Tag: medical ethics


The Ethics of Involuntary Pediatric Drug Testing

Although it may seem like a good idea, testing for recreational drug use on an adolescent patient without consent is ethically questionable, challenging to interpret, and unlikely to benefit patient or family.

/ June 16, 2017

Naturopathic Experiences: Remembrance of things past.

Interacting with patients who also get care from naturopaths: uncomfortable dilemmas.

/ April 14, 2017

Pharmacists Selling Snakeoil

Edzard Ernst published an excellent editorial today addressing the question of why pharmacists sell bogus products. Our own resident pharmacist, Scott Gavura, expressed similar points here on SBM a year ago. Their points are worth emphasizing and expanding upon. Professional ethics The explicit premise of both editorials is that pharmacists, like physicians, are health care professionals. Being a professional means adhering to...

/ July 20, 2016

The Ethics of Prescribing Worthless Treatments

Is it ever ethical for a physician to prescribe a treatment to a patient that they know to be entirely without efficacy? Is it ever possible to do this without deceiving the patient to some degree? I think the answer to both questions is a clear “no.” Within the flipped reality of “alternative medicine,” however, it suddenly becomes acceptable to deceive patients...

/ December 9, 2015

CRISPR and the Ethics of Gene Editing

If you have not heard of CRISPR yet, you should have. This is a truly transformative technology that allows for cheap and easy gene editing. It makes a powerful technology easily accessible. Powerful biological technology, like stem cells to give another example, always seem to provoke profound hope and fear. The ability to manipulate human biology comes with it the hope of...

/ December 2, 2015

Is Homeopathy Unethical?

“A gentle ethical defence of homeopathy” by Levy et al. was recently published in an ethics journal. A full-text preprint is available online. They say: Utilitarian critiques of homeopathy that are founded on unsophisticated notions of evidence, that adopt narrow perspectives on healthcare assessment, and that overstate the personal, social and ontological harms of homeopathy, add little to our understanding of the...

/ August 4, 2015

Placebo by Conditioning

Truly understanding placebo effects (note the plural) is critical to science-based medicine. Misconceptions about placebo effects are perhaps the common problem I encounter among otherwise-scientific professionals and science communicators. The persistence of these misconceptions is due partly to the fact that false beliefs about placebos, namely that “the” placebo effect is mainly an expectation mind-over-matter effect, is deeply embedded in the culture....

/ July 29, 2015
Abraham Flexner (left) and Richard Dawkins (right): Enemies of medicine?

In which I steal a title: Is medicine a scientific enterprise?

A week ago, I attended the Center For Inquiry Reason for Change Conference, where I participated in a panel on—what else?—alternative medicine with—who else?—Harriet Hall and our fearless leader Steve Novella. Before the panel, we all gave brief talks on areas that we consider important. As you might expect, I chose to give a brief introduction to what I like to call...

/ June 22, 2015

Stem cells versus Gordie Howe’s stroke, part 2

Another Christmas has come and gone, surprisingly fast, as always. I had thought that it might make a good “last of 2014” post—well, last of 2014 for me, anyway; Harriet and Steve, at least, will be posting before 2014 ends—to do an end of year list of the best and worst of the year. Unfortunately, there remains a pressing issue that doesn’t...

/ December 29, 2014

Science-Based Medicine Meets Medical Ethics

There are four main principles in medical ethics:  Autonomy  Beneficence  Non-maleficence  Justice Autonomy means the patient has the right to consent to treatment or to reject it. Autonomy has to be balanced against the good of society. What if a patient’s rejection of treatment or quarantine allows an epidemic to spread? Beneficence means we should do what is best for the patient....

/ August 4, 2009