Recent discourses about the legitimacy of homeopathy have focused on its scientific plausibility, mechanism of action, and evidence base. These, frequently, conclude not only that homeopathy is scientifically baseless, but that it is “unethical.” They have also diminished patients’ perspectives, values, and preferences. We contend that these critics confuse epistemic questions with questions of ethics, misconstrue the moral status of homeopaths, and have an impoverished idea of ethics—one that fails to account either for the moral worth of care and of (...) relationships or for the perspectives, values, and preferences of patients. Utilitarian critics, in particular, endeavour to present an objective evaluation—a type of moral calculus—quantifying the utilities and disutilities of homeopathy as a justification for the exclusion of homeopathy from research and health care. But these critiques are built upon a narrow formulation of evidence and care and a diminished episteme that excludes the values and preferences of researchers, homeopaths, and patients engaged in the practice of homeopathy. We suggest that homeopathy is ethical as it fulfils the needs and expectations of many patients; may be practiced safely and prudentially; values care and the virtues of the therapeutic relationship; and provides important benefits for patients. (shrink)
There has been much debate regarding the 'double-effect' of sedatives and analgesics administered at the end-of-life, and the possibility that health professionals using these drugs are performing 'slow euthanasia.' On the one hand analgesics and sedatives can do much to relieve suffering in the terminally ill. On the other hand, they can hasten death. According to a standard view, the administration of analgesics and sedatives amounts to euthanasia when the drugs are given with an intention to hasten death. In this (...) paper we report a small qualitative study based on interviews with 8 Australian general physicians regarding their understanding of intention in the context of questions about voluntary euthanasia, assisted suicide and particularly the use of analgesic and sedative infusions (including the possibility of voluntary or non-voluntary 'slow euthanasia'). We found a striking ambiguity and uncertainty regarding intentions amongst doctors interviewed. Some were explicit in describing a 'grey' area between palliation and euthanasia, or a continuum between the two. Not one of the respondents was consistent in distinguishing between a foreseen death and an intended death. A major theme was that 'slow euthanasia' may be more psychologically acceptable to doctors than active voluntary euthanasia by bolus injection, partly because the former would usually only result in a small loss of 'time' for patients already very close to death, but also because of the desirable ambiguities surrounding causation and intention when an infusion of analgesics and sedatives is used. The empirical and philosophical implications of these findings are discussed. (shrink)
Suicide has long been the subject of philosophical, literary, theological and cultural–historical inquiry. But despite the diversity of disciplinary and methodological approaches that have been brought to bear in the study of suicide, we argue that the formal study of suicide, that is, suicidology, is characterized by intellectual, organizational and professional values that distinguish it from other ways of thinking and knowing. Further, we suggest that considering suicidology as a “social practice” offers ways to usefully conceptualize its epistemological, philosophical and (...) practical norms. This study develops the idea of suicidology as a social practice and considers the implications for research, practice and public discourse. (shrink)
The moral importance of the ‘intention–foresight’ distinction has long been a matter of philosophical controversy, particularly in the context of end-of-life care. Previous empirical research in Australia has suggested that general physicians and surgeons may use analgesic or sedative infusions with ambiguous intentions, their actions sometimes approximating ‘slow euthanasia’. In this paper, we report findings from a qualitative study of 18 Australian palliative care medical specialists, using in-depth interviews to address the use of sedation at the end of life. The (...) majority of subjects were agnostic or atheistic. In contrast to their colleagues in acute medical practice, these Australian palliative care specialists