Abortion rights protest following the Supreme Court decision for Whole Women's Health in 2016

Louisiana TRAP Law Challenge Could Leave Thousands of Women without Abortion Access

By Adrienne Ghorashi

UPDATE: Late Thursday, February 7, the Supreme Court granted Plaintiff’s stay application, meaning Louisiana’s TRAP law may not be enforced while the challengers file an appeal. The Supreme Court will then decide whether to hear the case or deny the petition, letting the Fifth Circuit’s ruling stand.

Justice Roberts sided with the Court’s liberal justices to grant the stay, while Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh would deny it. Kavanaugh also wrote a dissent, saying he would want to see the law go into effect before deciding whether the stay was necessary.

Although this is only a temporary win for the women of Louisiana, these actions could be a sign that a majority of justices have their doubts as to the law’s constitutionality in light of Whole Woman’s Health.

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Black-Box Medicine: Legal and Ethical Issues

Join us on Friday for Health Policy Biothics Consortium!

Black-box medicine—the use of opaque computational models to make care decisions—has the potential to shape health care by improving and aiding many medical tasks. For example, IBM Watson for Oncology is a machine-learning system that intends to help clinicians quickly identify essential information in patients’ medical records and explore treatment options for 13 cancers. However, it has only recently emerged that the recommendations Watson for Oncology gave for cancer treatments were “often incorrect” and that IBM kept this defect secret for over a year. What are the ethical and legal issues of black-box medicine? When do algorithms operate like a “black box“? How can we ensure that artificial intelligence technologies deliver what they promise? Read More

Image of two people shaking hands and exchanging money.

Payment, Lying, and Research Eligibility

Payment for research participation can raise ethical concerns and legal issues. But it can also raise scientific problems if it causes participants to lie about their eligibility or other things, like adverse events.

In our new study in JAMA Network Open, my colleagues and I wanted to see whether payment causes deception about study eligibility, and if so, whether more payment results in more deception. We found the answer to the first question was yes – but contrary to what one might expect, payment amount didn’t matter. Read More

A satellite image of Hurricane Matthew over eastern Cuba

Should We Consider Climate Editing to Combat Global Warming?

There was a time when humans could impact genes only crudely, such as through radiation. Nowadays, thanks to gene-editing technologies, particularly CRISPR-CAS9, we can edit genes accurately.

Global warming will unleash frequent disasters like hurricanes and flooding. The largely human source of this mess shows that we can impact the climate. So far, that impact remains largely adverse. In the future, we may also develop crude tools for intentional positive impact on the climate. Read More

Preemption, State Minimum Wage Laws and a Public Health Lens

By Jessica Amoroso

On December 6, 2018, Philadelphia City Council unanimously voted on a bill to incrementally raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 an hour for city employees and contractors by 2023. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed the bill into law on December 20, 2018. This vote occurred about five months after Governor Tom Wolf signed an Executive Order raising the minimum wage for certain state employees, set to increase to $15 an hour by 2024.  Meanwhile, under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, (PMWA), private employers are only required to pay employees the federal minimum wage, $7.25, unchanged since 2009.

Essentially, this creates a situation where local and state government employers will be legally obligated to provide employees with a $15 per hour minimum wage, but private employers will not be required to do so.

What’s at play here? Preemption. Read More

Social media concept: students sit at a table with social media notification bubbles floating above them.

Is Your Cellphone Destroying Your Morals? Devices, Distraction and the Impossible Ethics of Modern Life

It isn’t that texting and driving is dangerous per se. If we were perfectly capable of doing both flawlessly, this danger would instantly disappear. Yet, we know that the danger of texting and driving exists precisely because of the fragility of our attention. The consequences of distracted driving loom large: According to one source, “Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.”

The reasons for this lay in the recesses of a brain stunningly ill-suited to multitasking. Yet, what is useful about this example is that it highlights with searing severity the moral risks and costs of an increasingly distracted mind.

As multitasking now defines modern life, a hugely important question emerges: What will an increasingly distracted brain mean for ethics? Read More

Healthcare Already Taking Center Stage in 2020 Democratic Primary Race

With Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announcing that she was forming a Presidential exploratory committee, I suppose that means the 2020 Democratic Primary is off to the races. Joining her are some lower profile candidates, including John Delaney (former MD congressman), Richard Ojeda (WV state senator and former congressional candidate), Tulsi Gabbard (HI congresswoman), Julian Castro (former secretary of HUD). And within the last week, senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) put their hats in the ring.

While many issues are likely to play prominent roles in this campaign — immigration, taxes, inequality, housing, universal pre-k, college affordability, environment/climate change — healthcare is likely to play an outsized role after Democrats found it to be a winning issue in 2018.  Read More

Pennsylvania Not Alone in Denying Abortion Coverage for Low-Income Women

By Adrienne Ghorashi

Last week, a lawsuit was filed challenging Pennsylvania’s decades-old statute restricting the use of state Medicaid funding to pay for abortion services. The lawsuit, brought by a group of abortion providers in the state, claims the restriction discriminates against low-income women on the basis of sex, in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Read More

Repayment for Training as an Optimal Solution to Medical Brain Drain

In an earlier post I offered two arguments for why wealthy nations have a moral obligation to address medical professional brain drain from resource-scarce developing nations. But once one acknowledges that wealthy nations have this obligation, a question remains as to what the best way to fulfill that obligation is.

Some have suggested that the solution is for wealthy nations to train an ample amount of doctors in their home countries so that they no longer need to take talent from developing nations to make up for the gap. This idea has intuitive appeal. After all, it allows more medical doctors to be trained in wealthy nations like the U.S. and results in more doctors being trained overall (assuming that developing nations would continue to train the same amount of doctors under such a model). Read More