When a new, brain-based definition of death was proposed fifty years ago, no one realized that the issue would remain unresolved for so long. Recently, six new controversies have added to the debate: whether there is a right to refuse apnea testing, which set of criteria should be chosen to measure the death of the brain, how the problem of erroneous testing should be handled, whether any of the current criteria sets accurately measures the death of the brain, whether standard (...) criteria include measurements of all brain functions, and how minorities who reject whole-brain-based definitions should be accommodated. These controversies leave little hope of consensus on how to define death for social and public policy purposes. Rather, there is persistent disagreement among proponents of three major groups of definitions of death: whole-brain, cardiocirculatory or somatic, and higher-brain. Given the persistence and reasonableness of each of these groups of definitions, public policy should permit individuals and their valid surrogates to choose among them. (shrink)
The advanced donation program was proposed in 2014 to allow an individual to donate a kidney in order to provide a voucher for a kidney in the future for a particular loved one. In this article, we explore the logistical and ethical issues that such a program raises. We argue that such a program is ethical in principle but there are many logistical issues that need to be addressed to ensure that the actual program is fair to both those who (...) do and do not participate in this program. (shrink)
The origins of professional ethical codes and oaths are explored. Their legitimacy and usefulness within the profession are questioned and an alternative ethical source is suggested. This source relies on a commonly shared, naturally knowable set of principles known as common morality.
After distinguishing two different meanings of the notion of a morality internal to medicine and considering a hypothetical case of a society that relied on its surgeons to eunuchize priest/cantors to permit them to play an important religious/cultural role, this paper examines three reasons why morality cannot be derived from reflection on the ends of the practice of medicine: (1) there exist many medical roles and these have different ends or purposes, (2) even within any given medical role, there exists (...) multiple, sometimes conflicting ends, and, most critically, (3) the ends of any practice such as medicine must come from outside the practice, that is, from the basic ends or purposes of human living. The paper concludes by considering whether these ends external to medicine are universally part of the moral reality or whether they are socially constructed. The paper argues that, even if various cultural accounts of the common, universal morality are socially constructed, they may, nevertheless, be reflections, however, imperfect, of a more universal common morality that should be thought of as real. Therefore, the morality of medicine must come from a more fundamental morality external to medicine. That external morality will be socially constructed, but may nevertheless reflect an underlying common morality. (shrink)
: Research by Siminoff and colleagues reveals that many lay people in Ohio classify legally living persons in irreversible coma or persistent vegetative state (PVS) as dead and that additional respondents, although classifying such patients as living, would be willing to procure organs from them. This paper analyzes possible implications of these findings for public policy. A majority would procure organs from those in irreversible coma or in PVS. Two strategies for legitimizing such procurement are suggested. One strategy would be (...) to make exceptions to the dead donor rule permitting procurement from those in PVS or at least those who are in irreversible coma while continuing to classify them as living. Another strategy would be to further amend the definition of death to classify one or both groups as deceased, thus permitting procurement without violation of the dead donor rule. Permitting exceptions to the dead donor rule would require substantial changes in law—such as authorizing procuring surgeons to end the lives of patients by means of organ procurement—and would weaken societal prohibitions on killing. The paper suggests that it would be easier and less controversial to further amend the definition of death to classify those in irreversible coma and PVS as dead. Incorporation of a conscience clause to permit those whose religious or philosophical convictions support whole-brain or cardiac-based death pronouncement would avoid violating their beliefs while causing no more than minimal social problems. The paper questions whether those who would support an exception to the dead donor rule in these cases and those would support a further amendment to the definition of death could reach agreement to adopt a public policy permitting organ procurement of those in irreversible coma or PVS when proper consent is obtained. (shrink)
While twentieth-century medical ethics has focused on the duty of physicians to benefit their patients, the next century will see that duty challenged in three ways. First, we will increasingly recognize that it is unrealistic to expect physicians to be able to determine what will benefit their patients. Either they limit their attention to medical well-being when total well-being is the proper end of the patient or they strive for total well-being, which takes them beyond their expertise. Even within the (...) medical sphere, they have no basis for choosing among the proper medical goals for medicine. Also, there are many plausible strategies for relating predicted benefits to harms, and physicians cannot be expert in picking among these strategies. Second, increasingly plausible ethical systems recognize that in some cases, patient benefit must be sacrificed to protect patient rights including the right to the truth, to have promises kept, to have autonomy respected, and to not be killed. Third, ethics of the next century will increasingly recognize that some patient benefits must be sacrificed to fulfill duties to others - either the duty to serve the interests of others or other duties such as keeping promises, telling the truth, and, particularly, promoting justice. Physicians in the twenty-first century will be seen as having a new, more limited duty to assist the patient in pursuing the patient's understanding of the patient's interest within the constraints of deontological ethical principles and externally imposed duties to promote justice. The result will be a duty to be loyal to the consumer of health care with the recognition that often this will mean that the physician is not permitted to pursue the physician's understanding of the patient's well-being. (shrink)
