Further revelations about the co-pilot of the Germanwings crash in which 150 people died have raised questions about medical confidentiality. A prosecutor in Paris said this week that Andreas Lubitz had seen 41 doctors in five years. Further investigations have uncovered the fact that he suffered from psychosis and was terrified of losing his sight.
In a letter to a doctor written on March 10, for instance, Lubitz said he was sleeping only two hours a night even though he was taking a double dose of antidepressants. “He consulted private doctors and these doctors were clearly aware of his health problems, which were both psychological and psychiatric,” said the French official. However, due to strict medical privacy rules, the doctors could not pass this information to the pilot’s employers. The Wall Street Journal says:
The dominant view of bioethics frames issues in terms of autonomy and individual rights. A retrospective in the Cambridge Quarterly of Heathcare Ethics, by Daniel Callahan, one of the grand old men of American bioethics, is a reminder of a broader and more communitarian view of the discipline.
Callahan is a restless thinker who did his undergraduate study at Yale and his PhD at Harvard. But the academic life did not suit him and he turned to journalism and for several years edited Commonweal, an influential Catholic journal. After splitting with the Church over abortion, in 1969 he co-founded The Hastings Center, a leading bioethics think tank.
One issue that seldom surfaces in discussions about the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia is the message it may send to unbalanced people. A snapshot of what could happen is the death in February of 81-year-old David Paterson, who was dying of cancer in a nursing home in Yorkshire, in the UK. Mr Paterson was a regular church-goer and a firm opponent of euthanasia. However, in his last days, he became emaciated and weak, although his pain was controlled with morphine.
A fellow parishioner with alcohol problems, 54-year-old Heather Davidson, befriended the widower and became very concerned about his health. One day she rang a cancer support organisation to ask whether smothering her new friend would make her a murderer. “If he was a dog he would have been put down months ago,” she said. Although she was clearly told that it would be murder,…
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Two bills authorising assisted suicide have been presented to the German Parliament ahead of a debate in July. One of them bans assistance for a fee, which is legal in Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands; the other would grant the right to die to any competent adult who has been counselled by a doctor. In Germany it is currently illegal for a doctor to prescribe and administer a lethal medication. According to Deutsche Welle, the Bundestag hopes to pass new legislation on assisted suicide by November this year.
A British lawyer has slammed Britain’s “inhumane surrogacy laws”, following a decision in the High Court to take a one-year-old girl from her surrogate mother and give her to her gay parents.
The case in question involved a 43-year-old Romanian woman who two years ago struck a deal with a male gay couple. The woman conceived via IVF using sperm from one of the men, only to decide during the pregnancy that she wanted to keep the child. Following the birth the case escalated to the courts, and ended just last month with a judge of the high court ordering the woman to hand over the child to the gay father.
Well-known British solicitor and legal analyst Jon Holbrook says that “something is seriously wrong with the moral compass of our policymakers.”
Monash bioethicist Robert Sparrow’s ‘Imposing Genetic Diversity’ – the target article for the discussion – considers the radical implications of arguments against the new eugenics that focus on the importance of diversity.
Sparrow, though himself no friend of eugenic logic, questions whether arguments about the value of diversity could potentially have authoritarian implications. If we desire to conserve genetic variation and naturally occurring instances of disability in our world, then why shouldn’t we protect disability and – in extreme cases where disability begins to disappear – impose disability on populations.
A recent editorial in the New York Times raised the question of cheating in academia. This year alone there have been at least three major cases of academic fraud:
“the journal Environmental Science & Technology corrected a March paper on fracking because the lead scientist failed to disclose funding from an energy company. In May, The Journal of Clinical Investigation retracted a paper on cancer genetics from a young researcher at the National Cancer Institute because the data was fabricated.”
And a study in Science on attitudinal change and same-sex marriage was retracted last week due to serious problems with reproducibility.
The Times suggests that there is a need for greater scrutiny of papers being submitted to publications, particularly those submitted by young researchers:
California is now one step closer to legalising assisted suicide after a bill passed in the State Senate by a vote of 23 to 14 on Thursday evening. SB-128 now moves to the State Assembly (the lower house). Governor Jerry Brown, who once trained as a Jesuit priest, has given no indication of how he will vote.
Brittany Maynard’s story continues to reverberate in California’s debate about assisted suicide. However, opponents of bill SB-128 also have stories. Stephanie Packer, another California resident, was also 29 when doctors told her that her illness was terminal. They gave her three years, three years ago, so she feels that she is doing well.
Her disease is scleroderma, a hardening of tissue. In her case it has settled in her lungs. According to NPR, “Packer's various maladies have her in constant, sometimes excruciating pain, she says. She also can't digest food properly and feels extremely fatigued almost all the time.” However, she is buoyed up by the love and support of her four rambunctious children and her husband.
A leading academic has published a stinging critique of how Belgium administers its euthanasia law. Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Rafael Cohen-Almagor, an Israeli professor of politics at the University of Hull, says that Belgians should be alarmed by the deliberate shortening of lives of some patients without their explicit voluntary request.
Consent is supposed to be a cornerstone of Belgium’s euthanasia act, but Cohen-Almagor, after surveying reports and articles, believes that the number of patients who are killed outside of the law is disturbing. “Ending patients’ lives without request is more common than euthanasia,” he says. He urges the Belgian medical profession to place reform high on their agenda.
Euthanasia has taken root in the culture of Belgium, he observes. Support for euthanasia among doctors is over 90%. “Social and peer pressure makes it difficult for those who oppose euthanasia to uphold their…
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