were almost unanimously committed to distinguishing their actions from euthanasia. This commitment appeared to arise principally from the need to maintain a clear professional role, and not obviously from an ideological opposition to euthanasia. While some respondents acknowledged that there are difficult cases that require considered reflection upon one's intention, and where there may be some ‘mental gymnastics,’ the nearly unanimous view was that it is important, even in these difficult cases, to cultivate an intention that focuses exclusively on the relief of symptoms. We present four narratives of ‘terminal’ sedation – cases where sedation was administered in significant doses just before death, and may well have hastened death. Considerable ambiguities of intention were evident in some instances, but the discussion around these clearly exceptional cases illustrates the importance of intention to palliative care specialists in maintaining their professional roles. (shrink)
Umbilical cord blood banking is one of many biomedical innovations that confront pregnant women with new choices about what they should do to secure their own and their child’s best interests. Many mothers can now choose to donate their baby’s umbilical cord blood (UCB) to a public cord blood bank or pay to store it in a private cord blood bank. Donation to a public bank is widely regarded as an altruistic act of civic responsibility. Paying to store UCB may (...) be regarded as a “unique opportunity” to provide “insurance” for the child’s future. This paper reports findings from a survey of Australian women that investigated the decision to either donate or store UCB. We conclude that mothers are faced with competing discourses that force them to choose between being a “good mother” and fulfilling their role as a “good citizen.” We discuss this finding with reference to the concept of value pluralism. (shrink)
Biomedical innovation and translation are increasingly emphasizing research using “big data.” The hope is that big data methods will both speed up research and make its results more applicable to “real-world” patients and health services. While big data research has been embraced by scientists, politicians, industry, and the public, numerous ethical, organizational, and technical/methodological concerns have also been raised. With respect to technical and methodological concerns, there is a view that these will be resolved through sophisticated information technologies, predictive algorithms, (...) and data analysis techniques. While such advances will likely go some way towards resolving technical and methodological issues, we believe that the epistemological issues raised by big data research have important ethical implications and raise questions about the very possibility of big data research achieving its goals. (shrink)
Health care is provided in many contexts—not just hospitals, clinics, and community health settings. Different institutional settings may significantly influence the design and delivery of health care and the ethical obligations and practices of health care practitioners working within them. This is particularly true in institutions that are established to constrain freedom, ensure security and authority, and restrict movement and choice. We describe the results of a qualitative study of the experiences of doctors and nurses working within two women’s prisons (...) in the state of New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Their accounts make clear how the provision and ethics of health care may be compromised by the physical design of the prison, the institutional policies and practices restricting movement of prisoners and practitioners, the focus on maintaining control and security, and the very purpose of the prison and prison system itself. The results of this study make clear the impact that context has on professional practice and illustrate the importance of sociology and anthropology to bioethics and to the development of a more nuanced account of professional ethics. (shrink)
In 2016, the Office of the State Coroner of New South Wales released its report into the death of an Australian woman, Sheila Drysdale, who had died from complications of an autologous stem cell procedure at a Sydney clinic. In this report, we argue that Mrs Drysdale's death was avoidable, and it was the result of a pernicious global problem of an industry exploiting regulatory systems to sell unproven and unjustified interventions with stem cells.
