The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa began in the spring of 2014 and has since caused the deaths of over 6,000 people. Since there are no approved treatments or prevention modalities specifically targeted at Ebola Virus Disease , debate has focused on whether unproven interventions should be offered to Ebola patients outside of clinical trials. Those engaged in the debate have responded rapidly to a complex and evolving crisis, however, and this debate has not provided much opportunity for in-depth (...) analysis. Additionally, the existing literature on access to unproven therapies has focused on contexts like HIV/AIDS and oncology, which are very different than the Ebola epidemic. In this paper, we examine the ethical issues surrounding access to unproven therapies in the context of the recent Ebola outbreak to yield new insights about this controversial and unsettled issue. We argue first that, in this context, the interests of patients in obtaining access to unproven therapies are not fully aligned.. (shrink)
Purpose/methods: This study investigated the relationship between ethics education and training, and the use and usefulness of ethics resources, confidence in moral decisions, and moral action/activism through a survey of practicing nurses and social workers from four United States (US) census regions. Findings: The sample (n = 1215) was primarily Caucasian (83%), female (85%), well educated (57% with a master's degree). no ethics education at all was reported by 14% of study participants (8% of social workers had no ethics education, (...) versus 23% of nurses), and only 57% of participants had ethics education in their professional educational program. Those with both professional ethics education and in-service or continuing education were more confident in their moral judgments and more likely to use ethics resources and to take moral action. Social workers had more overall education, more ethics education, and higher confidence and moral action scores, and were more likely to use ethics resources than nurses. Conclusion: Ethics education has a significant positive influence on moral confidence, moral action, and use of ethics resources by nurses and social workers. (shrink)
Several quantitative surveys have been conducted internationally to gather empirical information about physicians’ general attitudes towards health care rationing. Are physicians ready to accept and implement rationing, or are they rather reluctant? Do they prefer implicit bedside rationing that allows the physician–patient relationship broad leeway in individual decisions? Or do physicians prefer strategies that apply explicit criteria and rules?
: Although rationing by clinical judgment is controversial, its acceptability partly depends on how it is practiced. In this paper, rationing by clinical judgment is defined in three different circumstances that represent increasingly wider circles of resource pools in which the rationing decision takes place: triage during acute shortage, comparison to other potential patients in a context of limited but not immediately strained resources, and determination of whether expected benefit of an intervention is deemed sufficient to warrant its cost by (...) reference to published population based thresholds. Notions of procedural justice are applied along with an analytical framework of six minimal requisites in order to facilitate fair bedside rationing: (1) a closed system that offers reciprocity, (2) attention to general concerns of justice, (3) respect for individual variations, (4) application of a consistent process, (5) explicitness, and (6) review of decisions. The process could be monitored for its applicability and appropriateness. (shrink)
Clinical ethics support services are developing in Europe. They will be most useful if they are designed to match the ethical concerns of clinicians. We conducted a cross-sectional mailed survey on random samples of general physicians in Norway, Switzerland, Italy, and the UK, to assess their access to different types of ethics support services, and to describe what makes them more likely to have used available ethics support. Respondents reported access to formal ethics support services such as clinical ethics committees (...) (23%), consultation in individual cases (17.6%), and individual ethicists (8.8%), but also to other kinds of less formal ethics support (23.6%). Access to formal ethics support services was associated with work in urban hospitals. Informal ethics resources were more evenly distributed. Although most respondents (81%) reported that they would find help useful in facing ethical difficulties, they reported having used the available services infrequently (14%). Physicians with greater confidence in their knowledge of ethics (P = 0.001), or who had had ethics courses in medical school (P = 0.006), were more likely to have used available services. Access to help in facing ethical difficulties among general physicians in the surveyed countries is provided by a mix of official ethics support services and other resources. Developing ethics support services may benefit from integration of informal services. Development of ethics education in medical school curricula could lead to improved physicians sensititity to ethical difficulties and greater use of ethics support services. Such support services may also need to be more proactive in making their help available. (shrink)
: Bioethicists have articulated an ideal of shared decision making between physician and patient, but in doing so the role of clinical uncertainty has not been adequately confronted. In the face of uncertainty about the patient's prognosis and the best course of treatment, many physicians revert to a model of nondisclosure and nondiscussion, thus closing off opportunities for shared decision making. Empirical studies suggest that physicians find it more difficult to adhere to norms of disclosure in situations where there is (...) substantial uncertainty. They may be concerned that acknowledging their own uncertainty will undermine patient trust and create additional confusion and anxiety for the patient. We argue, in contrast, that effective disclosure will protect patient trust in the long run and that patients can manage information about uncertainty. In situations where there is substantial uncertainty, extra vigilance is required to ensure that patients are given the tools and information they need to participate in cooperative decision making about their care. (shrink)
