Category Archives: Health and Medicine

Health And Survival Rationing Ethics

cointoss

Beginning in 2012, Dr. Lee Daugherty Biddison, a critical care physician at Johns Hopkins and some colleagues have held public forums around Maryland to solicit the public’s opinions about how life-saving medical assistance should be distributed when there are too many desperately ill patients and not enough resources. The exercise was part of the preparation  for Biddenson’s participation in preparing official recommendations for state agencies that  might end up  as national guidelines regarding when doctors should remove one patient from a ventilator to save another who might have a better chance of surviving, or whether the young should have priority over the old.

Ethically, this is pure ends justifying the means stuff. The Golden Rule is useless—How would you like to be treated? I’d want to be left on the ventilator, of course!–and Kantian ethics break down, since Immanuel forbade using human life to achieve even the best objectives…like saving a human life. Such trade-offs of life for life (or lives) is the realm of utilitarianism, and an especially brutal variety….so brutal that I doubt that it is ethics at all.

When Dr. Biddenson justifies his public forums by saying that he wants to include current societal values in his life-for-a-life calculations, she is really seeking current biases, because that’s all they are. On the Titanic, it was women and children first, not because it made societal sense to allow some of the most productive and vibrant minds alive to drown simply because they had a Y chromosome, but because that’s just the way it was. Old women and sick children got on lifeboats;  young men, like emerging mystery writer Jacque Futrelle (and brilliant young artist Leonardo DiCaprio), went down with the ship. That’s not utilitarianism. That’s sentimentalism.

The New York Times article mostly demonstrates that human beings are incapable of making ethical guidelines, because Kant was right: when you start trading one life for another, it’s inherently unethical, even if you have no choice but to do it. Does it make societal sense to take away Stephen Hawking’s ventilator to help a drug-addicted, habitual criminal survive? Well, should violating drug laws sentence a kid to death? TILT! There are no ethical answers, just biased decisions. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Professions, Rights, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

There is an Ethics Alarms post “going viral” right now, at least as viral as any post on an ethics blog is likely to go. For two weeks now, my post at the end of July about how the “urban legends” site Snopes had descended into  dishonest, spinning, fact-distorting partisan/ left “factchecking” hackery has lapped all others here, and been shared to record levels on Facebook (nearing 11,000 shares) and Reddit.

This is nice, of course. It has brought a few (though not many) new commenters to the blog, and presumably more readers who stayed to peruse other topics. It has made August 2016, usually a fairly dead month, the most heavily trafficked month in Ethics Alarms annals. The post alerted some people to why Snopes is untrustworthy, though not, apparently, the Washington Post, which cited it as authority just a few days ago. It also prompted, on Reddit and Facebook, several thousand smug “this is not news, I’ve known this for years” comments. Where were your blog post, jerks?

The post’s wide circulation through the web also made me aware that a conspiracy theory holding that Democrats and the Hillary Corrupted maintain a team of attack commenters who go to blogs and attempt to muddy the waters when the truth about Clinton threatens to break through the denial dam might be accurate. I have received four or five almost identical comments on that post attempting to deny my dissection of Snopes’ pathetic attempt to prove that Hillary didn’t defend a child rapist, didn’t discredit his young victim in the process, didn’t know he was guilty when she did it, and didn’t laugh about the case in a recorded interview. None of the four commenters  read all of my post, which echoed a previous one in pointing out, as I always do, that a lawyer defending a criminal is not unethical, that the attacks on Hillary for doing so were ignorant and unfair, and that Hillary Clinton has nothing to apologize for in this case. Never mind: all four of these commenters ( and some others which never made it onto the blog) shifted into similar boilerplate language claiming I was attacking her too,  and preceded to repeat Snopes’ dishonest “factchecking” as if the documentation of its falsity I presented in the post didn’t exist.

Nonetheless, the Snopes revelation was not the Ethics Alarms post I would have chosen to “go viral.” There have been many essay in the last six year that I was, and am, especially proud of and believe were original, perceptive and important, and that have been barely read by anyone, never linked to or shared, and that have had all the impact of a shell thrown into the surf. How I wish my warning to the Republican Party , for example, urging it not to permit Donald Trump to participate in the primaries, had received similar attention. Not a single editorial board or pundit saw the peril looming, or at least  they didn’t write or talk about it if they did, because having The Donald spouting his inanities would be good copy and “fun.”

