Hot Topics: Public Health

Blog Posts (39)

April 18, 2014

Surge in Narcotic Prescriptions for Pregnant Women

[New York Times] Doctors are prescribing opioid painkillers to pregnant women in astonishing numbers, new research shows, even though risks to the developing fetus are largely unknown.Of 1.1 million pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid nationally, nearly 23 percent filled an opioid prescription in 2007, up from 18.5 percent in 2000, according to a study published last […]
April 17, 2014

Manslaughter conviction for ‘negligent breastfeeding’ puts other mums at risk

(The Guardian) A genetic defect may be the real culprit in the case of a woman taking painkillers whose baby died of a morphine overdose. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA On Thursday last week, a South Carolina jury convicted Stephanie Greene, a 39-year old nurse, of killing her six-week-old daughter by administering a morphine overdose in her breast […]
April 10, 2014

New Tools for HIV Prevention: Why I am a Truvada Whore

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Director of the Center for Bioethics and Clinical Leadership Although the epidemic likely started a decade or two earlier, AIDS wasn’t identified as a new disease until 1981. It took a few more years to isolate HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and to develop reliable tests for diagnosing infection. In the thirty […]
April 10, 2014

Artistic Inquiry: Obesity on Stage in Boston

BEI Young Professionals member Betsy Campbell covers artful media around the world that touches upon topics in bioethics. In 2013 a Hastings Center article, bioethicist Dan Callahan proposed an “edgier” approach to America’s obesity epidemic. His views in that article — particularly his point about the power of public disapproval — proved to be controversial, […]
April 9, 2014

US jury orders Takeda, Eli Lilly to pay $9 billion in damages over Actos

[FirstWordPharma] A US jury ordered Takeda and Eli Lilly to pay a combined $9 billion in punitive damages after finding that the companies concealed the cancer risks associated with the diabetes therapy Actos (pioglitazone). The jury also awarded compensatory damages to the plaintiff of nearly $1.5 million in the first federal lawsuit related to the […]
February 23, 2014

Criminalization of Drinking While Pregnant in UK?

A council on northwest England plans to bring legal action to establish liability for criminal damages by women who drink while pregnant, with resultant damage to their newborns. A tribunal in 2011 had ruled that a child had sustained personal injury "directly attributable to a crime of violence," and so was eligible for a payment from its mother. The holding came in spite of the fact that the mother had never been criminally convicted. The court simply held that, regardless of the lack of prosecution or conviction in her case, she had in fact committed the crime of maliciously administering poison so as to inflict grievous bodily harm, a crime under section 23 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The upper tribunal of the Administrative Appeals Chamber reversed the holding, however. (The opinion can be downloaded here.) The Appeals Chamber agreed that there had been “administration of a poison or other destructive or noxious thing, so as thereby to inflict grievous bodily harm,” but found that the fetus who was damaged by the mother's drinking was not a "person" in legal terms at the time of her injury. The case now goes to the Court of Appeal.

It's important to recognize that the case at bar would set precedent for cases quite unlike it in the future. In the case at bar, adoptive parents of a child damaged by fetal alcohol syndrome are seeking payments from the child's biological mother--payments due them pursuant to criminal law. But if drinking-while-pregnant is criminal, the ordinary case of prosecution in the future may look rather different. It will involve not payment of damages by a biological mother to a third-party adoptive parent, but imprisonment of a new mother shortly after her child's birth.

Criminalization of drinking-while-pregnant seems like a terrible idea. It is obviously true that drinking while pregnant can damage one's fetus. It is also obviously true that the majority of women who drink while pregnant do not thereby damage their fetuses. The relevant studies seem to show no genuinely "safe" level of drinking during pregnancy, but also show that significant drinking during pregnancy often results in no harm to the fetus. In these circumstances--and given the addictive nature of alcohol--can it really be true that criminalization of drinking-while-pregnant is really the best, or even a reasonably good, method of reducing harm to fetuses from maternal drinking?

Criminalization will make it difficult for pregnant women to speak to their physicians or nurses about their drinking habits. Threat of criminal prosecution for drinking could be used as a lever against pregnant women by abusive men. Criminalization will subject visibly-pregnant women not only to prosecution, but also to public abuse and accusations from strangers, even though the actual danger to fetuses from moderate later-term drinking is minimal.

Women should be informed of the dangers to their fetuses of drinking. Alcoholic pregnant women should be offered help. The state's money is better spent on public service announcements and counseling sessions than on prosecutions and jail-cells. I'm guessing that no one who knows that drinking during pregnancy might damage her child, but who drinks anyway, does so with malicious intent, or does so without regard to the dangers to her child. People who don't know the damage they may be causing, or who simply cannot stop their drinking due to addiction, need help rather than punishment.


