Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies

Greetings from Stephen Latham, Bioethics Center Director

The new semester is barely upon us and we’re already busy. The Bioethics Center and the CT Coalition to Improve End-of-Life Care co-hosted a wonderful event last night at the medical school’s Cushing Center; thanks to Terry Dagradi for an excellent tour!

A few events to flag, not this week but next: On Tuesday evening the 21st, our sister organization the Program on Biomedical Ethics at the Medical School will host a talk by Tia Powell, MD (Einstein, Bioethics) on “Ethical Issues, Dementia, and Health Policy.” Details below! A light supper will be served, so please RSVP to Karen.Kolb@Yale.edu.

On Wednesday the 22d, our Technology and Ethics group will hear from Chris Bosso (Northeastern, Public Policy/Urban Affairs) on “Governing Emerging Technologies: Lessons from a Decade of Nano. The event will be at 4:15 in the ISPS building, but not in our usual venue: we’ll be upstairs in the ISPS library.

On Thursday at 4:15 our Animal Ethics group will host a public lecture in the Bioethics Center by Allen Rutberg (Tufts Veterinary Medicine) on “Wildlife Contraception: Successes and Challenges. The lecture will be at the Bioethics Center, 238 Prospect St.

Congratulations to our Hastings Center colleagues Josephine Johnston and Eric Parens on their appointment to core faculty positions at the new Center for Research on Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic, and Behavioral Genetics at Columbia University Medical Center.

Congratulations to former Bioethics Center Executive Committee member Stephen Kellert (Yale FES) on this wonderful profile in last Sunday’s New York Times!

Congratulations to current Executive Committee chair Bob Levine on his appointment as chair of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Data and Safety Monitoring Board for the Randomized Placebo-Controlled Study of the Safety, Tolerability, Pharmacodynamics, and Clinical Efficacy of ILV-094 (an anti-IL-22 antibody) Administered Intravenously to Subjects with Atopic Dermatitis.


Wednesday, January 22 at 4:15 PM
Technology & Ethics Group
Location: 77 Prospect St, library
Speaker: Chris Bosso, Professor and Associate Dean, School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University 
Topic: Governing Emerging Technologies: Lessons from a decade of Nano

Thursday, January 23 at 4:15 PM
Animal Ethics Lecture
Location: 238 Prospect St, conf room
Speaker: Allen T. Rutberg, Ph.D., Director, Center for Animals and Public Policy, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine Tufts University
Topic: Wildlife Contraception: Successes and challenges

  Updates from the Summer Institute

Campus Events

Conferences & Off Campus Events

Grants, Fellowships & Jobs



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Updates from the Summer Institute

From Associate Director Carol Pollard

Holiday Greetings have come from many past Summer Students, including: Pauline Knobloch, Sebastian Galbo, Olga Rosales Aedo, Alex Rowan, Michelle Piperberg, Maribel Yerena, Antonia Reitter, and Pranav Reddy.  (Your good wishes are much appreciated and reciprocated!)

Jessica Hahne writes: “I just received an email from the admissions committee at the Yale School of Public Health, and I was admitted into the “5-Year Program”!!  I will be at Yale for an additional year now, after graduating from the college, to pursue a Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Chronic Disease Epidemiology.”  (Congratulations Jessica – and I will get to see you for at least another year!!)

Amy Constable writes: “Happy new year, all my best wishes to everyone involved in the Yale Summer Program!  I'm sitting at my parents’ house in the sunshine blissfully enjoying two weeks break before heading back to Canberra to start my studies again!  I am officially a graduate of the Australian National University (wooohoo!) and am about to start my honours year in Science regarding forced migration from small island states due to climate change (such sea level rise, contamination of water sources, erosion and intensified disasters, etc…) with hopefully a focus on Kiribati and Tuvalu.  I am lucky enough to have the supervision of two tremendously well-respected academics who have a passion for both educating and academia.  How lucky am I!  I am still in touch with a number of students from the Summer Program and am hoping to go to Europe in April, so I will be sure to send you photos when I catch up with everyone!”  (Good Luck Amy…and do send the photos!)

