Four ethical values — maximizing benefits, treating equally, promoting and rewarding instrumental value, and giving priority to the worst off — yield six specific recommendations for allocating medical resources in the Covid-19 pandemic: maximize benefits; prioritize health workers; do not allocate on a first-come, first-served basis; be responsive to evidence; recognize research participation; and apply the same principles to all Covid-19 and non–Covid-19 patients.
The Médecins Sans Frontières ethics review board has been solicited in an unprecedented way to provide advice and review research protocols in an ‘emergency’ mode during the recent Ebola epidemic. Twenty-seven Ebola-related study protocols were reviewed between March 2014 and August 2015, ranging from epidemiological research, to behavioural research, infectivity studies and clinical trials with investigational products at early development stages. This article examines the MSF ERB’s experience addressing issues related to both the process of review and substantive ethical issues (...) in this context. These topics include lack of policies regarding blood sample collection and use, and engaging communities regarding their storage and future use; exclusion of pregnant women from clinical and vaccine trials; and the difficulty of implementing timely and high-quality qualitative/anthropological research to consider potential upfront harms. Having noticed different standards across ethics committees, we propose that when multiple ethics reviews of clinical and vaccine trials are carried out during a public health emergency they should be accompanied by transparent communication between the ECs involved. The MSF ERB experience should trigger a broader discussion on the ‘optimal’ ethics review in an emergency outbreak and what enduring structural changes are needed to improve the ethics review process. (shrink)
Background Planning for the next pandemic influenza outbreak is underway in hospitals across the world. The global SARS experience has taught us that ethical frameworks to guide decision-making may help to reduce collateral damage and increase trust and solidarity within and between health care organisations. Good pandemic planning requires reflection on values because science alone cannot tell us how to prepare for a public health crisis. Discussion In this paper, we present an ethical framework for pandemic influenza planning. The ethical (...) framework was developed with expertise from clinical, organisational and public health ethics and validated through a stakeholder engagement process. The ethical framework includes both substantive and procedural elements for ethical pandemic influenza planning. The incorporation of ethics into pandemic planning can be helped by senior hospital administrators sponsoring its use, by having stakeholders vet the framework, and by designing or identifying decision review processes. We discuss the merits and limits of an applied ethical framework for hospital decision-making, as well as the robustness of the framework. Summary The need for reflection on the ethical issues raised by the spectre of a pandemic influenza outbreak is great. Our efforts to address the normative aspects of pandemic planning in hospitals have generated interest from other hospitals and from the governmental sector. The framework will require re-evaluation and refinement and we hope that this paper will generate feedback on how to make it even more robust. (shrink)
ABSTRACTThis report on end‐of‐life decision‐making in Canada was produced by an international expert panel and commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada. It consists of five chapters.Chapter 1 reviews what is known about end‐of‐life care and opinions about assisted dying in Canada.Chapter 2 reviews the legal status quo in Canada with regard to various forms of assisted death.Chapter 3 reviews ethical issues pertaining to assisted death. The analysis is grounded in core values central to Canada's constitutional order.Chapter 4 reviews the (...) experiences had in a number of jurisdictions that have decriminalized or recently reviewed assisted dying in some shape or form.Chapter 5 provides recommendations with regard to the provision of palliative care in Canada, as well as recommendations for reform with respect to the various forms of assisted death covered in this document. (shrink)
We live in the Age of Big Data. In medicine, artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, fueled by big data, promise to change how physicians make diagnoses, determine prognoses, and develop new treatments. An exponential rise in articles on these topics is seen in the medical literature. Recent applications range from the use of deep learning neural networks to diagnose diabetic retinopathy and skin cancer from image databases, to the use of various machine learning algorithms for prognostication in cancer and (...) cardiovascular disease. Many factors are driving the adoption of AI in health care, from... (shrink)