The debate about whether misoprostol should be distributed to low resource communities to prevent post-partum haemorrhage, recognised as a major cause of maternal mortality, is deeply polarised. This is in spite of stakeholders having access to the same evidence about the risks and benefits of misoprostol. To understand the disagreement, we conducted a qualitative analysis of the values underpinning debates surrounding community distribution of misoprostol. We found that different moral priorities, epistemic values, and attitudes towards uncertainty were the main factors (...) sustaining the debate. With this understanding, we present a model for ethical discourse that might overcome the current impasse. (shrink)
Philosophy has long been concerned with ‘moral status’. Discussions about the moral status of children, however, seem often to promote confusion rather than clarity. Using the creation of ‘savior siblings’ as an example, this paper provides a philosophical critique of the moral status of children and the moral relevance of parenting and the role that formative experience, regret and relational autonomy play in parental decisions. We suggest that parents make moral decisions that are guided by the moral significance they attach (...) to children, to sick children and most importantly, to a specific sick child (theirs). This moral valorization is rarely made explicit and has generally been ignored by both philosophers and clinicians in previous critiques. Recognizing this, however, may transform not only the focus of bioethical discourse but also the policies and practices surrounding the care of children requiring bone marrow or cord blood transplantation by better understanding the values at stake behind parental decision making. (shrink)
In an article somewhat ironically entitled “Disambiguating Clinical Intentions,” Lynn Jansen promotes an idea that should be bewildering to anyone familiar with the literature on the intention/foresight distinction. According to Jansen, “intention” has two commonsense meanings, one of which is equivalent to “foresight.” Consequently, questions about intention are “infected” with ambiguity—people cannot tell what they mean and do not know how to answer them. This hypothesis is unsupported by evidence, but Jansen states it as if it were accepted fact. In (...) this reply, we make explicit the multiple misrepresentations she has employed to make her hypothesis seem plausible. We also point out the ways in which it defies common sense. In particular, Jansen applies her thesis only to recent empirical research on the intentions of doctors, totally ignoring the widespread confusion that her assertion would imply in everyday life, in law, and indeed in religious and philosophical writings concerning the intention/foresight distinction and the Principle of Double Effect. (shrink)
Rationale, aims and objectives: Bioethics and professionalism are standard subjects in medical training programmes, and these curricula reflect particular representations of meaning and practice. It is important that these curricula cohere with the actual concerns of practicing clinicians so that students are prepared for real-world practice. We aimed to identify ethical and professional concerns that do not appear to be adequately addressed in standard curricula by comparing ethics curricula with themes that emerged from a qualitative study of medical practitioners. Method: (...) Curriculum analysis: Thirty-two prominent ethics and professionalism curricula were identified through a database search and were analysed thematically. Qualitative study: In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 medical practitioners. Participants were invited to reflect upon their perceptions of the ways in which values matter in their practices and their educational experiences. The themes emerging from the two studies were compared and contrasted. Results: While representations of meaning and value in ethics and professionalism curricula overlap with the preoccupations of practicing clinicians, there are significant aspects of ‘real-world’ clinical practice that are largely ignored. These fell into two broad domains: ‘sociological’ concerns about enculturation, bureaucracy, intra-professional relationships, and public perceptions of medicine; and epistemic concerns about making good decisions, balancing different kinds of knowledge, and practising within the bounds of professional protocols. Conclusions: Our findings support the view that philosophy and sociology should be included in medical school and specialty training curricula. Curricula should be reframed to introduce students to habits of thought that recognize the need for critical reflection on the social processes in which they are embedded, and on the philosophical assumptions that underpin their practice. (shrink)
Evidence-based medicine has been rapidly and widely adopted because it claims to provide a method for determining the safety and efficacy of medical therapies and public health interventions more generally. However, as others have noted, EBM may be riven through with cultural bias, both in the generation of evidence and in its translation. We suggest that technological and scientific advances in medicine accentuate and entrench these cultural biases, to the extent that they may invalidate the evidence we have about disease (...) and its treatment. This creates a significant ethical, epistemological and ontological challenge for medicine. (shrink)
This article critically examines current responses to multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and argues that bioethics needs to be willing to engage in a more radical critique of the problem than is currently offered. In particular, we need to focus not simply on market-driven models of innovation and anti-microbial solutions to emergent and re-emergent infections such as TB. The global community also needs to address poverty and the structural factors that entrench inequalities—thus moving beyond the orthodox medical/public health frame of reference.