Marcin Michalak writes: “With each new year, I am reminded of my stay at Yale and all the fantastic people I met.  It was a very special time for me.  With this in mind, I want to wish you and everyone at the Center a Happy New Year.  May it bring you hope, joy, and fulfillment of your dreams and plans and provide you with many positive moments both in your professional and private lives.”  (Thank you Marcin, and we hope the same for you!)

Mia Engstrom writes: “Happy holidays!  Hope you had a nice Christmas. I got to have one I'll never forget; my whole huge family got together, we were about 30 people - it was amazing - a lot of love and gratitude expressed.  Hope you had the same feeling. Over in Sweden, I'm enjoying my fourth year of medical school -- many new friends and also academically I've been a regular visitor at the department of medical ethics in Lund.  I feel incredibly welcomed and included there.  It holds some of Sweden's sharpest minds in the field of bioethics, and I've been to some very interesting seminars there on priorities, health policy, and research ethics. I just got some great news, which is that they will fund me to do independent research there this summer.  How exciting! I can't wait!  I feel overwhelmed by the opportunity that they invest in me. Also, I recently got elected vice president of the younger doctor/student delegation of the Swedish Medical Society!  It's a society focusing on continuing education and discussion for doctors, much in the field of medical ethics.  The SMS has a delegation for medical ethics, which is quite a normative institution for practice for Swedish doctors.  In this position I'm hoping to get to attend some of their meetings, as well as spread my enthusiasm for the subject to other students by hosting seminars and discussion meetings.  I'm really looking forward to the work. So, having had a quite slow fall, when December came, all the credit came too.  I'm so looking forward to an exciting 2014.  I've been thinking of you and the others from the Summer Program.  I sometimes meet up with Daniel Livendahl, and we get deep into nostalgia.”  (Congratulations Mia!)

Montserrat Hernandez writes: “Medical school has been very challenging, and I think that the closer I am to the end the more challenging it becomes!  I have been learning how to deal with all these new feelings during the past few months.  Clouds seem to be passing away, and I feel like they are leaving me a bit bruised but also with a sense of inner strength reached.  I wish you and all the scholars at the Center a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!”  (Good Luck Montserrat!  You are achieving your dream!)

Izabela Borek writes: “It’s Christmas time, and I'm getting ready to go home to visit my family for the first time since I started my PhD. Recently I've been thinking a lot about all of the things that happened to me in past few months -- all of the changes -- and I just want to say THANK YOU SO, SO, SO MUCH!!!  I worked for many years to be where I am now, and you helped me to make my dream to come true.   That gives you a very special place in my heart.  Every success I will ever achieve doing what I do, you will be a part of it.  I just really wanted to tell you this.”   (Thank you Izabela!  And Good Luck with your PhD program!)

Christiana Peppard, past summer seminar leader in environmental ethics, writes: “This happy holiday note is to invite you into my emerging work, since two great things have gone live this month: www.christianapeppard.com -- a site that aggregates and curates my work in scholarly and public media realms. Still in progress (permissions for scholarly articles, etc.), but I love it and welcome your visits and feedback! Just Water: Theology, Ethics, and the Global Water Crisis -- copies are in the warehouse and should ship any day! May the Holiday Season and New Year be full of goodness, creativity, and light for you and yours.  Be in touch!  (Congratulations Christy!)

Alma Massaro writes: “Wishing all of you at the Center a lovely holiday season full of joy and peace.  May your hearth be full of unending love.  (Also attached please find a picture of Martina, a lovely cow I was working with!)  (Happy Holidays to you, Alma!)

Kyle Fitzpatrick is now a Freelance Editor at Fiverr (Fiverr.com).  (Congratulations Kyle!)

Virginia Sheftall is celebrating three years at the South Carolina Judicial Department.  (Congratulations Virginia!)

Laura Ballantyne-Brodie, past summer student and present summer seminar leader, writes: “I received an email from New York University offering a full scholarship for the Spring semester next year for a Masters in Law program!  Looks like I will be over your way for the Holiday Season next year!”  (Congratulations Laura!) 

