With this issue, we begin a regular feature on bioethics and public health. We welcome Matthew K. Wynia, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Institute for Ethics of the American Medical Association as our new Contributing Editor. If you have comments or suggestions regarding this feature, please email us at manuscript@ bioethics.net.
Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study by Markus Bockmuehl; Prophecy and Discernment by R. W. L. Moberly; The Preexistent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; Prophecy and Hermeneutics: Toward a Hermeneutic for Theological Interpretation by A. K. M. Adam, Stephen E. Fowl, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, and Francis Watson; Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith by Francis Watson.
Why should we seek and tell the truth? Does anyone know what truth is? Many are skeptical about the relevance of truth. Truth Matters endeavours to show why truth is important in a world where the very idea of truth is contested. Putting philosophers in conversation with educators, literary scholars, physicists, political theorists, and theologians, Truth Matters ranges across both analytic and continental philosophy and draws on the ideas of thinkers such as Aquinas, Balthasar, Brandom, Davidson, Dooyeweerd, Gadamer, Habermas, Kierkegaard, (...) Plantinga, Ricoeur, and Wolterstorff. Some essays attempt to provide a systematic account of truth, while others wrestle with the question of how truth is told and what it means to live truthfully. Contributors address debates between realists and anti-realists, explore issues surrounding relativism and constructivism in education and the social sciences, examine the politics of truth telling and the ethics of authenticity, and consider various religious perspectives on truth. Most scholars agree that truth is propositional, being expressed in statements that are subject to proof or disproof. This book goes a step farther: yes, propositional truth is important, but truth is more than propositional. To recognize how it is more than propositional is crucial for understanding why truth truly matters. Contributors include Doug Blomberg, Allyson Carr, Jeffrey Dudiak, Olaf Ellefson, Gerrit Glas, Gill K. Goulding, Jay Gupta, Clarence Joldersma, Matthew J. Klaassen, John Jung Park, Pamela J. Reeve, Amy Richards, Calvin Seerveld, Ronnie Shuker, Adam Smith, John Van Rys, Darren Walhof, Matthew Walhout, and Lambert Zuidervaart. (shrink)
Using medical advances to enhance human athletic, aesthetic, and cognitive performance, rather than to treat disease, has been controversial. Little is known about physicians? experiences, views, and attitudes in this regard. We surveyed a national sample of physicians to determine how often they prescribe enhancements, their views on using medicine for enhancement, and whether they would be willing to prescribe a series of potential interventions that might be considered enhancements. We find that many physicians occasionally prescribe enhancements, but doctors hold (...) nuanced and ambiguous views of these issues. Most express concerns about the potential effects of enhancements on social equity, yet many also believe specific enhancements that are safe and effective should be available but not covered by insurance. These apparently contradictory views might reflect inherent tensions between the values of equity and liberty, which could make crafting coherent social policies on medical enhancements challenging. [Supplementary materials are available for this article. Go to the publisher's online edition of American Journal of Bioethics for the following free supplemental resource(s): An additional table (Table 5) referred to on p. 5]. (shrink)
The threat of bioterrorism, the emergence of the SARS epidemic, and a recent focus on professionalism among physicians, present a timely opportunity for a review of, and renewed commitment to, physician obligations to care for patients during epidemics. The professional obligation to care for contagious patients is part of a larger "duty to treat," which historically became accepted when 1) a risk of nosocomial infection was perceived, 2) an organized professional body existed to promote the duty, and 3) the public (...) came to rely on the duty. Physicians' responses to epidemics from the Hippocratic era to the present suggests an evolving acceptance of the professional duty to treat contagious patients, reaching a long-held peak between 1847 and the1950's. There has been some professional retrenchment against this duty to treat in the last 40 years but, we argue, conditions favoring acceptance of the duty are met today. A renewed embrace of physicians' duty to treat patients during epidemics, despite conditions of personal risk, might strengthen medicine's relationship with society, improve society's capacity to prepare for threats such as bioterrorism and new epidemics, and contribute to the development of a more robust and meaningful medical professionalism. (shrink)
Patients and physicians often perceive the current health care system to be unfair, in part because of the ways in which coverage decisions appear to be made. To address this problem the Ethical Force Program, a collaborative effort to create quality improvement tools for ethics in health care, has developed five content areas specifying ethical criteria for fair health care benefits design and administration. Each content area includes concrete recommendations and measurable expectations for performance improvement, which can be used by (...) those organizations involved in the design and administration of health benefits packages, such as purchasers, health plans, benefits consultants, and practitioner groups. (shrink)
Responses to public health emergencies can entail difficult decisions about restricting individual liberties to prevent the spread of disease. The quintessential example is quarantine. While isolating sick patients tends not to provoke much concern, quarantine of healthy people who only might be infected often is controversial. In fact, as the experience with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) shows, the vast majority of those placed under quarantine typically don't become ill. Efforts to enforce involuntary quarantine through military or police powers also (...) can backfire, stoking both panic and disease spread. Yet quarantine is part of a limited arsenal of options when effective treatment or prophylaxis is not available, and some evidence suggests it can be effective, especially when it is voluntary, home-based and accompanied by extensive outreach, communication and education efforts. Even assuming that quarantine is medically effective, however, it still must be ethically justified because it creates harms for many of those affected. Moreover, ethical principles of reciprocity, transparency, non-discrimination and accountability should guide any implementation of quarantine. (shrink)