One such post dates back to the first full year of Ethics Alarms: The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit, from August 2010. In six years, it has amassed about the same number of views that the Snopes piece amassed in half a month. Yet the topic, how mouthwash manufacturers profit significantly by hiding the widespread use of their product by alcoholics who use mouthwash to conceal their destructive disease from family members and co-workers, is barely mentioned  on the web—a few places, and almost all of them since the post. Still, Congress hasn’t held hearings, regulatory agencies haven’t noticed, and the products still carry warnings that fool non-alcoholics into believing that the stuff is poison, so nobody drinks it. Lives could be saved, marriages rescued, and endangered businesses might survive, if what I wrote was generally known

I’ve done the original research and put the problem out there. At least I’ve tried, and I will continue to write about the problem, which I have learned about first hand.

My efforts  haven’t been completely futile. I have received some gratifying comments and off-site e-mails from family members who read the article, discovered that a loved one was secret drinker, and got them help. I have also received a few responses that confirmed my work, though none quite like this one from new reader Dave, an alcoholic himself.

Here is his remarkable and  cryptic  Comment of the Day on the post, The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit. Is it intentional irony? Is it sarcasm? Is it support, in the form of criticism? You decide:

Halfway through your article I decided it would be a good idea to go to shoppers and grab myself a bottle. I’d been so triggered today, only being a week sober prior. It’s great, you know, the mouthwash deception as you call it. I spend roughly $3.50 on a bottle of Life brand yellow mouthwash and it gets me radically twisted, with zero hangover. So not only does it make it easier for me to be a functioning alcoholic based on its inexpensiveness and zero hangover qualities, it is also amazingly convenient in that within 10 minutes I have three different 24 hour grocery stores I can go to in order to get a bottle.

Alcoholism is a shitty disease, believe me, I have lost much at the expense of it.

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet

Is “The Goldwater Rule” Necessary?

Barry Goldwater

From an  edict handed down last week by the head of the American Psychiatric Association:

“Since 1973, the American Psychiatric Association and its members have abided by a principle commonly known as “the Goldwater Rule,” which prohibits psychiatrists from offering opinions on someone they have not personally evaluated. The rule is so named because of its association with an incident that took place during the 1964 presidential election. During that election, Fact magazine published a survey in which they queried some 12,356 psychiatrists on whether candidate Sen. Barry Goldwater, the GOP nominee, was psychologically fit to be president. A total of 2,417 of those queried responded, with 1,189 saying that Goldwater was unfit to assume the presidency.

While there was no formal policy in place at the time that survey was published, the ethical implications of the Goldwater survey, in which some responding doctors even issued specific diagnoses without ever having examined him personally, became immediately clear. This large, very public ethical misstep by a significant number of psychiatrists violated the spirit of the ethical code that we live by as physicians, and could very well have eroded public confidence in psychiatry… I can understand the desire to get inside the mind of a Presidential candidate. I can also understand how a patient might feel if they saw their doctor offering an uninformed medical opinion on someone they have never examined. A patient who sees that might lose confidence in their doctor, and would likely feel stigmatized by language painting a candidate with a mental disorder (real or perceived) as “unfit” or “unworthy” to assume the Presidency.

Simply put, breaking the Goldwater Rule is irresponsible, potentially stigmatizing, and definitely unethical.”

Naturally, as he is significantly responsible for much that is going haywire in the culture—CNN experts using words like “dick” on the air, a Fox News star and a Wall Street Journal editor calling each other names on Twitter, the New York Times announcing that it no longer is even pretending to follow its own ethics code—this can be partially placed at the feet of Donald Trump, though Ann Althouse’s suspicions that it is really designed to protect Hillary Clinton cannot be discarded.