Obinna Nwankwo writes: “Both Chizzy (Chizoba N. Nwachukwu) and I received our MD degrees in 2012 from Ulyanovsk State University Medical School, Ulyanovsk, Russia.  Presently we are both working towards getting residency training in the US.”  (Congratulations and Good Luck to you both!)

Sophia House is currently pursuing an MPhil in Comparative Social Policy at Kellogg College, University of Oxford (UK) and is also a research assistant on a housing law project examining the role of non-financial considerations in housing possession and eviction proceedings.  “I plan to pursue a legal education and ultimately hope to advance rights-based efforts to combat homelessness.”  (Congratulations and Good Luck Sophie!)

In the “small world” department, Rachel Teo is working with Zohar Lederman at the Centre for Biomedical Ethics in NUS (University of Singapore).  Zohar is a PhD candidate there in bioethics, and Rachel is a research assistant. (How wonderful for both of you!)

Emily Shepp writes: “Hope this holiday season has been absolutely wonderful for you and the Center Scholars!  I wanted to give you a quick update!  I have been living in Chicago since the beginning of September and have loved the city so far!  This past summer, I made the decision to pursue a Master's in Public Health, focusing on public health policy, beginning in the fall of 2014.  I did a great deal of research on specific programs and ultimately decided on applying to Yale School of Public Health and University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.  I am very excited about the possibility of returning to study at Yale!” (Good Luck Emily!)

Jennifer Thieren is attending graduate school at Georgetown University, School of Foreign Services.  “I have just completed my first semester and love it!  I live in a townhouse in Georgetown with three other graduate students in the same program.  I’m currently being considered for positions in the Executive Branch and State Department.”  (Congratulations Jennifer!)

Chelsea Rutherford is now an Intern in the Office of General Counsel, Partners HealthCare.  (Congratulations Chelsea!)

Claire Denis sent a friendly reminder that she is raising money to help support her Olympic Goal.  She wants to medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  Please visit her website (clairedennis.org) to find her blog as well as links to her Facebook page which has frequent updates and photos of her recent races and training.  (Congratulations Claire!  Hopefully your fellow students will respond!)

Of Note:

*Melissa Segal, associate director of Strategy and Operations, Science & Society, Duke University, has written again to me regarding the launch of the new Duke Master of Arts in Bioethics & Science Policy.  They are seeking applicants for this new program and realize that all of you who have gone through our program would be excellent candidates.  Please click here for more information and do contact Melissa directly with any questions (melissa.segal@duke.edu).

*The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy is issuing a Call for Applications to The Addis Ababa Summit on Cross Continental Cooperation titled “The Future of the Millennium Development Goals in the African Union,” January 27th-31st, 2014.  (www.AddisAbaba-summit.org)   Please check their website for more information and information about their graduate programs and future conferences.

AND FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON -- proof that music is the universal endorphin booster: A Flashmob in Moscow!  ENJOY! http://www.youtube.com/embed/KgoapkOo4vg?rel=0


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This Week on Campus

Wednesday, January 15

School of Forestry Seminar
Time: 12 PM
Location: 195 Prospect St, Burke Auditorium
Speaker: Julie Zimmerman, Associate Professor of Green Engineering; Assistant Director for Research, Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering
Topic: Assessment Informed Design: Innovative Examples from Water, Energy, and Material Systems

Thursday, January 16

Perspectives on Medicine Seminar
Time: 1 PM
Location: 315 Cedar St, room 110
Speaker: Ruslan Medzhitov, PhD, David W. Wallace Professor of Immunobiology; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Topic: Evolutionary Perspectives on Health, Disease & Medicine

Humanities & Medicine Lecture
Time: 5 PM
Location: 300 Cedar St, Anlyan Auditorium
Speaker: Nina Berman, Photographer, Columbia University
Topic: Purple Hearts

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Conferences & Off Campus Events

2nd Annual Health Law Year in P/Review
Friday, January 31, 2014, 9:00am to 5:00pm
Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East C (2036) , Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave. 
Please join the Petrie-Flom Center and the New England Journal of Medicine for our second annual Health Law Year in P/Review event.  This year we will welcome experts discussing major developments over the past year and what to watch out for in areas including the Affordable Care Act, medical malpractice, FDA regulatory policy, abortion, contraception, intellectual property in the life sciences industry, public health policy, and human subjects research. The full agenda is available on our website. Attendance is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required. To register, please visit our website at http://petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/events/details/health-law-year-in-p-review. Contact petrie-flom@law.harvard.edu with questions.  This event is supported by the Oswald DeN. Cammann Fund. 

