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Bioethics news.

US regulators seek advice on thorny issues as vaccines near
There are many public fears right now that politics may override science when it comes to distributing early COVID-19 vaccines. Early vaccines may reduce confidence in shots moving forward and many are seeking needed advice for the vaccines.
OxyContin maker to plead guilty to federal criminal charges, pay $8 billion, and will close the company
“Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has agreed to plead guilty to three federal criminal charges for its role in creating the nation’s opioid crisis and will pay more than $8 billion and close down the company.” What harm has already been done? The opioid crisis has been a big obstacle to tackle in recent years due to those...
Fox, Bosk, and Rothman: An Appreciation of Three Scholars of Medicine
“With all of the tumult surrounding the coronavirus, few people likely noticed that three important figures in bioethics recently died within a month of one another. But us, the deaths of Renée Fox, Charles Bosk, and David Rothman were a major loss.”
Amid the Pandemic and Racial Injustice, Greater Empathy in Medical School
“The issue of physician burnout pervades not just medical training but also the years after…this chronic erosion of empathy has resulted in the attitude that apathy is not just tolerated but, in some cases, even justified.” Here, empathy is crucial.
Can You Handle Herd Immunity? Ask These Philosophers
What needs to be considered as some governments move towards a “herd immunity approach? What does it mean to have “herd immunity”? How would this affect the population and the future of the pandemic? Here, in this Washington Post piece, John Authers discusses the moral decision in immunity. He brings in concepts of utilitarianism and economic status...
Most US home health aides ‘can’t afford not to work’ – even without PPE
Home health aides during COVID-19 help to keep the most vulnerable patients out of the hospital. Yet, this population of workers has been largely overlooked. Health aides struggle to receive PPE and have not been compensated well for their efforts.
Pfizer won’t apply for Covid-19 vaccine authorization before mid-November, CEO confirms
Vaccine development is in contention within the United States, navigating the progress of clinical research and pressures for development from the federal government. Pfizer has announced that the goal is to ask for emergency use in November.
AI Can Help Diagnose Some Illnesses—If Your Country Is Rich
“AI promises to expertly diagnose disease in medical images and scans. However, a close look…suggests these powerful new tools may perpetuate health inequalities.” How can we train algorithms to work for all patients regardless of origin? Many tools are currently trained in richer countries such as the United States, but are expected to recognize patterns in patients all across...
AI is about to face a major test: Can it differentiate Covid-19 from flu?
Can AI help doctors differentiate between COVID-19 and the regular flu? What information would the technology need and where should we draw those boundaries? Some models are showing promise by sifting through common health data.
From a small town in North Carolina to big-city hospitals, how software infuses racism into U.S. health care
“In health care, a new force is redrawing barriers: algorithms that blindly soak up and perpetuate historical imbalances in access to medical resources.” Investigations reveal algorithms commonly inject racial bias into decisions for vulnerable areas. How can we better redesign software to reduce the infusion of racism into health care as we move towards a more digital age?
COVID-19 vaccines: how to ensure Africa has access
Once a vaccine is developed and efficacious, how do we get the vaccine to those in need? This effort relies on the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) initiative which the U.S is not involved in. How can COVAX help vaccines in Africa?
Getting Health Care Was Already Tough In Rural Areas. The Pandemic Has Made It Worse
Before the pandemic hit, the medical workforce in rural areas was on the decline. As COVID-19 continues to affect the U.S, this disparity for rural healthcare continues to increase. How do we ensure healthcare access to rural areas? The pandemic has affected mobility for many previous healthcare providers, and telehealth access is a major pain point to reach isolated...
COVId-19 long haulers experience hidden disabilities
What does it mean to be disabled? What does it mean to be vulnerable? Hidden disabilities such as those that do not involve mobility are often overlooked in accommodations and social support? How has COVID-19 changed this? Definitions of disability during the pandemic have extended to include conversation on the elderly and those who are immunocompromised, these two features...
To maintain trust and respectability, digital health companies must commit to the highest standards
“Digital health companies are making broad promises about immediacy, universal access, affordability, early detection and intervention, treating the untreated, overcoming the social determinants that have been barriers to good health.” Moving forward, it is essential to argue for adherence to standards that ensure the interests of the patient population and balancing these interests with the personal interests of the...
FDA’s own documents reveal agency’s lax, slow, and secretive oversight of clinical research
When considering clinical research and oversight, who is in charge? The FDA is the main agency that deals with clinical oversight, but from research, “FDA’s enforcement of clinical research regulations is often light-handed, slow-moving, and secretive.” How does this relate with current clinical trials of COVID-19? How can we ensure that certain researchers are being watched for their clinical...
Alexa, do I have COVID-19?