There are three broad ethical issues related to handling public health emergencies. They are the three R's - rationing, restrictions and responsibilities. Recently, a severe shortage of annual influenza vaccine in the US, combined with the threat of pandemic flu, has provided an opportunity for policy makers to think about rationing in very concrete terms. Some lessons from annual flu vaccination likely will apply to pandemic vaccine distribution, but many preparatory decisions must be based on very rough estimates. What ethical (...) principles should guide rationing decisions, what data should inform these decisions, how to revise decisions as new data emerge, and how to implement rationing decisions on the ground are all important considerations. In addition, ethicists might be able to help policy makers think through the importance of international cooperation in surmounting global rationing dilemmas and to accept the inevitable responsibilities of government in making and implementing rationing decisions. (shrink)
ObjectivesThe purpose of the current study was to examine whether a self-report measure identifies prenatal substance use and predicts resulting adverse birth outcomes in a large cohort using electronic medical records.MethodsPregnant patients who were admitted between 2014 and 2015 at Christiana Care Health System and delivered singleton birth were included in the analyses. Participant demographic information, pregnancy comorbidities, self-reported substance use, and birth outcomes were retrieved from electronic medical records. Detailed descriptive analyses of prenatal substance use were conducted, and logistic (...) models were evaluated for the associations between substance use and each birth outcome.ResultsThe average maternal age was 30 years, 37% receiving Medicaid. Over 58% were White, 26% were Black, and 13% were Hispanic. Cigarette smoking only showed the highest prevalence among substance u... (shrink)
Autism has been described as a neural deficit in prediction, people with autism manifest low perceptual construal and are impaired at traversing psychological distances, and Gilead et al.'s hierarchy from iconic to multimodal to fully abstract, socially communicated representations is exactly the hierarchy of representational impairment in autism, making autism a natural behavioural and neurophysiological test case for the prediction–abstraction relationship.
Confidentiality is a core value in medicine and public health yet, like other core values, it is not absolute. Medical ethics has typically allowed for breaches of confidentiality when there is a credible threat of significant harm to an identifiable third party. Medical ethics has been less explicit in spelling out criteria for allowing breaches of confidentiality to protect populations, instead tending to defer these decisions to the law. But recently, issues in military detention settings have raised the profile of (...) decisions to breach medical confidentiality in efforts to protect the broader population. National and international ethics documents say little about the confidentiality of detainee medical records. But initial decisions to use detainee medical records to help craft coercive interrogations led to widespread condemnation, and might have contributed to detainee health problems, such as a large number of suicide attempts several of which have been successful. More recent military guidance seems to reflect lessons learned from these problems and does more to protect detainee records. For the public health system, this experience is a reminder of the importance of confidentiality in creating trustworthy, and effective, means to protect the public's health. (shrink)
Recent arguments over whether certain public health interventions should be mandatory raise questions about what counts as a "mandate." A mandate is not the same as a mere recommendation or the standard of practice. At minimum, a mandate should require an active opt-out and there should be some penalty for refusing to abide by it. Over-loose use of the term "mandate" and the easing of opt-out provisions could eventually pose a risk to the gains that truly mandatory public health interventions, (...) such as childhood vaccines, have provided over the last 50 years. Already, confusion about what counts as a mandate, and about what criteria should be used to determine when a public health intervention should be implemented as a mandate, has led to some inappropriate public policy decisions. For instance, by any reasonable criteria, the yearly influenza vaccine should be mandatory for health care workers. To enforce this mandate, those who refuse vaccination should be required to sign a waiver, and patients - especially those at high risk from flu - should be informed when they receive care from unvaccinated practitioners. (shrink)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended that HIV screening should become routine for all adults in the United States. Implicit in the CDC proposal is the notion that pre-test counseling would be more limited than at present, and that written informed consent to screening would no longer be required. If widely implemented, routine testing would mark a tremendous shift in the US HIV screening strategy. There are a number of considerations used to determine what screening tests (...) should be routine, and HIV fits the bill in almost every regard. Yet the stigma associated with HIV infection remains, making the CDC's recommendation highly controversial. Will minimizing requirements for pre-test counseling and special written informed consent lead to unexpected or unwanted HIV testing, or do these stringent counseling and consent requirements needlessly scare people away? Will widespread and routine testing be associated with declining stigmatization, or will it drive some patients away from seeking desperately needed health care? These are high stakes questions, and we're about to find out the answers. (shrink)