Thursday, September 30, 2004

If you liked "Farenheit 911" . . .

. . . you just might love Michael Moore's next documentary effort. According to an article today's Chicago Tribune (rquires free registration), he is finalizing financing for a film -- tentatively entitled "Sicko" -- about the American health care system, or at least about two of the country's least favorite players: managed care and the drug companies. Meanwhile, the paper reports, "Some of

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Boundary dispute.

The Miami New Times will publish a piece on Thursday that raises troubling questions of possible boundary violations by a physician. We're not talking about a property dispute over a fence line, but the kind of boundary defined by medical ethics. A physician shouldn't have a romantic or sexual relationship with a patient she or he is treating; that's a boundary violation, crossing over a line

Monday, September 27, 2004

Euthanasia rights for minors.

There are reports (also here) of a coalition of bioethics groups that oppose a recent proposal that would allow patients down to the age of 12 years to obtain euthanasia services without parental consent. Currently, 16-17-year-olds can decide for themselves. I am still looking for independent verification that the Dutch are considering a change in their law.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

End of life decision making

Here's long piece in Monday's New York Times about end-of-life decision making. This really resonates with me -- a lot of cases that come to one of the five hospital ethics committees I serve on present just like the cases described here.

Health care costs & technology.

Article worth reading from today's "Week in Review" section of the N.Y. Times: "Health Care Costs Are a Killer, but Maybe That's a Plus," by Steve Lohr. The message: even after we've squeezed out the 10-20% of health care costs attributable to inefficiencies and waste, you can expect health care costs to continue to spiral upward. Electronic medical records, computerized prescriptions, and

Saturday, September 25, 2004

First Amendment: Is there a right to clone?

Brian Alexander has an interesting article in Sunday's N.Y. Times Magazine in which he raises the possibility that scientific research is protected by the First Amendment, just like speech. The gist of the article is in the following paragraphs: Why legal scholars would defend the right to research is hardly mysterious. The founding fathers passionately defended scientific and academic freedom,

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Schiavo: Is this the end of the road?

Google News shows 489 stories (and counting) about the Florida Supreme Court's decision yesterday to strike down "Terri's Law," which the state legislature hastily passed last year to authorize Gov. Jeb Bush to circumvent the Florida courts' consistent determinations that Michael Schiavo was the appropriate decision maker on behalf of his wife, lying in a permanent vegetative state in a Florida

Saturday, September 18, 2004

The ethics of face transplants

As reported by AP (courtesy of Yahoo!), a team of doctors from the University of Louisville and the Netherlands has joined similar teams from Cleveland, England and France, all waiting for the chance to perform a face transplant. The procedure involves removing a donor's skin and other tissue, putting it over the recipient's bone and cartilage and reconnecting it. The team plans to reserve the

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Bush Administration v. Big Pharma.

It's a real man-bites-dog story, but the NY Times is reporting that the Bush Administration, over the objections of the pharmaceutical industry, is posting comparative drug prices on the CMS webpage. Having carried some heavy water for Big Pharma for years, the administration appears to have started taking its pro-consumer, pro-market-forces rhetoric seriously.

On the other hand, this is a

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Dementia and the voter.

Here's a sleeper issue, from today's Washington Post ("Dementia and the Voter"): As swing states with large elderly populations such as Florida gear up for another presidential election, a sleeper issue has been gaining attention on medical, legal and political radar screens: Many people with advanced dementia appear to be voting in elections -- including through absentee ballot. Although there

Monday, September 13, 2004

Single-payer system? Consider Canada.

Steven Lewis has an excellent piece in the Sept. 14 Canadian Medical Association Journal in defense of Canada's single-payer, universal health insurance system. While acknowledging limitations and lessons learned, he insists that the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Here's his list:First, it is that rare form of achievement: social justice combined with administrative efficiency. Although

Child health: a progress report.

The September/October issue of Health Affairs is now on-line, and as you can tell from a quick perusal of its table of contents, it has a lot of good research and writing on the subject of child health, including: the usual thoughtful article by editor John Iglehart ("To What Are Children Entitled? Coming Challenges");Paul Wise's helpful article, "The Transformation Of Child Health In The United

Sunday, September 5, 2004

Speaking of Big Pharm . . .

Today's N.Y. Times has a review of Marcia Angell's scathing indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, The Truth About the Drug Companies. The reviewer, Janet Maslin, writes that "Dr. Angell's case is tough, persuasive and troubling. Arguing that in 1980 drug manufacturing changed from a good business into 'a stupendous one,' thanks to changes in government regulations. She adds, 'Of the many

Negative trial results and Big Pharm.

As previously noted here, PhRMA (the pharmaceutical industry association) responded to the rising tide criticism from physicians, consumers, and politicians by proposing guidelines for the release of clinical-trial results when those results are unfavorable.

The NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer went after Glaxo SmithKline for just such secrecy, resulting in a settlement announced August 26.

Torture and medicine.

I've been remiss in failing to post a comment on the recent article (in the August 21 issue of the British medical journal, The Lancet) by Minnesotan Steven H. Miles, M.D., entitled "Abu Ghraib: its legacy for military medicine" (available for free). It is a stinging indictment of military physicians, PAs, nurses, and medics who persistently and conspicuously violated the Geneva Conventions by

Pediatric ethics & drug studies.

As reported in today's Olympia (Wash.) Olympian, the FDA's Pediatric Ethics subcommittee will meet on Sept. 10 to discuss whether "[i]t is ethical in the name of science to give a healthy child as young as 9 a controlled substance." The story continues:
The research, proposed by the National Institute of Mental Health, includes healthy children among 9- to 18-year-olds who would receive a single

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Class-action suit by 600K docs against 6 insurers.

I don't see anyone else reporting this story, but according to a story in Thursday's N.Y. Times by Milt Freudenheim,"[a]n appeals court upheld class-action status yesterday for a lawsuit brought on behalf of at least 600,000 doctors contending that six of the nation's largest health insurers regularly reduce payments for medical services. . . . A three-judge panel of the United States Court of