I agree that professional groups that use their collective weight and credibility to assume greater influence in political matters than their biases and relevant expertise warrant are abusing their positions. I agree that psychiatrists pronouncing public officials mentally unfit for office without the same kind of examination that they would demand with a patient is a dubious practice, ripe for abuse. Still, I wonder if the situation with Trump doesn’t pose a different problem. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Leadership, Professions, Research and Scholarship

When A Polarized News Media Makes An Informed Public Impossible: A Case Study

Organophosphate brain damage

The question: Is there something seriously wrong with Hillary Clinton’s health?

The answer: Based on news reporting, there is absolutely no way for an objective citizen to know.

The so-called right wing media, especially websites and blogs, have been circulating the theory for some time that Clinton exhibits signs of some form of brain damage, either from a fall or a stroke. (You will recall that she had a serious fall and a concussion a few years ago.) Matt Drudge has focused on Clinton’s periodic coughing fits, which, the theory goes, are in part the side effect from anti-seizure medication.

As well-versed as I am in the almost total lack of objectivity within the mainstream media, particularly where Hillary Clinton is involved, I have apparently been programmed by their automatic disdain for “conservative stories” that I have never given this theory any credibility. Surely, surely, no matter how biased they are, legitimate journalists would feel an obligation to investigate something as important as the health of a Presidential candidate. I assumed—I still assume—that this has been investigated. I assumed—and I’m trying to still assume—that if something was wrong, the news media would feel duty-bound to report it.

My confidence is wavering, however. Since mid-July, video snippets have been widely viewed on the web showing Clinton behaving oddly. Some bloggers, notably Mike Cernovich (who is trying to sell a book) found troubling moments during the recent convention and after it. This moment, for example, from an August 4 rally, where Clinton appeared to freeze…

The Secret Service agent who rushes to her side first says “You’ll be OK,” and then “Keep talking.” Observers have speculated that Hillary’s protectors have been briefed and trained on how to handle  a seizure.

Then there are these episodes…this, from June (the date on the video is wrong, and the assertion about an “epileptic seizure” is unsubstantiated) where Clinton’s head seemed to come unhinged… Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Professions, The Internet, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump

McAfee And Me: An Ethics Rant

I have written here before about my theory that the needless complexity of life, especially involving daily interactions with technology, are driving normal people crazy, and sometimes homicidally crazy. While activists and justly alarmed citizens point to guns and mental health policies to explain murderous rampages by citizens previously regarded as quite and law abiding, insufficient attention is being paid to the ratcheting-up of daily stresses caused by the private and public sectors gratuitously making  daily life unbearably frustrating to navigate, particularly for the less skilled navigators among us.

I don’t expect to snap, but you never know. It is said, I assume apocryphally, that there was a sick drawing New Yorker black humor cartoonist Charles Addams would send to his editor when he was about to have one of his periodic breakdowns, and the magazine would see that he was deposited in his favorite sanitarium in a timely fashion. If you read the message  “AGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGZZZZZKKKKKAAAAARHHHHHYY!”-and nothing else--in a future post, you will know that I have gone full Sweeney Todd (Sweeney in his fury and grief determined that half the human race were so cruel and corrupt that they deserved to die, and that they made the other half so miserable that it was merciful to murder them too) and my immediate neighborhood is in mortal danger. Call the police. I don’t have a gun, but I don’t need one: I’m pretty good with a baseball bat.

If and when that happens, something like my experience yesterday will be the cause.

I have a new netbook, and it included a free 30 day trial subscription to McAfee’s virus protection service. For a week I had been getting obtrusive pop-up ads from McAfee telling me that my protection was about to lapse and my opportunity to purchase a special discounted continuation of the service (Just $39.99, marked down from $89.99!) would soon evaporate. Yesterday was the expiration date, so I decided to accept the offer and sign up online.

I checked the appropriate boxes and filled in all the information, including the credit card data. The attempt to pay was rejected, the screen told me, for my security code, that little three digit number on the back of the card, was incorrect. So I reentered it, after checking it carefully. After much churning and two “preparing your order” screens, I again got the error message. Huh. I tried again. Same thing.

