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Supporting information for: 2012 CBSSM Research Colloquium

Making a baby in the 21st century: An updated user manual

Presenting author: Melissa Constantine, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CBSSM

Genetic testing has had a major role in prenatal care for decades.  Aneuploidy screening tests use non-invasive measurements of maternal serum markers to indicate whether a fetus is at increased risk for Down syndrome (trisomy 21) and Edward syndrome (trisomy 18), chromosomal abnormalities for which there are no curative or interventional treatments.  Prenatal screening is often a starting point on a pathway of decision making regarding invasive testing – with associated non-negligible miscarriage risks – and the termination of pregnancy.  As such, decisions to accept or refuse prenatal screening are preference sensitive and patient informed consent or informed refusal is warranted.

In the last year, new methods of genetic analysis for fetal diagnosis for multiple conditions have been introduced for clinical use, and the array of detectable fetal conditions is expanding.  Clinically, the new methods substantially improve on current diagnostic protocols; they are non-invasive, safe, easy to use, have sensitivity and specificity approaching 100% and can be administered as early as 7-10 weeks gestation.  Yet the uptake of a prenatal diagnostic testing for genetic conditions will continue to be a value-laden, preference sensitive choice and the need for informed consent will remain.

Ostensibly, the purpose of offering testing and the subsequent decision is to increase a woman’s control in her reproductive choices.  Some characteristics of the new testing technologies, such as earlier, confirmatory diagnosis, may enhance this control, although research on the process and experience of decision making for prenatal testing has consistently identified several aspects of current testing protocols that actually diminish control and obfuscate the perception of choice.  This presentation will explore how the clinical integration of the new genetic tests may mitigate, or exacerbate, women’s control in decision making and choice for prenatal diagnosis.

Dr. Melissa Constantine earned her Ph.D. in Health Service Research from the University of Minnesota and is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan.  Dr. Constantine’s work in measurement and psychometrics includes development and validation of health-related scales such as the Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Incontinence Sexual Questionnaire (PISQ-IR).  Her research interests focus on the ethical and social implications of the clinical integration of prenatal genetic tests.

 

Using community-based participatory research and user-centered design approaches in developing an interactive diabetes decision aid

Presenting authors: Vida A. Henderson, PharmD, MPH, MFA, Center for Health Communications Research; and Deliana Ilarraza

Co-authors: Kathryn LC Barr, MPH; Lawrence An, MD; William Newhouse; Michele Heisler, MD, MPH

Background: Together, community-based participatory research (CBPR), user-centered design (UCD) and health information technology (HIT) offer promising approaches to improve health disparities.

Objectives: This presentation will describe the application of CBPR and UCD principles to the development of iDecide/Decido, an interactive, tailored, web-based decision aid delivered by community health workers (CHWs) to African-American and Latino participants with diabetes in Southwest and Eastside Detroit. The decision aid is offered in English or Spanish and is delivered on an iPad in participants’ homes.

Methods: The overlapping principles of CBPR and UCD used to develop iDecide/Decido include: a community or user-focused approach; equitable academic and community partnership in all study phases; an iterative development process that relies on input from all stakeholders; and a program experience that is specified, adapted, and implemented with the target community.

Results: Collaboration between community members, researchers, and developers are especially evident in the program’s: design concept, animations, pictographs, issue cards, goal setting, tailoring, and additional CHW tools.

Conclusions:  Applying the principles of CBPR and UCD can be successfully employed in developing health information tools that are easy to use and understand, interactive, and target health disparities.

Vida Henderson, PharmD, MPH, MFA, currently works with the behavioral science team at the Center for Health Communications Research where she writes and tests tailored content for multi-media health behavior interventions. She has worked as a clinical pharmacist providing health education and medication counseling to low-income communities; and she has served as a faculty member at Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy in New Orleans.  Vida has recently received a Master of Public Health degree in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan. Her research interests include health communications, spirituality and health, and health disparities.

Deliana Ilarraza is a Community Health Worker for the Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS)/REACH Detroit Partnership.  Deliana works with community organizations, schools and churches, establishing sites for physical activity classes and conducting diabetes awareness and prevention programs and studies.  She has worked with the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, the Adolescent Diabetes Health Literacy Study, and the Journey to Health diabetes management and empowerment program, facilitating workshops, teaching curricula, and evaluation.

 

Resident attitudes toward ethical and medical decision-making for neonates born at the limit of viability

Presenting author: Naomi Laventhal, MD, MA, Clinical Lecturer, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, CBSSM faculty

Co-author: Stephanie Kukora, MD

Background: Existing guidelines call for consistent resuscitation practices for extremely preterm infants based on epidemiologic data, but appropriate frameworks for value-driven decision-making in this context are still debated. Neonatologists’ attitudes are well-studied, but those of resident physicians are poorly understood.

