The public discourse surrounding sex and severe disability over the past 40 years has largely focused on protecting vulnerable populations from abuse. However, health professionals and activists are increasingly recognising the inherent sexuality of disabled persons and attempting to find ways to accommodate their intimacy needs. This essay explores several ethical issues arising from such efforts.
The Dutch rules governing neonatal euthanasia, known as the Groningen Protocol, require parental consent for severely disabled infants with poor prognoses to have their lives terminated. This paper questions whether parental consent should be dispositive in such cases, and argues that the potential suffering of the neonate or pediatric patient should be the decisive factor under such unfortunate circumstances.
Rather than being a neutral phenomenon, the authors propose that medical school donations should be viewed as a social good for advancing education and improving healthcare. Seen in this light, they aim to offer a framework for analysis that will be useful to medical institutions and their stakeholders in addressing proposed donations from contentious or divisive sources, and in managing those donations that subsequently appear controversial.
Successful formulation and implementation of end-of-life care requires ongoing communication with the patient. When patients, for reasons of general medical or psychiatric illness, fail to verbally communicate, providers must be receptive to messages conveyed through alternate avenues of communication. We present the narrative of a man with schizophrenia who wished to forgo hemodialysis as a study in the ethical importance of attention to nonverbal communication. A multilayered understanding of the patient, as may be provided by both behavioral and motivational models, (...) can inform the provider’s ability to receive, process, and represent communicated content to the patient or his or her surrogate decision-maker. (shrink)
Substituted judgment has increasingly become the accepted standard for rendering decisions for incapacitated adults in the USA. A broad exception exists with regard to patients with diminished capacity secondary to depressive disorders, as such patients’ previous wishes are generally not honoured when seeking to turn down life-preserving care or pursue aid-in-dying. The result is that physicians often force involuntary treatment on patients with poor medical prognoses and/or low quality of life as a result of their depressive symptoms when similarly situated (...) incapacitated patients without such depressive symptoms would have their previous wishes honoured via substituted judgment. This commentary argues for reconsidering this approach and for using a substituted judgment standard for a subset of EMP/LQL patients seeking death. (shrink)
As a result of workplace clean air regulations and strict guidelines imposed by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations in 1993, most hospitals in the United States are now virtually smoke free. Although evidence suggests that these restrictions both cause smoking employees to consume fewer cigarettes per day and induce some employees to quit smoking entirely, the policies have also driven many healthcare providers—including physicians—onto the public sidewalks for their cigarette breaks. Patients entering many hospitals pass white-coated medical (...) students and residents puffing away at the curbside. (shrink)
Physicians expressing opinions on medical matters that run contrary to the consensus of experts pose a challenge to licensing bodies and regulatory authorities. While the right to express contrarian views feeds a robust marketplace of ideas that is essential for scientific progress, physicians advocating ineffective or dangerous cures, or actively opposing public health measures, pose a grave threat to societal welfare. Increasingly, a distinction has been made between professional speech that occurs during the physician-patient encounter and public speech that transpires (...) beyond the clinical setting, with physicians being afforded wide latitude to voice empirically false claims outside the context of patient care. This paper argues that such a bifurcated model does not sufficiently address the challenges of an age when mass communications and social media allow dissenting physicians to offer misleading medical advice to the general public on a mass scale. Instead, a three-tiered model that distinguishes between citizen speech, physician speech and clinical speech would best serve authorities when regulating physician expression. There are no data in this work. (shrink)
While the management of treating “hateful” patients has been the subject of considerable commentary, far less attention has been paid to the ethical challenges involved in the treatment of “beloved” patients. This essay offers a non-exhaustive taxonomy of “beloved” patients that includes relatable patients, inspiring patients, empathy-inducing patients, and joyful patients, and then discusses the potential pitfalls involved in the optimal care of each group. By drawing attention to these often overlooked and unwitting risks, the hope is to mitigate both (...) their direct impact upon individual “beloved” patients and their residual impact upon those patients who are not viewed as “beloved” by their providers. (shrink)
Chemical castration laws, such as one recently adopted in the U.S. State of Louisiana, raise challenging ethical concerns for physicians. Even if such interventions were to prove efficacious, which is far from certain, they would still raise troubling concerns regarding the degree of medical risk that may be imposed upon prisoners in the name of public safety as well as the appropriate role for physicians and other health care professionals in the administration of pharmaceuticals to competent prisoners over the inmates’ (...) unequivocal objections. This paper argues that the concerns raised by chemical castration are grave enough that, until they are adequately addressed by policymakers, physicians ought not to participate in the process. (shrink)
The “Goldwater rule,” a policy adopted by the American Psychiatry Association in 1973, prohibits organization members from diagnosing or offering professional opinions regarding the mental health of public figures without both first-hand evaluation and authorization. Initially developed in response to a controversial survey of APA members during the 1964 Presidential election campaign, the ethics rule faced few large scale challenges until the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Since that time, a significant number of psychiatrists have either violated or criticized (...) the rule openly. This paper argues that whatever the initial merits of the rule, the prohibition has since been rendered obsolete by the combined lack of professional consensus supporting the policy, absence of a meaningful enforcement mechanism, and the credible statements of non-APA members in the mental health professions regarding public figures. (shrink)
Although COVID-19 vaccines are free and readily available in the United States, many healthcare workers remain unvaccinated, potentially exposing their patients to a life-threatening pathogen. This paper reviews the ethical and legal factors surrounding patient requests to limit their care teams exclusively to vaccinated providers. Key factors that shape policy in this area include patient autonomy, the rights of healthcare workers, and the duties of healthcare institutions. Hospitals must also balance the rights of interested parties in the context of logistical (...) constraints, equity, and public health considerations. (shrink)
Patient portals are poised to transform health communication by empowering patients with rapid access to their own health data. The 21st Century Cures Act is a US federal law that, among other provisions, prevents health entities from engaging in practices that disrupt the exchange of electronic health information—a measure that may increase the usage of patient health portals. Caregiver access to patient portals, however, may lead to breaches in patient privacy and confidentiality if not managed properly through proxy accounts. We (...) present an ethical framework that guides policy and clinical workflow development for healthcare institutions to support the best use of patient portals. Caregivers are vital members of the care team and should be supported through novel forms of health information technology. Patients, however, may not want all information to be shared with their proxies so healthcare institutions must support the development and use of separate proxy accounts as opposed to using the patient’s own account as well provide controls for limiting the scope of information displayed in the proxy accounts. Lastly, as socioeconomic barriers to adoption of health IT persist, healthcare providers must work to ensure multiple streams of patient communication, to prevent further propagating health inequities. (shrink)
Economic motivations are key drivers of human behavior. Unfortunately, they are largely overlooked in literature related to medical decisionmaking, particularly with regard to end-of-life care. It is widely understood that the directions of a proxy acting in bad faith can be overridden. But what of cases in which the proxy or surrogate appears to be acting in good faith to effectuate the patient’s values, yet doing so directly serves the decision-maker’s financial interests? Such situations are not uncommon. Many patients care (...) as deeply about economic wellbeing of their families as they do for their own lives and health. This brief work examines three scenarios that raise ethical issues regarding the role of pecuniary motives in making critical medical decisions. Each scenario presents a potential financial conflict of interest between an incapacitated patient and a third-party decision-maker and offers a framework for integrating ethical and legal concerns into clinical care. It is our hope that this work prepares physicians for unexpected ethical conflicts of interest and enables them to further the interests of his or her patients. (shrink)