Elizabeth Weeks Leonard joined the Georgia Law faculty in 2011. She is currently a J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law. Her teaching and research interests include torts, health law, health care financing and regulation, and public health law.
Prior to coming to UGA, Weeks served on the faculty at the University of Kansas School of Law. During her time there, she was honored with the Howard M. and Susan Immel Award for Teaching Excellence and with the Meredith Docking Faculty Scholar Award, a university-wide honor for faculty who have distinguished themselves early in their careers. Additionally, she has served as a visiting professor at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and at Georgia Law. Read More
Transparency is a relatively new concept to the world of health and health care, considering that just a few short decades ago we were still in the throes of a “doctor-knows-best” model. Today, however, transparency is found on almost every short list of solutions to a variety of health policy problems, ranging from conflicts of interest to rising drug costs to promoting efficient use of health care resources, and more. Doctors are now expected to be transparent about patient diagnoses and treatment options, hospitals are expected to be transparent about error rates, insurers about policy limitations, companies about prices, researchers about data, and policymakers about priorities and rationales for health policy intervention. But a number of important legal and ethical questions remain. For example, what exactly does transparency mean in the context of health, who has a responsibility to be transparent and to whom, what legal mechanisms are there to promote transparency, and what legal protections are needed for things like privacy, intellectual property, and the like? More specifically, when can transparency improve health and health care, and when is it likely to be nothing more than platitude?
This conference, and anticipated edited volume, will aim to: (1) identify the various thematic roles transparency has been called on to play in American health policy, and why it has emerged in these spaces; (2) understand when, where, how, and why transparency may be a useful policy tool in relation to health and health care, what it can realistically be expected to achieve, and when it is unlikely to be successful, including limits on how patients and consumers utilize information even when we have transparency; (3) assess the legal and ethical issues raised by transparency in health and health care, including obstacles and opportunities; (4) learn from comparative examples of transparency, both in other sectors and outside the United States. In sum, we hope to reach better understandings of this health policy buzzword so that transparency can be utilized as a solution to pressing health policy issues where appropriate, while recognizing its true limitations.
Call for Abstracts
We welcome submissions on both the broad conceptual questions described above and more specific policy issues, including: Read More
A stricken medical patient has a well-established right to reject life-extending medical interventions. A person afflicted with pulmonary disease is entitled to reject a respirator, a person with kidney dysfunction can reject dialysis, and a person with a swallowing disorder can reject artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH). State and federal courts uniformly invoke competent patients’ interests in self-determination and bodily integrity to uphold a patient’s prerogative to shape their own medical course. The patient’s right extends not just to intrusive machinery, but also to simplistic, non-burdensome medical intrusions like an I.V. tube or a blood transfusion.
Some patients facing fatal or seriously degenerative conditions seek to hasten their demise by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED) before the stage of decline when they are dependent on life-sustaining medical intervention. They see SED as a way to shorten their ordeal by precipitating death by dehydration within 14 days while receiving mild palliative intervention to foreclose distress before slipping into a terminal coma. The SED process entails days of lingering incapacity and is a distasteful prospect for some patients. But it is regarded by other patients as a relatively quick, peaceful, and humane way of ending a mortal struggle now deemed to be intolerably arduous.
Numerous medico-legal commentators, myself included, have asserted that a stricken patient has “a right” to VSED. These commentators associate a patient’s decision to cease nutrition and hydration with the established constitutional right to reject life-sustaining medical intervention. They note that the fasting person is invoking bodily integrity – precluding any feeding spoon from penetrating their mouth or nutritional tube from being inserted into their body – as well as autonomy in shaping a response to a serious affliction. They also observe that the proffered succor (in the form of forced feeding or artificial nutrition) demands medically skilled intervention generally subject to a competent patient’s control.
The formal legal authority is thin. Commentators point to several lower court decisions where judges refused to authorize medical override of a fasting patient. No high level judicial body has spoken to the precise issue. Read More