In this paper, we explore the role of reciprocity in the employment of restrictive measures in contexts of contagion. Reciprocity should be understood as a substantive value that governs the use, level and extent of restrictive measures. We also argue that independent of the role reciprocity plays in the legitimisation the use of restrictive measures, reciprocity can also motivate support and compliance with legitimate restrictive measures. The importance of reciprocity has implications for how restrictive measures should be undertaken when preparing (...) and evaluating public health responses to contagion. (shrink)
BackgroundAs a number of commentators have noted, SARS exposed the vulnerabilities of our health care systems and governance structures. Health care professionals and hospital systems that bore the brunt of the SARS outbreak continue to struggle with the aftermath of the crisis. Indeed, HCPs – both in clinical care and in public health – were severely tested by SARS. Unprecedented demands were placed on their skills and expertise, and their personal commitment to their profession was severely tried. Many were exposed (...) to serious risk of morbidity and mortality, as evidenced by the World Health Organization figures showing that approximately 30% of reported cases were among HCPs, some of whom died from the infection. Despite this challenge, professional codes of ethics are silent on the issue of duty to care during communicable disease outbreaks, thus providing no guidance on what is expected of HCPs or how they ought to approach their duty to care in the face of risk.DiscussionIn the aftermath of SARS and with the spectre of a pandemic avian influenza, it is imperative that we consider the obligations of HCPs for patients with severe infectious diseases, particularly diseases that pose risks to those providing care. It is of pressing importance that organizations representing HCPs give clear indication of what standard of care is expected of their members in the event of a pandemic. In this paper, we address the issue of special obligations of HCPs during an infectious disease outbreak. We argue that there is a pressing need to clarify the rights and responsibilities of HCPs in the current context of pandemic flu preparedness, and that these rights and responsibilities ought to be codified in professional codes of ethics. Finally, we present a brief historical accounting of the treatment of the duty to care in professional health care codes of ethics.SummaryAn honest and critical examination of the role of HCPs during communicable disease outbreaks is needed in order to provide guidelines regarding professional rights and responsibilities, as well as ethical duties and obligations. With this paper, we hope to open the social dialogue and advance the public debate on this increasingly urgent issue. (shrink)
Background Genetic databases are becoming increasingly common as a means of determining the relationship between lifestyle, environmental exposures and genetic diseases. These databases rely on large numbers of research subjects contributing their genetic material to successfully explore the genetic basis of disease. However, as all possible research questions that can be posed of the data are unknown, an unresolved ethical issue is the status of informed consent for future research uses of genetic material. Discussion In this paper, we discuss the (...) difficulties of an informed consent model for future ineffable uses of genetic data. We argue that variations on consent, such as presumed consent, blanket consent or constructed consent fail to meet the standards required by current informed consent doctrine and are distortions of the original concept. In this paper, we propose the concept of an authorization model whereby participants in genetic data banks are able to exercise a certain amount of control over future uses of genetic data. We argue this preserves the autonomy of individuals at the same time as allowing them to give permission and discretion to researchers for certain types of research. Summary The authorization model represents a step forward in the debate about informed consent in genetic databases. The move towards an authorization model would require changes in the regulatory and legislative environments. Additionally, empirical support of the utility and acceptability of authorization is required. (shrink)
