Tag: beneficence

Blog Posts (6)

December 7, 2016

TEDxFordhamUniversity: Lesson in Bioethics Given by Golden Girls | Dr. Elizabeth Yuko

As one of the most groundbreaking sitcoms of all time, The Golden Girls introduced a range of bioethical issues on the show regarding medicine, the human body and women’s health. In this TEDx Talk, Dr. Elizabeth Yuko, a Fordham University Center for Ethics Education  fellow and adjunct professor, discusses how influential Golden Girls was, and still is, … More TEDxFordhamUniversity: Lesson in Bioethics Given by Golden Girls | Dr. Elizabeth Yuko
October 20, 2016

The Ethics of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

"Pregnant? Scared? Need Help?" read signs along major thoroughfares in the southern United States. Many Americans have seen signs like these, often simultaneously advertising free pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. Unless experiencing a unplanned pregnancy, most people pass by these signs without a second thought. However, for some of our most vulnerable patients, the establishments posting these advertisements - known as crisis pregnancy centers - represent a significant ethical difficulty in reproductive healthcare. Although these organizations are almost exclusively run by community volunteers, they represent themselves as healthcare workers by wearing lab coats and scrubs, providing lab testing and ultrasounds, and setting up offices that look like medical clinics. This would be problematic in itself from a legal perspective but the political and religious perspectives of these organizations provides serious ethical questions as well. Far from unbiased, crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are usually religiously affiliated organizations with a hard right agenda of preventing abortion at any cost. Medical evidence and scientific fact are not considered in this equation so clients of CPCs are often told that abortion causes breast cancer, infertility, psychiatric disorders (such as the entirely fictitious post-abortion syndrome), and even, in one case, kidney failure and subsequent dialysis. Furthermore, results of testing done at CPCs are frequently fabricated or ignored - clients are given falsely negative pregnancy test results or incorrect dating ultrasounds to prevent those considering an abortion from pursuing other care. CPC clients are usually unaware that these organizations do not employ trained medical providers or that they have a political agenda. However, the intent is clearly to strongly imply to CPC clients that they are being given information by medical personnel. As such, it seems fair to evaluate CPCs using principles of medical ethics, such as the four basic principles of beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice.

There is no question that the principle of autonomy is violated at these centers egregiously - purposefully providing misleading or false information takes away a person's ability to make informed decisions. However, the other three principles come into play with CPCs as well. Since there are rarely real medical providers at these centers, patients with serious health issues may be given advice that is, at best, suboptimal and, at worst, dangerous, arguably violating the principle of nonmaleficence. When a patient is told they are not pregnant when they are, they will not be able to seek timely prenatal care and are potentially put at risk for complications of pregnancy. When a non-expert performs an ultrasound and provides inaccurate results, fetal abnormalities, ectopic pregnancies, and other concerns go unrecognized. One center in Texas was documented telling a patient with a history of transposition of the great vessels that pregnancy was likely uncomplicated for her and would require “occasional monitoring,” rather than the extensive cardiologic and obstetric care that she would need throughout her pregnancy. These scenarios are not uncommon at CPCs and clearly have the potential to cause harm to patients seen in their offices. The principle of justice should also be considered in the case of CPCs as well – most situate themselves in areas of low socioeconomic status and target low income people as primary clients. These are generally the patients who can least afford access to healthcare and typically have lower levels of education, making them the least able to afford to care for an additional child and most vulnerable to the tactics of CPCs. It is hardly just when vulnerable patients, frequently people of color, are targeted to receive radically different healthcare and information than those with greater financial means, who would be less likely to be looking for low cost services.

Beneficence is the only principle of the four that could be debated depending on one's political and ethical leanings. A more pro-life leaning position might argue that the beneficence attributable to the fetus by potentially preventing an abortion should be considered with the discussion surrounding CPCs. This, of course, is predicated on the assumption that CPCs help to prevent abortions at all, which has yet to be adequately studied, although many CPCs tout the numbers of supposedly prevented abortions on promotional materials. Conversely, a pro-choice argument would be more concerned with the pregnant person, the potential benefits and risks of continuing a pregnancy and abortion, and the beneficence attributable to them. Overall, the patient should be able to determine for themselves what beneficence is for them and whether the patient should be treated as a patient. Regardless of stance, any ethical analysis would involve weighing multiple factors to determine whether or not a particular practice should be considered ethical. Looking at the complete picture surrounding CPCs and considering the violations of nonbeneficence, autonomy, and justice as previously outlined, it is not difficult to conclude that the practices of CPCs are not ethical and should not be endorsed by mainstream medical providers.

