Since the early 1980’s, with the clinical advent of in vitro fertilization resulting in so-called “test tube babies,” a wide array of ethical considerations and concerns regarding artificial womb technology (AWT) have been described. Recent breakthroughs in the development of extracorporeal neonatal life support by means of AWT have reinitiated ethical interest about this topic with a sense of urgency. Most of the recent ethical literature on the topic, however, pertains not to the more imminent scenario of a physiologically improved (...) method of neonatal care through AWT, but instead to the remote scenario of “complete ectogenesis” that imagines human gestation occurring entirely outside of the womb. This scoping review of the ethical literature on AWT spans from more abstract concerns about complete ectogenesis to more immediate concerns about the soon-to-be-expected clinical life support of what we term the fetal neonate or fetonate. Within an organizing framework of different stages of human gestational development, from conception to the viable premature infant, we discuss both already identified and newly emerging ethical considerations and concerns regarding AWT and the care of the fetonate. (shrink)
In November 2018, the practice of health care ethics consultation crossed a major threshold when 138 candidates took the inaugural Healthcare Ethics Consultant Certification Examination. This accomplishment, long in the making, has had and continues to have both advocates and critics. The Healthcare Ethics Consultant Certification Commission, a functionally autonomous body created and funded by the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, was charged with overseeing creation of the certification process, developing the exam, and formulating certification standards and policies to (...) assess candidates’ qualifications. In this essay, as members of the commission, we describe the process of developing, administering, and scoring the certification examination as well as the historical context and the outlook for certification. By detailing the decisions and actions of the commission, we aim to provide a transparent account of the commission's efforts to develop a psychometrically sound, reliable, and secure examination through a deliberative, fair, and data‐driven process. (shrink)
Some children living with life-shortening medical conditions may wish to attend school without the threat of having resuscitation attempted in the event of cardiopulmonary arrest on the school premises. Despite recent attention to in-school do-not-attempt-resuscitation (DNAR) orders, no assessment of state laws or school policies has yet been made. We therefore sought to survey a national sample of prominent school districts and situate their policies in the context of relevant state laws. Most (80%) school districts sampled did not have policies, (...) regulations, or protocols for dealing with student DNARs. A similar majority (76%) either would not honor student DNARs or were uncertain about whether they could. Frequent contradictions between school policies and state laws also exist. Consequently, children living with life-shortening conditions who have DNARs may not have these orders honored if cardiopulmonary arrest were to occur on school premises. Coordinated efforts are needed to harmonize school district, state, and federal approaches in order to support children and families' right to have important medical decisions honored. (shrink)
The Surfactant, Positive Pressure, and Oxygenation Randomized Trial (SUPPORT) has been the focal point of many different criticisms regarding the ethics of the study ever since publication of the trial's findings in 2010 and 2012. In this article, we focus on a concern that the technical design and implementation details of the study were ethically flawed. While the federal Office Human Research Protections focused on the consent form, rather than on the study design and implementation, OHRP's critiques of the consent (...) form reveal views about the study design and implementation that we believe are fundamentally flawed. These criticisms about the design and implementation of SUPPORT, if generalized, become relevant concerns about these aspects of many comparative effectiveness research studies.Our analytical approach will be to use SUPPORT as a prime example of comparative effectiveness research and show why it challenges some prevailing assumptions about the riskiness of research. We will address five aspects of the study design and implementation: 1) randomization, 2) treatment by protocol, 3) choice of endpoints, 4) lack of a “standard care” control group, and 5) the use of altered oximeters. Examining these aspects will allow us to answer two specific central questions. The first is a methodological question with ethical implications: was the study designed in such a way as to answer the primary study question? The second question is whether the study design added or decreased risk to the babies enrolled in the study compared to babies who were not in the study. (shrink)
A commentary on “Were There ‘Additional Foreseeable Risks’ in the SUPPORT Study?,” by Henry J. Silverman and Didier Dreyfuss; “SUPPORT: Risks, Harms, and Equipoise,” by Robert M. Nelson; “The Controversy over SUPPORT Continues and the Hyperbole Increases,” by Alan R. Fleischman; and “SUPPORT and Comparative Effectiveness Trials: What's at Stake?,” by Lois Shepherd, all in the January‐February 2015 issue.
... and the baby has a large VSD. Otherwise appears well, gaining weight, smiling. No apnea, never been on ventilator. Local cardiac surgeon refused to operate, saying that surgery would be inappropriate. Have reached out to other centers, and some state that they never perform what they said was “futile” heart surgery on children with Trisomy 18, while other sites say they have and will continue to perform these operations. Can someone explain to me what is going on? In the (...) realm of medical care—given enough patients, clinicians, and time—conflict is inevitable. Someone will want to do something, such as give a drug or start a new form of technologic support, and someone else will think that this is a... (shrink)
Medical students newly arrived on the wards encounter frustrating ethical predicaments that are complicated by students' place in the hospital hierarchy. A careful scrutiny of medical social structure and culture may enable medical schools to offer their students a more effective ethics education.