This paper explores the notion of reciprocity in the context of active pulmonary and laryngeal tuberculosis treatment and related control policies and practices. We seek to do three things: First, we sketch the background to contemporary global TB care and suggest that poverty is a key feature when considering the treatment of TB patients. We use two examples from TB care to explore the role of reciprocity: isolation and the use of novel TB drugs. Second, we explore alternative means of (...) justifying the use of reciprocity through appeal to different moral and political theoretical traditions. We suggest that each theory can be used to provide reasons to take reciprocity seriously as an independent moral concept, despite any other differences. Third, we explore general meanings and uses of the concept of reciprocity, with the primary intention of demonstrating that it cannot be simply reduced to other more frequently invoked moral concepts such as beneficence or justice. We argue that reciprocity can function as a mid-level principle in public health, and generally, captures a core social obligation arising once an individual or group is burdened as a result of acting for the benefit of others. We conclude that while more needs to be explored in relation to the theoretical justification and application of reciprocity, sufficient arguments can be made for it to be taken more seriously as a key principle within public health ethics and bioethics more generally. (shrink)
Background As a number of commentators have noted, SARS exposed the vulnerabilities of our health care systems and governance structures. Health care professionals (HCPs) and hospital systems that bore the brunt of the SARS outbreak continue to struggle with the aftermath of the crisis. Indeed, HCPs – both in clinical care and in public health – were severely tested by SARS. Unprecedented demands were placed on their skills and expertise, and their personal commitment to their profession was severely tried. Many (...) were exposed to serious risk of morbidity and mortality, as evidenced by the World Health Organization figures showing that approximately 30% of reported cases were among HCPs, some of whom died from the infection. Despite this challenge, professional codes of ethics are silent on the issue of duty to care during communicable disease outbreaks, thus providing no guidance on what is expected of HCPs or how they ought to approach their duty to care in the face of risk. Discussion In the aftermath of SARS and with the spectre of a pandemic avian influenza, it is imperative that we (re)consider the obligations of HCPs for patients with severe infectious diseases, particularly diseases that pose risks to those providing care. It is of pressing importance that organizations representing HCPs give clear indication of what standard of care is expected of their members in the event of a pandemic. In this paper, we address the issue of special obligations of HCPs during an infectious disease outbreak. We argue that there is a pressing need to clarify the rights and responsibilities of HCPs in the current context of pandemic flu preparedness, and that these rights and responsibilities ought to be codified in professional codes of ethics. Finally, we present a brief historical accounting of the treatment of the duty to care in professional health care codes of ethics. Summary An honest and critical examination of the role of HCPs during communicable disease outbreaks is needed in order to provide guidelines regarding professional rights and responsibilities, as well as ethical duties and obligations. With this paper, we hope to open the social dialogue and advance the public debate on this increasingly urgent issue. (shrink)
What kind of knowledge is medical knowledge? Can medicine be explained scientifically? Is disease a scientific concept, or do explanations of disease depend on values? What is ‘evidence-based’ medicine? Are advances in neuroscience bringing us closer to a scientific understanding of the mind? The nature of medicine raises fundamental questions about explanation, causation, knowledge and ontology – questions that are central to philosophy as well as medicine. In this book Paul R. Thompson and Ross E. G. Upshur introduce the fundamental (...) issues in philosophy of medicine for those coming to the subject for the first time. They introduce and explain the following key topics: Understanding the physician-patient relationship: the phenomenology of the medical encounter. Models and theories in biology and medicine: what role do theories play in medicine? Are they similar to scientific theories? Randomised controlled trials: can scientific experiments be replicated in clinical medicine? What are the philosophical criticisms levelled at RCTs? The concept of evidence in medical research: what do we mean by ‘Evidence-based medicine?’ Should all medicine be based on evidence? Causation in medicine What do advances in neuroscience reveal about the relationship between mind and body? Defining health and disease: are explanations of disease objective or do they depend on values? Evolutionary medicine: what is the role of evolutionary biology in understanding medicine? Is it relevant? Extensive use of empirical examples and case studies is made throughout the book. These include debates about smoking and cancer, the use of placebos in randomised controlled trials and controversies about research into the causes of HIV and autism. This is an indispendable introduction to those teaching philosophy of medicine and philosophy of science. (shrink)
