LIFEalerts – Medical Ethics

Medical Ethics

USA – New state plan to decide life-saving treatment of overwhelmed hospitals

The NC Institute of Medicine, the NC Healthcare Association, and the NC Medical Society developed a hospital triage released a plan to help guide medical providers navigate ethical questions of who would get life-saving treatment when hospitals are overwhelmed by critically ill patients, and running out of equipment or space in a pandemic. The plan ranks patients based on how well their vital organs are functioning, as well as determinations of whether they would live long enough to leave the hospital if they got intensive medical care. The goal is to do the greatest good for the greatest number. This is different from the traditional focus of medical ethics, which is centered on promoting the well-being of individual patients.

In a webinar with reporters, one doctor said this was a dramatic shift in the thinking of physicians and the public’s expectations of medical staff during times of shortages. This is difficult for medical providers who take a professional oath to save individual lives whenever possible and this shift is uncomfortable for everyone involved. Some concerns that medical staff had about making decisions using patient health scores were about whether internal biases would creep in and whether all doctors’ medical assessments were reliable. More

USA – Physician coalition calls for ethical vaccines devoid of reliance on abortion derived fetal cell lines

The American College of Pediatricians, the American Association of Pro-life Ob-Gyns, the Christian Medical and Dental Associations et al, released a joint statement calling for the development of ethical vaccines devoid of any reliance upon abortion derived fetal cell lines. “Recent reports of the effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, which are both mRNA vaccines, are encouraging. Although it is true that the animal-phase testing for these vaccines used abortion-derived fetal cells, commendably, it does not appear that production methods utilized such cells.” The statement concluded that if COVID-19 vaccines are approved as safe and effective, then use of the least ethically problematic vaccine available in the prevention of disease and death can be justified. More

South Africa – SA suspends vaccine AstraZeneca immunization campaign

South Africa’s (SA) first immunisation campaign has been halted since the coronavirus vaccine, AstraZeneca, has been found to show less protection than elsewhere. The South African trial of the vaccine, conducted in about 2000 people, found such a low efficacy against mild and moderate disease, under 25%, that it fails to meet minimal international standards for emergency use. COVID-19 vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Novavax also offer weaker protection against the SA variant that causes the vast majority of all infections in South Africa. Shabir Madhi of the University of the Witwatersrand, the trial’s principal investigator, was still optimistic because the J&J and AstraZeneca still convincingly protected against severe disease and death. More

USA – Ultrasound treatment used to recover coma patients with severe brain injuries

In 2016, a team led by UCLA’s Martin Monti reported that a 25-year-old man recovering from a coma had made remarkable progress following treatment to jump-start his brain using ultrasound. In the journal Brain Stimulation, Monti and colleagues now report that two more patients with severe brain injuries have made impressive progress thanks to the same technique. Monti, a UCLA professor of psychology and neurosurgery considers this new result much more significant because these chronic patients were much less likely to recover spontaneously than the acute patient they treated in 2016. The scientists used a technique called low-intensity focused ultrasound, which uses sonic stimulation to excite the neurons in the thalamus. The hope is to translate the technology into an inexpensive, portable device so the treatment could even be delivered at patients’ homes. More