supervised injection site

NIMBYism continues to factor into supervised injection site policies

As a major tool in harm reduction policy connected to opioid and substance misuse, more than 30 states have implemented syringe exchange programs, or SEPs.

Surmounting or, in many cases, bypassing the considerable legal and political obstacles has proved a challenge for states, whether they succeeded in enacting SEPs or not. While, given the opioid crisis, SEPs are more important than ever, they do have limitations.

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long staircase

Epistemic Injustice, Disability Stigma and Public Health Law

By Daniel Goldberg

Public health law can integrate medical and social understandings of disability in ways that promise to reduce disability stigma and enhance epistemic justice.

However, models of disability currently embedded in public health law do precisely the opposite, at least partly due to the fact that public health laws have historically assimilated medicalized models of disability.

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Concussions, the N.F.L., & the Manufacture of Doubt

{SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION ALERT}

A new article of mine is out in the Journal of Legal Medicine entitled “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, the National Football League, and the Manufacture of Doubt: An Ethical, Legal, and Historical Analysis.”  I’ve written on the subject before, but in case anyone is interested, here is the Abstract of the current paper:

This paper integrates legal, historical, and ethical approaches in analyzing the National Football League’s conduct regarding the risks its players face of experiencing concussions and the long-term neurodegenerative pathologies to which such injury is linked.  Given that millions of children and adolescents play American football, and that the NFL concedes its behavior is a strong determinant of football culture, concussion issues are crucial matters of population health.  Examining over 500 pages of testimony generated during Congressional hearings in 2009 and 2010, the paper links claims issued by leading NFL representatives to past efforts by industrial actors to manufacture doubt.  The paper therefore argues that the history of public health is crucial to framing just public health policy in the present.  The paper applies two frameworks drawn from public health ethics to argue first that a robust process of public reason is stymied by the NFL’s insistence on privately holding information relevant to its attitudes, practices and beliefs regarding concussions, and second, that the unequal distribution of ‘football prevalence’ exposes already disadvantaged groups such as African-Americans to higher risks of concussions and neurological disease.  The paper concludes that this latter possibility may contravene mandates of social justice, and, if so, would be ethically suboptimal.

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The Oregon Health Study and the Medicalization of Health Policy

According to the website, the Oregon Health Study “is the first randomized controlled  experiment to examine the causal effects of having some type of insurance coverage versus having no insurance at all.”  The findings, released a few days ago, have unleashed a storm of commentary on what the investigators did and did not find in terms of links between coverage and health outcomes.  Writing  over at The Incidental Economist, Harold Pollack quotes Joseph Newhouse for the notion that the “Oregon Medicaid experiment ‘is a Rorschach test of people’s views on the ACA.’”  After the jump, I am going to try to defend that claim, although likely not in the way that good readers of Bill of Health might expect.

So here’s the funny thing: even though I am an attorney, an historian, and a bioethicist who researches health inequalities, stigma, and social justice, I actually am less of an expert on the delivery of health care services than virtually every blogger here, and likely a goodly portion of the readership, too.  When interviewing for a job as a prawf some years ago, I was asked for my opinion on the fate of the ACA (then still in Congress), and I had to shrug and say that I really was not up to date on all of the provisions of the bill nor of its likely passage, nor of its potential impact.  (No, I did not get the job!).

This is not because of anti-intellectualism, I believe (and hope!).  This is rather because of my engagement with the overwhelming evidence that access to health care services is simply not a prime determinant of health and its distribution in human populations.  In a seminal 2007 essay in Health Affairs, Paula Lantz, Richard Lichtenstein, and the good Dr. Pollack himself note that “Lack of access to health care is not the fundamental cause of health vulnerability or social disparities in health” (p. 1256).*  The authors go on to warn of the limits of medicalizing health policy, and suggest that if we want to use laws and policies to improve overall population health and compress health inequities, we need to go way beyond simply expanding access to basic health care services.

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Twitter Round-Up (3/31-4/6)

By Casey Thomson

This week’s slightly belated round-up concerns palliative care across cultures, the threat and problems of over-prescribing, and Big Pharma’s failure to create prices with the patient in mind. Read on for more from this week’s round-up.

