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Bioethics 101

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January 31, 2010

Event: Ethics Symposium

Health Law in the Domain of Health Care Ethics

Our March 6, 2010 ethics symposium will explore relationships between medical and legal ethics in the context of healthcare. The format of our day-long symposium involves both large group plenary sessions and small-group workshops. The venue is the San Ramon Valley Conference Center in San Ramon, California.  Our conference aims to foster moral community and collegiality, and to promote understanding of clinical ethics in the service of humane patient care.

Continuing education units are offered to physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, chaplains and pastors.  Visit the Registration Site and consult the attached flyers for more information about continuing education units and the Symposium. If the link does not work, copy it and paste it into your internet browser.


R. Alta Charo, J.D., is the Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law & Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, where she is appointed to the law and medical school faculties.  She will speak on Ethics and Epigenetics.


Kate Scannell, MD, FACP, Director, KP Northern California, TPMG Department of Medical Ethics will open the Symposium, welcoming guests and presenting The Year in Bioethics.

Elizabeth Pendo, JD, BA, is a Professor of Law at St. Louis University School of Law in St Louis, Missouri.  The title of Professor Pendo’s presentation is Caring for Patients with Disabilities.

Kelly Dineen, JD, RN, is Assistant Academic Dean and Instructor of Law at St. Louis University School of Law in St Louis, Missouri.   The title of her talk is Moral Disengagement in the Undertreatment of Pain.

Jennifer S Bard, JD, is a Professor at Texas Tech University School of Law and a returning symposium speaker. Professor Bard will address the Symposium about the topic of Medical Futility.

Event: Harvard Bioethics Course

Event: Harvard Bioethics Course
June 16-18, 2010

Sponsored by the Division of Medical Ethics, Harvard Medical School (HMS), Boston, MA.

This three day course is designed for members of ethics committees and others interested in ethical aspects of clinical practice, including ethics consultants, physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers, health care administrators, respiratory and other therapists, human rights officers and patient representatives, psychologists, risk managers, moral philosophers, hospital attorneys and trustees. The combination of lectures, case discussions and panels cover core information about ethical theories, principles, and methods, key bioethics cases from US courts, evolving standards for ethics consultation, and areas of clinical ethical controversy and consensus. Faculty for the course are drawn from the Division of Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School and from the Harvard-affiliated hospitals and institutions who are experts published in the specialty areas in which they teach, including bioethics, moral philosophy, medicine and health care.

Contact Information: 617-432-2570

January 29, 2010

The two faces of a life-or-death dilemma

The Globe’s Lisa Priest examines how two families’ stories are shaping a legal and moral battleground over who has the right to make life-or-death decisions. IN EDMONTON: Parents who want their brain-injured baby to live fight with a hospital who says they should let him go IN QUEBEC: A hospital ethics board clashes with a family that took their child off a feeding tube. (The Globe and Mail)

Bill Gates promises $10 billion for vaccines

Bill and Melinda Gates said on Friday they would spend $10 billion over the next decade to develop and deliver vaccines, an increased commitment that reflects progress in the pipeline of products for immunizing children in the developing world. (Reuters)

Donda West law won’t boost patient safety, docs say

A new California law named for rapper Kanye West’s late mother requiring a physical exam and medical history before cosmetic surgeries isn’t likely to lead to better patient safety, some cosmetic surgeons said. (CNN)

January 28, 2010

Circumcision Deserves Circumspection

Twenty-one years ago I agreed to have my son circumcised. Today I signed a petition urging the American Academy of Pediatrics NOT to recommend circumcision to parents of newborn baby boys. (Bioethics Forum)

Britain grants patent for iPS cells

A Californian biomedical company, iPierian, has been granted the first patent issued outside Japan for the genetic reprogramming technology used to create induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. (Nature News)

Counsyl Brings Genetic Screening to the Masses

The new movie “Extraordinary Measures” is based on the true story of a father who starts a company to develop a treatment for the rare genetic disease threatening to kill two of his children before they turn 10. (New York Times)

January 27, 2010

Pregnant woman’s involuntary hospitalization raises legal, ethical, medical questions

The case of a pregnant Florida woman hospitalized against her will is raising a legal, ethical and medical storm around this issue: Can a doctor’s order to quit smoking and rest in bed trump a woman’s right to control her own body? (St. Petersburg Times)

Researchers directly turn mouse skin cells into neurons, skipping IPS stage

Even Superman needed to retire to a phone booth for a quick change. But now scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have succeeded in the ultimate switch: transforming mouse skin cells in a laboratory dish directly into functional nerve cells with the application of just three genes. The cells make the change without first becoming a pluripotent type of stem cell — a step long thought to be required for cells to acquire new identities. (PhysOrg)

