Articles Posted in Ethics

abortionbanstates-300x205Congress has passed a modest gun control law for the first time in three decades. The breakthrough, compromise measure, quickly signed by President Biden, not only provides for background checks for would-be weapons buyers younger than 21 and a push for states to pass laws to take guns away from the dangerous, it also provides a rare boost of tens of millions of dollars for desperately needed mental health services across the country.

kidshealthanniecasey-300x155But at the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court has upended New York’s long-standing restrictions on concealed weapons and the justices threw out a half century of established precedent in reversing Roe v. Wade.

In a blink, women’s reproductive health and their rights suffered a damaging blow, with medical experts, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, and the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine, condemning the high court’s allowing states to ban abortion, notably without allowing for exceptions for rape, incest, or when mothers’ lives are imperiled.

debtmedicalkhnnpr-300x193The sky-high and relentlessly rising cost of U.S. health care is slamming patients, ensnaring them in pricey over-testing, over-diagnosing, and over-treatment. It is pounding them with pervasive, pernicious, and unacceptable medical debt.

The crushing burden of expensive health care is leaving consumers going without as they also struggle now with soaring prices for gas, food, and other household basics.

Punishing finances have become part and parcel of the American way of health care, with “more than 100 million people in America ― including 41% of adults ― beset by a health care system that is systematically pushing patients into debt on a mass scale,” according to an unfolding investigation by the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service and National Public Radio. As the media organizations reported:

fb-300x160The kids may obsess about social media platforms. But just how much do patients want them to snoop into their most personal medical information, accessed due to hidden snippets of computer code embedded on the sites of some of the nation’s biggest and most respected hospitals, as well as facilities purportedly dealing with women’s reproductive health?

The cyber culprit that is taking heat from patient advocates is, of course, Facebook, the online giant built in part on its founder’s troubling axiom, urging his colleagues to “move fast and break stuff.”

Facebook not only provides a place for folks to glow about their latest vacations, share cat and dog pictures, and wish each other well on birthdays and other important occasions, the company has become a technology and online advertising titan. A key to its success rests in its capacities to track users via bits of code that users pick up like microbes or fleas when they troop through the Facebook site — or visit online clients of the company’s sweeping advertising enterprises.

atlantanorthside-300x155Federal officials will fine two Georgia hospitals, both in the same health system, a total of more than $1 million for failing to post online legally required pricing information. Patient advocates and the former administration hoped this incremental disclosure would help check ever-rising health care costs and give consumers important data to make better choices about which institutions they chose for treatment.

But hospitals nationwide, including the penalized Northside Hospital Atlanta (shown above) and Northside Hospital Cherokee, have flouted the transparency regulation that took force in January 2021. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has wagged a warning finger at institutions, issuing cautions to hundreds of institutions, with hundreds deciding to fall in line. Still, as the Washington Post reported:

“Out of more than 5,200 hospitals, just about 6% had both an accessible file and a shoppable display that adhered to the regulations. That’s according to a research piece published [June 6] in [the Journal of the American Medical Association, which] analyzed compliance six- to nine-months after the rules went into effect. Other reports found a similar pattern. In February, a report by patient advocates determined that a total of 14% of the 1,000 hospitals the group reviewed were in line with the requirements.”

ftclogo-300x95While U.S. patients are seeing their finances blown up by skyrocketing prescription drug prices, the members of Congress continue to wring their hands, ponder responses — and do nothing. The Federal Trade Commission, though, has at least launched an investigation of one part of Big Pharma to see if pharmacy benefit managers, the industry middlemen known as PBMs, jack up prices for patients.

Those footing the bill for drugs have plenty of reason for outrage, a trio of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have reported.

Their findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, show just how stark Big Pharma’s recent push for profits has been. As the researchers wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed, calling for congressional action to lower drug prices, based on their study:

gina4-300x169While hope can be a remarkable element in healing the sick and injured, can there be anything crueler than raising false hopes among the vulnerable?

Patients with serious illnesses like cancer — of the pancreas, breast, and rectum — may need to take in with extra care journalistic reports on medical advances that might affect their treatment.

Two N’s will matter a lot to them — nuance and the scientific short-hand in which medical scientists communicate how many subjects participated in their research (the value described as N=).

deppheardnbc-300x173When two wealthy celebrities engage in no-holds barred combat in a courtroom over the most personal aspects of their private lives together, the results can be disconcerting — but also riveting — for regular folks watching the legal wrangling.

The Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation case, with its mixed verdict from jurors, not only became an obsession for many pop culture fans, it also has prompted a torrent of commentary about its First Amendment implications, jurisprudence in Britain vs. America, as well as what the brutal dispute may mean for men and women litigants.

The case also should force a serious reconsideration of the tough issue of intimate partner violence and the expertise that medical and mental health specialists can bring to bear to help outsiders understand this largely hidden problem, two forensic psychiatrists, Renée Sorrentino and Susan Hatters Friedman, argue.

Abbottlogo-300x77The giant drug maker Abbott and the federal Food and Drug Administration both should hang their heads in shame as more information becomes public as to how they left millions of vulnerable infants hungry and put kids’ health at risk by wrongs involving the manufacture and distribution of a vital foodstuff — baby formula.

Millions of parents have gone into meltdown because of a nationwide shortage of the needed nutrient. It was sparked by the shutdown of Abbott’s formula-producing plant in Michigan, as well as the company’s product recall after babies got sick and died from  infections involving Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria.

While Abbott has emphasized that experts have not conclusively linked the bacteria to its formula and the firm has played up its cooperation in a product recall, Robert Califf, the FDA’s chief and a doctor, ripped the company. He told a U.S. House subcommittee that agency inspectors found “egregiously unsanitary” conditions at the drug maker’s plant, the New York Times reported, quoting him, thusly:

SBClogoThe University of California has agreed to pay yet more to hundreds of women patients who have credibly accused a UCLA gynecologist of sexual wrongdoing, with the now $700 million in approved settlements setting what is described as a national record for the largest such payouts involving a public university.

bruinslogo-300x214The UC system, one of the nation’s largest and highest ranked in academic achievement, says it must issue medical facility bonds to cover the staggering costs of claims against Dr. James Heaps and his sexual misconduct between 1983 and 2018 because the institution has exhausted its insurance coverage, the Los Angeles Times reported. University officials called the actions of the onetime health service and specialty doctor practicing at its renowned hospital “reprehensible and contrary to our values.”

The latest, increased UCLA payout of $375 million (for 300-plus cases) comes atop previous settlements of $244 million (for 200 cases), $73 million (for 5,000 claims), and $2.5 million (a single sexual assault incident), the newspaper reported.

Experts fear the country is veering dangerously into a widespread acceptance of mass death as just a regular part of life — not only by moving on with little more than faint acknowledgement of more than 1 million coronavirus pandemic fatalities but also with a tragic resignation about  fatal shootings at schools, groceries, movie theaters, and other public places.

It has been chilling to watch the “new normal” of the public reactions to a racist shooting that killed 10 in a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery, and the slaughter of 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas with destructive disinformation spreading, public officials fatally bungling, and political partisanship calcifying apace.

Most Americans recognized that the coronavirus was the worst health threat to the global community in a century. Most of us listened to experienced, evidence-based experts and followed their recommendations to quell the disease. But Republicans, with their White House running a shambolic, counter factual pandemic response, quickly politicized the efforts to battle the disease, experts say, and that helped bring about hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths.

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