  • Alex Smith (@AlexSmithMD) retweeted a piece on the lessons learned by Dr. Vvjeyanthi “V.J.” Periyakoil on how to approach palliative care for patients from a variety of backgrounds in ways that both extend life and fulfill the desires of the patient (in particular, reducing pain). (4/3)
  • Alex Smith (@AlexSmithMD) also retweeted an opinion piece in the NYT about the growing trend towards self- and over-medication, and the problems of overextending definitions of medical ‘conditions.’ As the piece’s author summarized: “The D.S.M. would do well to recognize that a broken heart is not a medical condition, and that medication is ill-suited to repair some tears.” (4/3)
  • Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) retweeted a link on two new wrongful death lawsuits against the NFL, which claim that the NFL withheld knowledge of the risks associated with concussions from players, that have been added to the string of other brain injury lawsuits filed against the league. (4/3)
  • Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) additionally retweeted a blog post on the striking results of a new study comparing male and female mortality amongst counties in the United States. While male mortality increased in only 34% of counties from 1992-1996 to 2002-2006, female mortality increased in 42.8%. This brings up questions concerning the cause of this demographic and largely geographic inequality, and what such a differential could mean on the health of dependents (children). (4/3)
  • Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) posted another article that put the recent New York “True Cost” campaign in historical context. The article called the campaign a “modern manifestation of…anxieties about the ‘contagion’ of working class and poor communities,” comparing it to the World War II-era venereal disease campaigns and the case of Typhoid Mary as all moralizing weapons aiming to instill shame rather than promote actual solutions to public health concerns. (4/4)
  • Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) linked to his own discussion of the problem with Novartis and India, noting that emphasis has been wrongly placed on patents when the concern should be on pharma’s hesitancy to create a pricing strategy that can provide medications for those who cannot afford huge prices. This unwillingness to do so, he claims, is violating a moral obligation. (4/4)

Twitter Round-Up (1/27-2/7)

By Casey Thomson

Even the surprisingly resurrected Richard III (on the Twitter-sphere, anyway) appreciates bioethics concerns. Read on to find out more about Richard III’s eagerness for patient confidentiality and other updates in this week’s (extended) Twitter round-up:

  • Stephen Latham (@StephenLatham) included a link to his blog post challenging Andrew Francis’ recent claim that penicillin was the central drug spawning the sexual revolution of the 1960s. While penicillin may have facilitated the widespread acceptance of pre-marital relations, it was The Pill that “translat[ed] that newfound sexual freedom into sexual equality.” (1/28)
  • Dan Vorhaus (@genomicslawyer) posted a summary video regarding the Neanderthal baby story that rocked the internet in the past few weeks, as reported by Taiwan’s Next Media animation. (1/28)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) shared a news report on Israel’s recent admittance to giving birth control to Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, frequently without either consent or knowledge. Concerns first arose after an investigative journalist began to explore why birth rates in the community had fallen so drastically and seemingly inexplicably. (1/28)
  • Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) linked to a piece explaining the future implications and consequences of the guidance requiring schools to make “reasonable modifications” in order to include students with disabilities in either general athletic programs or provide them with parallel opportunities. The guidance, while a potential huge move forward for individuals with disabilities, nonetheless will be nothing without “tough and honest conversation about financing and revenue – and soon.” (1/28)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) retweeted an article showing the return of the “invisible gorilla” from the 2010 book, but this time in the fake CT scans shown to both expert radiologists and volunteers alike. The gorilla was large in size compared to the typically indicative nodules, and was unmistakably a gorilla, but yet 20 out of the 24 radiologists failed to see the gorilla. It’s a frightening real-life example of what the original study’s jargon terms as “inattentional blindness.” (1/29)
  • Kevin Outterson (@koutterson) live tweeted the Pew meeting concerning new antibiotic development pathways for limited populations. See the string of tweets on his Twitter page for further details of how the meeting proceeded. (1/31)
  • Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) shared a link describing the first scientific evidence suggesting that doctors can “truly feel” their patients’ pain. The study, done by Harvard researchers, used brain scans to indicate activated regions of physicians’ brains during a simulated interaction with patients. (2/1)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) linked to a story on the problems associated with over-prescribing amphetamine-based medications, particularly to teenagers and young adults. While focusing on the individual story of an aspiring medical student named Richard Fee, the author delves into the underexposed side effects of often overzealous prescribing and the surprisingly casual attitude that most Americans hold towards this medication. (2/3)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) also posted a piece inspired by the talk surrounding World Cancer Day on the problems related to cancer treatment in developing countries. Contrary to being solely a problem of so-called developed nations, cancer remains an issue globally – including such cancers that are caused by an infectious agent. Fighting the false notions – that cancer in developing nations is minimal, that it is always not “catchable,” and that enough care (particularly vaccines) is being delivered – is essential to reducing the global inequity in cancer treatment. (2/4)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) retweeted the (supposedly resurrected and technologically adept) Richard III’s tweet regarding publication of details surrounding his newly-identified bones: “Hmmm not so happy about my physical attributes being discussed in public. What happened to patient confidentiality ???” (2/4)
  • Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) shared a report on a new study that found a correlation between low self-esteem and female body representation and obsession in “chick lit.” The report noted that the results suggested a possible “intervention tool” by having characters seek support from friends and family for such body concerns. (2/5)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) retweeted a graphic eloquently summarizing one of the simplest and most potent arguments in favor of vaccination, and arguably the greater biopharmaceutical industry. (2/6)

