eLetters

53 e-Letters

published between 2018 and 2021

  • In Defense of Instrumental Value

    The authors argue that when we prioritize healthcare workers for ventilators because of their instrumental value as healthcare workers, we fail to value human lives equally. While they suggest that “it may be ethically justifiable for healthcare workers to receive priority for some scarce healthcare resources” and argue that healthcare workers should have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), they do little to explain why granting priority for these resources isn’t also, as they argue with ventilators, a case of failing to attribute equal value to human lives. Indeed, it is not clear that they think prioritizing healthcare workers for vaccines was the right thing to do: “. . . our social fabric has shown signs of unravelling as vaccine roll-outs have pulled on loose threads” and prioritizing vaccines has resulted “in unanticipated frustration, mistrust and strife.” The authors are right in their conclusion about ventilators, but we should reject the concerns their article raises about vaccines and PPE. If saving the most lives is the goal, it is consistent with valuing each person’s life equally to prioritize healthcare workers for preventive measures, particularly at the outset of a pandemic.
    The authors mention three reasons ventilators are different from preventive measures like PPE and vaccines: 1) Efficacy: Those who require a ventilator will not return to work quickly. 2) Lifesaving: While ventilators rescue endangered lives, preventive measures only...

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  • Pharmacists and Assisted Suicide : Thoughts after reading "The Judgment of the German Federal Constitutional Court regarding assisted suicide: a template for pluralistic states? "

    Pharmacists are essential healthcare professionals and are critical members of the whole healthcare team. Pharmacists work in varied settings such as community and hospital, hospice/palliative care industry and regulatory affairs. Regardless of where pharmacists work, and whether their roles provide direct or indirect patient care, all pharmacists contribute to safe and quality health care. Pharmacists may hold roles in many specialty areas of a healthcare system including the emergency department, infectious disease, oncology, pain management and anticoagulation management (1).

    Although effective, medicines are often challenging to manage and use appropriately. This is due to a number of factors, such as increasingly complex pharmacotherapies, polypharmacy, ageing populations with multiple diseases, and limited, or inadequately coordinated resources in healthcare systems. While performing a medication review, many pharmacists work together with GPs/consultants to optimise the patient's pharmacotherapy and reduce the potential risks of polypharmacy. An example of an expected health related goal suggested by a patient during a medication review could be a desire to reduce pain. During the medication review, the patient’s pain medication could be optimised by a pharmacist to achieve this goal (1).

    Pharmacists are pivotal in the lethal drug medication use process. Assisted suicide(i.e. physician assisted) will not take place without the use of medicat...

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  • Paediatric Patient Preference Absolutism?

    Even when there is no reason to doubt the truth of what patients say, it does not necessarily follow that clinicians must do exactly what patients want despite the risks. Is Priest’s line of thought here, in part at least, analogous to that of Minerva (1) and therefore open to a similar critique as that of Saad (2) who coined the term Patient Preference Absolutism to describe such a position?

    1. Minerva F. Cosmetic surgery and conscientious objection. Journal of Medical Ethics 2017;44:230- 233.
    2. Saad T C Mistakes and missed opportunities regarding cosmetic surgery and conscientious objection Journal of Medical Ethics 2018;44:649-650

  • Not a (global) controversy

    This article addresses a critically important topic, but I would not classify it as a 'current controversy'. The UK Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) task of 'helping to promote a culture of care within the establishment and, as appropriate, the wider community' includes supporting the wellbeing of animal technologists and care staff. There is a good level of understanding that the culture of care includes caring for staff, in the belief that people who are cared for will behave more compassionately towards animals, and that science, animal welfare and staff morale will all benefit [see references in 1]. The AWERB task of 'supporting named persons, and other staff dealing with animals, on animal welfare, ethical issues and provision of appropriate training' can also be interpreted as providing emotional support and ensuring staff feel competent, capable and confident with respect to humane killing.

    Outside the UK, the European Union working document on Animal Welfare Bodies and National Committees also discusses the importance of supporting staff and ensuring mutual respect as part of a good culture of care, including encouraging scientists to work with (and value the contribution of) animal technologists and care staff [2].

    In my experience of working with AWERBs, many of these were (and are) very mindful of the emotional loading exterted on staff who had to humanely kill animals because of the pandemic [3]. The i...

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  • SEMPER ET UBIQUE MEDICUS (physician always and everywhere)

    I read with great attention and not a little emotion the short article of Clinical Ethics by SDTR [1]. The narrative and flat form fails to hide the author's strong ethical commitment. Few points, in my view, deserve a greater focus in the challenging and highly contributing considerations.
    The core of this contribution is the question: “when as a hospitalised medically qualified patient, one sees fellow patients in difficulty, or deteriorating clinically, unnoticed by medical staff, the question of whether it is ethical to intervene arises”.[1]
    The issue is complex and is very much about the mutual assistance that patients (may) give each other, as have often given each other, when confined to a hospital ward, on a desert island, in a prison, in a concentration camp, in a college. This aspect of natural solidarity, observable also in ethology in many animal species, even in captivity, can come into brutal contrast not so much with "education", which concerns cultural and social aspects of shared ethics, but more with "instruction", also intended as training and usual professional activity. Actually, impact of curricular studies of medicine on youngsters is complex, but seems to modify only some and limited aspects of previously acquired thoughts and feelings on health and disease. [2] Are there deontological appropriate rules of conduct for doctors that can be immediately contrary to elementary ethics? Regretfully yes, and without dist...