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Health Insurance Exchange Implementation: Early Challenges and Opportunities
Saturday, February 8, 2014 - 8:30 am to 5:15 pm
Join health policy and law experts from around the country in a one-day conference on the current status of health insurance exchange implementation. Panelists will discuss the history behind health insurance exchanges, what’s going right and wrong so far, and how to balance state and federal roles in exchange implementation and operation. For more information, click here. For a Schedule of Events, click here.

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Unite For Sight will be holding a unique Innovator's Forum on Friday, March 14, 2014, at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, and we very much hope to see you and your colleagues there.  Presented by Unite For Sight, the Innovator's Forum will draw health, education, development, and social entrepreneurship professionals and students for a focused, highly interactive, and collaborative conference on best and emerging practices for effective programs.  During presentations and meal receptions, the expert speakers will offer key lessons, mentoring, and guidance about strategies that participants can apply to their work in health, education, development, and social entrepreneurship.  Those who register for the Innovator's Forum by January 20th may thereafter apply for a unique presentation opportunity at the event.  Complete details can be seen at http://www.uniteforsight.org/forum/present A reduced early bird registration rate is offered through January 20th.  We would appreciate it if you could also please forward this message to others who may be interested in attending. Complete details and the Innovator's Forum schedule can be seen at http://www.uniteforsight.org/forum.

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Grants, Fellowships, & Jobs

HeLEX Research Assistant position
The Centre for Health, Law and Emerging Technologies is seeking a Research Assistant to carry out literature reviews and background research for publications, presentations and reports under the direction of Dr. Jane Kaye, Director of HeLEX.  You will be required to carry out background research on the law and in the fields of bioethics and medical research governance, gathering, collating and analysing material and undertaking comprehensive literature reviews.  This would suit an early stage researcher who wants to gain experience of working in an active research centre in the broad area of law and emerging technologies in health. You will possess a Masters degree or equivalent in Law, Ethics or Policy.  You will have a good working knowledge of data protection law in the UK and Europe and excellent legal research skills.  You will have excellent interpersonal and communication skills (both in written and spoken English) and experience of working in an interdisciplinary research team.  You will also possess excellent writing skills and have experience of the steps involved in preparing a manuscript for publication.  In this position you will be expected to be an active and enthusiastic member of HeLEX. The post is offered full-time (37.5 hrs per week) for 3 years and will be based at the Old Road Campus, Headington, Oxford.  Closing date for applications is 12 noon on 24th January 2014. For further details please click here.

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Petrie-Flom Center Seeks to Hire Senior Law and Ethics Associate
In connection with our work on the Regulatory Foundations, Ethics, and Law Program of Harvard Catalyst | The Harvard Clinical and Translational Center, the Petrie-Flom Center seeks to hire a Senior Law and Ethics Associate immediately.  This is a full-time position for a doctoral-level hire (J.D., M.D., Ph.D., etc. in law, ethics, public health, social science, or other relevant discipline) with extensive knowledge and understanding of clinical research and its regulation. The Senior Law and Ethics Associate will support a new program aimed at developing creative, practical solutions to reduce seemingly intractable legal and ethical barriers to clinical and translational research. View the full job description and apply here. Contact Executive Director Holly Fernandez Lynch with questions.  

