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Author Archive: Arthur Caplan


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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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.



Sabine Hildebrandt, MD
William Seidelman, MD
Arthur Caplan, PhD

A recurring assertion in the ongoing debate on abortion in the United States is the statement that pregnancy is an uncommon consequence of rape. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., has recently argued on the floor of the House of Representatives that an exception for rape wasn’t necessary in a proposed law banning abortions after 20 weeks because “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”

Why do so many Americans believe this claim? Where does it come from?

According to some, the idea that you can’t get pregnant during a rape comes from research done by the Nazis on female prisoners by physicians in Germany during World War II.…

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This entry was posted in Cultural, Featured Posts, Politics, Reproductive Ethics. Posted by Arthur Caplan. Bookmark the permalink.


The Moral Failure of HPV Vaccination

Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

Among the greatest failures in American public health—and the list is a long one—is the rise in the incidence of cervical cancer.  Incredibly, cancers caused by human papillomavirus rose in the past decade. From 2000 to 2009 rates of oral, vulva and anal cancers increased, according to a recent study by the National Cancer Institute. What makes this grim fact a notable public health failure is that we have not one but two vaccines that can greatly diminish these cancers.  Both Merck and GSK market HPV vaccines–Gardasil and Cervarix.  Gardisal has been around since 2006. So given the preventive power of the vaccines, why the upward trend in cancer?…

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Report Paints Grim Picture of Drug Trial Safety

by Arthur L. Caplan

When a bridge collapses in an American city or a mine implodes, it does not take long before government gets in motion to figure out what to do about the problem. We see the carnage and demand action.

When a federal agency charged with protecting your health and safety is found grossly deficient, the response, sadly, is mainly talk.

hat is because it is hard to see where the victims are and, without them, it is hard to get the problem fixed. But when it comes to the Food and Drug Administration, we had better demand repairs.…

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Giving Up on Gene Therapy Is Wrong Reaction

by Arthur L. Caplan

The recent death of Jolee Mohr is likely to have a seismic impact on the future of gene therapy research.

Biotech companies, private investors and government funders will shy away from sponsoring further research because Mohr died while a subject in an experiment using genetic engineering to treat disease.

But giving up on gene therapy is not the right lesson to learn from this tragedy.

Mohr had rheumatoid arthritis, an immune system disorder that caused pain and stiffness in her joints.

By using HUMIRA, a relatively new anti-inflammatory drug made by Abbott Laboratories, she was able to keep her symptoms under control.…

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This entry was posted in Genetics and tagged , . Posted by Arthur Caplan. Bookmark the permalink.


Women Should Be Wary of Genetic Risk Ads

by Arthur L. Caplan

Myriad Genetics, a Salt Lake City biotechnology company, has seen its stock price rise in the past few days. My hunch is investors are responding to the company’s unprecedented direct-to-consumer television advertising campaign aimed at women concerned about breast and ovarian cancer.

It would be fair to say that this encompasses just about every woman in the world old enough to have heard of breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

hose investing in Myriad stock know that is a pretty big market for a company offering a test that can detect genes which dispose women to getting these cancers.…

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