Objectives: To describe residents’ knowledge of our practices, attitudes toward gestational age (GA) based resuscitation thresholds, and ethically relevant considerations for decision-making at the margin of gestational viability.

Methods: We surveyed our pediatric residents anonymously, asking them to identify current practices and ideal GA thresholds for offering and insisting on resuscitation, and the importance of contributing factors in decision-making for extremely preterm infants. Results: Response rate 61% (n =36).  Many (62%) residents correctly identified 23 weeks as the lower threshold for resuscitation in our NICU (range 21 - 24), despite finding our practices inconsistent (84%) and unclear (89%). Fewer (21%) correctly identified 24 weeks as the latest GA that parents may refuse resuscitation (range 23 - 42, 32% 25 weeks, 21% 26 weeks, 16% >26 weeks). Most disagreed with our current practices, identifying a preferred older GA for the lower threshold: 48% at 24 weeks, and 18% at 25 weeks (range 23-27). Most thought the upper threshold for elective resuscitation was too low, with 24% and 28% indicating 25 and 26 weeks, respectively, and 33% ≥28 weeks (range 24-40).  Compared to current considerations, they reported scientific evidence to be undervalued (p<.0001), and attendings’ personal beliefs to be overvalued (p<.0001). Responses trended toward family social and financial situations being undervalued. 

Conclusions: Our residents recognize decision-making for extremely preterm infants that is supported by known epidemiology, but attribute it to physicians’ personal beliefs, rather than scientific evidence. This suggests educational deficits, and a need for further study in a larger sample.  Preferences for a higher GA threshold for initiating resuscitation and a wider GA range in which parents may refuse it may reflect disproportionate pessimism about preterm infants.

Dr. Naomi Laventhal joined U-M in 2009, after completing her residency in pediatrics, fellowships in neonatology and clinical medical ethics, and a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Chicago.  In the Brandon Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital she cares for critically ill newborns, provides prenatal consultation for parents expecting to deliver premature infants, and teaches neonatal-perinatal medicine and bioethics to residents and medical students.  Her research is in neonatal clinical ethics, and is currently focused on decision making for infants born at the margin of gestational viability.   Dr. Kukora is a resident in Pediatrics, having completed her MD at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

 

Distrust of pediatricians’ sleep advice: Focus group results from the Project for African American Infant Safety

Presenting author:  Kathryn L. Moseley, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, CBSSM faculty

Co-author: Jennifer C. Sanchez, MPH

Background: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the number one cause of death for infants from birth to one year of age and can be reduced by placing the infant in the supine sleeping position. Although the number of SIDS-related deaths is decreasing, it still remains a significant issue, especially in the African American population where the supine sleep position is used less.  PrAAIS (Project for African American Infant Safety) is a randomized controlled trial promoting infant supine sleep among African American parents of newborns in Detroit, Michigan through the creation and distribution of tailored health educational materials.



Methods: We conducted six exploratory focus groups with a total of 29 African American parents of young infants to identify barriers and facilitators to infant supine sleep. 

Results: A prominent barrier that emerged during data analysis was distrust of physicians’ advice about supine sleep. This distrust stemmed from: a) skepticism of the validity of information provided by childless pediatricians, b) the paternalistic instructional style of pediatricians’ sleep advice (“you must do this”), and c), the frequent changes in sleep position recommendations that are not consistent with mothers’ lived experience, where the only rationale provided is that “studies show…”

Discussion: Parental distrust is not surprising, given these assessments.  Our results suggest that physicians may become more trustworthy sources of information about supine sleep if they: a) openly acknowledge parental confusion about the guidelines, b) provide concrete advice on methods to successfully achieve infant supine sleep in a more participatory manner, and c) place the danger of ignoring the guidelines in context through a discussion of both the relative and absolute risk to their infant of dying from SIDS or suffocation.

Dr. Kathryn Moseley is a clinical bioethicist as well as board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist.  For eleven years, Dr. Moseley was the Director of Bioethics for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, overseeing a busy ethics consultation service.  She joined U-M in 2002 with a joint appointment in the Program in Bioethics and the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit to conduct research on the racial differences in health care decision-making she discovered doing clinical ethics consultations and how those decisions are affected by culture and trust.  She recently received a grant from the NIH to conduct a 5-year trial of a culturally-tailored intervention to decrease the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the African American community.  She co-chairs the Pediatric Ethics Committee and directs the ethics consultation service at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

 

What’s in a name? The effect of a disease label on parents’ decision to medicate a colicky infant

Presenting author: Laura D. Scherer, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CBSSM and VA

