U.S. Public Health Service STD Experiments in Guatemala (1946–1948) and Their Aftermath

Kayte Spector-Bagdady, Paul A. Lombardo

Abstract

The U.S. Public Health Service’s sexually transmitted disease (STD) experiments in Guatemala are an important case study not only in human subjects research transgressions but also in the response to serious lapses in research ethics. This case study describes how individuals in the STD experiments were tested, exposed to STDs, and exploited as the source of biological specimens—all without informed consent and often with active deceit. It also explores and evaluates governmental and professional responses that followed the public revelation of these experiments, including by academic institutions, professional organizations, and the U.S. federal government, pushing us to reconsider both how we prevent such lapses in the future and how we respond when they are first revealed.


SpectorBagdady K, Lombardo PA. U.S. Public Health Service STD Experiments in Guatemala (1946–1948) and Their Aftermath. Ethics & Human Research. 2019 Apr; 41(2): 29-34.

A right to be unconscious

Julian Savulescu, Janet Radcliffe-Richards

[Referring to Sinmyee et al] This seems to us to be an important, landmark paper. This is because the issues it addresses are important in their own right: how to ensure death without suffering in jurisdictions where assisted dying (including assisted suicide or euthanasia) is allowed, and also, because the technicalities are the same, in cases of capital punishment by lethal injection. Moreover, the paper shows the potential for the use of anaesthesia in contexts beyond surgery. Anaesthesia in its ordinary uses is intended to facilitate surgery designed to restore a patient to improved health and functioning. In assisted dying, however, there is no question of restoring health. The proposition is to use anaesthesia primarily to prevent suffering in a patient who is about to die and, in this sense, places anaesthesia on a new footing as a primary medical intervention, serving a purpose in its own right.


Savulescu J, Radcliffe-Richards J.  A right to be unconscious. Anaesthesia. 2019 May; 74(5): 557-559

Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying law: clinical implementation as the next challenge

Ben P. White, Lindy Willmott, Eliana Close

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) (VAD Act) will become operational on 19 June, 2019. . . . While some have written on the scope of, and reaction to, the VAD legislation, there has been very little commentary on its implementation. Yet, important choices must be made about translating these laws into clinical practice. These choices have major implications for doctors and other health professionals (including those who choose not to facilitate VAD), patients, hospitals and other health providers. This article considers some key challenges in implementing Victoria’s VAD legislation.


White BP, Willmott L, Close E. Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying law: clinical implementation as the next challenge. Med J Australia. 2019 Mar;210(5):207-209.e1

Legal and ethical implications of defining an optimum means of achieving unconsciousness in assisted dying

S. Sinmyee V. J. Pandit J. M. Pascual A. Dahan T. Heidegger G. Kreienbühl D. A. Lubarsky J. J. Pandit

Summary

A decision by a society to sanction assisted dying in any form should logically go hand-in-hand with defining the acceptable method(s). Assisted dying is legal in several countries and we have reviewed the methods commonly used, contrasting these with an analysis of capital punishment in the USA. We expected that, since a common humane aim is to achieve unconsciousness at the point of death, which then occurs rapidly without pain or distress, there might be a single technique being used.

However, the considerable heterogeneity in methods suggests that an optimum method of achieving unconsciousness remains undefined. In voluntary assisted dying (in some US states and European countries), the common method to induce unconsciousness appears to be self-administered barbiturate ingestion, with death resulting slowly from asphyxia due to cardiorespiratory depression. Physician-administered injections (a combination of general anaesthetic and neuromuscular blockade) are an option in Dutch guidelines. Hypoxic methods involving helium rebreathing have also been reported.

The method of capital punishment (USA) resembles the Dutch injection technique, but specific drugs, doses and monitoring employed vary. However, for all these forms of assisted dying, there appears to be a relatively high incidence of vomiting (up to 10%), prolongation of death (up to 7 days), and re-awakening from coma (up to 4%), constituting failure of unconsciousness. This raises a concern that some deaths may be inhumane, and we have used lessons from the most recent studies of accidental awareness during anaesthesia to describe an optimal means that could better achieve unconsciousness. We found that the very act of defining an ‘optimum’ itself has important implications for ethics and the law.