BackgroundReports suggest that some health care personnel fear retaliation from seeking ethics consultation. We therefore examined the prevalence and determinants of fear of retaliation and determined whether this fear is associated with diminished likelihood of consulting an ethics committee.MethodsWe surveyed registered nurses (RNs) and social workers (SWs) in four US states to identify ethical problems they encounter. We developed a retaliation index (1–7 point range) with higher scores indicating a higher perceived likelihood of retaliation. Linear regression analysis was performed to (...) identify socio-demographic and job characteristics associated with fear of retaliation. Logistic regression analysis was performed to determine whether fear of retaliation was associated with less likelihood of seeking consultation. Results Our sample (N = 1215) was primarily female (85%) and Caucasian (83%) with a mean age of 46 years and 17 years of practice. Among the sample, 293 (48.7%) RNs and 309 (51.3%) SWs reported access to an ethics consultation service. Amongst those with access, 2.8% (n = 17) personally experienced retaliation, 9.1% (n = 55) observed colleagues experience retaliation, 30.2% (n = 182) reported no experience with retaliation but considered it a realistic fear, and 50.8% (n = 305) did not perceive retaliation to be a problem. In logistic regression modeling, fear of retaliation was not associated with the likelihood (OR = 0.64; 95% CI = 0.22–1.89) or frequency of requesting ethics consultation (OR = 0.81; 95% CI = 0.27–2.38). Conclusion Fear of retaliation from seeking ethics consultation is common among nurses and social workers, nonetheless this fear is not associated with reduced requests for ethics consultation. (shrink)
It is a basic and intuitive assumption that the relation of moral preference must be transitive—if A is overall morally preferable to B; and B is overall morally preferably to C; then, if our views are coherent, it better be the case that A is overall morally preferable to C. However, recent work by Temkin and Rachels has undermined that assumption by showing that common-sense ethical distributive principles that we are unlikely to give up generate intransitive sets of moral preferences. (...) The consequences of this for resource allocation are profound—how can we come up with a just way of rationing limited resources if whatever course of action we adopt, there will be other alternatives that are morally preferable to it? However, regardless of the theoretical challenges, practical resource allocation decisions must be made every day! We explore an approach to dealing with some of the pragmatic aspects of the problem, even though the theoretical problem of intransitivity remains unsolved. We begin by considering whether the ways in which counterexamples to transitivity have (of necessity) been oversimplified actually contribute to the intractability of the problem by taking the possibilities of cost sharing, benefit splitting, and compensation (which are often available in real-life tradeoff situations) off the table. The proposal we end up suggesting does not rely on any assumptions or judgments about interpersonal aggregation, and so has a chance of allowing us to work around the most troubling kind of intransitivity. (shrink)
Gesundheit and colleagues offer dramatic examples of the medical treatment of terrorists but then pose the suggestion that those who engage in terrorism forfeit their right to medical care, and, consequently, that physicians have no obligation to treat them. Their argument presupposes that a physician’s obligation to provide medical care depends on the patients’ right to health care. Therefore, someone who commits heinous and abhorrent acts thereby waives the right to health care and the physicians’ duty to provide health care (...) might consequently be absolved. This view may appeal to physicians who have experienced the complexity and discomfort of treating someone whose morality or even humanity they question, such as a rapist, a serial killer, or a perpetrator of genocide. However we have grounds to believe that the duty of physicians to treat is not based on the moral worth of patients, but rather on the duties that physicians have, and this notion renders any concern about the unacceptability of any person’s behavior irrelevant in determining whether to provide treatment. We will first argue that not all duties are directly derived from rights, and then illustrate how deontological views, along with common views on the role morality of physicians, provide a basis for offering indiscriminate medical care. Second, we will discuss the physician’s role in the context of war, and offer one compelling moral reason on the basis of which warfare norms do indeed obligate physicians to extend their duty to care toward enemies, terrorists included, independently of whatever right they maintain. (shrink)
Political philosophers often formulate the problem of distributive justice as the problem of how the government ought to distribute different types of goods—for example, income or health care—to its citizens. They therefore presuppose that the government is a unitary agent that governs its citizens directly. However, although a number of governments are unitary in this way, many are federations, exhibiting a division of sovereignty between two or more levels of government having independent grounds of authority. In contrast to unitary states, (...) therefore, within a federation, two or more levels of government directly govern their citizens and are directly accountable to them. Because of the way in which different levels of government in a federation can separately affect the distribution of goods in society, federations face resource allocation problems that are far more complex than those of unitary states. In addition to determining what a just distribution of goods is, federations must also determine (1) whether distributive justice is a shared responsibility amongst different levels of government, and, if so, (2) how this shared responsibility should be allocated between them. (shrink)