Co-authors: Brian K. Zikmund-Fisher, PhD; Angela Fagerlin, PhD; Beth A. Tarini, MD

It is common for physicians to diagnose infants who have excessive regurgitation and associated crying with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).  From 1999-2004 there was a 7-fold increase in the use of prescription medications to treat GERD in infants <1 year old (Hassal, 2012).  However, clinical trials have shown that existing medications are no better than placebo in treating these symptoms (Orenstein et al., 2009) and the majority of infants grow out of this behavior without medical intervention.  Given this, it is unclear why medical treatment of GERD persists.  One possibility is that the way that physicians frame their assessment of the symptoms influences parents’ perceived need to medicate their child.  In the present study, we examined how a doctor’s explanation—in particular, the doctor’s use of the diagnostic label “GERD”—influences parents’ desire for medical interventions. To explore this question, we asked parents in the waiting room of a general pediatrics clinic to read a scenario (2x2 randomized design) in which they were asked to imagine they had an infant who cried and spit up excessively.  The scenario then described a pediatric appointment in which the infant either received a formal diagnosis of GERD, or not.  In addition, half of parents were explicitly told that existing medications are ineffective at treating the symptoms, or not.  Results showed that the presence of a GERD diagnosis made parents more interested in medicating their infant, even when they were explicitly told that the medications do not work.  Moreover, the GERD diagnosis made parents less likely to think that their infant would get better without medication, relative to parents who received no diagnosis.  In conclusion, physician labeling of normal infants as “diseased” may increase parents’ willingness to medicate their child.

Dr. Laura Scherer is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the VA Center for Clinical Management Research and the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan.  She received her PhD in Social Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, and will soon be an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Health Sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia.  Her interests include the impact of emotions and intuition on medical decision making, and the psychological phenomena that lead to medicalization and overtreatment.

 

Cracking the code: Ethical issues involved in the decision to undergo genetic testing

Presenting author: Lauren B. Smith, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, CBSSM faculty

Advances in molecular diagnostics have led to the capability of sequencing an individual’s germline DNA or exome for as little as $1000. An ethical analysis and discussion of genetic testing, both historically and as it relates to this new technology, will be presented.  The discussion will include factors related to the decision to undergo testing, possible benefits and harms, and issues surrounding research protocols and commercial testing services.  The discussion will include an overview of testing for Huntington disease, breast-ovarian cancer syndromes, and Alzheimer’s disease as illustrative examples.

Dr. Lauren Smith is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Michigan, specializing in hematopathology.  She has been a member of the University of Michigan Adult Ethics Committee since 2005 and also serves as a member of the Michigan State Medical Society Ethics Committee.  Her research interests include ethical issues in clinical medicine and pathology.

 

The myth of individual risk    

Presenting author: Ralph Stern, MD, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine

Co-author: Zachary Goldberger, MD

Medical decision-making often relies upon clinical prediction models to estimate individual risk.  Morbidity and mortality predictions (e.g.  Framingham for ischemic heart disease in healthy patients or APACHE for mortality in critically ill patients) are often used for treatment decisions (e.g. statins, aspirin, hypoglycemic therapy).  As such, their prognostic value carries particular importance for shared decision-making with patients and their families.  However, it remains underappreciated that clinical prediction methods were developed to analyze disease in populations, not individuals.  The notion that such models can give individual patients a unique probability of a health outcome is highly debatable.  When the goal is allocating treatments to high risk subgroups to reduce costs, these models may be useful.  But when the goal is allocating treatments to high risk individuals, none of the models should be the sole basis for clinical decisions.

 Because risk cannot be measured in an individual, there is no way to experimentally verify any of the individual predictions provided by a model.  This can only be achieved by assembling a group of patients similar to the individual in question.  That each of these groups may have a different risk means there is no such thing as individual risk, an issue identified by John Venn in 1866 and known as the reference class problem.  Different models may yield substantially different individual risk estimates.  This is an inherent limitation, which is not eliminated by inclusion of more risk factors in the model or other proposed solutions.

While these models are widely used, it remains unclear how best to apply them.  Clinicians who use these models to make patient care decisions need to be aware of their limitations. 

Dr. Ralph Stern is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the divisions of Cardiovascular Medicine and Molecular Medicine and Genetics.  His clinical interests are hypertension and medical and cancer genetics.  His research interests include risk stratification and the clinical utility of new risk factors.

Dr. Zachary Goldberger is a 4th year cardiology fellow and Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar.  His research interests center on antiarrhythmic therapy.  Specifically, he is interested in understanding the attitudes and experiences of patients receiving implantable cardioverter-defibrilators (ICDs), and creating a decision aid to enhance shared decision-making for patients receiving ICDs for primary prevention of sudden cardiac death.  He is also studying utilization of antiarrhythmic therapy and drug toxicity, as well as patterns of care in resuscitation during in-hospital cardiac arrest.  His teaching interests center on improving ECG literacy and cardiac physical examination skills in trainees.