Note: As mentioned in previous posts, retweeting should not be considered as an endorsement of or agreement with the content of the original tweet.

Twitter Round-Up (1/20-1/26)

By Casey Thomson

Though simply the consequence of bad translation, the story of the Harvard geneticist George Church looking for a woman to act as surrogate for a Neanderthal clone shocked the internet bioethics world. A look at the problems with this hypothetical situation is just one of the components of this week’s Twitter Round-Up.

  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) linked to an opinion piece discussing the reasoning behind the United States’ place in the world rankings of life expectancy at different stages of life. The news is a big hit to ideas of American exceptionalism: according to a report by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, Americans have a substantially higher death rate for those younger than 50 as compared to Western Europeans, Canadians, Japanese, and Australians, but once they reach the age of 80, they have some of the longest life expectancies globally. (1/20)
  • Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) shared his article on why Neanderthal cloning is a bad idea, both in terms of safety and in terms of avoiding cruelty. (1/22)
  • Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) posted a news story on the reopening of bird flu experimental procedures for vaccine creation. Caplan was quoted in the article as stating: “I have no issue with restarting the research but some issue with where they are going to publish it and where they present it because bad guys can use it too.” (1/23)
  • Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) included an evaluation as to the medical disparities occurring in Colorado, particularly between races. The article emphasized in its conclusion that the existence of the disparities themselves is quite clear, but discussion on how to erase such differences is noticeably absent. (1/23)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) retweeted a post that attempted to quantifiably compare the quality of care in Medicare options, namely whether Medicare Advantage plans 1) will eventually shortchange patients by skipping out on care quality because of profit motive or 2) have incentives to improve care quality because of the newly implemented systematic quality monitoring, where poor ratings impact them financially. The author found that most existing data makes the second theory more compelling, though the amount of data regarding the subject in general is largely lacking. (1/24)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) also shared a link to an explanation of the intricacies of “personalized regulation” in medicine, which aims to preserve patient choice in an era leaning more and more towards paternalistic medical oversight. Understanding that patients may choose to make rational decisions that diverge from the community or committee consensus is key towards improving medical care to better reflect patient wants, and rights. (1/24)
  • Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) included a story on the large imbalance in misconduct reports in research between the genders. Men overwhelmingly led the charge, with only nine women out of the 72 faculty members who committed research misconduct. (1/24)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) additionally shared a letter written by the Editor of The Hastings Center’s Bioethics Forum on the reasoning behind publication of a controversial article on the social pressures leading to obesity. The letter calls for the importance of recognizing that publication means that an article contributes to the larger debate on an issue, though does not affirm that the publication medium agrees with the views espoused within; it also encouraged responses to the ideas of the article. (1/25)
  • Stephen Latham (@StephenLatham) posted a video link from Comedy Central on the perils of WebMD and vegetarianism. (1/25)

Note: As mentioned in previous posts, retweeting should not be considered as an endorsement of or agreement with the content of the original tweet.

Twitter Round-Up (1/13-1/19)

