Where the World Finds Bioethics Wed, 01 Apr 2015 10:00:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Brody et al v California – Litigation to Expand End-of-Life Choice to Include the Option of Aid in Dying Wed, 01 Apr 2015 08:00:00 +0000 The following is the text of a memo from the Disability Rights Legal Center on its recently filed case Brody et al v California, that aims to expand end-of-life choice to include the option of aid in dying.


Mentally competent terminally ill patients may find themselves trapped in a dying process they find unbearable, even with excellent pain and symptom management. Some of these patients want to be able to ask their physician for medication they could ingest to achieve a peaceful death. This practice is known as aid in dying. 

It is increasingly supported by citizens nationwide: 70% of Americans support. Similar strong support has begun to emerge in the medical, mental health and health policy communities, including the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Women’s Association, the American Medical Students Association and the American College of Legal Medicine. 

The option is now openly available in Oregon (since 1998), Washington (since 2009) and Vermont (since 2013) by statute, and in Montana (since 2009) and New Mexico (since January 2014) by court decision.

The evidence shows that no harm arises when this choice is available. A careful review of data from Oregon, where aid in dying has been openly available for more than 18 years, was conducted by the American Public Health Association, which considered such concerns. The APHA concluded that there was no evidence of harm to vulnerable populations, when aid in dying was available and adopted policy supportive of the option.1

At this point in time, significant support for the option of aid in dying has emerged from mainstream medical, health policy, patient advocacy communities. Supporters will not appear to be ‘out front’ on this issue.


In February 2015 we filed a case in California state court, raising statutory and constitutional claims to establish access to aid in dying. The litigation seeks to empower

people dying of terminal illnesses to be autonomous decision makers with control over their bodies, lives, and medical care. The case is brought by terminally ill patients with various terminal illnesses, including cancer, and physicians who provide care to patients with such conditions.

The statutory claim asks the court to recognize that aid in dying does not fall within the scope of a criminal prohibition against ‘assisted suicide’, because the choice of a dying patient for a peaceful death is fundamentally distinct from ‘suicide’.2

The constitutional claim asserts that even if the statute reaches such conduct, a prohibition would violate the dying patient’s privacy and/or liberty interest in making autonomous decisions about their own body and life, protected by the state constitution. This case is modeled after the cases of Baxter v Montana and Morris v New Mexico, which established access to aid in dying in those states.


Plaintiffs are represented by Kathryn Tucker, now Executive and Legal Director of the Disability Rights Legal Center; Ms. Tucker has handled more of these sorts of cases than any other attorney in the US.3 

Co-counsel is Nico van Aelystyne , a leader in the litigation department of San Francisco based firm Beveridge & Diamond. Ms. Tucker and Mr. van Aelystyne served as co-counsel in the case which successfully thwarted the effort by US Attorney General John Ashcroft to nullify Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.


DRLC is the first national disability rights advocacy organization in the US to advocate for aid in dying. Advocates for expanding EOL choice know that the single most difficult challenge to achieving more rapid and far reaching progress has been the nearly universal opposition from disability rights groups. DRLC is poised to change this. 

This is a landmark case brought on behalf of compelling plaintiffs by leading attorneys, from the platform of a disability rights organization. This is an historic moment. Be part of it by donating to the effort at DRLC.

Give securely on line at

or via check to: DRLC, 800 S. Figueroa St, Suite 1120, Los Angeles, CA 90017

1 APHA Policy on Patients’ Rights to Self-Determination at the End of Life available at The APHA took this position only after a careful 2 year review, which is twice its normal review period

2 The distinction is the focus of an amicus brief filed by the New Mexico Psychological Association in the pending appeal in Morris v NM, , and is widely recognized by other groups, including the APHA, AMSA, and AMWA.