 

The swinging gate: Genetic testing and ethical issues

Presenting author: Wendy R. Uhlmann, MS, CGC, Clinical Assistant Professor, Departments of Internal Medicine and Human Genetics

Advances in genetic testing have resulted in an exponential increase in the number of genetic tests that are available.  Given the rapid pace of genetic test introduction, few tests have practice guidelines.  As a result, healthcare professionals who order these tests and the genetic testing laboratories have gate-keeper roles with genetic testing.  Genetic tests, unlike most medical tests, present some unique considerations given the potential familial implications in addition to the fact that genetic testing is a moving target.  Communication of genetic information and genetic test results along with medical record documentation of this information raises several ethical and policy issues, including: Who needs to know?  What information should be communicated?  Who is obligated to inform whom?  What factors need to be considered in the communication of genetic information?  Cases from the University of Michigan Medical Genetics Clinic will be used to illustrate ethical issues that clinicians encounter with patients pre-testing and post-testing, including: competing obligations, testing children, carrier testing for rare autosomal recessive genetic conditions, predictive genetic testing and broader insurance issues.  Weighing risks and benefits and resolving ethical issues with genetic testing decisions and communication of test results involves consideration of the core ethical principles in addition to assessment of both professional and patient obligations.  Careful consideration is needed in weighing competing obligations.  Understanding ethical issues currently experience din genetics clinics will help guide the handling of similar and novel future challenges that will arise with advances in genetic testing and genomic medicine.

Wendy R. Uhlmann, MS, CGC, is the genetic counselor/clinic coordinator of the Medical Genetics Clinic at the University of Michigan.  She is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Human Genetics and an executive faculty member of the genetic counseling training program.  Wendy Uhlmann is a past president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors and currently serves on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), Medical Genetics Working Group.

Give me colostomy or give me death! (Aug-06)

Click to decide between death and living with a colostomy. Which would you choose? Are you sure?

Given the choice, would you choose immediate death,or living with a colostomy (where part of your bowel is removed and you have bowel movements into a plastic pouch attached to your belly)?

  •  Immediate Death
  •  Colostomy

Think about what it would be like if you were diagnosed with colon cancer. You are given the option of choosing between two surgical treatments.The first is a surgery that could result in serious complications and the second has no chance of complications but has a higher mortality rate.

Possible outcome Surgery 1
(complicated)
Surgery 2 
(uncomplicated)
Cure without complication 80% 80%
Cure with colostomy 1%  
Cure with chronic diarrhea 1%  
Cure with intermittent bowel obstruction 1%  
Cure with wound infection 1%  
No cure (death) 16% 20%

If you had the type of colon cancer described above, which surgery do you think you would choose?

  • Surgery 1
  • Surgery 2

How do your answers compare?

In fact, past research has shown that 51% people choose the surgery with a higher death rate, even though most of them initially preferred each of the four surgical complications, including colostomy, over immediate death.

Are you saying what you really mean?

CBDSM investigators Brian Zikmund-Fisher, Angela Fagerlin, Peter Ubel, teamed up with Jennifer Amsterlaw, to see if they could reduce the number of people choosing the surgery with the higher rate of death and therefore reducing the discrepancy. A large body of past research has shown that people are notoriously averse to uncertainty. The investigators had a hunch that uncertainty could account for some of the discrepancy. Surgery 1 has a greater number of ambiguous outcomes, perhaps causing people to be averse to it. In an effort to minimize this uncertainty, the investigators laid out a series of scenarios outlining different circumstances and presentations of the two surgeries. For example the research presented some of the participants with a reframing of the surgery information, such as:

Possible outcome Surgery 1
(complicated)
Surgery 2 
(uncomplicated)
Cured without complication 80% 80%
Cured, but with one of the following complications: colostomy, chronic diarrhea, intermittent bowl obstruction, or wound infection 4%  
No cure (death) 16% 20%

The investigators believed by grouping all of the complications together that people would be more apt to chose the surgery with the lower mortality rate, because seeing a single group of undesirable outcomes, versus a list, may decrease some of the ambiguity from previous research.

Although none of the manipulations significantly reduced the percentage of participants selecting Surgery 2, the versions that yielded the lowest preference for this surgery all grouped the risk of the four possible complications into a single category, as in the example shown above.