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Director, Division of Education and Development, Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH)
Deadline: January 31, 2014
The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) is pleased to announce the following job vacancy within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), including OHRP.  OHRP is actively seeking to fill a vacancy for the Director of its Division of Education and Development.  This is a competitive vacancy, open to all United States citizens. Become a part of the Department that touches the lives of every American! At the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) you can give back to your community, state, and country by making a difference in the lives of Americans everywhere.  It is the principal agency for protecting the health of citizens.  Join HHS and help to make our world healthier, safer, and better for all Americans. This position is located in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Secretary (OS), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP), Division of Education and Development in Washington, DC. The Division of Education and Development enhances the protection of human subjects in HHS-conducted or supported research by providing education to individuals involved in the human subjects research enterprise.  Specific Division functions include conference coordination, quality assessment, promotion of cooperative education and development, provision of ethical guidance and clarification, and maintenance and promulgation of educational and institutional review guidance materials.
How to apply: Depending on your status, you can apply for this position at one or the other of the following links on the USAJobs website (please copy link and paste into your browser): HHS-OASH-DE-14-1021509: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/358308800; HHS-OASH-MP-14-1020472: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/358308900

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Articles of Interest

To read the full text of an article, click on its link and it will open in a new window.  

Some sites may require free registration; others may require that you or your organization have a paid subscription.

In the News

Featured Article

Fernandez, Manny and Erik Eckholm. Pregnant, and Forced to Stay on Life Support. The New York Times. 8 January 2014.
The diagnosis was crushing and irrevocable. At 33, Marlise Munoz was brain-dead after collapsing on her kitchen floor in November from what appeared to be a blood clot in her lungs. But as her parents and her husband prepared to say their final goodbyes in the intensive care unit at John Peter Smith Hospital here and to honor her wish not to be left on life support, they were stunned when a doctor told them the hospital was not going to comply with their instructions. Mrs. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant, the doctor said, and Texas is one of more than two dozen states that prohibit, with varying degrees of strictness, medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient. More than a month later, Mrs. Munoz remains connected to life-support machines on the third floor of the I.C.U., where a medical team monitors the heartbeat of the fetus, now in its 20th week of development. Her case has become a strange collision of law, medicine, the ethics of end-of-life care and the issues swirling around abortion — when life begins and how it should be valued. Continue reading...

Health and Medicine

Knox, Richard. 50 Years After Landmark Warning, 8 Million Fewer Smoking Deaths. NPR. 7 January 2014.
Saturday marks an important milestone in public health – the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health. Few if any documents have had the impact of this one — both on the amount of disease and death prevented, and on the very scope of public health. An analysis in the JAMA, the American Medical Association journal, estimates that 8 million Americans avoided premature death as a result of tobacco control efforts launched by the 1964 report. Those efforts range from cigarette warning labels to escalating taxes on cigarettes to proliferating restrictions on where people can smoke. They were augmented by a series of high-profile surgeon general reports detailing the dangers to smokers, unborn children and bystanders. Continue reading...

Tavernise, Sabrina. Study Finds More Diabetic Hospital Visits When Food Budgets Dip. The New York Times. 6 January 2014.
Poor people with diabetes are significantly more likely to go to the hospital for dangerously low blood sugar at the end of the month when food budgets are tight than at the beginning of the month, a new study has found. Researchers found no increase in such hospitalizations among higher-income people for the condition known as hypoglycemia, suggesting that poverty and exhausted food budgets may be a reason for the increased health risk. Continue reading...

Pear, Robert. Justices Are Asked To Reject Nuns’ Challenge To Health Law. The New York Times. 3 January 2014.
The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court on Friday to reject a lawsuit filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns challenging requirements for many employers to provide health insurance coverage for birth control or face penalties under the new health care law. The Justice Department said the requirements did not impose a “substantial burden” on the nuns’ exercise of religion because they could “opt out” of the obligation by certifying that they had religious objections to such coverage. Continue reading...

Gold, Jenny. How Much Does A New Hip Cost? Even The Surgeon Doesn’t Know. NPR. 6 January 2014.
What will a gallon of milk set you back? How about a new car? You probably have a rough idea. But what about a new knee or a hip replacement? Chances are you have no clue. And you aren't alone. The surgeons who implant the devices probably don't know either, a survey finds. Orthopedic surgeons were only able to correctly estimate the cost of a device 21 percent of the time, according to a survey of 503 doctors at seven major academic medical centers published this week in Health Affairs. Continue reading...

