Blog Posts (69)
September 3, 2014
<p style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">There has been a good bit of debate lately in bioethics circles over the concept and proper definition of death. The disagreement is between those who think that the cessation of brain activity or ‘brain-death’ is sufficient for death, on the one hand, and those who think that brain-dead patients whose circulatory systems continue to function are still alive, on the other. Consider, for example, the recent tragic case of Jahi McMath. McMath suffered complications from a surgery to correct sleep apnea which resulted in cardiac arrest and her being placed on a ventilator. Shortly after physicians at Oakland Children’s Hospital pronounced her brain-dead and so legally dead. Her family, however, disagreed, and appealed to the courts for Jahi to be maintained via mechanical ventilation and PEG tube.</span></p>
<p style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">Although Jahi’s family disagrees with the claim that she is brain-dead (insisting that she is merely ‘brain-damaged’), suppose the Oakland physicians are correct in their diagnosis of brain death. Nonetheless, even after the pronouncement of brain-death Jahi’s body continued to exhibit the sort of homeodynamic equilibrium—at least for the time being, and with assistance from mechanical ventilation and other life-sustaining interventions—characteristic of living organisms. It was warm to the touch; her heart continued to pump blood through her veins; and so on. Indeed the bodies of brain dead patients have in some cases remained functional for weeks and even months, performing such surprising feats as undergoing puberty and even gestating fetuses. This has led certain physicians and philosophers to question whether brain death is really sufficient for death. Patients who are truly dead, after all, could not be warm to the touch or gestate fetuses. Could they? </p>
<p style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><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="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong><span style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 20.3999996185303px;"> </span></p>
August 27, 2014
by Thaddeus M. Pope, J.D., Ph.D.
The August 2014 issue of the American Journal of Bioethics includes nearly 20 articles on the status of death determined by neurological criteria (DDNC or “brain death”). …
August 21, 2014
by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
My spouse and I have an ongoing conversation, really more of an argument, about one end-of-life scenario.…
August 12, 2014
by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
In the United States, the notion of autonomy is held in high regard. Since the development of patient’s rights in the early 1970s, the notion that an individual has the capacity of self-governance is a cornerstone of medical ethics and a standard of medical care.…
July 16, 2014
My dissertation advisor recommended that I read Simone de Beauvoir’s A Very Easy Death when I was writing my dissertation on ambivalence. …
June 16, 2014
by Barron H. Lerner, M.D., Ph.D.
When an article promoting the idea of medical futility appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 1990, my father was thrilled. …
May 21, 2014
<p>The seventh annual <a href="http://www.nhdd.org/">National Healthcare Decisions Day</a> (NHDD) was held on April 16<sup>th</sup> of this year, and events at national, state and local levels were held to educate people about the importance of advance care planning and encourage participants to complete advance directives. Providing resources and information that drives home the message about how important it is to let others know one’s preferences for healthcare and end of life care is intended to promote conversation and documentation of these wishes which are then implemented when the individual is no longer able to express preferences for themselves. But does it do enough to generate interest in those who prefer to avoid such unpleasantries?</p>
<p class="MsoNormal">Repeated studies show that advance directive completion rates are low in the US. People simply do not like to talk about end of life, and it is not clear that the NHDD, however well intended, is making the topic any more palatable. Designating a day to recognize the importance of advance directives is an important start, and the materials are often excellent. <a href="https://www.agingwithdignity.org/five-wishes.php">Five wishes</a>, for example, gives a carefully crafted set of questions to help people thoughtfully consider what matters most to them when it comes to medical intervention, particularly in the end of life context. Still, this only works if people come to the table for the conversation.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><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="text-decoration: underline; color: #000099;" href="/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
May 20, 2014
by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.
Like many others, I followed the very unfortunate case of Jahi McMath. McMath is a 13 year-old black child who went into cardiac arrest and suffered irreparable brain damage after undergoing a tonsillectomy to relieve sleep apnea.…
May 5, 2014
by Thaddeus Mason Pope, JD, PhD
On May 1, 2014, New York State Senator Kemp Hannon introduced S.B. 7156, to amend the 2010 Family Healthcare Decisions Act. …
May 1, 2014
by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
I just finished reading the popular fiction novel Cell by Robin Cook. This medical thriller revolves around George Wilson, a radiology resident who finds people dying suddenly after receiving diagnoses of terminal illnesses including his fiancé and next-door-neighbor.…