Hot Topics: Clinical Ethics

Blog Posts (83)

August 7, 2018

The Clinical Dialectic: What Makes Life Worth Living?

STUDENT VOICES | CHYNN ETHICS PRIZE THIRD-PLACE WINNER By Brett Taylor Can too much of a good thing become bad? During the spring semester of my junior year, I had overexerted myself while working out. In doing so, I destroyed my muscles to the point that their constituent proteins were coursing through my bloodstream and […]
July 31, 2018

Credentialing Exam is A Battle for Power and Soul of Bioethics

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Like most members of the American Society for Bioethics & Humanities (ASBH), I received an email last week geared toward enticing me to sign up to take the new Healthcare Ethics Consultant accreditation exam.…

July 6, 2018

Certifying Clinical Ethics: Fracturing Bioethics

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

After an effort of nearly a decade, bioethics is taking a big step toward professionalization. Under the American Society for Bioethics & Humanities, the Healthcare Ethics Consultant Certification Commission has launched a health care ethics consultant certification program (HEC-C).…

June 13, 2018

Over-Screening, Rigid Protocols, and Changing Guidelines: A Personal Journey Through the Looking-Glass

by Craig Klugman

A new JAMAarticle reports on a US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation against routine ECG in patients without symptoms of heart disease: “For asymptomatic adults at low risk of CVD events (individuals with a 10-year CVD event risk less than 10%), it is very unlikelythat the information from resting or exercise ECG (beyond that obtained with conventional CVD risk factors) will result in a change in the patient’s risk category….

June 4, 2018


This post also appears as an editorial in the June 2018 issue of The American Journal of Bioethics.

by Albert R.

April 26, 2018

War Against Science 3.0: The EPA, Doublespeak, and Obfuscation

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Transparency is a good thing. In ethics courses, we teach that doctors should be transparent to their patients, being truthful and disclosing information.…

April 24, 2018

BioethicsTV (April 16-20): #TheResident, #ChicagoMed, #GreysAnatomy

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

The Resident (Season 1; Episode 10): Self-doctoring; nonmaleficence; the problem with hospitals…; Chicago Med (Season 3; Episode 16): Compassionate lying; choosing gender; medical error; Grey’s Anatomy (Season 14; Episode 20): #METOO

The Resident (Season 1; Episode 10): Self-doctoring; nonmaleficence; the problem with hospitals…

After Conrad has a run-in with a skateboard while jogging, he hobbles into the hospital with a sprained ankle.…

February 13, 2018

Want more efficient and cheaper medicine? Just outsource the doctor

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

A new medical school opening this fall in the University of Illinois system will focus on the tech revolution.…

February 9, 2018

BioethicsTV (January 29-February 9): #TheResident, #TheGoodDoctor, #ChicagoMed

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

The Resident (Season 1; Episode 3): The Cost of a Life The episode opens with residents and nurses attending a required meeting on billing by a “billing consultant”.…

January 26, 2018

A Reflection on Two-Physician Consent

In a recent series of clinical ethics consultations, some physicians expressed concerns over the possible unilateral nation of using two-physician consent for medical decisions for patients without capacity. This concern comes many physicians for a wide range of treatment decisions, a concern of acting without express consent.

Like many states, New York State Family Health Care Decisions Act authorizes two physicians to make medical decisions in the event that no one can be identified to act on behalf of a patient without capacity. It is a safety mechanism to ensure that even those who do not have anyone in their lives will have someone to make medical decisions on their behalf. Some states may use a different mechanism, such as an ethics committee or a surrogate decision-making committee, but the underlying goal is the same. The “unbefriend” patients are arguably one of the most vulnerable population of patients. They lack an advocate, someone to voice their preferences or to consider their best interests. At least in New York, it then becomes the moral responsibility of physicians to decide what is in the best interest of the patient.

For those who distrust the medical profession in general, mechanisms like two-physician consent may seem like a scary option, but then who else should be making these decisions? It is scary to think that maybe one day we will be alone with no family and friends but it is an unfortunate reality. Physicians have years of medical training that can guide a determination in the patient’s best interest. In addition, physicians have taken an oath to uphold a patient’s best interest and practice the standard of care. Physicians are ethically obligated to provide care that benefits and prevents harm to the patient. People who chose to practice medicine tend to have an inherent goodness as they are joining a profession that helps people. These individuals are committed to ensuring a patient’s best interest.

Yes, depending on the gravity of the medical decision and the potential impact it may have on the patient’s quality of life, making medical decisions is a burden. What is also important to note about the New York’s mechanism is it always two physician consent, one physician does not make the decision in isolation. Though there are concerns that the concurring physician will not disagree with his/her colleague.

I empathize with the physicians who express concern in making these decisions but I also think some of these physicians are too focused on the hypothetical legal consequences. This authority to make such decisions is codified in a law and is ethically supported by ancient notions of beneficence.  Maybe we have become too comfortable with the notion of autonomy and without an expression of autonomy, we become uncomfortable. We are forgetting the rest of medical ethics. This is why we have a best interest’s standard in healthcare decision-making and established standards of care.

