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0 - Protection of Conscience Project Library
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Community pharmacists’ attitudes on suicide: A preliminary analysis with implications for medical assistance in dying

Andrea L. Murphy, Claire O’Reilly, Ruth Martin-Misener, Randa Ataya, David Gardner

Canadian Pharmacists Journal
Canadian Pharmacists Journal

Extract
Conclusion

Pharmacists are likely underestimating their frequency of interactions with people with thoughts of dying or with intentions to die either by suicide or through medical assistance in dying procedures. Pharmacists report empathetic responses for those with severe and incurable diseases wishing to end their life, but most do not support death by suicide or through medical assistance. From the preliminary analysis, a personal connection to mental illness or suicide does not appear to influence the permissiveness of pharmacists’ attitudes towards suicide. Framing effects in survey research for pharmacists have not been adequately considered, and more work is needed to determine how this influences the responses of pharmacists.


Murphy AL, O’Reilly C, Martin-Misener R, Ataya R,Gardner D. Community pharmacists’ attitudes on suicide: A preliminary analysis with implications for medical assistance in dying. Can Pharm J (Ott). 2017 Dec 1;151(1):17-23. doi: 10.1177/1715163517744225.

Autonomy in Tension: Reproduction, Technology, and Justice

Louise P King, Rachel L Zacharias, Josephine Johnston

The Hastings Center Report
The Hastings Center Report

Abstract
Respect for autonomy is a central value in reproductive ethics, but it can be a challenge to fulfill and is sometimes an outright puzzle to understand. If a woman requests the transfer of two, three, or four embryos during fertility treatment, is that request truly autonomous, and do clinicians disrespect her if they question that decision or refuse to carry it out? Add a commitment to justice to the mix, and the challenge can become more complex still. Is it unfair for insurance policies to exclude from coverage the costs of giving fertility to those who lack it or restoring fertility in those who have lost it? What does “just reproduction” look like in the face of multifarious understandings of both justice and autonomy and in light of increasingly complex and costly reproductive technologies? In today’s dialogue about reproduction, medicine, and ethics in the United States, old ethical issues—such as whether women ought to be allowed to access pregnancy termination—are more contested than they have been in decades, while new technologies—like those used to edit the genes of human embryos—suggest that our species could face unprecedented questions about who should exist. As we considered the discussions accompanying these issues and contemplated a special report responding to them, we found ourselves consistently circling back to two ethical commitments: respect for autonomy and the pursuit of justice. As one of the nine essays in this collection asks, why should certain women receive help to establish a pregnancy while others are thrown in jail when they miscarry or their child is stillborn? Respect for autonomy is required where individuals have the ability to make fully informed and voluntary choices. Yet does respecting autonomy require acceding to all the choices of patients or consumers of medical care? We consider these and related questions in this special report from the Hastings Center Report..


King LP, Zacharias RL, Johnston J. Autonomy in Tension: Reproduction, Technology, and Justice. Hastings Cent Rep. 2017 Nov 24;47:S3.

This moral coil: A cross-sectional survey of Canadian medical student attitudes toward medical assistance in dying