3 Ms. Tucker served as lead counsel in both Glucksberg v Washington and Quill v NY, which raised federal constitutional claims seeking to establish the right; both cases were heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in the mid-1990s. The SCOTUS declined to find a federal constitutional right at that moment, carefully reserving the possibility it might do so in future and inviting the ‘laboratory of the states’ to address the matter. The laboratory has operated since 1998, generating a great body of data, which has been closely scrutinized. Tucker also served as lead counsel in Baxter v Montana, in which the Montana Supreme Court established the right of Montanans to choose aid in dying. She is currently co-counsel in Morris v NM, in which the lower court found a right of citizens in that state to make this choice as a fundamental constitutional right; the matter is now on appeal.

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Abortion Wars: Arizona Mandates Unscientific “Truths” Wed, 01 Apr 2015 06:18:04 +0000 by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

The Arizona legislature has apparently gone through medical school and graduated. They have passed a new law of the land. A person in Arizona is no longer permitted to buy health insurance on the health exchange if the plan provides coverage for abortion (except for the cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger).

A second provision of the law is what has troubled most people. The law now requires that a physician tell his or her patient that a medically induced abortion can be reversed.…

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Terri Schiavo: Ten Years Later Wed, 01 Apr 2015 01:21:52 +0000 by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Today acknowledges the tenth anniversary since the final death of Terri Schiavo. Her feeding tube was removed on March 18 and her body took its last breath on March 31, 2005.

This case was one of the most divisive in bioethics history. The issues in this case of removing feeding tubes and deciding who was the appropriate decision-maker had been largely settled by previous cases and experiences. What made this case unique was that a private family matter was thrust onto the international stage by political and money interests who saw an opportunity to further their own agendas at the cost of a family’s privacy and dignity.…

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Guatemala, the GDR and Research Ethics Policy Development Tue, 31 Mar 2015 19:32:09 +0000 ]]> 0 March 31, 2005: Terri Schiavo Dies Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:14:00 +0000 0 Reframing Abortion Tue, 31 Mar 2015 00:31:47 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Head Transplants, Personal Identity, and Derek Parfit Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:26:43 +0000 by J.S. Blumenthal-Barby, Ph.D.

In a recent article in New Scientist (, Italian neurologist Sergio Canavero claims that the first human head transplant could occur as early as 2017. He plans to announce his project at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons conference in June. Here I set aside assessment of the scientific and medical merit behind this plan (though it is of note that this procedure was performed on a monkey who lived for 8 days), and I also set aside assessment of the broader ethical issues associated with this idea, and focus more narrowly on the issue of personal identity—though personal identity is of course an ethical issue as well as a metaphysical one.…

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Dignity and Destiny, Part 2 Mon, 30 Mar 2015 18:34:47 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 The Hidden Psychology of Antibiotic Prescribing Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:02:32 +0000 Experts in decision psychology and behavioral economics have conclusively shown that humans, those silly creatures, are not always rational decision makers. They let unconscious forces influence their thinking, and not always for the better. But of course, doctors aren’t human. … Continue reading

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Maine Legislation Would Mandate Written Consent before Stopping Life-sustaining Treatment Mon, 30 Mar 2015 08:00:00 +0000 0 Ethical Hysteria Sun, 29 Mar 2015 22:53:20 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 How do you want to die? A mission to make death part of popular conversation Sun, 29 Mar 2015 12:32:00 +0000 0 Inertia of Clinical Practice: Impact of Tracey on DNACPR Discussions Sun, 29 Mar 2015 08:30:00 +0000 0 Call to Action: Quality of Life Sat, 28 Mar 2015 14:00:11 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Intensive Care Hotline Resource for Families of Critically Ill Patients Sat, 28 Mar 2015 08:00:00 +0000 0 $1 Million Lawsuit over Unilateral DNR Order – Luong v. Toronto East General Hospital Fri, 27 Mar 2015 21:16:00 +0000 0 A Moratorium on Gene Editing? Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:54:00 +0000 0 Calling Obesity A Disease Dooms Dieters Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:35:29 +0000 In June of 2013, the American Medical Association officially recognized obesity as a disease. The organization had its reasons. For starters, obesity leads to heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, early-onset degenerative arthritis…and just about every other illness on the planet. In … Continue reading