Health industries attempt to influence the public through the news media and through their relationships with expert academics and opinion leaders. This study reports journalists' perceptions of their professional roles and responsibilities regarding the relationships between industry and academia and research results. Journalists believe that responsibility for the scientific validity of their reports rests with academics and systems of peer review. However, this approach fails to account for the extent of industry-academy interactions and the flaws of peer review. Health journalists' (...) retention of a critical stance regarding industry-academia relationships will include advocacy for and adoption of mandatory reporting of these relationships. (shrink)
Peer review of manuscripts for biomedical journals has become a subject of intense ethical debate. One of the most contentious issues is whether or not peer review should be anonymous. This study aimed to generate a rich, empirically-grounded understanding of the values held by journal editors and peer reviewers with a view to informing journal policy. Qualitative methods were used to carry out an inductive analysis of biomedical reviewers’ and editors’ values. Data was derived from in-depth, open-ended interviews with journal (...) editors and peer reviewers. Data was “read for” themes relevant to reviewer anonymisation and interactions among editors, reviewers, and authors. Editors and peer reviewers provided three arguments that would support a more open and interactive peer-review process. First, a number of participants emphasised the importance of not only ensuring the scientific quality of published research but also nurturing their colleagues and supporting their communities. Second, many spoke about the ongoing moral responsibilities that reviewers and editors felt toward authors. Finally, participants spoke at length about their enjoyment of social interactions and of the value of collective, rather than isolated, reasoning processes. Whether or not journal editors decide to allow anonymous review , the values of editors and reviewers need to be seriously addressed in codes of publication ethics, in the management of biomedical journals, and in the establishment of journal policies. (shrink)
Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) has now been part of the dominant medical paradigm for 15 years, and has been frequently debated and progressively modified. One question about EBM that has not yet been considered systematically, and is now particularly timely, is the question of the novelty, or otherwise, of the principles and practices of EBM. We argue that answering this question, and the related question of whether EBM-type principles and practices are unique to medicine, sheds new light on EBM and has (...) practical implications for those involved in all EBM. This is because one's answer to the question (whether explicit or implicit) affects the amount and type of funding and attention received by EBM, the extent to which EBM, and the generation, judgment and use of evidence more generally, can be appropriated by certain groups and questioned by others, and the extent to which truly unique socio-political developments in evidence, and in medicine more generally, are recognized and harnessed. (shrink)
Corneal transplantation is the most common form of organ transplantation performed globally. However, of all organs, eyes have the highest rate of refusal of donation. This study explored the reasons why individuals decide whether or not to donate corneas. Twenty-one individuals were interviewed who had made a donation decision (13 refused corneal donation and eight consented). Analysis was performed using Grounded Theory. Refusal of corneal donation was related to concerns about disfigurement and the role of eyes in memory and communication. (...) The request for donation therefore raised concerns about a potential adverse change in the ongoing relationship with the deceased, even in death. For those who refused donation, these concerns overshadowed awareness of need or benefit of transplantation. Adjusting the donation message to be more congruent with the real, lived experience of corneal donation may to some extent “prepare” individuals when the donation question is raised. (shrink)
While doctors generally enjoy considerable status, some believe that this is increasingly threatened by consumerism, managerialism, and competition from other health professions. Research into doctors’ perceptions of the changes occurring in medicine has provided some insights into how they perceive and respond to these changes but has generally failed to distinguish clearly between concerns about “status,” related to the entitlements associated with one’s position in a social hierarchy, and concerns about “respect,” related to being held in high regard for one’s (...) moral qualities. In this article we explore doctors’ perceptions of the degree to which they are respected and their explanations for, and responses to, instances of perceived lack of respect. We conclude that doctors’ concerns about loss of respect need to be clearly distinguished from concerns about loss of status and that medical students need to be prepared for a changing social field in which others’ respect cannot be taken for granted. (shrink)
(2013). What to Think of Canine Obesity? Emerging Challenges to Our Understanding of Human–Animal Health Relationships. Social Epistemology: Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 90-104. doi: 10.1080/02691728.2012.760662.