Eli Xavier Bator, Bethany Philpott, Andrew Paul Costa

BMC Medical Ethics
BMC Medical Ethics

Abstract
Background: In February, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the ban on medical assistance in dying (MAiD). In June, 2016, the federal government passed Bill C-14, permitting MAiD. Current medical students will be the first physician cohort to enter a system permissive of MAiD, and may help to ensure equitable access to care. This study assessed medical student views on MAiD, factors influencing these views, and opportunities for medical education.
Methods: An exploratory cross-sectional survey was developed and distributed to medical students across all years of a three-year Canadian undergraduate medical program. The investigators administered the survey to participants during academic sessions from November to December, 2015. Analysis of the results included summary descriptive statistics, Pearson’s chi-square test of independence to identify differences between participants by year of study, logistic regression to identify factors that influence students’ stances on MAiD, and Wilcoxon signed rank test to measure changes in student support for MAiD and comfort discussing MAiD.
Results: There were 405 participants for a response rate of 87%. The majority of students (88%) supported the Supreme Court’s decision, 61% would provide the means for a patient to end their life, and 38% would personally administer a lethal medication. Students who were more willing to provide the means for MAiD found medical education/clinical experience and patient autonomy to be important contributors to their stances on MAiD. Those students who were less willing to provide the means for MAiD found religious/spiritual beliefs and teachings, as well as concern about potential negative consequences, to be important contributors to their stances on MAiD. Educational training desired by participants included medicolegal (91%), communication skills (80%), technical skills (75%), and religious (49%).
Conclusions: Medical students generally supported and would provide the means for MAiD to patients. They also indicated a desire for directed medical education on MAiD.


Bator EX, Philpott B, Costa AP. This moral coil: A cross-sectional survey of Canadian medical student attitudes toward medical assistance in dying. BMC Medical Ethics. 2017;18(1).

The status of the human embryo in various religions

William Neaves

Development
Development

Author Summary
Research into human development involves the use of human embryos and their derivative cells and tissues. How religions view the human embryo depends on beliefs about ensoulment and the inception of personhood, and science can neither prove nor refute the teaching of those religions that consider the zygote to be a human person with an immortal soul. This Spotlight article discusses some of the dominant themes that have emerged with regard to how different religions view the human embryo, with a focus on the Christian faith as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic perspectives.


Neaves W. The status of the human embryo in various religions. Development 2017 144: 2541-2543; doi: 10.1242/dev.151886

Dignitarian medical ethics

Linda Barclay

Journal of Medical Ethics
Journal of Medical Ethics

Abstract
Philosophers and bioethicists are typically sceptical about invocations of dignity in ethical debates. Many believe that dignity is essentially devoid of meaning: either a mere rhetorical gesture used in the absence of good argument or a faddish term for existing values like autonomy and respect. On the other hand, the patient experience of dignity is a substantial area of research in healthcare fields like nursing and palliative care. In this paper, it is argued that philosophers have much to learn from the concrete patient experiences described in healthcare literature. Dignity is conferred on people when they are treated as having equal status, something the sick and frail are often denied in healthcare settings. The importance of equal status as a unique value has been forcefully argued and widely recognised in political philosophy in the last 15 years. This paper brings medical ethics up to date with philosophical discussion about the value of equal status by developing an equal status conception of dignity.


Barclay L. Dignitarian medical ethics. J MedEthics. Published Online First: 13 October 2017. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2017-104467

Euthanasia in Belgium: Legal, Historical and Political Review

Toni C Saad

Issues in Law & Medicine
Issues in Law & Medicine

Abstract
This article describes and evaluates the Belgian euthanasia experience by considering its practice and policy, both before and after the formal decriminalisation of euthanasia in 2002. The pre-legal practice of euthanasia, the evolution of euthanasia legislation, criticism of this legislation, the influence of politics, and later changes to the 2002 Act on Euthanasia are discussed, as well as the subject of euthanasia of minors and the matter of organ procurement. It is argued that the Belgian euthanasia experience is characterised by political expedition, and that the 2002 Act and its later amendments suffer from practical and conceptual flaws. Illegal euthanasia practices remain a live concern in Belgium, something which nations who are seeking to decriminalise euthanasia should consider.


Saad TC. Euthanasia in Belgium: Legal, Historical and Political Review. Issues Law Med. 2017;32(2):183-204.

On the Philosophical Foundations of Medical Ethics: Aristotle, Kant, JS Mill and Rawls

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Ethics, Medicine & Public Health
Ethics, Medicine & Public Health

Abstract
This article aims to trace back some of the theoretical foundations of medical ethics that stem from the philosophies of Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill and John Rawls. The four philosophers had in mind rational and autonomous human beings who are able to decide their destiny, who pave for themselves the path for their own happiness. It is argued that their philosophies have influenced the field of medical ethics as they crafted some very important principles of the field. I discuss the concept of autonomy according to Kant and JS Mill, Kant’s concepts of dignity, benevolence and beneficence, Mill’s Harm Principle (nonmaleficence), the concept of justice according to Aristotle, Mill and Rawls, and Aristotle’s concept of responsibility..


