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Author Archive: Arthur Caplan


by Mack Lipkin MD & Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

The President’s doctor recently chose to triangulate himself in an ethical/policy crossfire between his patient’s right to privacy, Medicine’s professional standards requiring honesty, and the public’s need to know whether and to what extent the President’s ability to fulfill his essential duties was compromised. Caught in the crossfire were his and the White House’s credibility, the public’s sense of stability in our leadership, and national security. 

Every patient, President or paralegal, has an absolute right to privacy. This right, intrinsic to medical ethics from the Hippocratic Oath to the current AMA Principles of Medical Ethics (“A physician shall…safeguard patient confidences within the constraints of the law.”),…

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by Dorit Reiss, PhD LLB, Art Caplan, PhD, and Working Group on Vaccine Ethics and Policy

The question whether the FDA will give an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to a COVID-19 vaccine is currently being widely discussed.  The emphasis in the discussions is on whether political intervention will lead to an EUA with no good basis in evidence. What is not as clear but is crucially important is what past emergency uses of vaccines can teach us about how to use an EUA for a vaccine today. 

Four historical events can help us think about COVID-19 vaccines EUA. In 2005, a particularly bad outbreak of anthrax in livestockand an FBI Director  Robert Mueller created the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate.…

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by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

Rationing  has always been present in the American health care system.  Some poor individuals have not had access to certain treatments due to a lack of health insurance or hospitals not willing to accept them if they cannot pay.  And those in the transplant field have had to contend for decades with a shortage of organs forcing organized rationing in which many more die than benefit from access to a life-saving liver, heart or lung.  Emergency medicine personnel in big hospitals drill frequently on how to triage after a terrorist attack, a huge chemical plant explosion, an earthquake or other disaster. …

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by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

As the new coronavirus begins to spread widely in the USA and as the slowly increasing availability of tests reveals more actual infections we continue to hear a lot about preparation.  Much of this involves advice about thoroughly washing our hands, not touching our faces and social distancing.  Many businesses and groups have imposed travel bans of various sorts.  The White House continues to insist that all is well and everything is under control while the stock market has conniptions and the public grows more and more anxious.  If this constitutes preparation then we are headed in a very bad direction given what may come.…

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04/22/2019 When Pigs Fly

by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

Researchers at Yale University recently reported an experiment in which they used an experimental chemical solution to create electrical activity in the cells of pig brains, brains obtained from a slaughterhouse four hours after the death of the animals from decapitation (NY Times ‘Partly Alive’: Scientists Revive Cells in Brains From Dead Pigs, 4/17,19).  These results led to all manner of comments in this story, many from bioethicists and in stories elsewhere.  Commentators suggested that the pigs’ brains were somehow made partly alive, that concerns about consciousness recurring in the dead now needed to be addressed and that the experiment called into question the current understanding of brain death used to pronounce huge numbers of persons dead all over the world.…

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by Lisa Kearns, MS, MA, and Arthur Caplan, PhD

A few months ago we called for a new conflict of interest (COI) disclosure policy. Recent events at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) underscore the urgency in addressing COI. We encourage researchers to create an “ELF,” an electronic long-form disclosure statement that lists financial relationships, as well as any political, advocacy, or religious points of view, pertinent investments, and the like — any information that could help readers assess potential author bias. ELFs would be maintained by faculty and posted online, as part of their professional bios. The ELF could be linked electronically to all journal articles, included as a URL with author bios at the end of print versions or slide presentations, submitted when trials are registered on ClinicalTrials.gov…

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by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

The President of the United States, after discussion with key aides in the White House, implemented a policy in June of 2018 allegedly aimed at discouraging illegal border crossings by asylum seekers and others from entering the United States.  Rather than maintaining the previous privileged status for migrant families, he and his aides settled on a strategy for separating children from their families to deter efforts at entering the country illegally.  After a backlash, the President tried to blame Democrats in Congress for breaking up families by insisting that if they would change current immigration law and approve the building of a hugely expensive wall along the border with Mexico, the rending of families would stop.…

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by Lisa Kearns, MS MA and Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

There is a little discussed problem in academic publishing: the scant amount of information provided by disclosures of conflict that accompany journal articles. These brief lists of organizations with which authors have financial relationships convey frustratingly little detail about the nature of the relationships. Current disclosure practices fail to provide the transparency about an author’s relationships that they are intended to.

In the belief that an upgrade to this primitive state of COI disclosure is not only necessary but long overdue, the NYU School of Medicine Division of Medical Ethics recently issued an internal Conflict of Interest Disclosure Policy.It…

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by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

You probably have heard or seen media stories in which a person is described as ‘brain dead’.  What you may not realize is that these stories frequently present brain death in a completely inaccurate manner.  They suggest that brain death is not death but is somehow a severe injury from which people can recover.  This is obviously not true.  Brain death is death.  No one recovers.  But the media persist in reporting brain death as some sort of preliminary step toward death.

The latest inaccurate brain death story exemplifying the problem with using brain death in public involved police-reform activist Erica Garner. …

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by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

It is imperative that an open, transparent discussion of the risks of holding the Olympics as planned in Brazil occur as soon as possible.  Not general assurances from WHO but a frank discussion among independent experts—if Rio is going to happen the world deserves a full discussion of why and at what potential risks and liabilities.

For more information, click through http://rioolympicslater.org/. The text of this letter and link have been added below.


Thanks to Anis-Instituto de Bioética for this art, and please visit their Zika documentary and pages

To sign this letter, please send an email to zikaletter@gmail.com

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