Patients have received experimental pharmaceuticals outside of clinical trials for decades. There are no industry-wide best practices, and many companies that have granted compassionate use, or ‘preapproval’, access to their investigational products have done so without fanfare and without divulging the process or grounds on which decisions were made. The number of compassionate use requests has increased over time. Driving the demand are new treatments for serious unmet medical needs; patient advocacy groups pressing for access to emerging treatments; internet platforms (...) enabling broad awareness of compelling cases or novel drugs and a lack of trust among some that the pharmaceutical industry and/or the FDA have patients’ best interests in mind. High-profile cases in the media have highlighted the gap between patient expectations for compassionate use and company utilisation of fair processes to adjudicate requests. With many pharmaceutical manufacturers, patient groups, healthcare providers and policy analysts unhappy with the inequities of the status quo, fairer and more ethical management of compassionate use requests was needed. This paper reports on a novel collaboration between a pharmaceutical company and an academic medical ethics department that led to the formation of the Compassionate Use Advisory Committee. Comprising medical experts, bioethicists and patient representatives, CompAC established an ethical framework for the allocation of a scarce investigational oncology agent to single patients requesting non-trial access. This is the first account of how the committee was formed and how it built an ethical framework and put it into practice. (shrink)
BackgroundScientists engaged in global health research are increasingly faced with barriers to access and use of human tissues from the developing world communities where much of their research is targeted. In part, the problem can be traced to distrust of researchers from affluent countries, given the history of 'scientific-imperialism' and 'biocolonialism' reflected in past well publicized cases of exploitation of research participants from low to middle income countries.DiscussionTo a considerable extent, the failure to adequately engage host communities, the opacity of (...) informed consent, and the lack of fair benefit-sharing have played a significant role in eroding trust. These ethical considerations are central to biomedical research in low to middle income countries and failure to attend to them can inadvertently contribute to exploitation and erode trust. A 'tissue trust' may be a plausible means for enabling access to human tissues for research in a manner that is responsive to the ethical challenges considered.SummaryPreventing exploitation and restoring trust while simultaneously promoting global health research calls for innovative approaches to human tissues research. A tissue trust can reduce the risk of exploitation and promote host capacity as a key benefit. (shrink)
Health research is increasingly being conducted on a global scale, particularly in the developing world to address leading causes of morbidity and mortality. While research interest has increased, building scientific capacity in the developing world has not kept pace. This often leads to the export of human tissue (defined broadly) from the developing to the developed world for analysis. These practices raise a number of important ethical issues that require attention.
The generation of evidence is integral to the work of public health and health service providers. Traditionally, ethics has been addressed differently in research projects, compared with other forms of evidence generation, such as quality improvement, program evaluation, and surveillance, with review of non-research activities falling outside the purview of the research ethics board. However, the boundaries between research and these other evaluative activities are not distinct. Efforts to delineate a boundary – whether on grounds of primary purpose, temporality, underlying (...) legal authority, departure from usual practice, or direct benefits to participants – have been unsatisfactory. (shrink)
Médecins Sans Frontières is one of the world’s leading humanitarian medical organizations. The increased emphasis in MSF on research led to the creation of an ethics review board in 2001. The ERB has encouraged innovation in the review of proposals and the interaction between the ERB and the organization. This has led to some of the advances in ethics governance described in this paper.