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Lisa Avila Family Now Accepts Death Diagnosis, Agrees to Stop Physiological Support Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:33:00 +0000 0 How to Get A Head in Life Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:08:07 +0000 ]]> 0 California PAS Bill Passes State Senate Committee Fri, 27 Mar 2015 05:26:25 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Biosecurity in a Globalised World: The Adoption of the Revised International Health Regulations – 10 Years On Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:13:00 +0000

Biosecurity in a Globalised World: The Adoption of the Revised International Health Regulations – 10 Years On

In 2015 it will be 10 years since the adoption of the revised International Health Regulations (IHR). To mark this important anniversary, QUT’s Australian Centre for Health Law Research is pleased to invite you to Biosecurity in a Globalised World: The Adoption of the Revised International Health Regulations – 10 Years On.
The conference will be hosted by the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at Queensland University of Technology’s Gardens Point campus in Brisbane from 27-28 July 2015.
The conference will provide a forum for scholars and policy makers to discuss and present on the progress achieved through the IHR to date, and the important work yet to be done.
The keynote address will be delivered by Professor Lawrence O. Gostin, Founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law, Georgetown University, USA.
Themes to be discussed at the conference include:
  1. Development of IHR core capacities
  2. Regulatory responses
  3. Securitisation of infectious disease outbreaks
  4. Human rights
Papers from all disciplines and areas of expertise are welcome.

For further information please visit

If you have any questions, or require any assistance, please contact us at:

For updates on the conference follow @HealthLawQUT
Official conference hashtag: #IHR2015
Twitter logo

IHR 2015 Conference Organisers

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Dissecting the Ethics of Organ Donation – 2nd Annual Islamic Bioethics Workshop Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:47:00 +0000

The Initiative on Islam and Medicine’s (II&M) 2nd Annual Islamic Bioethics Workshop, titled “Dissecting the Ethics of Organ Donation,” will be held June 5-7, 2015, at the University of Chicago.

Co-sponsored by the American Islamic College, the 3-day workshop will provide an in-depth conceptual introduction to the field of Islamic bioethics and examine the practical and theological ethics of organ donation in Muslim contexts and from an Islamic perspective. 
A brochure is downloadable here.  

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Celebrating Colorful Language Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:14:11 +0000 I realize that I do not have the most focused blog in the world. Some people blog about nothing other than, say, capital punishment or new developments in whiskey. I write about psychology, behavioral economics, ethics, the doctor-patient relationship, health … Continue reading

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Happy Birthday Obamacare! Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:41:05 +0000 ]]> 0 Bioethics Commission Releases Final Neuroscience Report as Part of BRAIN Initiative: Focuses on Controversial Topics that Must be Addressed if Neuroscience is to Progress and be Applied Ethically Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:01:50 +0000 0 Research 2.0: Rise of the Citizen-Scientist and the Death of Privacy Thu, 26 Mar 2015 07:34:05 +0000 by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

On Monday I attended a symposium on inter-professional education. During a session on new technologies in medicine (telemedicine, wearables, and mobile devices) I brought up the question of preserving privacy. The foundation sponsoring the event replied to me, “There is no such thing as privacy. It’s dead.” For someone who works in bioethics, serves on an IRB, and was formerly a journalist, this notion is scary. Perhaps, I have simply been in denial. After all, I use a mobile phone that tracks my position, synchs with the cloud, and provides much convenience.…

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U.S. Science Teachers Are “Cautious” When Teaching Evolution Thu, 26 Mar 2015 02:03:45 +0000 0 Podcast on the Challenge of De-adoption Wed, 25 Mar 2015 14:36:28 +0000 Here is a podcast I participated in, put out by folks at GWU. A quickish interview on the challenge of getting doctors to stop doing things they ought to stop doing. You can also listen to it on iTunes, or … Continue reading

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Court Orders Hospital to "Treat" Dead Woman – Avila v. ARMC Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:58:00 +0000 0 Fetal homicide Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:00:23 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 A Pill for Compassion or Misunderstood Science? Wed, 25 Mar 2015 06:36:37 +0000 by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

For at least a decade, studies have shown that empathy and compassion decline in medical students. The response is often more curricula dedicated to ethics, humanities, communication skills, and patient contact. But what if the answer was simply medicating the students.