Why these findings are important

Over the past several decades there has been a push to give patients more information so they can make decisions that are consistent with their personal preferences. On the other hand there is a growing psychological literature revealing people's tendency to make choices that are in fact inconsistent with their own preferences; this is a dilemma. Because the present research suggests that the discrepancy between value and surgery choice is extremely resilient, much research still needs to be done in order to understand what underlies the discrepancy, with the goal of eliminating it.

The research reported in this decision of the month is currently in press. Please come back to this page in the near future for a link to the article.

Read the article:

Can avoidance of complications lead to biased healthcare decisions?
Amsterlaw J, Zikmund-Fisher BJ, Fagerlin A, Ubel PA. Judgment and Decision Making 2006;1(1):64-75.

 

 

 

Leaving the Emergency Room in a Fog (Sep-09)

Consider this scenario:

Alfred made a visit to his local Emergency Room. What was his diagnosis? What did the medical team do for his problem? What was he supposed to do to continue care at home? And what symptoms was he supposed to watch for to alert him to return to the ER?

Alfred woke up at 4 am on Sunday morning with pain in his left foot. That place where his new running shoes had rubbed a raw spot earlier in the week was getting worse. By 9 am, the foot was red and swollen, with a large oozing sore, and Alfred decided to go to the Emergency Room at his local hospital.

Late on Sunday afternoon, Alfred returned home from the ER. He crutched his way into the house and collapsed on the sofa. His teenage son quizzed him.

"What did they say was wrong?"
"Oh, an infection," replied Alfred.
"Well, what did they do for it?"
"I think they cut a chunk out of my foot," said Alfred.
"Whoa! Did they give you any medicine?"
"Yeah, a shot," said Alfred.
"And what’s with the crutches?"
"I’m supposed to use them for a while," said Alfred, looking annoyed.
"How long a while?"
"It’s written down," said Alfred, digging a crumpled sheet of paper out of his pocket.
"Says here you should take some prescription and elevate your left leg for two days."
"Two days? I have to go to work tomorrow," groaned Alfred.
"And you’re supposed to go back to the ER if you have a fever or pain in your leg. Where’s the prescription?"
"Here, look through my wallet. Maybe I stuck it in there," said Alfred.
The good news is that Alfred recovered completely, with some assistance and cajoling from his son. But how common is it for people who go to the Emergency Room to be foggy about what happened and what they should do once they leave the ER?
What do you think is the percentage of ER patients who do not understand at least one of the following: their diagnosis, the emergency care they received, their discharge care, or their return instructions?
 
  • 38%
  • 48%
  • 78%
  • 88%

How do your answers compare?

A recent study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that 78% of emergency room patients showed deficient comprehension in at least one of these areas:
 
  • Diagnosis
  • Emergency care that was given
  • Post-ER care needs
  • Symptoms that would require a return to the ER
51% of patients showed deficient comprehension in two or more areas. Only 22% of reports from patients were in complete harmony with what their care teams reported in all four areas. The biggest area of misunderstanding was in patients' post-ER care needs, such as medications, self-care steps, follow-up from their regular doctors, or follow-up with specialists.
 
Even more alarming is that, according to the study, "most patients appear to be unaware of their lack of understanding and report inappropriate confidence in their comprehension and recall." The patients were quite sure of what they knew 80% of the time—even when what they knew was not right.
 
These results suggest that Emergency Room teams need to do a better job of making sure that patients go home with clear information and instructions—and that patients and their loved ones shouldn't leave until they fully comprehend their situation.
 
Lead author Kirsten G. Engel, MD, conducted this study, "Patient Comprehension of Emergency Department Care and Instructions," with Michele Heisler, MD, Dylan M. Smith, PhD , Claire H. Robinson, MPH, Jane H.Forman, ScD, MHS, and Peter A. Ubel, MD, most of whom are affiliated with CBDSM.
 
The researchers carried out detailed interviews with 140 English-speaking patients who visited one of two Emergency Departments in southeast Michigan and were released to go home. These interviews were compared with the patients' medical records, and the comparisons revealed serious mismatches between what the medical teams found or advised and what the patients comprehended.
 
"It is critical that emergency patients understand their diagnosis, their care, and, perhaps most important, their discharge instructions," says Kirsten Engel, a former UM Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar who is now at Northwestern University. "It is disturbing that so many patients do not understand their post-Emergency-Department care, and that they do not even recognize where the gaps in understanding are. Patients who fail to follow discharge instructions may have a greater likelihood of complications after leaving the Emergency Department."
 
Peter A. Ubel, the study's senior author, agrees: "Doctors need to not only ask patients if they have questions, but ask them to explain, in their own words, what they think is wrong with their health and what they can do about it. And patients need to ask their doctors more questions, and even need to explain to their doctors what they think is going on."
 
