanasia and physician assisted-suicide are terms used to describe the process in which a doctor of a sick or disabled individual engages in an activity which directly or indirectly leads to their death. This behavior is engaged by the healthcare provider based on their humanistic desire to end suffering and pain. The psychiatrist's involvement may be requested in several distinct situations including evaluation of patient capacity when an appeal for euthanasia is requested on grounds of terminal somatic illness or when (...) the patient is requesting euthanasia due to mental suffering. We compare attitudes of 49 psychiatrists towards euthanasia and assisted suicide with a group of 54 other physicians by means of a questionnaire describing different patients, who either requested physician-assisted suicide or in whom euthanasia as a treatment option was considered, followed by a set of questions relating to euthanasia implementation. When controlled for religious practice, psychiatrists expressed more conservative views regarding euthanasia than did physicians from other medical specialties. Similarly female physicians and orthodox physicians indicated more conservative views. Differences may be due to factors inherent in subspecialty education. We suggest that in light of the unique complexity and context of patient euthanasia requests, based on their training and professional expertise psychiatrists are well suited to take a prominent role in evaluating such requests to die and making a decision as to the relative importance of competing variables. (shrink)
There is a lack of consensus on whether the derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) from embryos remaining after infertility treatment morally require the informed consent of third-party gamete donors who contributed to the creation of the embryos. The principal guidelines for oversight and funding of hESC research in the United States make minimal or no demands for consent from gamete donors. In this article, I consider the arguments supporting and opposing gamete donor consent for hESC research (...) and embryo research more broadly. I argue that it is not morally permissible to use leftover embryos in research without the informed consent of gamete donors, and that we should place restrictions on the use of existing hESC lines that may have been derived without informed consent. While the standard argument for this position relies on an appeal to gamete donors’ interest in controlling what happens with their genetic material, I identify shortcomings with the standard approach and seek instead to locate the deeper moral foundations for gamete donor consent in rights to bodily integrity. (shrink)