Although the ethical violations are clear, the course of action with regard to CPCs is not. These centers tend to fall into a legal gray area, as they are not officially bound by rules regarding medical practitioners and generally fall under non-commercial and/or speech stipulations when it comes to false advertisement litigation. Complicating the issue further is the fact that not every CPC operates this way – some centers follow strict guidelines regarding usage of scientific evidence and disclosure of non-medical personnel status, usually in states that regulate these centers. There is also no question that there is a need for services in populations targeted by CPCs and that, if operated appropriately, they could be a force for good in low income communities. Thus, although it’s difficult to universally condemn the practice, advocacy for regulation of CPCs, especially those who receive state funding, seems key. As medical practitioners, it is important to be aware of the existence of CPCs and their ethical problems. Furthermore, one of the best things we can do for our patients is make sure they do not fall prey to such predatory practices by advocating for laws that plainly identify CPCs as non-medical practices and/or require fact-based counseling, particularly in those centers that receive state and federal funding. Regardless of personal feelings on abortion, honest and ethical practices with patients should be an issue that all medical practitioners can agree with. 

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

October 20, 2016

The Ethics of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

"Pregnant? Scared? Need Help?" read signs along major thoroughfares in the southern United States. Many Americans have seen signs like these, often simultaneously advertising free pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. Unless experiencing a unplanned pregnancy, most people pass by these signs without a second thought. However, for some of our most vulnerable patients, the establishments posting these advertisements - known as crisis pregnancy centers - represent a significant ethical difficulty in reproductive healthcare. Although these organizations are almost exclusively run by community volunteers, they represent themselves as healthcare workers by wearing lab coats and scrubs, providing lab testing and ultrasounds, and setting up offices that look like medical clinics. This would be problematic in itself from a legal perspective but the political and religious perspectives of these organizations provides serious ethical questions as well. Far from unbiased, crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are usually religiously affiliated organizations with a hard right agenda of preventing abortion at any cost. Medical evidence and scientific fact are not considered in this equation so clients of CPCs are often told that abortion causes breast cancer, infertility, psychiatric disorders (such as the entirely fictitious post-abortion syndrome), and even, in one case, kidney failure and subsequent dialysis. Furthermore, results of testing done at CPCs are frequently fabricated or ignored - clients are given falsely negative pregnancy test results or incorrect dating ultrasounds to prevent those considering an abortion from pursuing other care. CPC clients are usually unaware that these organizations do not employ trained medical providers or that they have a political agenda. However, the intent is clearly to strongly imply to CPC clients that they are being given information by medical personnel. As such, it seems fair to evaluate CPCs using principles of medical ethics, such as the four basic principles of beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice.

There is no question that the principle of autonomy is violated at these centers egregiously - purposefully providing misleading or false information takes away a person's ability to make informed decisions. However, the other three principles come into play with CPCs as well. Since there are rarely real medical providers at these centers, patients with serious health issues may be given advice that is, at best, suboptimal and, at worst, dangerous, arguably violating the principle of nonmaleficence. When a patient is told they are not pregnant when they are, they will not be able to seek timely prenatal care and are potentially put at risk for complications of pregnancy. When a non-expert performs an ultrasound and provides inaccurate results, fetal abnormalities, ectopic pregnancies, and other concerns go unrecognized. One center in Texas was documented telling a patient with a history of transposition of the great vessels that pregnancy was likely uncomplicated for her and would require “occasional monitoring,” rather than the extensive cardiologic and obstetric care that she would need throughout her pregnancy. These scenarios are not uncommon at CPCs and clearly have the potential to cause harm to patients seen in their offices. The principle of justice should also be considered in the case of CPCs as well – most situate themselves in areas of low socioeconomic status and target low income people as primary clients. These are generally the patients who can least afford access to healthcare and typically have lower levels of education, making them the least able to afford to care for an additional child and most vulnerable to the tactics of CPCs. It is hardly just when vulnerable patients, frequently people of color, are targeted to receive radically different healthcare and information than those with greater financial means, who would be less likely to be looking for low cost services.

Beneficence is the only principle of the four that could be debated depending on one's political and ethical leanings. A more pro-life leaning position might argue that the beneficence attributable to the fetus by potentially preventing an abortion should be considered with the discussion surrounding CPCs. This, of course, is predicated on the assumption that CPCs help to prevent abortions at all, which has yet to be adequately studied, although many CPCs tout the numbers of supposedly prevented abortions on promotional materials. Conversely, a pro-choice argument would be more concerned with the pregnant person, the potential benefits and risks of continuing a pregnancy and abortion, and the beneficence attributable to them. Overall, the patient should be able to determine for themselves what beneficence is for them and whether the patient should be treated as a patient. Regardless of stance, any ethical analysis would involve weighing multiple factors to determine whether or not a particular practice should be considered ethical. Looking at the complete picture surrounding CPCs and considering the violations of nonbeneficence, autonomy, and justice as previously outlined, it is not difficult to conclude that the practices of CPCs are not ethical and should not be endorsed by mainstream medical providers.