Law and Bioethics

Eckholm, Erik. Access to Abortion Falling As States Pass Restrictions. The New York Times. 3 January 2014.
A three-year surge in anti-abortion measures in more than half the states has altered the landscape for abortion access, with supporters and opponents agreeing that the new restrictions are shutting some clinics, threatening others and making it far more difficult in many regions to obtain the procedure. Advocates for both sides are preparing for new political campaigns and court battles that could redefine the constitutional limits for curbing the right to abortion set by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and later modifications by the Supreme Court. Continue reading...

Medical Ethics

Onishi, Norimitsu. A Brain Is Dead, A Heart Beats On. The New York Times. 3 January 2014.
It started out as an operation to treat an increasingly common medical problem in America, childhood sleep apnea. It has become an anguished fight over the fate of a 13-year-old girl who, though pronounced legally dead by doctors, remains alive in the opinion of her religious parents. The girl, Jahi McMath, was declared brain-dead after complications from surgery on Dec. 9 at Children’s Hospital Oakland, which wanted to remove her from a ventilator. But her heart continues to beat, and her family protested the removal in court, so she has remained connected to the machine. Continue reading...

Weber, Tracy and Charles Ornstein. Medicare Officials Seek Authority To Ban Harmful Prescribers. NPR. 6 January 2014.
Medicare plans to arm itself with broad new powers to better control — and potentially bar — doctors engaged in fraudulent or harmful prescribing, following a series of articles detailing lax oversight in its drug program. Continue reading...

Szabo, Liz. Ethicists Criticize Treatment of Brain-Dead Patients. USA Today. 9 January 2014.
The cases of two young women - a California teen and a pregnant Texas mother - have generated sympathy for their families, but also have left some doctors and bioethicists upset about their treatment. Many doctors are questioning continued medical procedures on a 13-year-old girl declared brain-dead nearly one month ago, calling interventions to provide nutrition to a dead body unethical. Numerous people around the country also have questioned the decision of a Texas hospital to refuse to remove a pregnant woman from a ventilator, although her husband says she is brain dead. Many people don't understand the differences between a coma, persistent vegetative state and brain death, says Arthur Caplan, head of the division of bioethics at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. Continue reading...


Bartolone, Pauline. California County Pushes Drugmakers To Pay For Pill Waste. NPR. 3 January 2014. The leftover prescription drugs you have around your house are at the center of a battle between small government and big pharmaceutical companies. The immediate aim is to have the pharmaceutical companies take care of disposing of extra drugs. But Alameda County in northern California wants to make manufacturers think about the life cycles of their products — from their creation to what happens when they're no longer needed. Continue reading...

The Associated Press. Authorities in NY Sue Novartis in Kickback Scheme. 8 January 2014.
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. paid kickbacks to a specialty pharmacy in exchange for recommending refills of a blood transfusion drug it produces, according to an amended complaint filed Wednesday in a civil case brought by state and federal prosecutors in New York. The East Hanover, N.J.-based company boosted its sales of the iron-reduction drug Exjade by giving referrals and rebates to pharmacy BioScrip, which recommended refills to its patients but often ignored warning them of the drug’s potentially fatal side effects, which include kidney failure and gastrointestinal hemorrhaging, according to the complaint filed in Manhattan federal court. Continue reading...

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In the Journals

Ahmad, Ayesha. Do Motives Matter in Male Circumcision? ‘Conscientious Objection’ Against the Circumcision of a Muslim Child with a Blood Disorder. Bioethics. February 2014.
Whilst there have been serious attempts to locate the practice of male circumcision for religious motives in the context of the (respective) religion's narrative and community, the debate, when referring to a clinical context, is often more nuanced. This article will contribute further to the debate by contextualising the Islamic practice of male circumcision within the clinical setting typical of a contemporary hospital. It specifically develops an additional complication; namely, the child has a pre-existing blood disorder. As an approach to contributing to the circumcision debate further, the ethics of a conscientious objection for secular motives towards a religiously-motivated clinical intervention will be explored. Overall, the discussion will provide relevance for such debates within the value-systems of a multi-cultural society. This article replicates several approaches to deconstructing a request for conscientious refusal of non-therapeutic circumcision by a Clinical Ethics Committee (CEC), bringing to light certain contradictions that occur in normatively categorizing motives for performing the circumcision. Continue reading…