Sinmyee S, Pandit VJ, Pascual JM, Dahan A, Heidegger T, Kreienbühl G, Lubarsky DA, Pandit JJ. Legal and ethical implications of defining an optimum means of achieving unconsciousness in assisted dying. Anaesthesia. 2019 May;74(5): 630-637.

Can conscientious objection lead to eugenic practices against LGBT individuals?

Toni C. Saad, Daniel Rodger

Abstract

In a recent article in this journal, Abram Brummett argues that new and future assisted reproductive technologies will provide challenging ethical questions relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. Brummett notes that it is likely that some clinicians may wish to conscientiously object to offering assisted reproductive technologies to LGBT couples on moral or religious grounds, and argues that such appeals to conscience should be constrained. We argue that Brummett’s case is unsuccessful because he: does not adequately interact with his opponents’ views; equivocates on the meaning of ‘natural’; fails to show that the practice he opposes is eugenic in any non-trivial sense; and fails to justify and explicate the relevance of the naturalism he proposes. We do not argue that conscience protections should exist for those objecting to providing LGBT people with artificial reproductive technologies, but only show that Brummett’s arguments are insufficient to prove that they should not.


Saad C, Rodger D.  Can conscientious objection lead to eugenic practices against LGBT individuals? Bioethics; 2019 Feb 08

CMA’s “third way” may be a third rail

Responding to articles by CMA officials (BMJ 2019; 364)

Sean Murphy*

It is disconcerting to find that the CMA’s President-Elect thinks that Canadian law “does not compel any physician to be involved in an act or procedure that would violate their values or faith.” The state medical regulator in Canada’s largest province has enacted policies that do just that, requiring physicians who refuse to kill their patients to find a colleague who will. These policies do have the force of law, and objecting physicians were forced to launch an expensive constitutional challenge to defend themselves. The Protection of Conscience Project and others have intervened in the case to support them; the CMA has not.

Further, the Canadian Medical Association’s assertion that it has successfully adopted a “neutral” position on euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) is challenged in a World Medical Journal article by seven Canadian physicians. “For refusing to collaborate in killing our patients,” they write, “many of us now risk discipline and expulsion from the medical profession,” are accused of human rights violations and “even called bigots.” . . . Full Text

Conscientious objection to abortion, the law and its implementation in Victoria, Australia: perspectives of abortion service providers

Louise Anne Keogh, Lynn Gillam, Marie Bismark, Kathleen McNamee, Amy Webster, Christine Bayly, Danielle Newton

Abstract

Background

In Victoria, Australia, the law regulating abortion was reformed in 2008, and a clause (‘Section 8’) was introduced requiring doctors with a conscientious objection to abortion to refer women to another provider. This study reports the views of abortion experts on the operation of Section 8 of the Abortion Law Reform Act in Victoria.

Methods

Nineteen semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with purposively selected Victorian abortion experts in 2015. Interviews explored the impact of abortion law reform on service provision, including the understanding and implementation of Section 8. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.

Results

The majority of participants described Section 8 as a mechanism to protect women’s right to abortion, rather than a mechanism to protect doctors’ rights. All agreed that most doctors would not let moral or religious beliefs impact on their patients, and yet all could detail negative experiences related to Section 8. The negative experiences arose because doctors had: directly contravened the law by not referring; attempted to make women feel guilty; attempted to delay women’s access; or claimed an objection for reasons other than conscience. Use or misuse of conscientious objection by Government telephone staff, pharmacists, institutions, and political groups was also reported.

Conclusion

Some doctors are not complying with Section 8, with adverse effects on access to care for some women. Further research is needed to inform strategies for improving compliance with the law in order to facilitate timely access to abortion services.


Keogh LA, Gillam L, Bismark M, McNamee K, Webster A, Bayly C, Newton D. Conscientious objection to abortion, the law and its implementation in Victoria, Australia: perspectives of abortion service providers. BMC Medical Ethics201920:11.

Systematic Review of Ovarian Activity and Potential for Embryo Formation and Loss during the Use of Hormonal Contraception

Donna Harrison, Cara Buskmiller, Monique Chireau, Lester A. Ruppersberger, Patrick P. Peung Jr.

