Category: Medical Ethics

VacciShield: Pixie dust for an imaginary threat

I know by now I shouldn’t be, but I am still amazed by how readily so many people buy into the seemingly endless array of bogus sCAM nostrums. Many are marketed and hawked for the treatment or prevention of diseases that are poorly managed by science-based medicine. There are countless examples of dietary supplements that are purported to effectively treat back and...

/ June 6, 2014

Of the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy, Bayes, the NIH, and Human Studies Ethics

An experiment is ethical or not at its inception; it does not become ethical post hoc—ends do not justify means. ~ Henry K. Beecher A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Josephine Briggs, the Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), posted a short essay on the NCCAM Research Blog touting the results of the Trial to Assess Chelation...

/ May 30, 2014

Beware the Integrative Pharmacy

Imagine a retail pharmacy where some of the medicines on the shelves have been replaced with similar-looking packages that contain no active ingredients at all. There is no easy way to distinguish between the real and the fake. Another section of the store offers a number of remedies with fantastic claims, such as “boosting” the immune system, “detoxifying” the body, or “cleansing”...

/ May 22, 2014

Telemedicine: Click and the doctor will see you now

Think you need to see a doctor? How about seeing him (or her) on your computer (or tablet or smart phone) screen instead of in the doctor’s office? The technology of telemedicine, or telehealth, is here. So far, there is no single definition of what it does, and does not, encompass. For example, in some definitions, one of which we discuss today,...

/ May 1, 2014

GSK Investigated for Bribing Doctors

The BBC reports that 11 doctors and a GlaxoSmithKline regional manager in Poland have been charged with alleged corruption. The apparent scheme was simple — GSK sales reps are given targets for new prescriptions for whatever drugs they are promoting. In order to meet those targets, it is alleged that one sales rep agreed to pay doctors £100 to give educational lectures...

/ April 16, 2014

When healing turns into killing: religious and philosophical exemptions from parental accountability

Parents have a fundamental right to guide the upbringing of their children protected under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This includes the choice of medical care for the child. They also have a First Amendment right to the free exercise of their religious beliefs, including the right to care for their children in accordance with the tenets of their...

/ March 13, 2014

Measles gets a helping hand

In a recent post I shared a bit of my personal, near-death experience with measles during the US epidemic of 1989-1991. As I describe in that post, I contracted a very serious measles infection at the end of medical school, and was highly infectious when I interviewed for a residency position at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Like others my age who received an...

/ February 28, 2014

Tribalism and Medical Ethics

Science is intended to discover the “is”, not the “ought;” facts, not values. Science can’t tell us whether an action is moral; it can only provide evidence to help inform moral decisions. For instance, some people who believe abortion is immoral reject birth control methods that prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum on the grounds that it constitutes abortion; science can determine...

/ January 14, 2014

An update on the case of Sarah Hershberger: Parental rights trump the right of a child with cancer to live

Five weeks ago, when last I touched on the case of Sarah Hershberger, the now 11-year-old Amish girl from Medina County, Ohio near Akron with lymphoblastic lymphoma whose parents had taken her off of chemotherapy after only two rounds, reports had been coming out of the cancer quackery underground that Sarah’s parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, had fled to avoid a court...

/ December 9, 2013

The Nuances of Informed Consent

Modern medical ethics are built upon the concept of informed consent. This is not, however, as straightforward a concept as it may seem. Physicians and health care providers have a duty to provide informed consent to their patients or their patients’ guardians, which means that they have to inform them appropriately about the risks and benefits of their recommendations and interventions. This...

/ November 13, 2013