Read the article:

 

Supporting information for: 2015 CBSSM Research Colloquium and Bishop Lecture (Lawrence O. Gostin, J.D., LL.D Hon.)

Natalie Bartnik, MPH, Research Associate, HBHE Genetics Research Group, UM School of Public Health: "Why, how and when oncologists disclose genome sequencing results in clinical practice"

Abstract: Integrating an individual’s clinical history with genome sequencing data can inform diagnostic and treatment strategies tailored to the patient’s mutational landscape. In oncology, precision medicine offers the additional opportunity to characterize novel gene targets for patients with cancer who lack known or viable targets. It is not known whether oncologists communicate sequencing results to patients, or how and why oncologists integrate sequencing profiles into clinical practice. In a survey of 43 oncologists who referred 111 patients to the MIONCOSEQ Study, we found that nearly a quarter of oncologists planned to make changes to their patient’s treatment based on genomic findings. Prominent barriers to the integration of sequencing results into clinical practice were a lack of findings with perceived clinical significance, as well as limitations in locally available clinical trials. The majority of physicians planned to communicate sequencing results to their patients, mostly via in-person clinic visits.


Michele Gornick, PhD, MICHR PTSP Postdoctoral Fellow, VA HSRD Fellow & CBSSM Research Investigator: "Information and deliberation make a difference: The public’s preferences for the return of secondary genomic findings"

Abstract: As genome sequencing becomes a part of clinical practice, how best to disclose sequencing results –including secondary findings-- raises significant issues. Expert consensus panels have been convened to provide recommendations, but what do members of the public want? In order to address this gap, we organized a deliberative democracy (DD) session to educate members of the public on genome sequencing, to engage them in dialogue about the benefits and risks of the clinical implementation of this technology, and to elicit their informed perspectives about policies governing the return of secondary findings. A significant shift in participants’ perspectives on the disclosure of adult onset conditions from the baseline survey, that remained stable after a month follow-up (response rate = 87%; Χ2(1, N=60) = 4.26, p =0.039), suggests the value of education and deliberation for the appreciation of the scientific and ethical complexities of genome sequencing.


Aaron Scherer, PhD, CBSSM Postdoctoral Fellow: "Elephants, Donkeys, and Medicine: Political Differences in Health Risk Perceptions and Adherence to Medical Recommendations"

The relationship between political ideology and health is often relegated to discussions of health care policy. But what if political ideology affects much more than health care policy preferences? I will discuss two studies that provide some initial evidence that political ideology influences our perceptions of health risks and adherence to medical recommendations. In one study examining risk communication strategies, political ideology was related to differences in perceptions of Ebola and influenza risk, as well as willingness to vaccinate against these two infectious diseases. In a second study examining beliefs in medical conspiracies, political ideology was related to differences in self-reported adherence to doctor’s recommendations and prescription use. The psychological differences between conservatives and liberals that may help illuminate why these differences exist will be discussed.

Stephanie Kukora, MD and Nathan Gollehon, MD, Fellows, Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, UM Mott Children’s Hospital: "Epidemiology of outpatient prenatal consultation: implications for decision-making and perinatal outcomes"

Abstract: Neonatologists provide anticipatory guidance and support decision-making for complicated pregnancies, in which poor/ambiguous prognostication can lead to over-/under-treatment.  Referral to antenatal palliative care consultation (PCC) is not standard; little is known about the basis for referral, and their role in perinatal decision-making.

117 women had outpatient neonatology consultation, with decision-making for 146 fetuses with multiple anomalies/genetic, single major anomaly, or obstetric complications. 18(12%) were given a prognosis of uniform non-survival and 41(28%) had anticipated survival with intervention. Remaining fetuses were given unknown prognoses 87(60%), some qualified “likely survivable” 17(12%) or “likely poor” 33(23%). Most prognoses aligned with outcomes, though outcomes were better than predicted in 3(2%) infants and worse in 10(7%).  Mismatches between prognosis and decision occurred in 10(7%) infants who were provided resuscitation despite “non-survival” or “likely poor” prognoses.

23 (19.7%) of the 117 mother/fetus pairs received antenatal PCC.  Prognoses included: 11(48%) non-survivable, 11(48%) unknown but likely poor, 1(4%) survivable with surgical intervention. Fetal/neonatal outcome included: fetal demise 5(22%), in-hospital death 16(70%), survival to discharge 2(9%). 22 maternal/fetal pairs with 3(13%) non-survivable and 19(86%) likely poor prognoses were not referred, but had similar outcomes: fetal demise 4(18%), in-hospital death 15(68%), survival to discharge 3(14%). Those with PCC were more likely to choose comfort-care than those without (61% vs. 18%, p < 0.01). Of non-survivors, 94% with PCC died within 4 days while 27% without PCC received >14 days of intensive care.