An article in Time magazine reported that a study from researchers at the University of California Berkeley and University of California San Francisco have found “that by manipulating a brain chemical, people can become more compassionate and act in prosocial ways to equalize differences.”

Compassion is “a sympathetic consciousness of other’s distress with a desire to alleviate it.” According to the article, the study of 35 subjects found that when taking a drug a person’s desire to alleviate inequity increased.…

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Medical Futility Lawsuit Proceeds against Yale – Marsala v. Yale New Haven Hospital Tue, 24 Mar 2015 20:39:00 +0000 0 California Lawsuit for Not Honoring POLST Tue, 24 Mar 2015 20:28:00 +0000 0 AALS Section on Disability Law Call for Papers/Presentations for 2016 Annual Meeting Tue, 24 Mar 2015 20:13:00 +0000 The AALS Section on Disability Law issued the following call for papers and presentations for the 2016 AALS Annual Meeting to be held in New York, New York, January 6-9, 2016. Selected papers will be published in the Journal of Legal Medicine.

Program title
The Wounded Warrior Comes Home: Exploring the Impact of Disabled Veterans on Disability, Health, and Other Law and Policy.

Program Description
About a century ago, returning war veterans with disabilities had a profound impact on both cultural and legal attitudes toward disability, shifting us from the charitable model to the rehabilitation model. Today’s soldiers often survive injuries that would have been fatal in prior combat engagements, leaving them with even more significant physical impairments. There is also a growing understanding of the scope of mental impairments associated with military service. 

At the same time, disability has shifted from something personal to the individual that she or he must work to overcome, to something largely attributable to choices made by society, and we now recognize equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities is a matter of civil rights. Veterans with disabilities may once again play a significant role in shaping the future of disability rights law. In addition, in an era of changing norms regarding health care, veterans with disabilities may play a significant role in that context. Beyond those topics, veterans with disabilities may affect issues of criminal law, employee benefits law, and tax law, to name a few. 

This panel will explore the contemporary impact of veterans with disabilities on our law, including ways in which law and policy can be more responsive to the needs of these veterans and those with whom they interact, and how their unique status may help inform various normative conversations.

Paper/Presentation Requirements and Submission Instructions
Presentations and papers may address a wide spectrum of issues associated with the program topic, from macro or micro perspectives, and further may focus on historical foundations, present conditions, assessment of past or current corrective measures, and/or the analysis of necessary corrections or changes in law or public policy.
Selected papers will be published in the Journal of Legal Medicine, the legal journal of the American College of Legal Medicine. Papers must not have been published or accepted for publication elsewhere. Preference will be given to papers of 25,000 words or fewer.

Abstracts of proposed papers/presentations should be submitted to Cheryl L. Anderson, AALS Disability Law Section Chair, at no later than Monday, August 3, 2015. The officers of the Section on Disability Law will select two abstracts for presentations. Authors will be notified no later than August 24, 2015.

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The High Price of Affordable Medicine Tue, 24 Mar 2015 13:30:57 +0000 In the old days, blockbuster drugs were moderately expensive pills taken by hundreds of thousands of patients. Think blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes pills. But today, many blockbusters are designed to target much less common diseases, illnesses like multiple sclerosis … Continue reading

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Very Sick Children: Treatment at Any Cost? Tue, 24 Mar 2015 08:00:00 +0000 The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has just published a new framework to help doctors make tough decisions on end of life care for children and young people.

