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Author Archive: Arthur Caplan


The raging Ebola epidemic in West Africa—will the key lessons be learned?

by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

Ebola, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is out of control in West Africa.  The disease, which is transmitted by contact with contaminated blood or body fluids, or by close contact with a dead body infected with the virus, has killed more than 1100 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria.  The number of dead is most likely higher since people were dying in rural villages without being counted. At least another 1000 persons are infected.  The world faces the worst outbreak of this horrific disease since 280 people died when the Ebola first appeared in humans near the Ebola river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976.  …

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This entry was posted in Featured Posts, Health Disparities, Public Health and tagged , , . Posted by Arthur Caplan. Bookmark the permalink.



“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” said Arthur. “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.'”

                           –Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Any apologia for Facebook’s recent behavioral study has to address one issue head on: that of informed consent. Informed consent is the bedrock upon which the ethics of all biomedical and behavioral research on humans rests. And it is where Facebook’s experiment went so wrong. Even the spirited defense by Meyer et al.

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This entry was posted in Featured Posts, Human Subjects Research & IRBs, Informed Consent, Media. Posted by Arthur Caplan. Bookmark the permalink.


Chip and Fish: Inadvertent Spies

by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

There has been a great deal of fingerpointing, second-guessing and recrimination over the decision by the President to exchange five former Taliban leaders for the American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.  “You’ve just released five extremely dangerous people, who in my opinion … will rejoin the battlefield,” Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and likely Presidential candidate told Fox News.  Senator John McCain, R-AZ, told ABC news and many other outlets that he would never have supported the swap if he’d known exactly which prisoners would be exchanged given their former high roles in battling the U.S. in Afghanistan.

Put aside for a second whether the five Taliban leaders that were flown to Qatar for Bergdahl are now too old and too long removed from Taliban affairs to resume anything close to their old roles. …

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This entry was posted in Featured Posts, Informed Consent, Politics and tagged , . Posted by Arthur Caplan. Bookmark the permalink.


LIBERTY AND WHERE NOSES BEGIN–AN OPEN LETTER TO: The ACLU of Rhode Island Concerning Mandating Flu Vaccinations for Very Young Children Entering Daycare and Kindergarden

From: Arthur Caplan and Dorit Reiss

SUBJECT: requiring the vaccination of children and workers in daycare and pre-K against the flu

In recent testimony submitted to the Public Health Department of Rhode Island, a representative of the Rhode Island ACLU spoke against the requirement to vaccinate Rhode Island’s children age six months to 5 years of age against the flu in order to enter daycare or pre-kindergarten. Under the rule, annual influenza vaccination would be mandatory for all children between 6 months and 59 months before entering preschool or day care programs. Even students deemed exempt for medical or religious reasons would be required to stay home during flu outbreaks.…

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This entry was posted in Featured Posts, Health Regulation & Law, Pediatrics, Public Health. Posted by Arthur Caplan. Bookmark the permalink.


Should Those Selling Natural Cures and Supplements Get a Free Ride When It Comes to COI?

by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

Earlier this week I was a guest on a Pennsylvania public television show.  The topic was the safety of GMO foods.  One of the guests who appeared with me was the owner of a natural foods and supplements store.  He was no fan of GMOs.  He cited many ailments and woes he claimed were associated with eating GMO foods ranging from cancer to Parkinsonism to infertility.  Put aside the fact that no major scientific or medical group has found any reason to be concerned about the safety of GMOs.  And ignore the fact that it is hard to think of any risk or danger that can cause the litany of misery the natural food and supplement purveyor claimed could be laid at the causal feet of GMOs. …

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This entry was posted in Conflict of Interest, Featured Posts. Posted by Arthur Caplan. Bookmark the permalink.


Distinguishing Science from Nonsense

by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

As Americans enter 2014 there is grave concern among our political leaders that we are lagging behind other nations in terms of our children’s’ scientific literacy.  This past December an international survey confirmed—too many American kids don’t understand science and they continue to fall behind children from other nations, many much poorer than we are in science and math skills.

Students in the United States slipped deeper in the last international science literacy rankings amid fast-growing competition abroad.  American teens scored below the international average in math and roughly average in science, compared against dozens of other countries in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). …

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This entry was posted in Cultural, End of Life Care, Featured Posts, Media, Public Health and tagged . Posted by Arthur Caplan. Bookmark the permalink.


Death, brain death, and life support

by Arthur Caplan Ph.D.

Concepts matter in doing the right thing in medicine.  This could not be more obvious then the utter confusion on display over the concepts of ‘brain death’ and ‘life support technology’ that has resulted in two dead people being kept on artificial life support in California and Texas.

In Oakland, California 13 year old Jahiu McMath has been maintained on machines since an elective tonsillectomy went horribly wrong on December 9.  She has been in the ICU on life-support at the Children’s Hospital since then.

In Forth Worth, Texas, Marlese Munoz has been on machine support in the ICU at JPS Hospital since, without any warning, last November 26th, she suffered a pulmonary embolism. …

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This entry was posted in End of Life Care, Featured Posts, Health Regulation & Law. Posted by Arthur Caplan. Bookmark the permalink.


When Religion Trumps Medicine

by Arthur L. Caplan, PhD

Imagine that you were in a terrible car accident and suffered a huge loss of blood. An ambulance comes and takes you, dazed and in pain, to the only hospital within a hundred mile area of the accident. That hospital happens to be affiliated with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Everything at the hospital is state of the art. The doctors and nurses are all well trained. There is only one hitch in terms of your medical care. You need blood transfusions or you are going to die. The hospital does not have a blood bank. Nor does it offer transfusions.…

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This entry was posted in Featured Posts, Reproductive Medicine and tagged . Posted by Arthur Caplan. Bookmark the permalink.


Addressing Unapproved Meningitis Vaccine at Princeton

by Arthur L. Caplan, PhD

Emergency doses of a meningitis vaccine not approved for use in the U.S. are likely to be on the way to Princeton University to halt a meningitis outbreak that has already sickened seven students  There are approved meningitis vaccines available, but they do not protect against Meningitis B—a strain not covered by the shots given in the U.S. and not a strain prevalent here.

Government health officials said Friday they have agreed to import Bexsero, a vaccine licensed only in Europe and Australia that does protect against meningitis B.  And that decision seems entirely reasonable given the threat that this nasty strain of meningitis poses.…

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Does Execution by Lethal Injection Violate the Ethics of Human Research?

by Arthur L. Caplan, PhD

The Governor of Ohio has been wrestling with the question of whether a prisoner soon to be executed can donate his organs.  Ronald Phillips, 40, is scheduled to be executed in the next few days for the 1993 rape and murder of 3-year-old Sheila Marie Evans.  He says he would like to donate his heart and kidney to his family members who may need them.  In fact, execution by electrocution, gassing and lethal injection in an execution chamber do not go well with organ donation.  Execution deliberately tries to get vital bodily organs to stop working. …

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This entry was posted in Featured Posts, Human Subjects Research & IRBs and tagged . Posted by Arthur Caplan. Bookmark the permalink.