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

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Published Articles (95)

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 18 Issue 7 - Jul 2018

Provider Conscientious Refusal of Abortion, Obstetrical Emergencies, and Criminal Homicide Law Lawrence Nelson

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 18 Issue 7 - Jul 2018

Uterus Transplantation: The Ethics of Using Deceased Versus Living Donors Bethany Bruno & Kavita Shah Arora

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 18 Issue 1 - Jun 2018

Were the “Pioneer” Clinical Ethics Consultants “Outsiders”? For Them, Was “Critical Distance” That Critical? Bruce D. White, Wayne N. Shelton & Cassandra J. Rivais

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 18 Issue 1 - Jun 2018

Outsider/Insider Albert R. Jonsen

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 18 Issue 5 - May 2018

What's in a Name? The Ethical Importance of Respecting a Patient's “Unexplained” Medical Concerns Kayhan Parsi & Nanette Elster

AJOB Primary Research: Volume 8 Issue 1 - Mar 2018

“God is the giver and taker of life”: Muslim beliefs and attitudes regarding assisted suicide and euthanasia Chaïma Ahaddour, Stef Van den Branden & Bert Broeckaert

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 18 Issue 3 - Mar 2018

The Default Position: Optimizing Pediatric Participation in Medical Decision Making Aleksandra E. Olszewski & Sara F. Goldkind

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 18 Issue 3 - Mar 2018

Pediatric Participation in Medical Decision Making: Optimized or Personalized? Maya Sabatello, Annie Janvier, Eduard Verhagen, Wynne Morrison & John Lantos

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 18 Issue 2 - Feb 2018

Resolving Ethical Dilemmas in a Tertiary Care Veterinary Specialty Hospital: Adaptation of the Human Clinical Consultation Committee Model Philip M. Rosoff, Jeannine Moga, Bruce Keene, Christopher Adin, Callie Fogle, Rachel Ruderman, Heather Hopkinso & Charity Weyhrauch

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 11 - Nov 2017

To Whom Do Children Belong? John Lantos

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News (220)

August 16, 2018 4:41 am

Fentanyl use drove drug overdose deaths to a record high in 2017, CDC estimates (The Washington Post)

Drug overdose deaths surpassed 72,000 in 2017, according to provisional estimates recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That represents an increase of more than 6,000 deaths, or 9.5 percent, over the estimate for the previous 12-month period. That staggering sum works out to about 200 drug overdose deaths every single day, or one every eight minutes.

August 13, 2018 3:56 am

Cancer: one in four too scared to seek medical help over symptom (The Guardian)

Despite discovering a potential symptom of cancer, half the UK population would not seek medical help with many too afraid that they may be wasting a doctor’s time by raising it. In addition, one in four people would not bother having a symptom examined for fear of what the doctor might find, according to a new survey by Populus. Similarly, one in five (21%) adults – 18% of men and 25% of women – would put off acting on their discovery through worry that they would be wasting a doctor’s time.

August 8, 2018 9:00 am

These tiny, stretchy speakers and microphones let your skin play music (Science)

If you’re prone to forgetting your headphones, new wearable technology that could turn your skin into a speaker should be music to your ears. Created in part to help the hearing and speech impaired, the new “smart skin” could be embedded into the ears—or into a patch on the throat. A similar device, described in the same study, acts as a microphone, which can be connected to smartphones and computers to unlock voice-activated security systems.

August 1, 2018 3:00 am

Bill Of The Month: A Plan For Affordable Gender-Confirmation Surgery Goes Awry (NPR)

After mother and daughter complained about the last-minute surprise, a hospital representative offered a solution: If they paid out of pocket and in full before Vetens’ surgery — forgoing their use of insurance — the hospital would accept just $20,080, assuring them the hospital would charge nothing to Vetens’ insurer. But if they did not decide and pay up right away, the surgery would be canceled. “I certainly felt that I had no choice,” Vetens said.

July 31, 2018 3:00 am

Experimental Alzheimer's drug stirs hope after early trials (CNN)

After a series of prominent failures, there’s reason to be hopeful in the search for a drug to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Results of an early trial of an experimental drug showed that it improved cognition and reduced clinical signs of Alzheimer’s in the brains of study participants, and experts are “cautiously optimistic” that the results will be duplicated in future clinical trials.

July 24, 2018 4:44 am

Antidepressant prescriptions for children on the rise (BBC News)

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, who chairs the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Currently only one in four children and young people are treated for their mental health problems. “The fact that prescriptions for antidepressants are rising could reflect a slow but steady move towards treating everyone who is unwell.

May 28, 2018 12:54 pm

Did witnesses fail USC women in care of 'predator' gynecologist? (CNN)

As lawsuits mount against the University of Southern California and a former gynecologist who worked at the school, so do the outrage and demand for answers. Mixed into the conversation is this: If nurses or medical assistants serving as chaperones witnessed Dr. George Tyndall inappropriately touching and treating students, as some have claimed, what’s the point of chaperones?

May 24, 2018 9:00 am

How tech can turn doctors into clerical workers (Washington Post)

In America today, the patient in the hospital bed is just the icon, a place holder for the real patient who is not in the bed but in the computer. That virtual entity gets all our attention.

May 22, 2018 9:00 am

Experimental drugs poised for use in Ebola outbreak (Nature)

International health organizations are in discussions with the Democratic Republic of Congo about how and whether to deploy treatments in addition to a vaccine.

May 4, 2018 9:00 am

Up to 270 women may have died after England breast cancer screening failures (CNN)

As many as 270 women in England may have died because they were not called for a final breast cancer screening, the British government disclosed on Wednesday. UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced an independent inquiry into the failings, attributed to a computer algorithm error. An estimated 450,000 women failed to get a letter inviting them to their final screening, he said.

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