A new study published in Journal of Medical Ethics by van der Zande et al 1 further highlights why classifying pregnant women as a ‘vulnerable population’ in the context of research is deeply problematic. Because the designation of ‘vulnerable’ is otherwise applied to populations whose decision-making capacity about research participation is somehow compromised—such as children and adults of limited cognitive ability—many of us have been arguing for some time that using this designation for pregnant women is inappropriate and disrespectful.2–4 There (...) is nothing about the state of pregnancy that renders pregnant women incapable of offering valid research consents or refusals. Moreover, rather than protecting the health interests of pregnant women and their offspring, this designation has had the opposite effect. It has contributed to the widespread exclusion of pregnant women from research activities, which is itself pernicious to the health of pregnant women.5 We know that pregnant women encounter a range of health needs across their pregnancies. In the USA, for example, approximately 9 out of every 10 women use some kind of medication during pregnancy to manage health conditions.6 Yet because pregnant women have largely been …. (shrink)
: Because an influenza pandemic would create the most serious hardships for those who already face most serious hardships, countries should take special measures to mitigate the effect of a pandemic on existing social inequalities. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that anybody is thinking about that.
If stem cell-based therapies are developed, we will likely confront a difficult problem of justice: for biological reasons alone, the new therapies might benefit only a limited range of patients. In fact, they might benefit primarily white Americans, thereby exacerbating long-standing differences in health and health care.
Television medical dramas frequently depict the practice of medicine and bioethical issues in a strikingly realistic but sometimes inaccurate fashion. Because these shows depict medicine so vividly and are so relevant to the career interests of medical and nursing students, they may affect these students' beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions regarding the practice of medicine and bioethical issues. We conducted a web-based survey of medical and nursing students to determine the medical drama viewing habits and impressions of bioethical issues depicted in (...) them. More than 80% of medical and nursing students watch television medical dramas. Students with more clinical experience tended to have impressions that were more negative than those of students without clinical experience. Furthermore, viewing of television medical dramas is a social event and many students discuss the bioethical issues they observe with friends and family. Television medical dramas may stimulate students to think about and discuss bioethical issues. (shrink)
: The focus of questions of justice in health policy has shifted during the last 20 years, beginning with questions about rights to health care, and then, by the late 1980s, turning to issues of rationing. More recently, attention has focused on alternatives to cost-effectiveness analysis. In addition, health inequalities, and not just inequalities in access to health care, have become the subject of moral analysis. This article examines how such trends have transformed the philosophical landscape and encouraged some in (...) bioethics to seek guidance on normative questions from outside of the contours of traditional philosophical arguments about justice. (shrink)
The use of aggregated quality of life estimatesin the formation of public policy and practiceguidelines raises concerns about the moralrelevance of variability in values inpreferences for health care. This variabilitymay reflect unique and deeply held beliefs thatmay be lost when averaged with the preferencesof other individuals. Feminist moral theorieswhich argue for attention to context andparticularity underline the importance ofascertaining the extent to which differences inpreferences for health states revealinformation which is morally relevant toclinicians and policymakers. To facilitatethese considerations, we present (...) an empiricalstudy of preferences for the timing andoccurrence of health states associated withhormone replacement therapy (HRT). Sixteenwomen between the ages of 45 and 55 wereenrolled in this pilot study. Theirpreferences regarding five health statesassociated with HRT (menopausal symptoms, sideeffects of HRT, breast cancer, myocardialinfarction, and osteoporosis) were assessed inquantitative terms known as utilities. Twostandard methods, the visual analog scale (VAS) and the standard gamble (SG), were used toassess utility and time preference (calculatedas a discount rate). The wide variability ofresponses underlines the importance oftailoring health care to individual women'spreferences. Policy guidelines whichincorporate utility analysis must recognize thenormative limitations of aggregatedpreferences, and the moral relevance ofindividual conceptions of health. (shrink)
Emily Largent, Steven Joffe, and Franklin Miller offer a stimulating contribution to the literature on integrating medical research and practice. We agree on both the need to move toward what the Institute of Medicine has called a learning health care system and the need for new conceptions for integrating research and practice within it. We also agree with the authors’ view, first advanced by Robert Truog and colleagues in 1999, that it can be ethically acceptable to randomize patients without express (...) consent in trials comparing widely used, approved interventions that pose no additional risk. With appropriate oversight, learning health care systems ought to conduct such trials on a regular basis. Our .. (shrink)
U.S. researchers and scholars often point to two legal factors as significant obstacles to the inclusion of pregnant women in clinical research: the Department of Health and Human Services’ regulatory limitations specific to pregnant women's research participation and the fear of liability for potential harm to children born following a pregnant woman's research participation. This article offers a more nuanced view of the potential legal complexities that can impede research with pregnant women than has previously been reflected in the literature. (...) It reveals new insights into the role of legal professionals throughout the research pathway, from product conception to market, and it highlights a variety of legal factors influencing decision-making that may slow or halt research involving pregnant women. Our conclusion is that closing the evidence gap created by the underrepresentation and exclusion of pregnant women in research will require targeted attention to the role of legal professionals and the legal factors that influence their decisions. (shrink)
: Arguments for efficiency in health care delivery have been used to support some level of withholding of information about available treatment options from patients in managed care systems. To the extent that such arguments prevail, they may necessitate changes in the established understanding of and commitment to informed consent and the disclosure of information to patients.