The puzzling case of the broken arm -- Hernias, diets, and drugs -- Why physicians cannot know what will benefit patients -- Sacrificing patient benefit to protect patient rights -- Societal interests and duties to others -- The new, limited, twenty-first-century role for physicians as patient assistants -- Abandoning modern medical concepts: doctor's "orders" and hospital "discharge" -- Medicine can't "indicate": so why do we talk that way? --"Treatments of choice" and "medical necessity": who is fooling whom? -- Abandoning informed (...) consent -- Why physicians get it wrong and the alternatives to consent: patient choice and deep value pairing -- The end of prescribing: why prescription writing is irrational -- The alternatives to prescribing -- Are fat people overweight? -- Beyond prettiness: death, disease, and being fat -- Universal but varied health insurance: only separate is equal -- Health insurance: the case for multiple lists -- Why hospice care should not be a part of ideal health care I: the history of the hospice -- Why hospice care should not be a part of ideal health care II: hospice in a postmodern era -- Randomized human experimentation: the modern dilemma -- Randomized human experimentation: a proposal for the new medicine -- Clinical practice guidelines and why they are wrong -- Outcomes research and how values sneak into finding of fact -- The consensus of medical experts and why it is wrong so often. (shrink)
: Free-market libertarians have long supported incentives to increase organ procurement, but those oriented to justice traditionally have opposed them. This paper presents the reasons why those worried about justice should reconsider financial incentives and tolerate them as a lesser moral evil. After considering concerns about discrimination and coercion and setting them aside, it is suggested that the real moral concern should be manipulation of the neediest. The one offering the incentive (the government) has the resources to eliminate the basic (...) needs that pressure the poor into a willingness to sell. It is unethically manipulative to withhold those resources and then offer payment for organs. Nevertheless, the poor have been left without basic necessities for 20 years since the passage of the prohibition on incentives. As long as the government continues to withhold a decent minimum of welfare, liberals should, with shame, cease opposing financial incentives for organ procurement. (shrink)
The physician who upholds the Hippocratic oath is supposed to be loyal to his or her patients. This requires choosing only the therapy that the physician believes is best for the patient. However, knowing what is best requires randomized clinical trials. Thus, clinicians must be willing to recruit their patients to be assigned at random to one of two therapies in order to determine which is best based on the highest standards of pharmacological science.
Medical ethics changed dramatically in the past 30 years because physicians and humanists actively engaged each other in discussions that sometimes led to confrontation and controversy, but usually have improved the quality of medical decision-making. Before then medical ethics had been isolated for almost two centuries from the larger philosophical, social, and religious controversies of the time. There was, however, an earlier period where leaders in medicine and in the humanities worked closely together and both fields were richer for it. (...) This volume begins with the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment when professors of medicine such as John Gregory, Edward Percival, and the American, Benjamin Rush, were close friends of philosophers like David Hume, Adam Smith, and Thomas Reid. They continually exchanged views on matters of ethics with each other in print, at meetings of elite intellectual groups, and at the dinner table. Then something happened, physicians and humanists quit talking with each other. In searching for the causes of the collapse, this book identifies shifts in the social class of physicians, developments in medical science, and changes in the patterns of medical education. Only in the past three decades has the dialogue resumed as physicians turned to humanists for help just when humanists wanted their work to be relevant to real-life social problems. Again, the book asks why, finding answers in the shift from acute to chronic disease as the dominant pattern of illness, the social rights revolution of the 1960's, and the increasing dissonance between physician ethics and ethics outside medicine. The book tells the critical story of how the breakdown in communication between physicians and humanists occurred and how it was repaired when new developments in medicine together with a social revolution forced the leaders of these two fields to resume their dialogue. (shrink)
It is commonly believed in research ethics that some form of equipoise is a necessary condition for justifying randomized clinical trials, that without it clinicians are violating the moral duty to do what is best for the patient. Recent criticisms have shown how complex the concept of equipoise is, but often retain the commitment to some form of equipoise for randomization to be justified. This article rejects that claim. It first asks for what one should be equally poised (scientific or (...) clinical equipoise), then asks who should be equally poised (scientist, clinician, or subject), and finally asks why any of these players need be equally poised between treatment options. The article argues that only the subject's evaluation of the options is morally relevant and that even the subject need not be equally poised or indifferent between the options in order to volunteer for randomization. All that is needed is adequately informed, free, and unexploited consent. It concludes equipoise is irrelevant. (shrink)