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  • I’ve got a few questions.,..,,

    Tell me now, what would the Doctors and staff do in this situation if there wasn’t a supposed Covid diagnosis?
    What is SOP ?
    Why couldn’t they just follow that procedure with any and all PPE precautions?
    I wouldn’t think they would just throw someone in that condition into a room full of equally suffering patients ?

    Do they?

    Somebody please explain this to me in Layman’s terms.

    If these questions were already answered in the article then let me know, and I’ll do a closer read, but until then.....

    Thank You

  • Mandatory Vaccination by a philosopher?

    Dear Editor,
    having scanned the article by Julian S, philosopher in Oxford no less, in your journal's edition from Nov 2020 , I feel I need to comment: The mandate to prevent harm from others requires a reasonable amount of knowledge what the risk to self is. To use a narrative extract from an autoethnographic case study as example:
    ... what those people who experienced serious reaction to the covid vaccine are believed to have reacted to is an emulsifier called PEG -
    polyethylenglycol which sounds harmless enough. I was tested for allergies comprehensively by a very thorough specialist in Ger in 1996
    and that because of a series of very light reactions. I dare to assert that in the UK where I have lived for 20 years and worked in
    multidisciplinary health settings, the first thing people would know about such an allergy would be if they suffered an anaphylactic shock.
    Prior to that most people would only/at best have been prescribed cortisone.
    I believe here enters what M. Fricker, UK philosopher in NY, calls epistemic injustice inherent in a system of health inequalities as prevalent in the UK and an approach to behaviourism in clinical practice I politely call blinkered. - So far my initial reaction to the article.
    Coincidentally I then after I found the video interview where Dr Mary Ramsey for PHE declares the safety of vaccines, I felt prompted to do a little research and - surprise, surpri...

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  • Critique of Good Reasons to Vaccinate: Mandatory or Payment for Risk?

    The author asserts that coercion to vaccinate is ethically analogous to mandatory seatbelts or the use of physical force to remove a dangerous substance from a child. This is a false analogy. Wearing seatbelts while driving or removing a dangerous toy from a child does not alter anyone’s individual constitution, but vaccines do, permanently, and with largely unknown long-term consequences. Vaccination is an intimate, deeply invasive and permanent medical procedure, not just a behavioural preference. The same flawed comparison could be used to support mandatory abortion or coercive organ harvesting if these procedures were deemed in the interest of public health: a repugnant conclusion.

    Regarding seriousness of Covid-19 as a public health issue, the author ignores the fact that Covid-19 deaths are recorded in a non-standard way which precludes meaningful assessment of the true public health impact of this disease in comparison to other respiratory infections. Acording to the WHO https://www.who.int/classifications/icd/Guidelines_Cause_of_Death_COVID-... guidelines, “A death due to COVID-19 is defined for surveillance purposes as a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness [...] COVID-19 should be recorded on the medical certificate of cause of death for ALL decedents where the disease caused, or is assumed to have caused, or contributed to death.” The Office of Nat...

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  • Placebos can still work when patients are told, honestly, that they are placebos

    This study, https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.3006175, showed that the placebo effect still worked when patients were informed that they were receiving the placebo.

    If this is generally true, there is no need to move from honesty.

  • Why a selective lockdown of the elderly would be unjust: A response to Savulescu and Cameron

    On the grounds that the elderly are more likely than the non-elderly to become severely unwell, require intensive, scarce and expensive and thereby put the NHS at risk of being overwhelmed, if they catch COVID-19, Savulescu and Cameron make two dubious claims. Firstly, they say that a selective, legally compulsory, lockdown of the elderly to stem a resurgence of the pandemic could be morally justifiable. Secondly, they say that such a selective lockdown would be just. They write: ‘Ethically, selective isolation is permissible. It is not unjust discrimination. It is analogous to only screening women for breast cancer: selecting those at a higher probability of suffering from a disease.’1
    I shall focus here on a response to the latter claim. To justify a particular allocation of benefits or burdens as a just allocation is different from justifying a particular allocation – whether or not it is just – in terms of its morally desirable consequences. I do not believe that a lockdown of the elderly would be morally justified by its consequences but, whether or not it would so be, it would be unjust discrimination.
    ARISTOTLE ON DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE AND WOMEN
    Under the heading of ‘THE IDEAL OF EQUALITY AND THE CONCEPT OF UNJUST DISCRIMINATION.’, Savulescu and Cameron write:
    ‘Aristotle described the principle of equality as treating like cases alike, unless there is a morally relevant difference. For example, if men are allowed to vote, and women are not, th...

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