By Casey Thomson
The flu, gun control, and legal action against the FDA – all amongst our Twitter feeds this past week. Read on for more:
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) retweeted a link to the FDA’s current legal trouble concerning their failure to disclose antibiotic resistance data. The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is accusing the FDA of violating the freedom of information law, failing to release data on antibiotic drug usage within the meat industry in order to, as they claim, protect industry secrets. This failure takes special significance when considering that, according to GAP, “80% of all antibiotics sold in the US are utilized by the meat industry.” (1/14)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) retweeted an article in the Health Affairs Blog concerning how to improve the Learning Healthcare System (LHS), which adapts data into knowledge that directs evidence-based practice and health system change. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is developing two approaches, namely Point-of-Care Research (“a method of performing clinical trials within the daily practicalities of the [health-care system] (with the intent of advancing these systems to LHS)”), and the Collaborative Research to Enhance and Advance Transformation and Excellence (strengthening health services research, which analyzes the factors regarding the obtainment of care). (1/14)
  • Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) reported on the American College of Physicians’ new recommendation that all healthcare providers receive the influenza vaccine for this particularly harsh flu season, in addition to other listed immunizations. (1/15)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) additionally added a post on the inequality of the 2012-2013 flu outbreak – namely, the disproportionate number of lower-income individuals who are contracting the illness. The article noted the results of a study which found that while the majority of efforts for vaccinations occur in more wealthy neighborhoods, covering poorer neighborhoods with vaccine care early benefits the wealthier neighborhoods more so than if such vaccinations were delayed. (1/16)
  • Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) also shared a link to an examination into New York’s newly passed major gun control law, which addressed gun control ownership of those with mental illness. Caplan dissolved claims that the new measures were “draconian,” noting that such practices of reporting individuals that may pose concern for the safety of others have already been in practice but that these new policies make the process of reporting a legal imperative, and simpler.
  • Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) shared an article on SAGE Journals about the experience of gender within the healthcare science environment, specifically looking at the subtle practices of masculinist actions taking place that may remain unnoticed or unchallenged. The report is based on the discussed experiences of healthcare scientists with men in healthcare science laboratories. (1/16)
  • Alex Smith (@AlexSmithMD) linked to an article on an intervention for “post-hospital syndrome”, commonly known as the Acute Care for Elders (ACE) Unit. The intervention, while evidence-based and already in place in many hospital locations, may be overlooked by practitioners or healthcare authors. This unit works to reduce the effects that often derive largely from the “allostatic and psychological stress” accumulated during a hospital stay. (1/18)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) posted a report on bias in reporting on breast cancer clinical trials. The study found that “nearly one-third of reports on large, randomized studies over-emphasize some benefits of therapy,” in addition to providing “insufficient attention or discussion of treatment side effects.” Considering that such reports factor prominently in how doctors decide to pursue treatment and therapy for patients, this misreporting leaves many doctors unaware of the true consequences of tested treatments – and may cause them to decide plans for treatment that they would not otherwise pursue. (1/19)

Note: As mentioned in previous posts, retweeting should not be considered as an endorsement of or agreement with the content of the original tweet.

Twitter Round-Up 1/1-1/13

By Casey Thomson

Due to the string of December holidays and some traveling by the round-up author, this post belatedly summarizes tweets from the end of 2012 to the beginning days of the new year. The round-up will resume a regular schedule following the conclusion of this week. Read below for this (extended) round-up:

  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) posted an article about China’s growing obesity problem, one that shocks those who remember the Great Famine of 1958-61 and which is still largely minimized by government officials. The total number of obese individuals in China has risen from 25% in 2002 to 38.5% in 2010, according to the World Health Organization. (1/1)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) also tweeted this blog post on the possibilities of cyborgs, a potential reality that a recent BBC article notes may not be too distant. Such an invention could potentially result in direct mental control of machines, augmented intelligence, augmented learning, and mood modification, among other benefits, postulates the article author. (1/1)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) additionally posted a piece addressing the idea of love between humans and robots. (1/3)
  • Alex Smith (@AlexSmithMD) announced the release of PREPARE, an online advanced care planning tool meant for individuals to foster communication skills and prepare for decision-making rather than make premature plans. The project in part is meant to help empower individuals rather than have them tied to the medical establishment. (1/4)
  • Dan Vorhaus (@genomicslawyer) included a blog post on crowd-funding personalized bioscience, particularly summarizing companies aiming to contribute outside the genetics realm. This includes sequencing the gut microbiome and noting biomarker concentrations through the blood. (1/7)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) posted an article decrying the paternalistic attitudes surrounding the release of genetic information to patients. Not only does this article claim that “People are smarter & more resilient [re #genetic info] than ethic debates give them credit for”, as Meyer references from the article, but it also recognizes that the complexities of the genome do not make it less necessary for doctors to figure out how to discuss it with the public. (1/7)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) also posted about the Supreme Court’s decision regarding a case on government funding of embryonic stem cell research. SCOTUS declined to hear an appeal to stop the research, which opponents claimed was in violation of the 1996 Dickey-Wicker law. (1/7)
  • Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) posted about a recent study on the influence of body weight and gender on courtroom judgments. The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that only an obese female was punished when in consideration along with a lean male, an obese male, and a lean female. Goldberg notes in his tweet that the results are “unreal but sadly [unsurprising]”. (1/8)
  • Alex Smith (@AlexSmithMD) retweeted an article lamenting the continued fall of fellowship trained geriatricians, which noted that the decrease in numbers is surprising considering that a boost from the Affordable Care Act raises a geriatrician’s annual salary by 12 percent through 2015. (1/9)
  • Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) shared a link on a sperm donor custody case in Kansas where the sperm provider thought he had absolved any connection to the child that his sperm would create, but is now being called upon to pay child support. While similar cases have not received as much media attention, the concept – being responsible financially as a result of having genetic ties to a child – has come up in cases involving fathers who were deceased yet were called to pay through their estate, and even in a similar sperm donor case in Pennsylvania in 2011. (1/10)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) posted an article discussing the recent move by  various healthcare centers requiring their health practitioners (doctors and nurses alike) to get a flu vaccine – possibly at the risk of their job. Should this be grounds for termination, or should the healthcare providers have the same choice to abstain from vaccination as does a patient? (1/13)