The concept of care and a related ethical theory of care have emerged as increasingly important in biomedical ethics. This essay outlines a series of questions about the conceptualization of care and its place in ethical theory. First, it considers the possibility that care should be conceptualized as an alternative principle of right action; then as a virtue, a cluster of virtues, or as a synonym for virtue theory. The implications for various interpretations of the debate of the relation of (...) care and justice are then explored, suggesting three possible meanings for that contrast. Next, the possibility that care theorists are taking up the debate over the relation between principles and cases is considered. Finally, it is suggested that care theorists may be pressing for consideration of an entirely new question in moral theory: the assessment of the normative appropriateness of relationships. Issues needing to be addressed in an ethic of relationships are suggested. (shrink)
A model for ethical problem solving -- Values in health and illness -- What is the source of moral judgments? -- Benefiting the patient and others : duty to do good and avoid harm -- Justice : allocation of health resources -- Autonomy -- Veracity : honesty with patients -- Fidelity : promise-keeping, loyalty to patients, and impaired professionals -- Avoidance of killing -- Abortion, sterilization, and contraception -- Genetics, birth, and the biological revolution -- Mental health and behavior control (...) -- Confidentiality : ethical disclosure of medical information -- Organ transplants -- Health insurance, health system planning, and rationing -- Experimentation on human subjects -- Consent and the right to refuse treatment -- Death and dying. (shrink)
It is common to interpret Rawls's maximin theory of justice as egalitarian. Compared to utilitarian theories, this may be true. However, in special cases practices that distribute resources so as to benefit the worst off actually increase the inequality between the worst off and some who are better off. In these cases the Rawlsian maximin parts company with what is here called true egalitarianism. A policy question requiring a distinction between maximin and "true egalitarian" allocations has arisen in the arena (...) of organ transplantation. This case is examined here as a venue for differentiating maximin and true egalitarian theories. Directed donation is the name given to donations of organs restricted to a particular social group. For example, the family of a member of the Ku Klux Klan donated his organs on the provision that they go only to members of the Caucasian race. While such donations appear to be discriminatory, if certain plausible assumptions are made, they satisfy the maximin criterion. They selectively advantage the recipient of the organs without harming anyone. Moreover, everyone who is lower on the waiting list is advantaged by moving up on the waiting list. This paper examines how maximin and more truly egalitarian theories handle this case arguing that, to the extent that directed donation is unethical, the best account of that conclusion is that an egalitarian principle of justice is to be preferred to the maximin. (shrink)
To allocate resources ethically under DRGs, we need an expanded medical ethics. Appealing to traditional patient-centred principles such as beneficence and autonomy will not be sufficient. We also need to take into account the social principles of full beneficence and justice. If marginal benefits must be eliminated, clinicians should not participate in deciding who should get less care but should remain committed to their patients' interests.
Professionalism is demonstrated through attitudes and behaviors. Medical education is concerned with teaching and evaluating it among students. It is often bioethicists who teach professionalism to medical students. Most bioethics curricula use lectures and group discussions to introduce principles and theories, but there is variation in number of credit and contact hours, placement in the curriculum and alongside which courses bioethics is placed), the extent of individual mentoring, and the emphasis placed on any particular philosophical approach. Bioethics curricula also vary (...) in whether and how explicitly and extensively they address topics, including professionalism, cultural competence, medical humanities, spirituality, death and dying, and community service, and in the number and topics of vignettes, controversies, assignments, and course activities. (shrink)
In the United States, people may donate organs and tissues to a family member, friend, or anyone whose specific need becomes known to them. For example, in late 2003 dozens of people came forward to donate a kidney to a professional basketball player known to them only through his sports performances. People may also donate a kidney to no one in particular through a process known as nondirected donation. In nondirected donation, people donate a kidney to the organ allocation system (...) rather than to anyone known to them personally. There are limits, though, to generosity. People are usually not allowed to donate to groups of people, no matter the contours of the group, whether white, black, Catholic or Presbyterian, third-time liver recipient, and so on. As the agency that oversees national transplantation policy, the United Network for Organs Sharing does not allow this sort of restricted donation, though it appears that some regional Organ Procurement Organizations occasionally bend the rules when donors insist that their organs go to children or to first-time recipients. Those ad hoc arrangements are, however, the exception to the rule. (shrink)