The exercise of identifying lessons in the aftermath of a major public health emergency is of immense importance for the improvement of global public health emergency preparedness and response. Despite the persistence of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa, it seems that the Ebola ‘lessons learned’ exercise is now in full swing. On our assessment, a significant shortcoming plagues recent articulations of lessons learned, particularly among those emerging from organizational reflections. In this article we argue that, despite not (...) being recognized as such, the vast majority of lessons proffered in this literature should be understood as ethical lessons stemming from moral failures, and that any improvements in future global public health emergency preparedness and response are in large part dependent on acknowledging this fact and adjusting priorities, policies and practices accordingly such that they align with values that better ensure these moral failures are not repeated and that new moral failures do not arise. We cannot continue to fiddle at the margins without critically reflecting on our repeated moral failings and committing ourselves to a set of values that engenders an approach to global public health emergencies that embodies a sense of solidarity and global justice. (shrink)
Obesity has been described as pandemic and a public health crisis. It has been argued that concerted research efforts are needed to enhance our understanding and develop effective interventions for the complex and multiple dimensions of the health challenges posed by obesity. This would provide a secure evidence base in order to justify clinical interventions and public policy. This paper critically examines these claims through the examination of models of public health and public health ethics. I argue that the concept (...) of an effective public health intervention is unclear and underdeveloped and, as a consequence, normative frameworks reliant on meeting the effectiveness criterion may miss morally salient dimensions of the problems. I conclude by arguing for the need to consider both an ecological model of public health and inclusion of a critical public health ethics perspective for an adequate account of the public health challenges posed by obesity. (shrink)
The evolving Ebola epidemic in West Africa is unprecedented in its size and scope, requiring the rapid mobilization of resources. It is too early to determine all of the ethical challenges associated with the outbreak, but these should be monitored closely. Two issues that can be discussed are the decision to implement and evaluate unregistered agents to determine therapeutic or prophylactic safety and efficacy and the justification behind this decision. In this paper, I argue that it is not compassionate use (...) that justifies this decision and suggest three lines of reasoning to support the decision. (shrink)
Naturalistic theories of disease appeal to concepts of biological function, and use the notion of dysfunction as the basis of their definitions. Debates in the philosophy of biology demonstrate how attributing functions in organisms and establishing the function-dysfunction distinction is by no means straightforward. This problematization of functional ascription has undermined naturalistic theories and led some authors to abandon the concept of dysfunction, favoring instead definitions based in normative criteria or phenomenological approaches. Although this work has enhanced our understanding of (...) disease and illness, we need not necessarily abandon naturalistic concepts of function and dysfunction in the disease debate. This article attempts to move towards a new naturalistic theory of disease that overcomes the limitations of previous definitions and offers advantages in the clinical setting. Our approach involves a re-evaluation of concepts of biological function employed by naturalistic theories. Drawing on recent insights from the philosophy of biology, we develop a contextual and evaluative account of function that is better suited to clinical medicine and remains consistent with contemporary naturalism. We also show how an updated naturalistic view shares important affinities with normativist and phenomenological positions, suggesting a possibility for consilience in the disease debate. (shrink)
This article critically examines current responses to multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and argues that bioethics needs to be willing to engage in a more radical critique of the problem than is currently offered. In particular, we need to focus not simply on market-driven models of innovation and anti-microbial solutions to emergent and re-emergent infections such as TB. The global community also needs to address poverty and the structural factors that entrench inequalities—thus moving beyond the orthodox medical/public health frame of reference.
The most powerful lesson learned from the 2013-2016 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa was that we do not learn our lessons. A common sentiment at the time was that Ebola served as a “wake-up call”—an alarm which signalled that an outbreak of that magnitude should never have occurred and that we are ill-prepared globally to prevent and respond to them when they do. Pledges were made that we must learn from the outbreak before we were faced with another. Nearly (...) five years later the world is in the grips of a pandemic of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 that causes coronavirus disease 2019. It is therefore of no surprise that we are now yet again hearing that the COVID-19 pandemic serves as the “wake-up call” we need and that there are many lessons to be learned to better prepare us for future outbreaks. Will anything be different this time around? We argue that nothing will fundamentally change unless we truly understand and appreciate the nature of the lessons we should learn from these outbreaks. Our past failures must be understood as moral failures that offer moral lessons. Unless we appreciate that we have a defect in our collective moral attitude toward remediating the conditions that precipitate the emergence of outbreaks, we will never truly learn. (shrink)