We identified relatively few cases of mismatch between prognosis and outcome; however, rare cases of prognostic failure warrant caution. Although allowing parents to pursue aggressive neonatal care respects autonomy, it may delay rather than prevent death. Long-term outcomes with and without PCC were similar for infants with poor prognoses, though non-survivors with PCC were more likely to have a comfort care plan and shorter time to in-hospital death.


Minnie Bluhm, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, School of Health Sciences, Eastern Michigan University: "Oncologists' decisions about administering late chemotherapy: What makes it so difficult?"

Abstract: Background. An estimated 20-50% of incurable cancer patients receive chemotherapy in the last 30 days of life, although little data support this practice.  Continued use of chemotherapy typically precludes hospice enrollment.  It may also result in more symptoms, increased use of aggressive treatments, and worsening quality of life.  Despite this, few studies have explored oncologists' rationales for administering chemotherapy during the last weeks of life.  The purpose of this study is to examine factors that oncologists report influence their decisions about late chemotherapy.

Methods. In-depth individual interviews were conducted with 17 oncologists using a semi-structured interview guide.  Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim.  Transcripts were coded and content analyzed for themes and patterns.

Results.  Three key findings emerged.  1) Clinical factors drive oncologists’ late chemotherapy decisions when they point to clear treatment choices, along with patient preferences.  When clinical factors are ambiguous, non-clinical factors become more salient.  2) Late chemotherapy is patient-driven.  It is used to palliate physical and emotional symptoms and maintain patient hope, even when physical benefit is not expected.  3) Caring for dying patients is difficult and impacts oncologists and their treatment decisions.  Difficulties also cited as influences favoring treatment include: emotional exhaustion, difficulty communicating about stopping or not starting chemotherapy, overwhelming sense of responsibility for life and death, feeling badly about the limits of oncology to heal, and prognostic uncertainty.

Conclusions.  Findings reveal a nuanced understanding of why it can be so difficult for oncologists to refuse chemotherapy to patients near death.  Doing so adds to the existing burden of caring for dying patients.  Therefore, at times, oncologists prescribe chemotherapy to simply help everyone feel better, regardless of expected clinical benefits or costs.  Future work is needed on the impact of caring for dying patients on oncologists and on supportive interventions that promote optimal treatment decisions.

Danielle Czarnecki, PhD Candidate, UM Department of Sociology: "Moral Women, Immoral Technologies: How Devout Women Negotiate Maternal Desires, Religion, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies"

Abstract: Catholicism is the most restrictive world religion in its position on assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). The opposition of the Church, combined with the widespread acceptability of ARTs in the U.S., creates a potentially profound moral dilemma for those who adhere to Church doctrine. Drawing on interviews from 33 Catholic women, this study shows that devout women have different understandings of these technologies than non or less religious women. These differences are rooted in devout women’s position of navigating two contradictory cultural schemas (Sewell 1992) —“religious” and “secular”—regarding the meaning of reproductive technologies in the contemporary U.S. Religious schemas provide devout women with different cultural resources that allow them to develop strategies to avoid the use of ARTs. Yet they must still reckon with the ideal of biological parenthood. I show how devout women draw on religious doctrine to find value and meaning in their suffering , to move beyond biological motherhood,  and to ultimately achieve a moral femininity. While religion increases the burden of reproduction for devout women, it also provides the cultural resources to resist the financial, emotional, and physical difficulties experienced by women who use ARTs.


Uchenna Ezeibe, MD, Resident Physician, UMHS Department of Pediatrics & Communicable Diseases: "Pediatric Ethics Consultation Service at a Tertiary Hospital: A Retrospective Review"

Abstract: Background: Published data about hospital ethics consultation services focus primarily on adult patients. There is little information on pediatric ethics consultations – specifically whether patient demographics were related to type and prevalence of consults.

Objective: To review recent ethics consults at a large children’s hospital and explore associations with patient demographics.

Design/Methods: We reviewed ethics consults between 7/1/2009 – 12/31/2013 at a Midwest children’s hospital. We used Armstrong Clinical Ethics Coding System 2013©, modified for pediatrics, to code consults. We collected data on patient race, age, and insurance status (private vs. public) as a proxy for socioeconomic status. We used Microsoft Excel 2013© to generate descriptive statistics.