The discovery of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells in 2006 was heralded as a major breakthrough in stem cell research. Since then, progress in iPS cell technology has paved the way towards clinical application, particularly cell replacement therapy, which has refueled debate on the ethics of stem cell research. However, much of the discourse has focused on questions of moral status and potentiality, overlooking the ethical issues which are introduced by the clinical testing of iPS cell replacement therapy. First-in-human trials, (...) in particular, raise a number of ethical concerns including informed consent, subject recruitment and harm minimisation as well as the inherent uncertainty and risks which are involved in testing medical procedures on humans for the first time. These issues, while a feature of any human research, become more complex in the case of iPS cell therapy, given the seriousness of the potential risks, the unreliability of available animal models, the vulnerability of the target patient group, and the high stakes of such an intensely public area of science. Our paper will present a detailed case study of iPS cell replacement therapy for Parkinson's disease to highlight these broader ethical and epistemological concerns. If we accept that iPS cell technology is fraught with challenges which go far beyond merely refuting the potentiality of the stem cell line, we conclude that iPS cell research should not replace, but proceed alongside embryonic and adult somatic stem cell research to promote cross-fertilisation of knowledge and better clinical outcomes. (shrink)
Peer review of manuscripts has recently become a subject of academic research and ethical debate. Critics of the review process argue that it is a means by which powerful members of the scientific community maintain their power, and achieve their personal and communal aspirations, often at others' expense. This qualitative study aimed to generate a rich, empirically?grounded understanding of the process of manuscript review, with a view to informing strategies to improve the review process. Open?ended interviews were carried out with (...) 35 journal editors and peer reviewers in the United Kingdom, the USA and Australia. It is clear from this research that relations of power and epistemic authority in manuscript review are complex and dynamic, and may have positive and negative features, and that even where power is experienced as controlling, restrictive and illegitimate, it can also be resisted. In conclusion, the manuscript review process is best thought of not in terms of simple dominance of reviewers and editors over authors, but rather as a shifting ?net? of power relations. These complex power relations need to be understood if reviewers are to be encouraged to participate in the process and to do so in the the most ethical and effective manner. (shrink)
Cell and tissue-based products, such as autologous adult stem cells, are being prescribed by physicians across the world for diseases and illnesses that they have neither been approved for or been demonstrated as safe and effective in formal clinical trials. These doctors often form part of informal transnational networks that exploit differences and similarities in the regulatory systems across geographical contexts. In this paper, we examine the regulatory infrastructure of five geographically diverse but socio-economically comparable countries with the aim of (...) identifying similarities and differences in how these products are regulated and governed within clinical contexts. We find that while there are many subtle technical differences in how these regulations are implemented, they are sufficiently similar that it is difficult to explain why these practices appear more prevalent in some countries and not in others. We conclude with suggestions for how international governance frameworks might be improved to discourage the exploitation of vulnerable patient populations while enabling innovation in the clinical application of cellular therapies. (shrink)
Justifying involuntary psychiatric treatment on the basis of a judgment that a person lacks capacity is usually expressed in terms of a person’s ability to make a decision about his or her health and treatment. Typically, this relates to the ability to refuse treatment. Exactly what “capacity” means, however, and how one determines when another individual lacks capacity, or lacks sufficient capacity, in this context is particularly controversial, with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities insisting (...) that involuntary treatment be abandoned altogether and capacity tests avoided.Capacity is a concept that has multiple meanings and applications across different disciplines and... (shrink)
Human embryonic stem cell research has generated considerable discussion and debate in bioethics. Bioethical discourse tends to focus on the moral status of the embryo as the central issue, however, and it is unclear how much this reflects broader community values and beliefs related to stem cell research. This paper presents the results of a study which aims to identify and classify the issues and arguments that have arisen in public discourse associated with one prominent policy episode in the United (...) States: the 2004 Californian Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. The findings show that public discourse about Proposition 71 is characterised by a broader range of issues than those usually addressed in scholarly publications and public policy documents. While attention to the moral status of the embryo is an important issue in stem cell research, making it the main focus of public discourse has a polarising effect. This also limits opportunities to identify shared values, understand how political alliances are forged, and develop social consensus. Implications for future research and policy are discussed. (shrink)