Although the ethical violations are clear, the course of action with regard to CPCs is not. These centers tend to fall into a legal gray area, as they are not officially bound by rules regarding medical practitioners and generally fall under non-commercial and/or speech stipulations when it comes to false advertisement litigation. Complicating the issue further is the fact that not every CPC operates this way – some centers follow strict guidelines regarding usage of scientific evidence and disclosure of non-medical personnel status, usually in states that regulate these centers. There is also no question that there is a need for services in populations targeted by CPCs and that, if operated appropriately, they could be a force for good in low income communities. Thus, although it’s difficult to universally condemn the practice, advocacy for regulation of CPCs, especially those who receive state funding, seems key. As medical practitioners, it is important to be aware of the existence of CPCs and their ethical problems. Furthermore, one of the best things we can do for our patients is make sure they do not fall prey to such predatory practices by advocating for laws that plainly identify CPCs as non-medical practices and/or require fact-based counseling, particularly in those centers that receive state and federal funding. Regardless of personal feelings on abortion, honest and ethical practices with patients should be an issue that all medical practitioners can agree with. 

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

March 10, 2016

A Shot of Hope: Efforts to Address the Opioid Addiction Crisis

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US with close to 50,000 deadly overdoses in 2015 alone.  Opioid addiction accounted for nearly 20,000 of these and heroin alone was a factor in just over 10,500 deaths. The magnitude of opioid abuse related hospitalizations, sales of prescription pain killers and deaths have increase exponentially between 1999 and 2008 according to ASAM. Increased access to Narcan (naloxone) to reverse life threatening effects of opioid for first responders has now expanded to making Narcan available to the general public as well. In some areas, Narcan can be purchased without a prescription by family members and friends who expect they may need to quickly rescue a loved one. While I support this program because it can and will likely save lives, it does not address the need for effective rehabilitation of persons who suffer the all-consuming and devastating effects of opioid addiction. Regulations which will allow persons with opioid addictions to be detained involuntarily in health care setting are also being discussed, but pose some dilemmas as well.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has taken a strong stand to help limit access to the powerful pain medication by placing statutory limits on the quantity of opioid pain medication that can be prescribed to a patient to a 72 hour supply the first time opioids are prescribed to them – with exceptions.  Physicians have had a mixed response according the October 2015 Boston Globe article. Some cite that placing prescribing restrictions on prescribing pain killers is an invasion of the state into the doctor-patient relationship and dismisses the clinical judgment of physicians to discern a given patient’s need for pain relieving medications. Others indicate that this is a public health matter and deserves statutory supports as have other issues that post a risk to the wellbeing of the population at large. Who is helped and who is harmed by restricting opioid prescriptions and providing naloxone without a prescription to the public? It seems these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of a robust program for addressing the opioid addiction crisis in the US. Prevention will be more complicated than limiting the supply that flows from a physicians prescription pad and rescue will ultimately require more than easily access to Narcan.

 

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

October 21, 2015

Police and Persons with Mental Illness: The Overlooked Frontline Care Providers

<p>My original plan for this blog was to consider whether or not there remained a need for the old “Drunk Tank” way of managing persons who are acutely intoxicated by allowing them to sleep off or wait out their inebriation at the police station before determining whether or not further mental health care was needed, rather than bringing individuals to hospital emergency rooms for supervised sleep and conversation about detox services or psychiatric evaluation. Though the task of caring for acutely intoxicated persons, sometimes folks who are frequently seen in ERs repeatedly, can seem to be an inappropriate use of resources by clinicians we must appreciate that the motivation is often about safety, protection, and the welfare of the patient as well as the public. In the social context of fear and mistrust toward law enforcement following the many egregious cases of police brutality, my focus is a reminder of the ways in which police can, and often do, intervene with persons who have mental illness and addiction in order to protect these vulnerable mentally ill individuals. In no way do I condone the misconduct and violence we have come to hear about too often, but rather will focus on the important ways police can and very often do work with mental health professionals to assist persons in acute crises. </p> <p><span style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.04px;"><strong>The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a</strong> </span><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.04px;">Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="color: #000099; text-decoration: underline;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
May 26, 2014

Respect but do not Protect

<p><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">In recent years there has been a push to teach professionalism to medical students, and this is in part a response to a perceived decrease in respect for physicians by the general public.</span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">  </span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">Much of the emphasis on teaching professionalism has been on treating patients with respect, and placing the needs of the patient over our own needs.</span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">  </span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">I support this effort, but I would like to emphasize a different aspect of professionalism that seems to get less attention: the relationship we have with our colleagues.</span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">  </span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">The duty of professionalism arises because medicine is a </span><em style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">profession</em><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">—we profess an oath to become members, we perform a task held in high regard by the public, and we promise to self-regulate.</span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">  </span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">Given that this is the nature of medicine, we can easily now say something about how we must treat our colleagues to best uphold our oath and to best maintain the reputation of our vocation.</span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">  </span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">For Aristotle, a virtue is often found as the mean between two excesses which are vices, and I think this model is appropriate for determining the virtuous, professional way we should treat our colleagues:</span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">  </span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">show respect, but do not protect incompetence or misbehavior. Put another way, we have dual duties to respect our colleagues, but also to protect our patients.</span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">  </span><span style="line-height: 22.399999618530273px;">When these duties come into conflict, patients must come first, but we must also remember that failing to respect colleagues has negative effects on both the status of our profession, and on patient care itself.</span></p> <p><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20px;">The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="color: #000099; text-decoration: underline;" href="/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>