Articles Posted in Ethics

fuelingepidemic-235x300A U.S. Senate Committee has ripped Big Pharma for making millions of dollars in pernicious payments to patient advocacy groups, so they could legitimize and assist in promoting powerful prescription painkillers, a practice that investigators say helped fuel the opioid drug abuse epidemic.

The committee report says:

Patient advocacy organizations and professional societies play a significant role in shaping health policy debates, setting national guidelines for patient treatment, raising disease awareness, and educating the public. Even small organizations— with ‘their large numbers and credibility with policy makers and the public’—have ‘extensive influence in specific disease areas.’ Larger organizations with extensive funding and outreach capabilities ‘likely have a substantial effect on policies relevant to their industry sponsors.’

With estimates that more than 150,000 of America’s young have been exposed to campus shootings since 1979, it seems curious, to be generous, for so many to just bend a knee and not see that the nation is in the grip of a public health crisis — a crisis that with clear thinking could be stopped.

If Americans of another age got “scared straight” about the dangers of intoxicated driving by seeing gruesome educational movies, well, then, it might be worth getting more people to read the post-mortem, detailing the human carnage caused just a few months ago by a psychotic’s firing from a hotel perch into a music festival crowd below in Las Vegas. See, for example, the video above showing the damage caused by assault-style weapons.

schuchat-201x300fitzgeraldBrenda Fitzgerald, a rich doctor who not only wouldn’t pull her hand out of her personal cookie jar of investments and instead plunged it even deeper during her conflicted time in public office, finally has quit the top job at the respected federal agency charged with protecting the nation’s health from disease and other dangers.

The appointed chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (shown at top, left)  was ethically impaired before and during her half-year term, arguably to the major detriment of her job and the public’s health.

She was forced to resign after media disclosures that not only had she slow-walked her divestment in a multi-million-dollar portfolio, owned with her husband, of Big Pharma and other health care enterprises, but, even after she joined the CDC, she was caught buying and selling Big Tobacco stocks.

Nassar-Mich-AG-and-AP
His basic credentials would come under fire, but they were sufficient for the “doctor” to insinuate himself into major institutions, and, worse, into the lives of hundreds of girls and young women on whom he inflicted a tragic toll. His combination of enthusiasm — he was a rah-rah kind of guy— extreme controlling conduct, and horrific “treatments” never seemed to set off the red flags they should have.

Instead, Larry Nassar — an osteopath who served as an athletics and team caregiver for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University — got away for years with abusing adolescent females put under his  sway. He purportedly provided medical services to them, many in exclusive and demanding athletic camps where young participants were cut off from their friends, family, coaches, and personal physicians. He “treated” aspiring Olympians, at all hours of the night and day, alone and without any other adults around, in their bedrooms, on their beds — not in medical offices or athletic training facilities.

He enthusiastically told his patients, many of whom excelled at their sport because of their willingness to please adults and to be coached, that he could deal with their pains and injuries with what he termed pelvic manipulations in which he digitally penetrated them in their private parts. Without medical cause or justification, he conducted repeated and invasive “exams” of girls and young women’s genitals.

oprah1-go-225x300Oprah Winfrey’s recent rousing broadcast speech — both in accepting an entertainment industry group’s lifetime achievement award and denouncing sexism and sexual harassment in Hollywood — also opened the door to a reconsideration of how this talented, smart, accomplished, powerful, and wealthy celebrity icon long has helped to foster a barrage of health and medical humbug, spreading it far and wide in popular culture.

As Stat, a health and information site, recapped about Winfrey:

She connected a cancer patient to ‘junk science,’ a Washington Post analysis says. She promoted charlatans on her show, according to Slate. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee put out a statement … attacking Winfrey for ‘giving a platform to anti-vaccination campaigners and other dangerous health quackery.’

blkmom-300x222The bad news for expectant black moms isn’t confined to those living in the nation’s capital: A new investigation has found higher risks of harm for women in New York, Florida, and Illinois when they deliver at hospitals that disproportionately serve black mothers.

ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site, analyzed two years of hospital inpatient discharge data from the three states to “look in-depth at how well different facilities treat women who experience one particular problem — hemorrhages — while giving birth.” Reporters found negative patterns that underscored big woes identified by other research before:

[B]lack women … fare worse in pregnancy and childbirth, dying at a rate more than triple that of white mothers. And while part of the disparity can be attributed to factors like poverty and inadequate access to health care, there is growing evidence that points to the quality of care at hospitals where a disproportionate number of black women deliver, which are often in neighborhoods disadvantaged by segregation. Researchers have found that women who deliver at these so-called ‘black-serving’ hospitals are more likely to have serious complications — from infections to birth-related embolisms to emergency hysterectomies — than mothers who deliver at institutions that serve fewer black women.

bullets-300x245When illness, accidents, and natural- or man-made calamities strike, victims discover in their long slog to recovery that our health insurance system only aggravates their pain and anxiety.  That’s a painful lesson that hundreds of Americans will keep struggling with in 2018, months after a madman rained gunfire from high-powered rifles down into a Las Vegas music festival crowd.

Modern Healthcare deserves credit for its follow-up of the October mayhem Nevada. It was part of what the industry publication calls an “epidemic of mass shootings,” tragedies stretching from San Bernardino, Calif., to Newton, Mass. They’re taxing hospitals’ capacities not only to provide large-scale emergency medicine but also to provide follow-up care — especially assisting survivors and their families and friends in dealing with their staggering medical expenses.

Victims in mass shootings, Modern Healthcare reported, confront a “proliferation of health plans with high deductibles and coinsurance requirements, leaving [them] exposed to many thousands of dollars in cost-sharing. Severely injured patients needing repeat surgeries may hit their out-of-pocket spending limits multiple years in a row, forcing them into bankruptcy. On top of that, even insured patients may face big balance bills if they are treated by out-of-network providers.”

gottliebThe  Food and Drug Administration has closed out the year by issuing a new white paper reaffirming the agency’s three-year-old warning to surgeons and women to avoid in general the use of a surgical device called a morcellator in “key-hole” or laparoscopic gynecological operations.

It wasn’t a surprise that the FDA retained this caution. That’s because the Wall Street Journal, back in 2014, had published a major investigative series linking morcellators to increased cancer incidences, recurrences, and risks in women. Researchers found that the popular surgical tool, by grinding up tissues such as those found in common female fibroid tumors, purportedly to permit their easier, faster removal, spread cancerous tissues throughout the body. The FDA has taken major, deserved criticism for failing for two decades to better protect thousands of women from harms caused by this medical device.

But what else did the agency do in its busy December? Scott Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner, also has reaffirmed that the FDA is motoring ahead with a stepped program to speed up an already loose approval and oversight process for medical devices like the morcellator.

fitzgeraldWhat’s going on at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?

It’s a federal agency with a $7 billion budget and more than 12,000 employees working across the nation and around the globe on everything from food and water safety, to heart disease and cancer, to infectious disease outbreak prevention. Its work and guidance on health matters long has been heeded and well respected.

But the Washington Post — in a story that sounds like it might have leaped from the satirical pages of The Onion or from a monologue by the late comedian George Carlin — has reported that CDC experts have been banned from using seven words in any upcoming communications with Congress about the 2019 budget.

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