The new framework sets out an ethical and legal framework for when it can be considered no longer in the best interests of the child to give life sustaining treatment.  Specifically, the framework provides three sets of circumstances when limiting treatment can be considered because it is no longer in the child’s best interests to continue:

  • When life is limited in quantity: If treatment is unable or unlikely to prolong life significantly it may not be in the child’s best interests to provide it
  • When life is limited in quality: This includes situations where treatment may be able to prolong life significantly but will not alleviate the burdens associated with illness or treatment itself
  • Informed competent refusal of treatment: An older child with extensive experience of illness may repeatedly and competently consent to the withdrawal or withholding of LST. In these circumstances, and where the child is supported by his or her parents and by the clinical team, there is no ethical obligation to provide LST.

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A Right to Know? Mon, 23 Mar 2015 23:18:57 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 New Features Now Available at Mon, 23 Mar 2015 19:55:30 +0000 0 Will Ariadne Lead Us Through the Maze of End-of-Life Healthcare? Mon, 23 Mar 2015 17:33:04 +0000 ]]> 0 Schiavo 10 Years Later (conference) Mon, 23 Mar 2015 13:55:00 +0000 0 Rebuilding Trust Sun, 22 Mar 2015 14:00:49 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Utah Bill Assures Coverage for Terminally Ill Sun, 22 Mar 2015 13:37:00 +0000 0 Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis and Abortion Sat, 21 Mar 2015 14:30:36 +0000 Read More »]]> 0 Hospital Agrees to 4 More Days of Physiologic Support for Dead Woman Sat, 21 Mar 2015 12:46:00 +0000 0 Living the Best Life Possible: Doctor and Patient Conversations About Serious Illness and Mortality (Video) Sat, 21 Mar 2015 09:30:00 +0000 0 Careers in Health Law – Free Webinar Sat, 21 Mar 2015 07:30:00 +0000 0 Legal Briefing: Coerced Treatment and Involuntary Confinement for Contagious Disease Fri, 20 Mar 2015 21:39:00 +0000 My latest “Legal Briefing” column is now up over at the Journal of Clinical Ethics.  "Legal Briefing: Coerced Treatment and Involuntary Confinement for Contagious Disease" covers recent legal developments involving coerced treatment and involuntary confinement for contagious disease. Recent high profile court cases involving measles, tuberculosis, human immunodeficiency virus, and especially Ebola, have thrust this topic back into the bioethics and public spotlights. This has reignited debates over how best to balance individual liberty and public health. 

For example, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has officially requested public comments, held open hearings, and published a 90-page report on “ethical considerations and implications” raised by “U.S. public policies that restrict association or movement (such as quarantine).” Broadly related articles have been published in previous issues of JCE. We categorize recent legal developments on coerced treatment and involuntary confinement into the following six categories:
1.   Most Public Health Confinement Is Voluntary
2.   Legal Requirements for Involuntary Confinement
3.   New State Laws Authorizing Involuntary Confinement
4.   Quarantine Must Be as Least Restrictive as Necessary
5.   Isolation Is Justified Only as a Last Resort
6.   Coerced Treatment after Persistent Noncompliance

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Minnesota Network of Hospice & Palliative Care Conference Fri, 20 Mar 2015 20:23:00 +0000 0 When Ideology Trumps: A Case for Evidence-Based Health Policies Fri, 20 Mar 2015 19:29:50 +0000 by Bela Fishbeyn

In this issue of The American Journal of Bioethics (AJOB), Adina Preda and Kristin Voigt (2015) investigate the relationship between health policies, social determinants of health, and health inequalities. There is much empirical work demonstrating the correlation between social determinants of health and health outcomes, which establishes a clear relationship between a person’s social and economic status and her health outcomes. What are defined as social determinants of health varies depending on institution or organization, but the World Health Organization (WHO) broadly explains social determinants of health as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age” and further, that “these circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels” (World Health Organization, Social Determinants of Health.…

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