Concerns raised about COVID-19 and moral distress

Commentators have recently raised serious concerns about healthcare practitioners’ experience of moral distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

COVID-19 has placed acute pressure on healthcare systems around the world, and many healthcare practitioners are ill-equipped to handle the moral dilemmas arising as a result of the pandemic. Often a healthcare professional will know what the right thing to do is, but institutional constraints make it nearly impossible to pursue the right action. 

One moral challenge that healthcare professionals have faced in the COVID-19 crisis is the allocation of scarce life sustaining ICU resources. Harrowing… MORE

Should biobanks be used in criminal investigations?

Several ethicists have written at length about the forensic use of Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) genealogy databases to catch criminals. Interest in this topic burgeoned following the arrest of the Golden State Killer in California in 2018. There has been limited academic discussion, however, of the use of biobanks in criminal investigations -- a related though distinct issue to genealogy databases. A new article in the Journal of Medical Ethics explores some of the ethical considerations involved in the forensic use of specimens from biobanks. 

Three researchers based in the Netherlands examine how issues like confidentiality,… MORE

Questions raised about Sweden’s Covid-19 policy on nursing homes

Disturbing figures are coming from Sweden about the number of Covid-19 deaths amongst the elderly. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, half of the people who died in Sweden were residents of nursing homes.

Sweden’s approach to the pandemic was different. It relied upon voluntary social distancing and closing the borders rather than quarantines. But it is still the fifth country in a world ranking of deaths per million of population – and half of those were residents of nursing homes.

The health authorities have received many complaints about how elderly relatives were treated. A consistent… MORE

Should defunding the police be a bioethics priority?

Protests in Portland / Tito Texidor III on Unsplash

In the wake of riots after the death of George Floyd, the Minneapolis City Council has decided to “defund” its police department. Although what this means is far from clear, it is clearly a popular response to the problem of police brutality against African-Americans.

Not all African-Americans back the idea, of course. Economist Glenn Loury, for instance, says, “We need the cops. Cultivating a sensibility in our people of distrust and contempt for the cops is self-destructive. It’s wrongheaded.”

However, writing in the blog of the… MORE

More protests over eugenics, this time at Michigan State

Stephen Hsu / Michigan State University

Away from the main battlegrounds of the war on racism and on the unresolved legacy of slavery in the United States, there are bitter skirmishes over eugenics.

This week Michigan State University's senior vice president of research and innovation Stephen Hsu walked the plank after vehement criticism of his views on inherited IQ. He will remain as a tenured professor of theoretical physics.

“I believe this is what is best for our university to continue our progress forward," MSU President Samuel Stanley Jr explained. "The exchange of ideas is essential to… MORE

Scandal about treatment of cadavers in France’s leading medical school

Since last November, Europe's largest anatomy centre at the medical school of the University of Paris-Descartes has been closed because of serious deficiencies in the state of preservation of cadavers, dilapidated premises and suspicions that the bodies are being commodified.

In a report handed down recently, the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs and the Inspectorate of Education, Sport and Research found that "Serious ethical breaches have persisted for several years in one of our most prestigious faculties. The responsibility of the University of Paris-Descartes in the serious errors that its body donation centre (CDC) is experiencing has been clearly… MORE

Italy takes steps to reverse declining population

Last week the Italian parliament passed a bill aimed at boosting the country’s low birth rate by supporting parents.

"We have approved the Family Act to support parenting, combat the falling birth rate, encourage the growth of children and young people, and the help parents reconcile of family life with work, especially for women," Premier Giuseppe Conte explained.

Italy has had declining fertility for decades. There were about 464,000 births in 2018 – the lowest on record.

Some experts have speculated that Italy’s older population – due to low birth rates and rising life expectancy – is part of… MORE

VSED has been normalised. But is it ethical?

Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are now legal in dozens of jurisdictions around the world. Yet many people who want to end their lives do not meet the strict eligibility criteria outlined in euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation. 

In light of this, medical ethicists have become increasingly interested in what is known as  Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED). VSED refers to “an action of a competent, capacitated person, who voluntarily and deliberately chooses to stop eating and drinking with the primary intention to hasten death because unacceptable suffering persists”. Patients who opt for VSED often… MORE

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Monday

From Minnesota, which has been at the centre of the world stage for many days now, comes a story which is not about riots and demonstrations. A World War II veteran named Chester Peake, was diagnosed with coronavirus in a Twin Cities long-term care facility. He was asymptomatic, but spent two-and-a-half weeks in isolation. He died on June 2, just short of his 100th birthday.

His death certificate listed the cause of his death as “social isolation, failure to thrive, related to COVID-19 restrictions” -- loneliness, in other words.

Monday is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. According to the… MORE

‘Harry Potter’ author throws grenade into trans debate

Scepticism about allowing teenagers to transition to a different gender came from an unexpected source this week: J.K. Rowling, the author of the fabulously successful Harry Potter series.

She was provoked by a Twitterstorm over her tweet mocking a Devex headline, “Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate”. “People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people,” she wrote. “Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

“Stop hating trans people you awful weirdo,” was a typical response.

For Rowling, it turns out, this debate cuts close to the bone. She… MORE

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