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Blog Posts (1259)

October 13, 2014

The Indignity of a Death with Dignity

The story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year old newlywed who has been given the diagnosis of terminal glioblastoma, an especially aggressive brain tumor, has gone viral over the past week. Many know the story already, but it centers on her decision to end her life by taking an oral medication prescribed by her physician, who will be sitting at her bedside with her husband and... // Read More »
October 13, 2014

Barbara Mancini: Innocent of Assisted Suicide - November 13 in Saint Paul

The Hamline Health Law Institute and Compassion & Choices are pleased to host: Barbara Mancini: Innocent of Assisted Suicide 5:30 p.m. Reception 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Presentation Thursday, November 13, 2014 Kay Fredericks Room, Klas Center, Haml...
October 13, 2014

October 13th:  Bioethics, Women and Pain Disparity

October 13, 2014

Let Harrison Bergeron Dance

by Patricia Mayer, MD, Bioethics Program Alumna (2009) All I can think of when reading the case of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand is Harrison Bergeron, protagonist of a 1961 short story by author Kurt Vonnegut. For those of you who don’t know who Dutee Chand is, she is a Indian sprinter who was banned from […]
October 13, 2014

Tim Quill on "Near-Futile" Treatment

In the October 2014 edition of Medical Ethics Advisor, Timothy Quill notes that when treatments might possibly help a little and they have some very small potential utility, patients can typically get access to these. This may change down the road. &n...
October 13, 2014

Belief In Ultimate Truth: Does it make for peaceful living?

<p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">As I have been saying in recent blogs, most of what we do in clinical ethics, but also in most areas of bioethics, is procedural ethics. That is when we are faced with an ethical dilemma, our approach, whether consciously or unconsciously is usually to try to reach a reasonable compromise or consensus among the key participants that are in conflict consistent with well-established values and principles. This tendency reflects an obvious reality about the nature of contemporary ethics that we often ignore: in the current Western moral setting, our only viable methodology for resolving value laden disputes, whether at the micro level in clinical ethics or macro level in healthcare policy, is to attempt to craft an agreement or consensus among those with a say. Whether we are dealing with patients and families at odds with their physician on how to define the goals of care in the hospital setting or trying to build a consensus of opinion among voters in the political arena, we assume there are no final, authoritative moral answers that avail themselves to us. Whether we like it or not, we humans must figure out ethical dilemmas for ourselves and learn to get along.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">Yet the idea of procedural ethics remains very worrisome for many people, including such bioethicists and Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. He believes that procedural ethics, such much of what we do in clinical ethics, is not really ethics in because it is based on convention and legalistic type standards. For him ethics worthy of the name must flow from a content-rich, canonical moral tradition that provides moral authority to our everyday ethical and moral judgments. The prototype ethical tradition was the medieval Christian Natural Law perspective grounded in Aristotelian philosophy. Aristotle assumed the inherent order and intelligibility of the cosmos, which also permeated his understanding of ethics. Humans, like all natural things, had a natural function, which was to be rational. But rational did not mean to that ethics was about finding intellectual or theoretical basis for right action according to rational rules in order to know and perform one’s duty—this was Kant’s (1724-1804) ethics during the 18</span><sup style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">th</sup><span style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"> century following the rise of modern science. For Aristotle, the question was, how can one live and embody the good life; so rationality in this sense meant internal harmony between emotions and decision-making that resulted in well-established habits or states of character. This means finding in all of one’s activities the balance between excess and deficiency, or what he called the “mean”. Over time, forming the right habits according to the mean in all areas of life lead to excellence and happiness or what he called the good life. This was the natural fulfillment of the human function in practical terms consistent with the ancient Aristotelian.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">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>
October 12, 2014

The Price of Drugs

Lesley Stahl of CBS recently did a story for 60 Minutes on the high price of cancer drugs.  Physicians at Memorial Sloan Kettering and M.D. Anderson have been seeking to remedy the “financial toxicity” of cancer drugs, something which has been mentioned in this bioethics blog as well. In Stahl’s story, Dr. Peter Bach of Sloan Kettering relates how a simple op-ed in the New... // Read More »
October 12, 2014

Texas Medical Association Defends Advance Directives Act

Konni Burton is running for the Texas State Senate as a Tea Party candidate.  She recently took a position on the end-of-life medical disputes.

Burton sent a campaign mailer that stated: “As State Senator, Konni will fight to protect the elderly and disabled patients from doctors who want to administer life-ending procedures.”  (Star Telegram)  This is an attack on Texas Health & Safety Code 166.046, the so-called Texas "medical futility law."


A letter from the Texas Medical Association Political Action Committee attacks Burton for her opposition to the 1999 law.  
  • "Do you know one single doctor who proposes to do such a thing? In my house, we would call that murder."
  •  "By this statement alone, Burton proves she is totally out of touch with the reality of medical care."
  • "Burton has demonstrated repeatedly that she is an enemy of the physicians of Texas."

October 11, 2014

Lucas Moore: 23-week 520-gram Baby Survives

Lucas Moore was born prematurely at 23 weeks weighing 520 grams, just 0.7 of an ounce over the hospital’s 500 gram cut-off point for intervention. (Telegraph)

With severe health problems – including a bleed on the brain and a hole in his heart – Lucas’s chances seemed dire, and doctors warned there was a high chance of him suffering disabilities as a result.  


But Lucas defied predictions and has now celebrated his first birthday.  The Daily Mail suggests that the case will fuel the debate over guidelines governing whether hospitals try to save the lives of extremely premature babies.


October 10, 2014

Responding to Ebola: Questions about Resuscitation

Joseph J. Fins