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Author Archive: Arthur Caplan


by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

Rationing  has always been present in the American health care system.  Some poor individuals have not had access to certain treatments due to a lack of health insurance or hospitals not willing to accept them if they cannot pay.  And those in the transplant field have had to contend for decades with a shortage of organs forcing organized rationing in which many more die than benefit from access to a life-saving liver, heart or lung.  Emergency medicine personnel in big hospitals drill frequently on how to triage after a terrorist attack, a huge chemical plant explosion, an earthquake or other disaster. …

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by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

As the new coronavirus begins to spread widely in the USA and as the slowly increasing availability of tests reveals more actual infections we continue to hear a lot about preparation.  Much of this involves advice about thoroughly washing our hands, not touching our faces and social distancing.  Many businesses and groups have imposed travel bans of various sorts.  The White House continues to insist that all is well and everything is under control while the stock market has conniptions and the public grows more and more anxious.  If this constitutes preparation then we are headed in a very bad direction given what may come.…

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04/22/2019 When Pigs Fly

by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

Researchers at Yale University recently reported an experiment in which they used an experimental chemical solution to create electrical activity in the cells of pig brains, brains obtained from a slaughterhouse four hours after the death of the animals from decapitation (NY Times ‘Partly Alive’: Scientists Revive Cells in Brains From Dead Pigs, 4/17,19).  These results led to all manner of comments in this story, many from bioethicists and in stories elsewhere.  Commentators suggested that the pigs’ brains were somehow made partly alive, that concerns about consciousness recurring in the dead now needed to be addressed and that the experiment called into question the current understanding of brain death used to pronounce huge numbers of persons dead all over the world.…

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by Lisa Kearns, MS, MA, and Arthur Caplan, PhD

A few months ago we called for a new conflict of interest (COI) disclosure policy. Recent events at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) underscore the urgency in addressing COI. We encourage researchers to create an “ELF,” an electronic long-form disclosure statement that lists financial relationships, as well as any political, advocacy, or religious points of view, pertinent investments, and the like — any information that could help readers assess potential author bias. ELFs would be maintained by faculty and posted online, as part of their professional bios. The ELF could be linked electronically to all journal articles, included as a URL with author bios at the end of print versions or slide presentations, submitted when trials are registered on ClinicalTrials.gov…

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by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

The President of the United States, after discussion with key aides in the White House, implemented a policy in June of 2018 allegedly aimed at discouraging illegal border crossings by asylum seekers and others from entering the United States.  Rather than maintaining the previous privileged status for migrant families, he and his aides settled on a strategy for separating children from their families to deter efforts at entering the country illegally.  After a backlash, the President tried to blame Democrats in Congress for breaking up families by insisting that if they would change current immigration law and approve the building of a hugely expensive wall along the border with Mexico, the rending of families would stop.…

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by Lisa Kearns, MS MA and Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

There is a little discussed problem in academic publishing: the scant amount of information provided by disclosures of conflict that accompany journal articles. These brief lists of organizations with which authors have financial relationships convey frustratingly little detail about the nature of the relationships. Current disclosure practices fail to provide the transparency about an author’s relationships that they are intended to.

In the belief that an upgrade to this primitive state of COI disclosure is not only necessary but long overdue, the NYU School of Medicine Division of Medical Ethics recently issued an internal Conflict of Interest Disclosure Policy.It…

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by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

You probably have heard or seen media stories in which a person is described as ‘brain dead’.  What you may not realize is that these stories frequently present brain death in a completely inaccurate manner.  They suggest that brain death is not death but is somehow a severe injury from which people can recover.  This is obviously not true.  Brain death is death.  No one recovers.  But the media persist in reporting brain death as some sort of preliminary step toward death.

The latest inaccurate brain death story exemplifying the problem with using brain death in public involved police-reform activist Erica Garner. …

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by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

It is imperative that an open, transparent discussion of the risks of holding the Olympics as planned in Brazil occur as soon as possible.  Not general assurances from WHO but a frank discussion among independent experts—if Rio is going to happen the world deserves a full discussion of why and at what potential risks and liabilities.

For more information, click through http://rioolympicslater.org/. The text of this letter and link have been added below.


Thanks to Anis-Instituto de Bioética for this art, and please visit their Zika documentary and pages

To sign this letter, please send an email to zikaletter@gmail.com

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by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D. and Bruce Levin, Ph.D.

The Wall Street Journal and many other media outlets chose to beat on the FDA for its recent decision to deny approval of eteplirsen, a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy being developed by Sarepta Therapeutics.

Actually it was the FDA’s scientific advisors not the FDA who concluded that there wasn’t sufficient evidence the drug was effective.

Still the WSJ sneered that “Here’s the gist of FDA’s objection: 12 patients are too few, and thus we don’t know if the drug helps boys walk longer or if the results are skewed. FDA prefers large trials that inject half of patients with a placebo.…

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by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

10/2/15   The President issued an executive order extending the term of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (PCSBI) through September, 2017 https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/30/executive-order-continuance-or-reestablishment-certain-federal-advisory

This is a very interesting announcement since the last day Barack Obama will be the President of the United States is January 20, 2017.   Astute observers will note that the Commission will be advising a new President for nine months, perhaps longer. While there has been a good deal of speculation about who that next President will be, there has, sadly, been far from adequate attention paid to who the next leaders of the commission would be under a new President.…

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