medical ethics

A premature infant is born with a form of severe lung injury that carries a 20% chance of survival. Her physician decides to throw a medical “Hail Mary” and try an untested adult technique to bypass the injured lungs. The infant survives, and after a few more tries, the physician realizes that the survival rate may be as high as 80% with this new treatment. Does he know enough that the treatment should become standard practice, or is a randomized clinical trial required?

In modern medicine, randomized clinical trials (RCTs) are a very effective way to determine the efficacy of different treatments. In an RCT, patients are randomly assigned to receive one of the treatments under study, and the differences in their outcomes are measured. Randomization can be a very helpful tool to...

Dr. Oz is a fraud who ought to be fired from Columbia University and have his medical license revoked. Instead, he'll be headed to the White House.

In a press release, the Trump Administration announced its plan to appoint America's Quack to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. This is an abomination to the biomedical science community.

It is impossible to overstate how ridiculously inept this decision is. Founded in 1956 by President Eisenhower, the Council is largely symbolic. Members...

Without a doubt, almost all alternative medicine is junk science. That would include widespread practices like acupuncture, which the biomedical literature has shown convincingly confers no real medical benefits compared to placebo.

But the placebo effect is powerful. It is far more than the "power of positive thinking." Instead, the placebo effect has real, measurable effects on the human body. Therefore, even if a "treatment" is nothing more than a placebo, some people undoubtedly will benefit from using it.

However, that raises a serious ethical question: Should...

Early on January 27, 2018, The Most Interesting Man in the World passed away at the age of 91.

No, I'm not speaking of Jonathan Goldsmith, the guy who just pretended to be The Most Interesting Man in the World. I'm speaking of the real deal, my grandfather, Dimitri Berezow -- a man who survived Stalin and Hitler, cheated death on multiple occasions, and went on to live the American dream.

His was an impossibly unique story – one that seems too extraordinary to be true (and yet is) -- capped with a cautionary tale about modern healthcare.

Living Free in Stalin's Russia

For many people, including my Ukrainian grandmother, life in the Soviet Union was hell. To break...

"Clinical trial" is a nice way of saying "human medical experiment." Experimenting on humans is ethical, so long as the people who volunteer give informed consent and receive a treatment that is thought to be medically beneficial.

That latter criterion makes some clinical trials ethically impossible. We could, for instance, prove definitively that vaccines do not cause autism by randomizing a group of children to receive vaccines and another group not to receive vaccines. But not vaccinating children is unethical, so this experiment could never be done.

A similar line of thinking explains why we can't feed people donuts every day to see if they develop diabetes. Though many people might willingly sign up for that clinical trial, it is unethical to design an experiment...

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...

I hate politics. Is that enough of a disclosure? Well, I hate erosion of the doctor-patient relationship even more, especially when predicated on politicized falsehoods. So without making a political statement, let's have a medical discussion, and you can let me know your thoughts.

A recent ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, found the Firearm Owners Privacy Act (FOPA)— enacted in 2011 in Florida— impeded the First Amendment free speech rights of medical professionals. The law sought to preserve Second Amendment rights but thought forbidding physicians to discuss gun ownership with patients was the way to do so. Fines and censure by the state medical board were threatened if doctors were found to be in violation. Ambiguous language didn’t help...

HipImagine this: You’re about to be forced to have surgery because you’ve had a stroke, or other significant medical problem that makes it difficult to swallow. It is expected that you will be eating in a matter of weeks, but in the meantime you needed to be fed with a tube.

So, your doctors gently slid a thin feeding tube up your nose and down into your stomach, where it has been working comfortably for several weeks. Your stay in the hospital is coming to a close, but you still need some rehabilitation, which, when hospitalization is no longer needed, will happen in a nursing home. But, before you can be transferred, the nursing...