Social, political, and economic environments play an active role in nurturing professional virtue. Yet, these environments can also lead to the erosion of virtue. As such, professional virtue is fragile and vulnerable to environmental shifts. While physicians are often considered to be among the most virtuous of professional groups, concern has also always existed about the impact of commercial arrangements on physicians’ willingness and capacity to enact their professional virtues. This article examines the ways in which commercial arrangements have been (...) negotiated to secure medical virtue from real or perceived threats of erosion. In particular, we focus on the concern surrounding conflicts of interest arising from commercial arrangements that have developed as a result of neoliberal economic and social policies. The deregulation of medical markets and privatization of services have produced new commercial relationships that are often misunderstood by patients, publics, and physicians themselves. ‘Conflicts of interest’ policies have been introduced in an attempt to safeguard ethical conduct and medical practice. However, a number of virtue ethicists have critiqued these policies as inadequate for securing virtue. We examine the ways in which commercial arrangements have been seen to impact upon medical virtue, both historically and in the context of modern medicine. We then describe and critique current efforts to restore clinical virtue through both conflict of interest policies and through virtue ethics. Finally, we suggest some possible ways of addressing the corrosive effects of neoliberalism on medical virtue. (shrink)
Aim To ascertain the quantity and nature of gifts and items provided by the pharmaceutical industry in Australia to medical specialists and to consider whether these are appropriate in terms of justifiable ethical standards, empirical research and views expressed in the literature.
The Ebola virus disease epidemic in Western Africa has, in recent months, aroused growing alarm in Western countries. Attention has been drawn to the threat posed to the inhabitants of the region by what has undoubtedly become a major health emergency. As the death toll has mounted, increasingly strident calls for action have been voiced by nongovernmental organizations and international agencies active in the area, such as Médecins Sans Frontières and the World Health Organization and, more recently, even by the (...) U.S. president.Critics of the Western response have claimed that the newfound concern about EVD, which has been present in Africa for nearly 40 years, reflects a longstanding disregard of the needs of people living in the region. They point out that the difficulties in controlling the spread of the disease are in large part due to the lack of effective health infrastructure, which in turn reflects global disparities in wealth and opportunity. Despite the lack of m .. (shrink)
No Chance, No Value, or No Way: Reassessing the Place of Futility in Health Care and Bioethics Content Type Journal Article Pages 121-122 DOI 10.1007/s11673-011-9303-5 Authors Sarah Winch, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia Ian Kerridge, Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia Journal Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Online ISSN 1872-4353 Print ISSN 1176-7529 Journal Volume Volume 8 Journal Issue Volume 8, Number 2.
In recent years, there has been a rapid growth in the use of autologous stem cell-based interventions to treat a wide range of medical conditions, including those for which there is limited evidence of safety and efficacy. One justification for this growth in the use of unproven interventions is that clinicians should be free to innovate, as long as consumers are adequately informed about risks and benefits. In this essay, we systematically refute the strong claim that consumer and clinician autonomy (...) provide sufficient justification for clinical innovation with autologous stem cells. While we do not deny the importance of consumer and clinician autonomy, we argue that equal consideration needs to be given... (shrink)
Over the past decade, umbilical cord blood (UCB) has routinely been used as a source of haematopoietic stem cells for allogeneic stem cell transplants in the treatment of a range of malignant and non-malignant conditions affecting children and adults. UCB banks are a necessary part of the UCB transplant program, but their establishment has raised a number of important scientific, ethical and political issues. This paper examines the scientific and clinical evidence that has provided the basis for the establishment of (...) UCB banks. We also discuss the major ethical issues that UCB banks raise, including ownership of cord blood, processes for obtaining consent for its collection and storage, and confidentiality. Finally, we review other concerns about commercial non-altruistic banking, including concerns about social justice, equity of access and equity of care. (shrink)