Hope is like water, existing in different states, exhibiting different properties.In the solid form, hope is manifest as specific hopes: I hope for this, I hope for that. In these concrete forms, solidified hope can become firm and fixed, for better and for worse. Dogged determination aimed at achieving a fixed hope is a very good characteristic—that is, until the continued pursuit of this specific solid hope becomes foolish, harmful, unwise. At the other end of the spectrum, in the gaseous (...) form, hope is amorphous, a glowing feeling that one has to tune into to detect, akin to optimism. In between these two states, hope is liquid. Flowing. Assuming the shape of whatever holds it. Carving, eroding, even dissolving.. (shrink)
Background While prenatal surgery historically was performed exclusively for lethal conditions, today intrauterine surgery is also performed to decrease postnatal disabilities for non-lethal conditions. We sought to describe physicians' attitudes about prenatal surgery for lethal and non-lethal conditions and to elucidate characteristics associated with these attitudes. Methods Survey of 1200 paediatric surgeons, neonatologists and maternal–fetal medicine specialists. Results Of 1176 eligible physicians, 670 responded. In the setting of a lethal condition for which prenatal surgery would likely result in the child (...) surviving with a severe disability, most respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed that they would recommend the surgery. Male physicians were twice as likely to recommend surgery for the lethal condition, as were physicians who believe that abortion is morally wrong. Older physicians were less likely to recommend surgery. For non-lethal conditions, most respondents agreed that they would recommend prenatal surgery, even if the surgery increases the risk of prematurity or fetal death. Compared with MFMs, surgeons were less likely to recommend such surgery, as were physicians not affiliated with a fetal centre, and physicians who were religious. Conclusion Physician’s attitudes about prenatal surgery relate to physicians’ beliefs about disability as well as demographic, cultural and religious characteristics. Given the variety of views, parents are likely to receive different recommendations from their doctors about the preferable treatment choice. (shrink)
Background: Families and clinicians must often weigh competing priorities when making medical decisions for a pediatric patient at the end of life. Few empirical data exist regarding the importance that clinicians place on varying priorities and whether clinical practice conforms to decision-making standards discussed in the literature. Methods: We administered a discrete choice experiment to understand the relative importance of nine pediatric end-of-life decision-making priorities using responses from 364 nurses and physicians from three intensive care units (ICUs) (pediatric ICU, pediatric (...) cardiothoracic ICU, neonatal ICU) in a large children's hospital, with a 54% response rate. We used latent class analysis to characterize subgroups of health professionals based on their patterns of importance for the nine attributes and examined differences in class membership using multinomial logistic regression. Results: Eighty-two percent of respondents were nurses, consistent with the proportion of nurse and physician staff in the units. Latent class analysis separated our sample of health professionals into five distinct classes. All five groups rated the child's comfort and the best interests as most important but differed regarding how they valued other considerations: Group 1 rated highly consideration of the entire family and medical judgment; Group 2, the entire family's interests, parents’ preferences, and religious beliefs; Group 3, maintaining harmony between parents and medical team; Group 4, responsible use of medical resources; and Group 5, medical evidence and prolonging the child's life. Those with more years of experience were less likely to fall in Group 5 (medical evidence/life-prolonging). Profession was not associated with group membership. Conclusions: Nurses and physicians who care for dying children prioritize foremost the child's best interests and comfort but then possess varying secondary priorities about what is most important when making medical decisions. Pediatric palliative care and ethics consultative services should be aware of and prepared to address these differing concerns. (shrink)
My colleagues and I had been asked by a member of a clinical team to help sort through the ethics of stopping a life-sustaining intervention for a very ill child. We had already talked with the parents, the physicians, and the folks from nursing, social work, and chaplaincy. Terms like “suffering,” “cruel,” “compassion,” and “moral distress” had been uttered, as had terms like “inappropriate,” “unethical,” “neglectful,” and “risk-management.” The group had now stuffed all of these polarizing thoughts and feelings into (...) this cramped room with only one door. And everyone was looking at me. What skill, competency, or inner capacity must one possess to hold and manage such tension? (shrink)
Some of the most difficult clinical ethics consultations involve patients who have both medical and mental health needs, as these cases can result in considerable moral distress on the part of the bedside staff. In this article we examine the issues that such consults raise through the illustrative example of a particular case: several years ago our ethics consultation service received a request from a critical care attending physician who was considering a rarely performed psychosurgical intervention to address intractable and (...) life-threatening agitation and aggression in an adolescent patient for whom standard treatments had proven unsuccessful. We consider strategies that may be useful in addressing not only the ethical dilemmas or the clinical problems, but also the emotional, social, and moral distress that arise in delivering care in such complex cases, in which standard routine practices of care have been exhausted. In addition, we explore the processes that led to this situation and suggest ways to promote early recognition and intervention for similar cases in the future. (shrink)