Note: As mentioned in previous posts, retweeting should not be considered as an endorsement of or agreement with the content of the original tweet.

Twitter Round-Up (12/9-12/15)

By Casey Thomson
This week’s round-up looks at the problems of substandard drug prevalence abroad, NIH’s possible push for an anonymous grant-awarding process, and the Liverpool Care Pathway investigation. Check it out below!
  • Dan Vorhaus (@genomicslawyer) included a link to a report on the recent launch of Personal Genome Launch Canada. The post includes links to help navigate the content and learn more about the intricacies of this project. (12/9)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) shared a post on the benefits and detriments of raising the age of Medicare eligibility from age 65 to 67 – an idea that has recently gained sway in the political arena. The author ultimately concludes that the move would only be a matter of cost shifting rather than cost saving, and thus harm the disenfranchised 65-66 year-olds that would front the cost. (12/10)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) also included this article on Dr. Oz’s wrongful diagnosis on organics. While concerns about finances must indeed be taken into consideration when families decide what foods to purchase, families must also be concerned about the presence of pesticides in their food. Organic food, while more expensive, avoids this health hazard. (12/10)
  • Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) additionally linked to this report on the preponderance of substandard (and oftentimes, consequentially lethal) drugs particularly in emerging markets. Efforts to crackdown on substandard drugs have thus far focused largely on counterfeit drugs, rather than those that are the result of “shoddy manufacturing and handling…or deliberate corner cutting,” which constitute an arguably much greater public health threat. (12/10)
  • Daniel Goldberg (@prof_goldberg) shared this post on the prevalence of worthless clinical practice guidelines. The article notes the need to distinguish the guidelines that meet much of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) quality criteria from the rest. (12/10)
  • Alex Smith (@AlexSmithMD) linked to a blog post on advance care planning and the gap between the needs of the healthcare system and those of patients. Currently, much of the paperwork required for advance directives is given without providing families and patients concrete skills needed for both identifying their desires and communicating such desires to direct their own medical care. This article calls for refocusing on providing direct patient empowerment in addition to the existing efforts to improve clinician communication in order to facilitate the ability of advance care planning to reflect the patient’s wishes. (12/11)
  • Michelle Meyer (@MichelleNMeyer) retweeted an article about the NIH’s consideration of introducing anonymity into the grant-awarding process in order to alleviate some of the concerns with bias that have long-plagued the agency. (12/12)
  • Dan Vorhaus (@genomicslawyer) also posted a report on BGI, a world-leading DNA sequencing organization based in China, and their commercial expansion efforts into the healthcare, agriculture, and aquaculture sectors. The question of whether BGI is more a research institute or commercial enterprise comes into question in the article. (12/12)
  • Stephen Latham (@StephenLatham) included a link to his own blog post on the recently renewed controversy concerning the Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient (LCP), particularly as to whether patients put on the LCP had a discussion with their care providers prior to the decision and whether hospitals were wrongly putting patients on the pathway. The talk of scandal sparked an independent investigation into the LCP; Latham’s article expressed his hope for thoroughness in the investigation and for serious consideration on how to renew the LCP effectively. (12/12)
  • Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) posted a link concerning the implications of 23andMe, a personalized genomics company, and their launch of the $99 genetic test in the hopes of inspiring greater numbers to get tested. The article’s author reflects on how the real benefit will likely not be immediate for individuals, but will rather depend on the chance that greater data will lead to more breakthroughs in understanding the human genome. (12/14)

Note: As mentioned in previous posts, retweeting should not be considered as an endorsement of or agreement with the content of the original tweet.