Could speech technology help COVID-19 diagnosis? Experts argue that these speech samples can be used without explicit consent or to obtain personal health information, and potentially discriminate against their customers. Although the speech technology could provide some insight into further knowledge of true infection rates, concerns over privacy and the merit of information provided are a small snapshot of...
US panel tackles race, poverty in virus vaccine priorities
If the COVID-19 vaccine is efficacious, what considerations need to be factored in on who receives the vaccine first? A panel recently met to tackle this question. Healthcare workers and the disadvantaged are communities heavily considered. When vaccine supplies are limited, the panel argues these groups should be considered for priority. However, when it comes to considering priority on...
AI Can Help Patients–But Only if Doctors Understand It
How will AI change the foundation of healthcare? What considerations do we have to include for ethics of such technology and necessary training of medical providers? What does it mean? Tom Simonite writes on AI integration into provider hands. Often, AI response can challenge the intuition and the conclusions made by the doctor in practice. These differences...
White House lifts block on FDA’s stricter vaccine requirements
The FDA on Tuesday told coronavirus vaccine developers that it will hold them to strict standards for emergency authorization, releasing new guidelines that the White House had fought against for weeks. This decision comes after weeks of debate on guidelines that would affect the feasibility of having a vaccine ready by election time.
Could Exposure to the Common Cold Reduce the Severity of COVID-19 Infection?
“Vaccines may be our best hope for a safe return to workplaces, parties, stores and schools, but even if all leading vaccine candidates are protective, the British charity Oxfam estimates that nearly two thirds of the world’s population will not have access until at least 2022.” Could the common cold help ease the pandemic? Writers speculate in this Scientific...
The Surgisphere Scandal: What Went Wrong?
The scandal about hydroxychloroquine turned heads earlier this year in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article explores the situation with Surgisphere, the company behind the data for studies that have since been retracted.
Immigrants Say They Were Pressured Into Unneeded Surgeries
“Immigrants detained at an ICE-contracted center in Georgia said they had invasive gynecology procedures that they later learned might have been unnecessary.” Bioethics is crucial in making sure situations like these are brought to attention. Patients deserve a right to informed consent and the right to refuse any procedure that is not done in the interest of their own...
Dozens of hospitals poised to defy FDA’s directive on Covid plasma
Is the future of COVID-19 therapy plasma therapy? Many have concerns over Trump’s past authorization of plasma therapy for COVID-19 patients. Coronavirus treatment methods have been debated across the United States. “Dozens of major hospitals across the U.S. are grappling with whether to ignore a federal decision allowing broader emergency use of blood plasma from recovered COVID patients.”
How California doctors are fixing how we die
How can providers ease end-of-life care? Doctors have recently begun to revolutionize medications and other treatments applied to patients to ease a transition during end-of-life care. What changes can we see from this in the future?
Seniors are absent, but necessary, in COVID-19 vaccine trials, experts say
Access to an efficacious vaccine is crucial for vulnerable patients. According to this piece on COVID-19 vaccine trials, “excluding older adults means that the ability to evaluate safety and effectiveness will be systematically limited.” In order to develop treatments that improve the health of all, it is imperative to include those disproportionately affected in the search for these treatments....
Bioethicists condemn DIY COVID-19 vaccine efforts
Recently, scientists have come out to develop their own DIY COVID-19 vaccines as a way to oppose traditional vaccine development timeline. Now, bioethicists are coming out to condemn the DIY vaccine movement, citing lack of meaningful knowledge.
As Pandemic Deaths Add Up, Racial Disparities Persist — And In Some Cases Worsen
“It’s not by dint of circumstance or luck that predominantly white counties — by and large — have not had as many diagnoses as compared to more diverse counties,” he says. “There’s a systemic issue that’s underlying all of this.”
How to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine ethically
“Which countries should get a vaccine first? To what degree should helping essential workers, the poor, minorities and the young (or old) affect vaccine distribution?…” A few of many questions to consider when developing methods to distribute. If the vaccine proves to be a highly efficacious intervention, access to the product will be key to closing disparities in health...
Among people of color asked to join Covid-19 vaccine trials, worries about inequities run deep
Disparities persist under the COVID-19 pandemic. Vulnerable communities to the virus have also been underrepresented in clinical trials. These worries are based on historical examples of discrimination in clinical practice and study design. Building trust between the communities of interest and the vaccine developers is key to higher enrollment, but how can this be facilitated on years of previous...
Black Women Can’t Breathe
“Black women are marginalized again, even as they seek medical care. Their health suffers under systemic racism, exacerbated by sexism.” Michele Goodwin paints a picture of biases in healthcare disproportionately affecting black women. These effects on women health outcomes are intersectional, a combination of racism on the basis of skin and exacerbated by sexism for Black women.