Policy and Ethics

A young man who received a lung transplant four weeks ago following a terrible case of pneumonia that caused his lungs to collapse has died. He is making national headlines because his petition to receive new lungs was initially rejected because he had smoked marijuana.

This will very likely cause outrage, especially since more states are legalizing marijuana. But in a world in which transplantable organs are in short supply, hospitals must make decisions about which patients to prioritize. According to the article, the University of Utah Hospital said:

"Generally speaking, we do not transplant organs in patients with active alcohol...

Several years after the ACA ("Obamacare") passed, healthcare costs continue to rise in America. The question of why -- and, perhaps more importantly, how much of these costs should be covered by the government  -- continue to spark intense political debate.

New research funded by the Gates Foundation and led by Joseph Dieleman of the University of Washington may shed some light on this issue. The researchers investigated global patterns of healthcare spending, and their results are published in The Lancet.

For their investigation, the team analyzed healthcare spending (which was adjusted for inflation and purchasing power) in 184 countries from 1995 to 2014. Then, they conducted regression analyses, with the general aim of making two broad determinations: (1)...

I was fortunate to attend and discuss health policy for veterans at the 2017 Yale-West Point Civil-Military Service Symposium. With the theme “In Service to the Nation: Yesterday, Today, and Beyond,” the goal of pairing these prominent institutions— The U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Yale University— for this endeavor was to promote “a commitment to civil-military relations and a dedication to…a broad and inclusive interpretation of national service.”

The mission of the weekend was the following:  “Coinciding with the 100th Anniversary of America’s entry into WWI, the Symposium seeks to expound upon the ongoing national dialogue surrounding such topics as U.S. civil-military relations...

The IARC monograph program on Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks must be reformed and brought into the 21st century – or it should be abolished

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) monograph program is an outmoded cancer classification scheme that has remained fundamentally unchanged since the monograph program was established in the early 1970s. In the intervening 45 years, scientific understanding of cancer causation has deepened and provided decision makers with an evolving appreciation of how effects seen in laboratory animals should be used to protect human health. Conceptual and experimental breakthroughs in cancer causation have been incorporated by the World Health Organization International Programme on...

Because of the replication problems facing biomedical science and psychology, much attention in recent years has focused on scientific integrity. How can scientists ensure that the data they are publishing is accurate and reliable?

A new report that partially addresses that issue has been released by the National Academies. It was reviewed by Physics Today, which said that, among other things, the report "advocates stricter policies for scientific authorship attribution, increased openness in scientific work, [and] the reporting of negative findings." These recommendations are fine, but...

There has been a great deal of hyperbole and confusion about the recent and future direction of science and health in America, both in the applied and basic research sense, but for the public it's hard to separate what is a legitimate worry versus what has been manufactured due to lingering animosity over a contentious 2016 campaign season.

As usual, the loudest political activists have hijacked the discourse.

But not all scientists are on one side of the political aisle, and not everyone wants to march against the federal government based on guesses about what policy directions may be. Instead, many want to make a positive difference.

You don't need to be against something to be for something.

Among the public, the pro-science community is...

Five or six years ago I spent a lot more time in the car, driving from hospital to hospital. One Sunday morning I chanced upon Krista Tippett’s On Being. The program that day was about Albert Einstein and his spiritual beliefs.

“Einstein held a deep and nuanced, if not a traditional, faith. I did not assume this at the outset. I’ve always been suspicious of the way Einstein’s famous line, “God does not play dice with the universe,” gets quoted for vastly different purposes. I wanted to understand what Einstein meant as a physicist when he said that. As it turns out, that particular quip had more to do with physics than with God, as...

It's no secret that environmental groups, anti-science groups, and the industry groups that fund them are very well organized. Thanks to Freedom of Information Act requests we know they have created an actual conspiracy to fight one they invented.

Activists and their political allies float the narrative that industry secretly controls scientists in food, energy and medicine (yet, weirdly, not climate science.) Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is the real scoop from someone who worked at the highest levels in the private sector, who started the Science 2.0 movement, and who now runs a pro-science consumer advocacy non-profit: corporations do not give people money to...

We have entered dangerous times in my beloved medical profession. Non-doctor health professionals, backed by powerful lobbies, are increasingly interested in the easing of certain practice restrictions. New titles like “clinician” or “advanced practitioner” or “provider” are masking a stark reality - people will be able to practice medicine without ever having to attend medical school, perform rigorous residencies or be comprehensively and extensively trained as physicians.

This is not to diminish the powerful benefits of nurses. Far from it. But nurses are not doctors and the people most likely to get medical treatment from people who are not doctors are among the poorest that health care reform was supposed to improve. We shouldn't cave into it. From an ethics perspective...

If you know a local politician has accepted a small fortune, $300,000, from corporations with a specific agenda, would you believe:

(1) They are compartmentalizing their decisions so funding does not matter;

(2) They are simply getting donations for beliefs and work they've already done, so it does not sway them or;

(3) They are engaged in pay-for-play.

If you are at politically-motivated, dark-money-funded sites like Mother Jones or Sourcewatch, or at one of the 300 corporate marketing groups (US Right To Know et al.) that are propped up by Organic Consumers Association, the answer will always be (3) because you sell stories of conspiracies and evil corporations and scientists being bought off.

How about if I add a wrinkle? What if I note that the...