February 14, 2014

LIBERTY AND WHERE NOSES BEGIN--AN OPEN LETTER TO: The ACLU of Rhode Island Concerning Mandating Flu Vaccinations for Very Young Children Entering Daycare and Kindergarden

From: Arthur Caplan and Dorit Reiss

SUBJECT: requiring the vaccination of children and workers in daycare and pre-K against the flu

In recent testimony submitted to the Public Health Department of Rhode Island, a representative of the Rhode Island ACLU spoke against the requirement to vaccinate Rhode Island’s children age six months to 5 years of age against the flu in order to enter daycare or pre-kindergarten.…

January 14, 2014

In Guns We Trust

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

In a Florida movie theater a father was texting his daughter. Admittedly this action is annoying: You are in a dark theater engaged in a film and suddenly blinded by this little bright light.…

December 31, 2013

Distinguishing Science from Nonsense

by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

As Americans enter 2014 there is grave concern among our political leaders that we are lagging behind other nations in terms of our children’s’ scientific literacy. …

December 19, 2013

A Call to Physicians: To Do No Further Harm, or Ethical Practice as Just Distribution of Healthcare

Bandy X. Lee, M.D.

*Primum non nocere*, to first do no harm, is the unchanging foundation for Hippocratic medical ethics. Each generation must, nevertheless, redefine what “doing no harm” means for its time.…

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Published Articles (30)

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 14 Issue 3 - Mar 2014

The Ethics of Advertising for Health Care Services Yael Schenker, Robert M. Arnold & Alex John London

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 14 Issue 3 - Mar 2014

Ethics and Empiricism in the Formation of Professional Guidelines Mildred K. Cho

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 11 - Nov 2013

The Use of Deception in Public Health Behavioral Intervention Trials: A Case Study of Three Online Alcohol Trials Jim McCambridge, Kypros Kypri, Preben Bendtsen & John Porter

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 9 - Sep 2013

An Ethical Analysis of Mandatory Influenza Vaccination of Health Care Personnel: Implementing Fairly and Balancing Benefits and Burdens Armand H. Matheny Antommaria

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 9 - Sep 2013

Ethics of Clinical Science in a Public Health Emergency: Drug Discovery at the Bedside Sarah J. L. Edwards

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 9 - Sep 2013

Vaccine Mandates Are Justifiable Because We Are All in This Together John D. Lantos and Mary Anne Jackson

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 13 Issue 5 - May 2013

Ban the Sunset? Nonpropositional Content and Regulation of Pharmaceutical Advertising Paul Biegler & Patrick Vargas

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 12 Issue 7 - Jul 2012

Making Power Visible in Global Health Governance Carles Muntaner

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 12 Issue 5 - May 2012

A Good Taste of Bioethics Around the Globe: Review of Catherine Myser, ed., "Bioethics Around the Globe" Darryl Macer

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 12 Issue 5 - May 2012

Precommitting to Serve the Underserved Nir Eyal& Till Bärnighausen

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News (442)

April 22, 2014 12:51 pm

Cloning advance using stem cells from human adult reopens ethical questions

Scientists have grown stem cells from adults using cloning techniques for the first time — bringing them closer to developing patient-specific lines of cells that can be used to treat a whole host of ailments, from heart disease to blindness.

April 21, 2014 6:42 pm

Bullying leaves scars into middle age

Children who are bullied continue to suffer the psychological impacts decades later, experiencing increased risk of depression, anxiety and suicide in tests given in mid-life, according to a new study by British researchers.

April 16, 2014 2:13 pm

Tobacco on TV tied to adult smoking rates

Even though smoking appears far less frequently in U.S. television shows than it used to, its portrayal may still be triggering the urge in adult smokers, according to a new study.

April 2, 2014 2:17 pm

Guidance published on informing study participants about findings with potential health implications

In the course of a study involving human participants, it is possible that researchers may make a finding that has potential health or reproductive implications for an individual participant.

March 31, 2014 3:55 pm

Smoking bans can help kids' health, researchers say

If legislation banning smoking protects people from disease, then the proportion of the world population covered by such laws is too low – just 16%, according to researchers.

March 27, 2014 5:38 pm

CDC: 1 in 68 U.S. children has autism

One in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a 30% increase from 1 in 88 two years ago, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

March 25, 2014 2:53 pm

Marijuana pills and sprays ease MS symptoms

There is no cure for the condition, and therapies have proven difficult, as many have serious side effects. But now, relief may come in the form of a medical marijuana pill.

March 25, 2014 2:51 pm

Air Pollution Kills 7 Million People Every Year, World Health Organization Report Finds

Air pollution kills about 7 million people worldwide every year, with more than half of the fatalities due to fumes from indoor stoves.

March 21, 2014 2:46 pm

Hawaii police urge lawmakers to let undercover cops have sex with prostitutes

March 20, 2014 1:44 pm

10 Happy Ways to Celebrate the International Day of Happiness

The International Day of Happiness is celebrated throughout the world on 20 March. It was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012.

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