Tag: bioethics

Blog Posts (242)

September 2, 2015

Public Bioethics

In today’s opening session, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) turned its attention to facilitating public dialogue about bioethics. Democratic deliberation is a guiding principle of the Bioethics Commission. As outlined in its first report, New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies, the Bioethics Commission believes that […]
August 29, 2015

“Our Family Secrets” Exposed — The Ethics of Whistleblowing

This week the Annals of Internal Medicine published an article so controversial they felt the need to publish an accompanying editorial, explaining their decision to publish the anonymous article. The article, “Our Family Secrets” describes two experiences where a health care provider has acted inappropriately while patients were under anesthesia. The editorial describes the acts with poignant alarm: “The first incident reeked of misogyny and... // Read More »
August 27, 2015

Abortion: “Loopholes” and Attitudes

Earlier this week, Dr. Scott Gottlieb wrote in the Wall Street Journal about “Closing the Planned Parenthood Loophole.”  In his article (which was accompanied by a photo of a 12-week fetus), Dr. Gottlieb argued that the 1993 National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act should be amended to delete the word “solely” from the requirement that the doctor performing the abortion certify that “no alteration of... // Read More »
August 24, 2015

Seeing the Horror

A video released by The Center for Medical Progress (CMP)  about Planned Parenthood included these words: “Some viewers may find this content disturbing.” It was to warn the viewer about the images of piled fetal body parts dumped from a bag by an abortion clinic worker. What might be most disturbing…and chilling…is not the body parts, but the casual and glib attitudes of the Planned Parenthood... // Read More »
August 20, 2015

More about Doctor-Assisted Suicide—in California and Elsewhere

The Californian proponents of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) have repackaged their proposed law into AB 15, hoping to enact it in a special legislative session, dealing with health care costs, in which they can bypass the pesky consciences and principles of state Assembly members on the Health Committee, several of whom are Southern California Latino Democrats.  One way or another, they must silence those “dogmatic” opponents... // Read More »
August 17, 2015

Rapping about Dying

ZDoggMD is something of a celebrity among physicians and medical students. He is the “Weird Al” Yankovic of the medical world – parody songwriter extraordinaire, satirist of medical culture and, at his best, a seriously funny human being. Whether lampooning hospital readmissions or mocking anti-vaxxers, his music videos bring humor to physicians’ challenges as well as their follies.

But listen closely and you will find that, beneath the humor, there often lies a serious message in ZDoggMD’s lyrics. The parodies aim to entertain healthcare workers, of course. But they also seek to educate. “Let’s just prevent readmissions/manage those chronic conditions/need time preparing the handoffs/move along to other clinicians,” he raps in “Readmission,” a parody of the R&B hit “Ignition (remix).” In the music video, ZDoggMD utters these lines in a hospital ward, wearing a lavish fur coat and sunglasses in the fashion of a rap musician. The routine is absurd – and funny – but the goal is more than mere entertainment. ZDoggMD’s light touch of humor warms us up for a serious conversation on a topic that is no laughing matter.

Ain’t the Way to Die

For his latest video, “Ain’t the Way to Die” (a parody of Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie”), ZDoggMD forgoes humor altogether – a first, according to his blog. Stripping away humor, the song takes a more direct approach to talking seriously about a topic that many of us prefer to avoid – death and dying. As ZDoggMD writes, “…we too often fail to have those difficult but crucial discussions about dying, and this failure leads to untold human suffering and billions in squandered resources. We are failing as caregivers, we are failing as family members, and we are failing as individuals – failing to simply have a conversation that ensures that we direct our own destiny. Plainly put, we need to talk about dying.”

Talking about dying is hard. It’s uncomfortable. As a medical student, I’ve become acutely aware of the discomfort. I feel it too, even as an observer. For all of us, the challenge is to communicate effectively about death and dying in spite of the discomfort, and in that regard ZDoggMD’s sentiment too often rings true: We are failing as caregivers, family members, and individuals to have these crucial conversation about the end of life.

Conversation Starter

Thankfully, there are people working to make these conversations a little easier. Caring Conversations, a resource developed by the Center for Practical Bioethics, for years has guided patients and their families through the process of advanced care planning. In its own way, ZDoggMD’s “Ain’t the Way to Die” can also facilitate these conversations, by melodically breaking the ice on death and dying: “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/end of life and all my wishes go unheard/they just prolong me and don’t ask why/it’s not right because this ain’t the way to die, ain’t the way to die.” 

The musical stylings may be off-putting to some, but for those who enjoy rap music – and those who can tolerate it – the lyrics of “Ain’t the Way to Die” succeed in broaching a wide range of end-of-life issues, from family discord to resuscitation. And this brings us to what is perhaps the greatest virtue of “Ain’t the Way to Die” – that the breadth of issues addressed in the short video makes the parody a conversation-starter for healthcare workers and patients alike.  

All of us must find a way to communicate clearly in conversations about the end of life. “Ain’t the Way to Die” may help some of us find the words to do so. With that in mind, I encourage you to watch the video and share it with others.  No matter one’s background or profession, each of us will one day face the end of life. Starting a conversation about how you want to face it gives you the best shot at doing it on your own terms. 


Written By Joel Burnett. Joel Burnett is an MD candidate at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.
August 15, 2015

A biblical view of animals

Sarah Sawicki ended her post on 8/1/15 with the questions “How can I address injustices toward animals without promoting logic that excludes some people from personhood? Is it possible to balance these two causes, or must one fall in favor of the other?” I think she is correct in her concern about the use of a capacity definition of personhood to establish the personhood of... // Read More »
August 15, 2015

The Hippocratic Oath and #TransHealthFail

Earlier this month, the Twittersphere erupted with a new hashtag that quickly reached trending status: #transhealthfail Transgender people are sharing their negative experiences with health care using this hashtag. The experiences range from health care providers suggesting their patients get help elsewhere, even if their problems weren’t related to their sexuality, to blatantly making unprofessional comments about their sexual identity, even going so far as... // Read More »
August 13, 2015

Baby, You Can’t Drive Those Genes

One risky aspect of the practice of gene editing—exploding because of the powerful CRISPR/Cas9 technique—is the prospect for widespread and permanent genetic alteration of whole species from a process called “gene drive.” In classical genetics, initially defined by the 19th-century Moravian cleric Gregor Mendel, frequency of the inheritance of genes is controlled by more or less simple arithmetic.  Higher organisms (animals and man) have two... // Read More »
August 11, 2015

Who Do You Love More – Your Doctor or Your Congressperson? The Answer: Your Nurse!

A recent Gallup poll asked people how they would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in a wide range of professions. Not surprisingly, Congress didn’t come out very well on this poll, rating even below car salespeople on … Continue reading

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Published Articles (1)

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 1 - Jan 2013

100th Issue Anniversary Editorial David Magnus