As pressures increase to contain growing healthcare expenditures, there is currently a prominent rise in the shift of healthcare costs to patients in the form of deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance. Rising co-payments are part of a larger picture of increasing overall out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures. From 1990 to 2000, per capita out-of-pocket payments for healthcare reached $707 in the United States, and doubled in several European countries with universal health insurance, reaching $396 in Denmark, $290 in Germany, and $466 in Italy (...) in 2000. (shrink)
Costs at the end of life disproportionately contribute to health care costs in the United States. Addressing these costs will therefore be an important component in making the U.S. health care system more financially sustainable. In this paper, we explore the moral justifications for having discussions of end-of-life costs in the doctor-patient encounter as part of an effort to control costs. As health care costs are partly shared through pooled resources, such as insurance and taxation, and partly borne by individuals (...) through out-of-pocket expenses, we separate our defense for, and approach to, discussing both pooled and individual aspects of cost. We argue that there needs to be a shift away from formulating the options as a dichotomous choice of paying attention to end-of-life costs versus ignoring such costs. The question should be how personal costs will be managed and how societal expenditures should be allocated. These are issues that we believe patients care about and need to have addressed in a manner with which they are comfortable. Conversations about how money will be spent at the end of life should begin before the end is near. We propose discussing costs from the onset of chronic illness and incorporating financial issues in advance care planning. Through these approaches one can avoid abruptly and insensitively introducing financial issues at the very conclusion of a person's life when one would prefer to address the painful and important issues of spiritual and existential loss that are appropriately the focus when a person is dying. (shrink)
Although clinical ethics consultation is a high-stakes endeavor with an increasing prominence in health care systems, progress in developing standards for quality is challenging. In this article, we describe the results of a pilot project utilizing portfolios as an evaluation tool. We found that this approach is feasible and resulted in a reasonably wide distribution of scores among the 23 submitted portfolios that we evaluated. We discuss limitations and implications of these results, and suggest that this is a significant step (...) on the pathway to an eventual certification process for clinical ethics consultants. (shrink)
The problems of racism and racially motivated violence in predominantly African American communities in the United States are complex, multifactorial, and historically rooted. While these problems are also deeply morally troubling, bioethicists have not contributed substantially to addressing them. Concern for justice has been one of the core commitments of bioethics. For this and other reasons, bioethicists should contribute to addressing these problems. We consider how bioethicists can offer meaningful contributions to the public discourse, research, teaching, training, policy development, and (...) academic scholarship in response to the alarming and persistent patterns of racism and implicit biases associated with it. To make any useful contribution, bioethicists will require preparation and should expect to play a significant role through collaborative action with others. (shrink)
Starting research -- Enrolling research participants -- Protecting research participants -- Conducting research with vulnerable populations -- Balancing clinical research and clinical care -- Navigating interpersonal difficulties -- Ending research.
It is a basic and intuitive assumption that the relation of moral preference must be transitive—if A is overall morally preferable to B; and B is overall morally preferably to C; then, if our views are coherent, it better be the case that A is overall morally preferable to C. However, recent work by Temkin and Rachels has undermined that assumption by showing that common-sense ethical distributive principles that we are unlikely to give up generate intransitive sets of moral preferences. (...) The consequences of this for resource allocation are profound—how can we come up with a just way of rationing limited resources if whatever course of action we adopt, there will be other alternatives that are morally preferable to it? However, regardless of the theoretical challenges, practical resource allocation decisions must be made every day! We explore an approach to dealing with some of the pragmatic aspects of the problem, even though the theoretical problem of intransitivity remains unsolved. We begin by considering whether the ways in which counterexamples to transitivity have been oversimplified actually contribute to the intractability of the problem by taking the possibilities of cost sharing, benefit splitting, and compensation off the table. The proposal we end up suggesting does not rely on any assumptions or judgments about interpersonal aggregation, and so has a chance of allowing us to work around the most troubling kind of intransitivity. (shrink)