Haiti’s ‘floating hospital’: Tough questions on USNS Comfort

ABOARD THE USNS COMFORT — Yvelot Brianville, 24, lies quietly on a steel hospital gurney, a boyish naval officer in blue combat fatigues standing by his side. (USA TODAY)

January 26, 2010

Inaccurate media portrayal of PGD for ‘minor’ genetic disorders

UK media coverage of plans to expand the list of conditions for which pre-natal genetic diagnosis (PGD) is permissible in the UK implies that some of the disorders are not serious. (PHG Foundation)

‘Medicalized’ weapons, fair trade in biotechnology and more in the Hastings Center Report

The latest issue of the Hastings Center Report features articles on “medicalized” weapons that temporarily incapacitate targets, sharing the benefits of newly found biological resources, and applications of GINA (the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act) (EurekAlert)

Event: Neuroscience 2010

Neuroscience 2010

Nov. 13-17, 2010

San Diego, CA

Neuroscience 2010, the 40th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, is scheduled for November 13-17 in San Diego, Calif.

Scientists will congregate from around the world to exchange ideas and information addressing the diverse field of neuroscience. Through lectures, symposia, workshops, and more, Neuroscience 2010 is an opportunity for learning and professional development.

Check this Web site regularly for updates and information.

New Issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association is Now Available

JAMA (Vol. 303; No. 2; January 13, 2010) is now available by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “The Benefits and Harms of Mammography Screening: Understanding the Trade-offs” by Steven Woloshin and Lisa M. Schwartz, 164-165.
  • “Mammography Screening for Breast Cancer: A View from 2 Worlds” by Anne M. Murphy, 166-167.
  • “US Preterm Births: ‘D’ is for Dismal” by Rebecca Voelker, 116-117.

New Issue of The American Journal of Bioethics is Now Available

The American Journal of Bioethics (Volume 10, Issue 1, January 2010) is now available by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Drug Detailers, Professionalism, and Prudence” by Howard Brody, 9-10.
  • “Why Academic Medical Centers Should Ban Drug Company Gifts to Individuals” by Carson Strong, 13-15.
  • “The Pitfalls of Misreading: What Does ‘Industry Funding of Medical Education’ Actually Say?” by Bethany Spielman, 24-25.
  • “Avoiding Over-Deterrence in Managing Physicians’ Relationships with Industry” by Lance K. Stell, 27-29.
  • “Growth Attenuation: Good Intentions, Bad Decision” by Adrienne Asch and Anna Stubblefield, 46-48.
  • “The Limits of Parental Authority” by Barry Lyons, 48-50.
  • “Revisiting the Relevance of the Social Model of Disability” by Sarah Goering, 54-55.
  • “What Role Should Moral Intuitions Play When Dealing with Children?” D. Micah Hester, 56.

January 25, 2010

Artificial muscles restore ability to blink, save eyesight

Surgeons from UC Davis Medical Center have demonstrated that artificial muscles can restore the ability of patients with facial paralysis to blink, a development that could benefit the thousands of people each year who no longer are able to close their eyelids due to combat-related injuries, stroke, nerve injury or facial surgery. (UC Davis Health System)

Brain Scan Offers First Biological Test in Diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Researchers use a brain-scanning technique to find differences in the neural connections of PTSD patients that could help researchers understand and treat the disorder. (Scientific American)

Bush stem cell line ok for approval

For the first time since the National Institutes of Health released its new guidelines for the derivation of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines last summer, a line approved under the Bush administration has been recommended for inclusion into the growing federal registry of lines eligible for federal funding. (The Scientist)

Medical Kidnapping: Rogue Obstetricians vs. Pregnant Women

Often one reads about historical failures in medical ethics, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study or the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck, and one reflects with relief that health care has progressed in our society to the point where such abuses are no longer possible. Then one stumbles upon an occasional systemic failure so grievous, such as the amputation of a patient’s wrong leg, that it nearly defies credibility, and reminds us that we are still vulnerable to medical exploitation and misconduct. If the facts as alleged in the media and court filings prove accurate, then the treatment of a pregnant Tallahassee mother, Samantha Burton, by her obstetrician, Jana Bures-Forsthoefel, may well rank among the most egregious abuses perpetrated against a patient by her caregiver since the triumph of the patients’ rights movement in the 1970s. (Huffington Post)

Lawmakers To Debate Embryonic Stem Cell Bill

State lawmakers could be taking a vote soon on embryonic stem cell research. And there are some who want to make sure that full-fledged human cloning doesn’t inadvertently get the green light, according to WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick. (WWJ Newsradio 950)


The Bioethics Poll
Should individuals and/or institutions be allowed to patent human genes?
Yes, with some qualifications

View results

Which area of research should more money be invested in:
Animal-Human Hybrids
Gene Therapy
Reproductive Technology
Stem Cell Research
"Therapeutic" Cloning
None of the above

View results

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