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Viewing by month: July 2011
July 11, 2011 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

Human cloning has long been demonized in popular culture. In cinema and literature, with few exceptions, clones are represented as mindless drones who serve their masters without question for good or evil. Cloning could also cause a great deal of damage for living, breathing human beings. From an individual perspective and from the broader perspective of society, the availability of cloning could lead to violations of the bioethical principle of nonmaleficence.

Cloning would make it possible for interested parties to have children for purely self-centered reasons. Also, cloning has substantial potential for harming society via alterations to the human genome and human physiology.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

July 11, 2011 | Posted By Ricki Lewis, PhD

”Dignity therapy" is a “novel psychotherapeutic approach” that gives patients with a 6-month life expectancy “an opportunity to reflect on things that matter most to them or that they would most want remembered.” In these days of medical experts such as Sarah Palin equating reimbursed end-of-life discussions to death panels killing granny, an outcomes evaluation of any such intervention is essential. Harvey Max Chochinov, of the University of Manitoba and colleagues in the U.S. and Australia did just that. Their impetus: “… although much progress has been made in our ability to achieve physical comfort for patients who are dying, few novel interventions have been designed to address the psychosocial, existential, and spiritual dimensions of end-of-life care.”

In an admittedly difficult-to-design study, the investigators randomized 326 patients (most of whom had cancer) to one of three interventions: dignity psychotherapy, palliative care, and client-centered care (which focuses on the “here and now” as opposed to the past and future perusal of dignity therapy). Their article in Lancet Oncology provides 9 questions that a trained dignity therapist might pose to a patient. Responses are recorded and typed up, then presented to the patient as a “generativity document.” Various before-and-after rating scales as well as patient comments revealed improvement in quality of life and family relationships with dignity therapy, although general distress was not significantly alleviated with any intervention. 

Oddly, for Dr. Chochinov is an award-winning palliative care expert, the report mentions “hospice” only as a possible physical setting! In fact, hospice volunteers have been providing dignity therapy for decades. 

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

July 7, 2011 | Posted By Bruce D. White, DO, JD

An NPR story this morning caught my attention. The Julie Royner report title is “Medicaid Makes ‘Big Difference’ in Lives, Study Finds.” It is available online by clicking here.

A new Harvard-National Bureau of Economic Research-State of Oregon project shows that Medicaid patients are happier with Medicaid coverage than they are when they are uninsured. But this wasn’t the principal point of the story. The report began with the notion that Medicaid patients themselves are not happy with their Medicaid coverage. Medicaid patients say they can’t find doctors who accept Medicaid patients, that the services they do receive when compared with those that have regular insurance are not as good, and there are strict limits on the services available. Moreover, politicians are not happy with Medicaid because the costs keep going up – taking a larger slice of the revenue pie – and it’s a very difficult program to manage.

Ms. Royer seemed surprised with the study findings because it contrasted so sharply with the commonly held view of the past 40 years that the Medicaid program didn’t really help patients as originally intended and it was for the most part a failure.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

 

July 7, 2011 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley in 1818, is as compelling and thought-provoking in 2011 as when the novel appeared almost 200 years ago. Shelley subtitled her opus The Modern Prometheus. Dr. Victor Frankenstein, although certainly no god, was a brilliant scientist who paid bitterly for the fruits of his genius. His loved ones were tragically murdered by his inhuman creation and he was doomed to suffer relentlessly for his deeds, as was Prometheus.

One possible conclusion from Shelley’s cautionary tale is that science should never proceed unchecked. Science always needs to be constrained by moral principles and its activities need to be referenced against potential harms. Frankenstein’s hubris blinded him to the likely untoward outcomes of his research. He was only focused on the task he had set himself. He gave no thought to what such a creature would think or how it would act. He certainly never considered potential consequences to others that would flow from the existence of such a creation.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

July 1, 2011 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.
Jennifer Miller
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Jennifer Miller is the Executive Director of Bioethics International, the leading U.S. provider of person-centered bioethics programs for the healthcare, life sciences, and biotechnology sectors.

A physicist and bioethicist by training, Ms. Miller has wide-ranging interests in biomedical research and development, public health, and disaster preparedness ethics. Recently, the Susan G. Komen Foundation awarded her a grant for research and program development in biopharmaceutical ethics including nuanced questions surrounding informed consent, access, confidentiality, and conflict of interest. A powerful and effective speaker, she has been featured on CBS News and AP News and on the cover of Science Magazine’s Career section.

In our 6-30-2011 BIOETHICS TODAY conversation, Ms. Miller discusses

  • Bioethical issues in globalization of clinical research
  • The AZT 076 and Trovan cases
  • The ethics of placebo-based trials
  • Ethical relativism
  • The way forward — transparency, education, and oversight

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

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ABOUT BIOETHICS TODAY
BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.
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