Gavel and stethoscope.

How to Assess the Impact of Medical Ethics Education

By Leah Pierson

There has been too little evaluation of ethics courses in medical education in part because there is not consensus on what these courses should be trying to achieve. Recently, I argued that medical school ethics courses should help trainees to make more ethical decisions. I also reviewed evidence suggesting that we do not know whether these courses improve decision making in clinical practice. Here, I consider ways to assess the impact of ethics education on real-world decision making and the implications these assessments might have for ethics education.

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Basketball street player making a rear slam dunk.

Another Kind of Performance-Enhancing Drug in Sports: Substances That Improve Creativity

By Jack Becker

Discussions about performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are normally all about physical abilities. They revolve around PEDs that can alter strength, speed, stamina, recovery, and even stability. But if every sport were just a competition of physical traits, they’d be pretty boring.

Sports combine physical competition with competition of strategy, technique, and other non-physical components (to varying degrees). While players develop some of these individually, sports also involve coaches and trainers that develop new strategies and techniques without stepping onto the field. Innovations in these non-physical components can certainly enhance a player or team’s performance. So how do they fit into the PED discussion?

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Pill pack.

Monthly Round-Up of What to Read on Pharma Law and Policy

By Ameet Sarpatwari, Alexander Egilman, Aviva Wang, andAaron S. Kesselheim

Each month, members of the Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL) review the peer-reviewed medical literature to identify interesting empirical studies, policy analyses, and editorials on health law and policy issues.

Below are the citations for papers identified from the month of March. The selections feature topics ranging from a discussion of patient assistance programs and the Anti-Kickback Statute, to an analysis of the effects of state opioid prescribing laws on the use of opioids and other pain treatments, to an evaluation of the association between regulatory drug safety advisories and changes in drug use. A full posting of abstracts/summaries of these articles may be found on our website.

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Person examining psilocybin mushrooms in lab.

Microdosing Under the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act: A Definite Maybe

By Dave Kopilak

In November 2020, Oregon voters passed the Oregon Psilocybin Services Act (the “Act”), of which I was the primary drafter. This piece of legislation legalizes and regulates the manufacturing of psilocybin products and the provision of psilocybin services under Oregon law. The manufacture, sale, and use of psilocybin products under the Act will continue to be illegal under federal law.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is the state agency that will regulate the program. The Act provides for a two-year program development period that began on January 1, 2021 and that will end on December 31, 2022. The OHA is currently engaged in the rulemaking process and will adopt final rules by no later than December 31, 2022. The OHA will begin receiving license applications on January 2, 2023, and the first licensed businesses likely will begin operating in the first half of 2023.

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Group of athletic adult men and women performing sit up exercises to strengthen their core abdominal muscles at fitness training.

Exercise Equipment Advertisements and Consumer Distrust

By Jack Becker

Are you ready to learn about “the most innovative piece of exercise equipment ever”? To take advantage of “the momentum of gravity to target your entire midsection”? Doesn’t everybody want to “lose those love handles nobody loves”? To finally “have the flat washboard abs and the sexy v-shape [they’ve] always wanted”? Within “just weeks, not months,” anybody can “firm and flatten their stomach.” And “best of all, it’s fun and easy and takes just three minutes a day.”

Despite its endorsement from an expert fitness celebrity and customer testimonials, you might be skeptical of the Ab Circle Pro’s claims. After all, can you really cut out five minutes from the iconic 8-Minute Abs routine?

Massive and misleading promises are an unfortunate reality for many exercise equipment advertisements. Illegitimate advertising claims can harm consumers and impact overall consumer trust, which creates an uphill battle for honest companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) already regulates exercise equipment, but supplementing its efforts with more consumer education and industry self-regulation could be a winning combination to restore trust in the fitness industry.

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Person in nursing home.

Struggles Over Care Will Shape the Future of Work

By Andrew Milne

The future of work will largely be the future of care work. Health care is rapidly becoming the largest employer in the U.S., expanding to serve the fastest growing demographic, aging seniors. As a lawyer for seniors in need of free legal services, I see my clients struggle to access care made scarce by the for-profit care industry’s understaffing and underpaying of workers attempting to meet the growing need. The future of work and of aging will be shaped by struggles over care from both giving and receiving ends, perhaps against those profiting in between.

Recall that the first COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. spread between nursing homes. These facilities, like most nursing homes, are for-profit businesses that pad their margins by cutting labor costs. The resulting understaffing has deadly effects in normal times. The pandemic intensified those effects, as underpaid care workers, forced to work at multiple facilities to survive, unintentionally spread the virus between facilities.

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Empty nurses station in a hospital.

The AMA Can Help Fix the Health Care Shortages it Helped Create

By Leah Pierson

Recently, Derek Thompson pointed out in the Atlantic that the U.S. has adopted myriad policies that limit the supply of doctors despite the fact that there aren’t enough. And the maldistribution of physicians — with far too few pursuing primary care or working in rural areas — is arguably an even bigger problem.

The American Medical Association (AMA) bears substantial responsibility for the policies that led to physician shortages. Twenty years ago, the AMA lobbied for reducing the number of medical schools, capping federal funding for residencies, and cutting a quarter of all residency positions. Promoting these policies was a mistake, but an understandable one: the AMA believed an influential report that warned of an impending physician surplus. To its credit, in recent years, the AMA has largely reversed course. For instance, in 2019, the AMA urged Congress to remove the very caps on Medicare-funded residency slots it helped create.

But the AMA has held out in one important respect. It continues to lobby intensely against allowing other clinicians to perform tasks traditionally performed by physicians, commonly called “scope of practice” laws. Indeed, in 2020 and 2021, the AMA touted more advocacy efforts related to scope of practice that it did for any other issue — including COVID-19.

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Healthcare concept of professional psychologist doctor consult in psychotherapy session or counsel diagnosis health.

A Precautionary Approach to Touch in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

By Neşe Devenot, Emma Tumilty, Meaghan Buisson, Sarah McNamee, David Nickles, and Lily Kay Ross

Amid accelerating interest in the use of psychedelics in medicine, a spate of recent exposés have detailed the proliferation of abuse in psychedelic therapy, underscoring the urgent need for ethical guidance in psychedelic-assisted therapies (P-AT), and particularly relating to touch and consent.

Acknowledging the need for such guidance, McLane et al. outline one set of approaches to touch in a recent Journal of Medical Ethics blog. However, we find their piece at odds with the available information in the fields of P-AT and psychotherapy. We explain three major concerns: consent and autonomy, risk mitigation, and evidence and reasoning. In our view, these concerns merit a precautionary approach to touch in P-AT, given the current state of research on touch-based interventions.

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