Linacre Quarterly

Abstract

The purpose of this review was to determine whether there is evidence that ovulation can occur in women using hormonal contraceptives and whether these drugs might inhibit implantation. We performed a systematic review of the published English-language literature from 1990 to the present which included studies on the hormonal milieu following egg release in women using any hormonal contraceptive method. High circulating estrogens and progestins in the follicular phase appear to induce dysfunctional ovulation, where follicular rupture occurs but is followed by low or absent corpus luteum production of progesterone. Hoogland scoring of ovulatory activity may inadvertently obscure the reality of ovum release by limiting the term “ovulation” to those instances where follicular rupture is followed by production of a threshold level of luteal progesterone, sufficient to sustain fertilization, implantation, and the end point of a positive β-human chorionic gonadotropin. However, follicular ruptures and egg release with subsequent low progesterone output have been documented in women using hormonal contraception. In the absence of specific ovulation and fertilization markers, follicular rupture should be considered the best marker for egg release and potential fertilization. Women using hormonal contraceptives may produce more eggs than previously described by established criteria; moreover, suboptimal luteal progesterone production may be more likely than previously acknowledged, which may contribute to embryo loss. This information should be included in informed consent for women who are considering the use of hormonal contraception.


Harrison D, Buskmiller C, Chireau M, Ruppersberger LA,Peung PP.   Systematic Review of Ovarian Activity and Potential for Embryo Formation and Loss during the Use of Hormonal Contraception. Linacre Quarterly. 2019 Jan 03; 85(4):453–469.

Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD): Ten Things Leaders Need to Know

Rosanne Beuthin, Anne Bruce

Abstract

The provision of MAiD will be in flux for a few years, as legislative challenges are underway. This article addresses what leaders need to know and do to support nurses today and in the future regarding care of patients choosing MAiD. Drawing on complexity leadership theory and research into nurses’ experiences in caring for persons choosing MAiD, we share 10 simple yet foundational things a leader must know. Underpinning our key messages are current evidence and familiar nursing concepts such as end-of-life care, death trajectories, conscientious objection, scope of practice, ethics, sense-making and care cultures. These key messages are embedded in a framework of leadership practices where attention to inter-relationships, emergence and innovation are highlighted. They provide nurse leaders with concrete actions to inspire a team dynamic for creating inclusive cultures of quality care. Leadership is needed across healthcare settings where MAiD is being enacted.


Beuthin R, Bruce A. Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD): Ten Things Leaders Need to Know. Nurs Leadersh (Tor Ont). 2018 Dec;31(4):74-81. doi: 10.12927/cjnl.2019.25753.

Situating requests for medical aid in dying within the broader context of end-of-life care: ethical considerations

Lori Seller, Marie Eve-Bouthillier, Veronique Fraser

Journal of Medical Ethics

Abstract

Background Medical aid in dying (MAiD) was introduced in Quebec in 2015. Quebec clinical guidelines recommend that MAiD be approached as a last resort when other care options are insufficient; however, the law sets no such requirement. To date, little is known about when and how requests for MAiD are situated in the broader context of decision-making in end-of-life care; the timing of MAiD raises potential ethical issues.

Methods A retrospective chart review of all MAiD requests between December 2015 and June 2017 at two Quebec hospitals and one long-term care centre was conducted to explore the relationship between routine end-of-life care practices and the timing of MAiD requests.

Results Of 80 patients requesting MAiD, 54% (43) received the intervention. The median number of days between the request for MAiD and the patient’s death was 6 days. The majority of palliative care consults (32%) came less than 7 days prior to the MAiD request and in another 25% of cases occurred the day of or after MAiD was requested. 35% of patients had no level of intervention form, or it was documented as 1 or 2 (prolongation of life remains a priority) at the time of the MAiD request and 19% were receiving life-prolonging interventions.

Interpretation We highlight ethical considerations relating to the timing of MAiD requests within the broader context of end-of-life care. Whether or not MAiD is conceptualised as morally distinct from other end-of-life options is likely to influence clinicians’ approach to requests for MAiD as well as the ethical importance of our findings. We suggest that in the wake of the 2015 legislation, requests for MAiD have not always appeared to come after an exploration of other options as professional practice guidelines recommend.

Seller L, Bouthillier M, Fraser V. Situating requests for medical aid in dying within the broader context of end-of-life care: ethical considerations. J Med Ethics. 2019;45:106-111 .