Alsolamy, Sami. Islamic Views on Artificial Nutrition and Hydration in Terminally Ill Patients. Bioethics. February 2014.
Withholding and withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration from terminally ill patients poses many ethical challenges. The literature provides little information about the Islamic beliefs, attitudes, and laws related to these challenges. Artificial nutrition and hydration may be futile and reduce quality of life. They can also harm the terminally ill patient because of complications such as aspiration pneumonia, dyspnea, nausea, diarrhea, and hypervolemia. From the perspective of Islam, rules governing the care of terminally ill patients are derived from the principle that injury and harm should be prevented or avoided. The hastening of death by the withdrawal of food and drink is forbidden, but Islamic law permits the withdrawal of futile, death-delaying treatment, including life support. Nutritional support is considered basic care and not medical treatment, and there is an obligation to provide nutrition and hydration for the dying person unless it shortens life, causes more harm than benefit, or is contrary to an advance directive that is consistent with Islamic law. The decision about withholding or withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration from the terminally ill Muslim patient is made with informed consent, considering the clinical context of minimizing harm to the patient, with input from the patient, family members, health care providers, and religious scholars. Continue reading…

Moazam, Farhat. To Donate a Kidney: Public Perspectives from Pakistan. Bioethics. February 2014.
Despite the majority opinion of Muslim jurists that organ donation is permitted in Sharia, surveys indicate continuing resistance by lay Muslims, especially to donating organs following death. Pakistan, a country with 165 million Muslims, currently reliant on live donors, is considering steps to establish deceased donor programs which will require public acceptance and support. This article analyzes the results of in-depth interviews with 105 members of the public focusing on opinions and knowledge about juristic rulings regarding kidney donations, donor-family dynamics in deceased donation decisions, and attitudes towards buying kidneys. The objective was to determine the influence if any of cultural and religious values, and norms of traditional family structures and kinships, on decisions to donate. Study participants view donation of kidneys, particularly from the deceased, through a different lens from that used by jurists and physicians, one that also does not conform to familiar paradigms defining ethical organ donation. A socially modulated understanding of Islam passed down the generations, and longstanding family-centric norms, shape the moral worldview of many rather than academic juristic rulings or non-contextual concepts of autonomy and rights. The results of this study also highlight that medical science may be universal but its application occurs within particularities of cultural and religious values, social constructs of the self and its relationship with others, and different ways in which humans comprehend illness, suffering, and death. These findings are of relevance both to transplant related professionals and bioethicists involved with this field. Continue reading…

Shaw, Alison. Rituals of Infant Death: Defining Life and Islamic Personhood. Bioethics. February 2014.
This article is about the recognition of personhood when death occurs in early life. Drawing from anthropological perspectives on personhood at the beginnings and ends of life, it examines the implications of competing religious and customary definitions of personhood for a small sample of young British Pakistani Muslim women who experienced miscarriage and stillbirth. It suggests that these women's concerns about the lack of recognition given to the personhood of their fetus or baby constitute a challenge to customary practices surrounding burial as a Muslim. The article suggests that these women's concerns cannot be adequately glossed as a clash of Islamic belief versus Western medicine. Rather, they represent a renegotiation of Islamic opinion and customary practices within the broader context of changes in the medical and social norms surrounding pregnancy loss and infant death in multi-ethnic British society. Continue reading…

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Ars Technica

Timmer, John. Solar variability has a small effect on climate change. December 27, 2013.
The Earth wouldn't have much of a climate if it weren't for the Sun. But it's a different thing entirely to conclude that because of its essential role the Sun contributes significantly to climate change. To alter the climate, the amount of energy sent our way by the Sun would have to vary significantly. And most studies have found that, while the Sun's output does vary, it hasn't seemed to have changed enough to have left a mark on the recent climate record. Continue reading…

Timmer, John. Nailing down climate uncertainty hints at greater future warming. January 2, 2014.
Although the basic outlines of climate change are well understood—the first science on the greenhouse effect was done back in the 1800s—there are a number of details where our understanding remains incomplete. One of the big ones is the effect of clouds. Depending on their altitude, clouds can either reflect sunlight (cooling the planet) or act as an insulator, warming it. Figuring out the exact balance between these effects has been a challenge. Continue reading…