Background Tuberculosis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality globally. Recent scholarly attention to public health ethics provides an opportunity to analyze several ethical issues raised by the global tuberculosis pandemic. Discussion Recently articulated frameworks for public health ethics emphasize the importance of effectiveness in the justification of public health action. This paper critically reviews the relationship between these frameworks and the published evidence of effectiveness of tuberculosis interventions, with a specific focus on the controversies engendered by the endorsement (...) of programs of service delivery that emphasize direct observation of therapy. The role of global economic inequities in perpetuating the tuberculosis pandemic is also discussed. Summary Tuberculosis is a complex but well understood disease that raises important ethical challenges for emerging frameworks in public health ethics. The exact role of effectiveness as a criterion for judging the ethics of interventions needs greater discussion and analysis. Emerging frameworks are silent about the economic conditions contributing to the global burden of illness associated with tuberculosis and this requires remediation. (shrink)
ObjectiveTo identify the ethical challenges associated with the development and implementation of new tuberculosis drugs and diagnostics.MethodsTwenty-three semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted between December 2015 and September 2016 with programme administrators, healthcare workers, advocates, policymakers, and funders based in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.ResultsDivergent interests and responsibilities, coupled with power imbalances, are a primary source of ethical challenges; the uncertain risk profiles of new drugs present an additional one. Although this challenge can be partially mitigated (...) through stringent pharmacovigilance, respondents highlighted that high-burden countries tend to lack the resources to facilitate safe implementation. Increased advocacy and community engagement are considered an ethical imperative for future TB development and implementation.ConclusionsThis project helps identify some of the ethical challenges of new TB technologies. It demonstrates that investigating ethical challenges through qualitative research is one way to apprehend the difficulty of implementing new TB technologies. Addressing this difficulty will require that those in positions of power reconsider their interests in relation to disempowered communities.Policy implicationsEfforts to build consensus regarding what values should underpin the global governance of TB research, prevention, and care are essential to facilitate the ethical implementation of new TB technologies. (shrink)
Objective: Ethical guidelines are designed to ensure benefits, protection and respect of participants in clinical research. Clinical trials must now be registered on open-access databases and provide details on ethical considerations. This systematic survey aimed to determine the extent to which recently registered clinical trials report the use of standard of care and post-trial obligations in trial registries, and whether trial characteristics vary according to setting. Methods: We selected global randomized trials registered on http://www.clinicaltrials.gov and http://www.controlled-trials.com. We searched for intervention (...) trials of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis from 9 October 2004, the date of the most recent version of the Helsinki Declaration, to 10 April 2007. Results: We collected data from 312 trials. Fifty-eight percent (58%, 95% CI = 53 to 64) of trial protocols report informed consent. Fifty-eight percent (58%, 95% CI = 53 to 64) of trials report active controls. Almost no trials (1%, 95% CI = 0.5 to 3) mention post-trial provisions. Most trials measure surrogate outcomes. Twenty percent (20%, 95% CI = 16 to 25) of trials measure patient-important outcomes, such as death; and the odds that these outcomes are in a low income country are five times greater than for a developed country (odds ratio (OR) 5.03, 95% CI = 2.70 to 9.35, p = < 0.001). Pharmaceutical companies are involved in 28% (CI = 23 to 33) of trials and measure surrogate outcomes more often than nonpharmaceutical companies (OR 2.45, 95% CI = 1.18 to 5.09, p = 0.31). Conclusion: We found a large discrepancy in the quality of reporting and approaches used in trials in developing settings compared to wealthier settings. (shrink)
Naturalistic theories of disease appeal to concepts of biological function, and use the notion of dysfunction as the basis of their definitions. Debates in the philosophy of biology demonstrate how attributing functions in organisms and establishing the function-dysfunction distinction is by no means straightforward. This problematization of functional ascription has undermined naturalistic theories and led some authors to abandon the concept of dysfunction, favoring instead definitions based in normative criteria or phenomenological approaches. Although this work has enhanced our understanding of (...) disease and illness, we need not necessarily abandon naturalistic concepts of function and dysfunction in the disease debate. This article attempts to move towards a new naturalistic theory of disease that overcomes the limitations of previous definitions and offers advantages in the clinical setting. Our approach involves a reevaluation of concepts of biological function employed by naturalistic theories. Drawing on recent insights from the philosophy of biology, we develop a contextual and evaluative account of function that is better suited to clinical medicine and remains consistent with contemporary naturalism. We also show how an updated naturalistic view shares important affinities with normativist and phenomenological positions, suggesting a possibility for consilience in the disease debate. (shrink)