Cohen-Almagor R. On the Philosophical Foundations of Medical Ethics: Aristotle, Kant, JS Mill and Rawls. Ethics Med Pub Health. 2017;3(4):436-444.

Navigating the new era of assisted suicide and execution drugs

Sean Riley

Journal of Law and the Biosciences
Journal of Law and the Biosciences

Extract
I. Introduction

Lethal medication provisions are in a precarious state. Over the past decade, pharmaceutical companies have attempted to stamp out the use of their drugs in executions, creating several economic and regulatory hurdles for access to these medications. As a result, patients seeking physician-assisted suicide (PAS) as well as death penalty states aiming to execute their capital offenders have been forced to turn to unregulated and dangerous alternatives for these drugs. This note attempts to unpack the quality, safety, and access issues emerging from these recent changes and to explore the implications for the future of these practices.

In order to fully grasp the exact mechanisms at work, this note will first offer a brief pharmacological description of the lethal medications and detail many technical aspects of their use. The next section provides a historical account of the past decade, illustrating the emergent quality, safety, and access issues. This note then evaluates the competing notions of ‘botched’ executions and ‘complications’ in PAS while analysing the standards set forward to measure safety and efficacy for each. Finally, this note closes by exploring the future of each practice in light of our discussion.


Riley S. Navigating the new era of assisted suicide and execution drugs. Journal of Law and the Biosciences. Volume 4, Issue 2, 1 August 2017, Pages 424–434, https://doi.org/10.1093/jlb/lsx028

There is no defence for ‘Conscientious objection’ in reproductive health care

Christian Fiala, Joyce H. Arthur

European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Abstract
A widespread assumption has taken hold in the field of medicine that we must allow health care professionals the right to refuse treatment under the guise of ‘conscientious objection’ (CO), in particular for women seeking abortions. At the same time, it is widely recognized that the refusal to treat creates harm and barriers for patients receiving reproductive health care. In response, many recommendations have been put forward as solutions to limit those harms. Further, some researchers make a distinction between true CO and ‘obstructionist CO’, based on the motivations or actions of various objectors. This paper argues that ‘CO’ in reproductive health care should not be considered a right, but an unethical refusal to treat. Supporters of CO have no real defence of their stance, other than the mistaken assumption that CO in reproductive health care is the same as CO in the military, when the two have nothing in common (for example, objecting doctors are rarely disciplined, while the patient pays the price). Refusals to treat are based on non-verifiable personal beliefs, usually religious beliefs, but introducing religion into medicine undermines best practices that depend on scientific evidence and medical ethics. CO therefore represents an abandonment of professional obligations to patients. Countries should strive to reduce the number of objectors in reproductive health care as much as possible until CO can feasibly be prohibited. Several Scandinavian countries already have a successful ban on CO.


Fiala C, Arthur JH. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2017 Jul 23. pii: S0301-2115(17)30357-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2017.07.023. [Epub ahead of print]

(Correspondence) Conscientious Objection in Health Care

Lester Liao, Ewan Goligher

New England Journal of Medicine, NEJM
New England Journal of Medicine

Extract
Stahl and Emanuel (April 6 issue)1 rightly differentiate between conscripts and physicians. Nonetheless, they state, “the profession . . . uses reflective equilibrium to self-correct. This dynamic process establishes professional obligations . . . regardless of . . . personal beliefs.”1 This point fails to recognize that conscientious objectors are engaging in the dynamic process from within the profession to counter problematic professional obligations and to correct mistakes. . .

Liao L,Goligher E.  Conscientious Objection in Health Care, N Engl J Med 2017; 377:96-98 July 6, 2017 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc1706233