Fisher, Ken. On moderation in climate discussions. January 7, 2014.
Climate change articles trigger some of the most heated discussions on Ars Technica. Unlike discussions about which virtual keyboard is better or which approach to cloud storage makes the most sense, climate change is a scientific matter with political ramifications. It's also the focus of astroturfers (fake grassroots movements), trolls, and the willfully scientifically illiterate. Continue reading…

Rathi, Akshat. Nanoparticles catch cancer cells that make it into the blood stream. January 10, 2014.
More than nine in ten cancer-related deaths occur because of metastasis, the spread of cancer cells from a primary tumor to other parts of the body. While primary tumors can often be treated with radiation or surgery, the spread of cancer throughout the body limits treatment options. This situation could change if work done by Michael King and his colleagues at Cornell University delivers on its promises, as he has developed a way of hunting and killing metastatic cancer cells. Continue reading…

Chicago Tribune

Editorial. The Obamacare 10 Percent Club. December 19, 2013.
Attention, last-minute insurance shoppers: There are only four days before P-Day, Dec. 23. That's the deadline for choosing a plan on an Obamacare insurance exchange to ensure that coverage begins on Jan. 1. Continue reading…

Editorial. Obamacare teeters. December 24, 2013.
If you were marauding at the mall last week, you may have missed yet another full-scale federal retreat from Obamacare, that massive lump of coal in the stockings of millions of Americans. If you were out and about Monday, you may have missed, yes, one more last-minute delay for this increasingly wobbly law. Continue reading..

Editorial. Dump the ethanol mandate. January 6, 2014.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed reducing the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be mixed into the nation's fuel supply. Fuel blenders would be required to use 15.21 billion gallons of biofuel in 2014, down from 16.55 billion gallons last year. Continue reading…

The Economist

Science & Technology. Unskinny genes. January 4, 2014.
If straining waistlines were still a sign of prosperity, Mexicans would be rich. These days, girth is more likely to signal sickness. Diabetes is a particular scourge. The type-2 (or late-onset) variety, which is linked to obesity, is thought to afflict 11m Mexicans. It kills 73,000 of them a year, seven times as many as organised crime. Continue reading…

Los Angeles Times

Editorial. FDA must stand firm in the ‘natural’ food fight. January 7, 2014.
Contrary to what many consumers assume, a "natural" label on foods doesn't necessarily mean much. The Food and Drug Administration has never defined the term, though it says it doesn't object to its use to describe foods without added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. Continue reading…

Editorial. The Little Sisters of the Poor vs. Obamacare. Janauary 7, 2014.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, an organization of Roman Catholic nuns that runs nursing homes around the country, is testing the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Last week, we're sorry to say, the nuns won a temporary reprieve from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Continue reading…

New York Times

Editorial. Curbing a Potent Greenhouse Gas. January 7, 2014.
On Dec. 17, the European Union drafted important legislation to cut hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, by 79 percent by 2030. This is the most concrete move yet to rein in HFCs, which are potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air-conditioners. In June, the United States and China reached an agreement to reduce these gases, and in September leaders of the Group of 20 nations pledged to do their share. With Europe’s move, the goal of a global agreement on the gases is closer than ever. Continue reading…

Editorial. Abortion Restrictions in Texas and Beyond. January 8, 2014.
The tenuous state of women’s basic right to make their own childbearing decisions was made clear on Monday when a federal appeals court in New Orleans heard arguments on a new abortion restriction enacted in July in Texas — one that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Continue reading…

Editorial. Fitful Progress in the Antismoking Wars. Janaury 9, 2014.
Fifty years ago this Saturday, on Jan. 11, 1964, a myth-shattering surgeon general’s report on smoking and health brushed aside years of obfuscation by tobacco companies and asserted, based on 7,000 scientific articles, that smoking caused lung cancer and was linked to other serious diseases. Those findings expanded as more data was gathered. Continue reading…

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