The Journal of Medicine & Philosophy

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Conceptual Clarity in Clinical Bioethical Analysis

Fri, 2020-01-10 00:00
AbstractConceptual clarity is essential when engaging in dialogue to avoid unnecessary disagreement and to promote mutual understanding. In this issue devoted to clinical bioethics, the authors exemplify the virtue of careful conceptual analysis as they explore complex clinical questions regarding the essential nature of medicine, the boundaries of killing and letting die, the meaning of irreversibility in definitions of death, the argument for a right to try experimental medications, the ethical borders in complex medical billing, and the definition and modeling of complex disease states.
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Ethical Issues in Physician Billing Under Fee-For-Service Plans

Fri, 2020-01-10 00:00
AbstractMedical ethics has become an important and recognized component of physician training. There is one area, however, in which medical students receive little guidance. There is practically no discussion of the financial aspects of medical practice. My objective in this paper is to initiate a discussion about the moral dimension of physician billing practices. I argue that physicians should expand their conception of professional responsibility in order to recognize that their moral obligations toward patients include a commitment to honest and forthright billing practices. I argue that physicians should aspire to a standard of clinical accuracy—not legal adequacy—in describing their activities. More generally, physicians should strive to promote an integrity-based professional culture, first and foremost by stigmatizing rather than celebrating creative billing practices, as well as condemning the misguided sense of solidarity that currently makes it taboo for physicians to criticize each other on this score.
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Free to Choose: A Moral Defense of the Right-to-Try Movement

Fri, 2020-01-10 00:00
AbstractThe claim that individuals legitimately differ with respect to their values seems to be uncontroversial among bioethicists, yet many bioethicists nevertheless oppose right-to-try laws. This seems to be due in part to a failure to recognize that such laws are intended primarily to be political, not legal, instruments. The right-to-try movement seeks to build political support for increasing access to newly developed drugs outside of clinical trials. Opponents of right-to-try laws claim that increasing access outside of clinical trials would undermine evidence-based medicine. They seek to maximize overall gains to patients by protecting them from adverse drug reactions and ensuring that drugs are more effective on average. In contrast, right-to-try activists have a point that regulatory judgments of drug safety and effectiveness impose one set of trade-offs on all individuals, regardless of their different values. That might be acceptable if determinations of safety and effectiveness were black and white, but that does not seem to be the case. This article argues that judgments of safety and effectiveness are in an important respect normative and reflect the perceived value of those ends relative to others. Such judgments, when universally imposed, harm patients who would readily make do with less knowledge of drug safety and effectiveness in exchange for more time and self-determination. The relevant moral principle is that of respect for individual autonomy. Just as that principle should lead one to substitute collective decisions for individual ones to regulate a natural monopoly, the same principle should lead one to substitute individual decisions for collective ones to avoid a government monopoly on access to newly developed drugs. It is argued that reforms should increase the number of treatment options available to patients outside of clinical trials. The final section of the article discusses ways in which current regulations might be reformed so as to provide more treatment options outside of clinical trials, without undermining evidence-based medicine.
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Scientific Practice in Modeling Diseases: Stances from Cancer Research and Neuropsychiatry

Fri, 2020-01-10 00:00
AbstractIn the last few decades, philosophy of science has increasingly focused on multilevel models and causal mechanistic explanations to account for complex biological phenomena. On the one hand, biological and biomedical works make extensive use of mechanistic concepts; on the other hand, philosophers have analyzed an increasing range of examples taken from different domains in the life sciences to test—support or criticize—the adequacy of mechanistic accounts. The article highlights some challenges in the elaboration of mechanistic explanations with a focus on cancer research and neuropsychiatry. It jointly considers fields, which are usually dealt with separately, and keeps a close eye on scientific practice. The article has a twofold aim. First, it shows that identification of the explananda is a key issue when looking at dynamic processes and their implications in medical research and clinical practice. Second, it discusses the relevance of organizational accounts of mechanisms, and questions whether thorough self-sustaining mechanistic explanations can actually be provided when addressing cancer and psychiatric diseases. While acknowledging the merits of the wide ongoing debate on mechanistic models, the article challenges the mechanistic approach to explanation by discussing, in particular, explanatory and conceptual terms in the light of stances from medical cases.
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Treating or Killing? The Divergent Moral Implications of Cardiac Device Deactivation

Tue, 2019-12-31 00:00
AbstractIn this article, I argue that there is a moral difference between deactivating an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and turning off a cardiac pacemaker (CP). It is, at least in most cases, morally permissible to deactivate an ICD. It is not, at least in most cases, morally permissible to turn off a pacemaker in a fully or significantly pacemaker-dependent patient. After describing the relevant medical technologies—pacemakers and ICDs—I continue with contrasting perspectives on the issue of deactivation from practitioners involved with these devices: physicians, nurses, and allied professionals. Next, I offer a few possible analyses of the situation, relying on recent work in medical ethics. Considerations of intention, responsibility, and replacement support my distinguishing between ICDs and CPs. I conclude by recommending a change in policy of one of the leading cardiac societies.
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