This provoked a mature explosion quite familiar to my wife and dog (the dog hid under the bed), in which I cursed all online purchase, subscription and registration procedures, which inevitably take far longer than they are supposed to, are so complicated that they invite human error, and appear to have been designed by Joseph Mengele as some kind of sadistic experiment. My wife sagely suggested that I try another credit card, since the one I was using had recently been the object of a bank screw-up that ate another several hours of my rapidly dwindling life span. This I did…four times. Every time, the security code was flagged as entered wrongly, which it was not. Finally, I used a third card. Again, no dice, “incorrect data.”

The attempt to pay McAfee $39.99 had now taken about a half an hour. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Health and Medicine, Marketing and Advertising, Science & Technology, The Internet

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Hero: Mother Jones Pundit Kevin Drum”

There are, I think, three regular commenters on Ethics Alarms who extend all the way back to Ethics Scoreboard days, or pre-2012. One of them is Tim Levier, who unlike the other two, I have actually met while I was in his state of Colorado. Tim posted the following on my Facebook page, and I invited him to cross-post here. In his post, he addresses the “do something!” lament that appears to be thoroughly rotting the brains of our leaders in both parties as they hustle to pander to the emotional responses to the Orlando tragedy. Tim wrote a younger friend about what somethings he would do, and not all of them are relevant to guns. They all, however, are relevant to building a society in which fewer people might choose to start shooting strangers.

Here is Tim’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Hero: Mother Jones Pundit Kevin Drum.

I’m 35 and was recently talking with someone slightly younger. He had the standard call for ideas to check the “do something” box. After I did some jumping jacks to show that I did something, I buckled down and wrote some ideas.

Now, I’m usually accustomed to reading some constitutional murky stuff, so I veered a different direction. Below is my list as I wrote it to him, perhaps there’s something in it that speaks to people. My 4 ideas for improvement (not solutions, because solutions don’t exist.):

Idea #1

I’ll tell you that the #1 thing I would like to see in this country (give me some slack here, I believe everything is connected), given the state of health care…

I’d like to see a 3 tier system of medical insurance & payments. (Tier 3 will be the part that relates back.)

Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Final Thoughts On The “Turn Back Time” DirecTV Ad, The Response To My Post, And Callousness Toward Life

It’s not on TV any more, but to refresh your memory:

I’m usually a poor judge of the posts that attract controversy here.  The Ethics Alarms commentary about the Jon Bon Jovi DirecTV ad showing the fading rock star singing the virtues of a “turn back time” feature that will allow subscribers to the satellite service to watch shows from the beginning after they have already run is now five weeks old, and it is still drawing traffic and–I also didn’t see this coming—abusive responses. I haven’t changed my mind about the ad being gratuitously and smugly callous and promoting societal indifference toward children, but I have learned some things from the responses to my pointing it out, especially the angry ones.

This blog isn’t called Ethics Alarms for nothing. Its objective is to help people be more sensitive to ethical issues and the right way to handle them, as well as to give them tools to keep their ethics alarms in working order. My ethics alarms were always unusually sensitive–being raised by my father will do that—and have become progressively more sensitive with attention, trial and error, and study. They aren’t perfect, but when they go off, they go off. If I can find out what they are ringing…training and experience help with that…then I will often write a post about the reason they rang out. My alarms went off every time that DirecTV ad came on, but it took me about four viewings to analyze why.  Then I wrote the post.

The commercial has Bon Jovi explaining what’s so great about being able to “turn back time”: in addition to letting you watch the show you missed, he notes that you can have the mild salsa you turned down for a spicy variety, and retroactively decide not to have that second child you now regret. The child is shown drawing on the wall with crayons, and he vanishes as the crayons he was holding fall to the floor. The parents smile. Bon Jovi smirks.

I wrote,

“Why isn’t it immediately obvious that this shows antipathy to children, boys, and human beings generally? The human being who was made to go away because he was inconvenient and burdensome couldn’t have been a girl, because it would be a “war on women,” and the family couldn’t be Hispanic or black, because that wouldn’t have been funny, but a white couple erasing their son from existence because he misbehaves—now that’s comedy gold.”

The comments to the post made me realize that there is antipathy to children, and the concept of turning back time to eliminate an unwanted life is acceptable, and thus no big deal, to a large portion of our culture. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, U.S. Society