Reality star Kim Kardashian at the CFDA Awards at the Brooklyn Museum on June 4, 2018.

Can Kim Kardashian Help Bioethics? Celebrity Data Breaches and Software for Moral Reflection

In 2013, Kim Kardashian entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

During her hospitalization, unauthorized hospital personnel accessed Kardashian’s medical record more than fourteen times. Secret “leaks” of celebrities’ medical information had, unfortunately, become de rigueur. Similar problems befell Prince, Farah Fawcett, and perhaps most notably, Michael Jackson, whose death stoked a swelling media frenzy around his health. While these breaches may seem minor, patient privacy is ethically important, even for the likes of the Kardashians.

Since 2013, however, a strange thing has happened.

Across hospitals both in the U.S. and beyond, snooping staff now encounter something curious. Through software, staff must now “Break the Glass” (BTG) to access the records of patients that are outside their circle of care, and so physicians unassociated with Kim Kardashian’s care of must BTG to access her files.

As part of the BTG process, users are prompted to provide a reason why they want to access a file. Read More

Alternative Approaches to Ethics

On the blog Somatosphere, there has been a recent series on anthropological approaches to ethics and morality. The key intervention of social science approaches to morality (which one also finds in areas such as feminist bioethics) is a focus on how contexts contour the many situations of ethics. From considering how contexts give rise to ethical meaning to questions of how relations and environments contour one’s moral options, a view of “the social provides” needed depth to how we analyze ethics and also the social situations that render a social issue into a necessarily “ethical” one.

I also wanted to point readers of Bill of Health to Somatosphere because it offers a real resource to readers interested in health policy, biotechnology, bioethics and social studies of health, medicine, and illness. Somatosphere is especially focused on topics that lay at the intersection of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and social studies of medicine.

Given the inherently interdisciplinary nature of bioethics and its wide expanse of interests across overlapping themes, it is important to also survey scholarship in other fields that are relevant.

The series I’ve highlighted below is part of a series on anthropological approaches to ethics and morality. In particular, the series offers a Reader’s Guide on the topic for those hoping to find out more about both anthropological and ethnographically-inflected approaches towards (and theorizations of) ethics and morality.

Part of a multi-series “Reader’s Guide,” readers can find a list of seminal texts here.

woman holding an ipad, looking concerned

What are the Ethics of Electronic Consent Forms?

While bioethics has generally understood technologies to be a source of ethical problems, there is relatively little reflection about issues associated with technology’s role in bioethics itself. The move towards electronic consent is one area in technology. While there is substantial research on consent and the consent process the gradual shift towards digital consent forms appears to have arrived without necessary bioethical reflection. What are the ethical implications of this shift?

Yet, there are other more compelling questions that this brings about: Could the digitization of consent forms support even more robust kinds of consent on the part of patients and research subjects? Given what we know about the gaps between the ideals of consent and the reality of consent in clinical and research settings, could electronic supports be used precisely in areas where consent “breaks down?” How might ethical aims be sustained or emboldened via systems?

Read More

Designing an Economic Bioethics

By Mark Robinson and Joseph M. Gabriel

In a previous post, one of us has argued that bioethical deliberation needs to incorporate an analysis of “market forces in health-related decision-making” under what might be called “economic bioethics.”

To a certain extent, of course, bioethicists already do this. Industry-physician relations, for example, attracts substantial attention from the field. Other notable topics include the price of health-care services and technologies (and drugs in particular), patenting biological material, debates about funding controversial types of medical research, and debates about the allocation of resources during times of scarcity.

Read More

illustration of abstract ecnomics

The Need for an Economic Bioethics

As the animations of markets increasingly shape the timbre and character of medicine, scholars studying ethical issues in health and medicine must be increasingly attentive to the role of market forces as they shape modern health care.

For those interested in the social, ethical, and conceptual dimensions of contemporary health and medicine, there has been a sustained focus on a key set of important challenges; how do we ensure adequate access to health for marginalized and global populations? What are the social and ethical implications of emergent technologies? How are issues of consent articulated in the everyday interactions of the clinic? What are our obligations to persons in terms of end-of-life care? These longstanding concerns regarding access, new technologies and the rights of patients comprise the major thrusts and foci of bioethics, health care ethics, and associated areas of inquiry.

Read More