Results:, approximately 321,713 inpatient visits, and 29 ethics consults were reviewed. Most consults (72.5%) concerned inpatients. Of these, 82% originated from 1 of 3 ICUs (neonatal, pediatric, and pediatric-cardiothoracic). The most common reasons for consultation were: 1) treatment-based decision-making (31%),); 2) end-of-life decisions (28%); & 3) substitute decision-making (24%).  The mean patient age for treatment-based and substitute decision-making consults were similar at 6.8 and 7.9 years, respectively.  Younger patients (mean age: 2.4 years) were involved in end-of-life dilemmas. Patients receiving consults differed from the general patient population in that fewer patients with consults were White (52% vs. 71%) and more were  African-American (34.5% vs 9%).  Approximately 76% of patients with ethics consults had public insurance compared to approximately 29% amongst all inpatient admissions.

Conclusion:  In this single-center retrospective review, we found that African-Americans and patients with public insurance were over-represented in receipt of ethics consultations compared to the general patient population. We also found that dilemmas about end-of-life decisions were more common for younger children. Given our small numbers, strong conclusions cannot be drawn from this data. Nevertheless, our findings do point to areas where communication between family and medical team can be improved.
 

Medical Students

Systematizing the Teaching of Medical Ethics in the Undergraduate Medical Years

Medical students at the University of Michigan encounter ethical issues throughout their four years of training.  Some are obvious – decisions at the end of life, the allocation of scarce of medical resources, challenges to patient autonomy – others are less obvious – relationships between medical residents and medical students, problems with the “hidden curriculum,” and systemic discrimination in the provision of care.  Our goal is to make students aware of the variety of ethical problems in medical care and to equip them to respond to these problems in a wise and responsible manner.

To that end, our curriculum efforts focus on extending the existing curriculum and on making the medical ethics curriculum for undergraduate medical students at UM more systematic and explicit. Because we want students to become well-versed in thinking through ethical dilemmas before they encounter them in their clinical work we weave ethics into the curriculum throughout the 4 years of their undergraduate training. We use the expertise of our CBSSM faculty to create novel curricular components that incorporate our empirical work in bioethics with our particular expertise in decision science.

Increasing Opportunities for Ethics Teaching in the Clerkship Years

Discussions During Required Clinical Rotations

We facilitate regular ethics discussions for medical students at the end of their required clinical rotations in Obstetrics and Gynecology (in the third year) and Emergency Medicine (in the fourth year). To facilitate these discussions, students prepare short essays on ethical dilemmas encountered in these clerkships.  Students are given a summary of all the issues that came up that rotation, which is used as a starting point for a discussion facilitated by a clinical faculty member trained in ethics. In addition, the Internal Medicine subinternship (an option for fourth year students) includes an ethics discussion at the end of the rotation.

These discussions allow medical students to bring up concerns with ethical dilemmas in a safe environment, teach the students about approaches to ethics, and embed training in ethical decision-making in clinical practice. This is often the first time students learn about the role of the hospital ethics committee and how they can contact them if desired.

     “That was unexpectedly awesome!"  

-- Medical student after Ob/Gyn ethics discussion

 

Advanced Medical Therapeutics Ethics Module

All fourth year medical students are required to take an online Advanced Medical Therapeutics course. As part of the course, we created an ethics module that includes multiple cases that present ethical dilemmas.  Each case includes pre-recorded videos of faculty discussing the ethical aspects of the case and interactive components requiring students to choose possible solutions to the problem, after which they receive explanations of the pros and cons of their choice.

Medical Ethics Path of Excellence

CBSSM faculty work closely with the medical school to strengthen the medical ethics curriculum for Michigan medical students.  Our goal is to make students aware of the broad range of  ethical challenges facing 21st century medicine – challenges in clinical care, medical research and the design of health care delivery. Most recently, a team of CBSSM faculty developed the Medical Ethics Pathway of Excellence, an opportunity for students to receive mentored training in ethics throughout their four years of medical school.

Overview of Medical Ethics Pathway to Excellence:

  • Introduced in September 2013, the first 10 students were accepted in 2014. Twelve students joined in 2015.
  • Students apply to the Ethics Path of Excellence at the end of February during their M1 year, and continue their studies through their M4 year. Students in the POE learn to:
    • Identify ethical issues in the organization and delivery of health care
    • Implement tools and strategies to address ethical issues
    • Continue their professional education and development of the skills required for leadership
  • Highlights:
    • Before applying to the Ethics Path of Excellence, students have the opportunity to attend fourteen interactive lunchtime lectures that review various aspects of ethics in a healthcare setting. Applicants must attend a minimum of five of these lectures.
    • Students who want to serve on ethics committees and/or include ethics as part of an academic career are provided with specialized training.
    • All students participate in an individualized, independent study, culminating in a capstone project in the M4 year. Often this work includes field work at CBSSM.

Beginning in 2015, the Path of Excellence has been responsible for administering the core ethics curriculum for all of the M1 students. The Ethics Path of Excellence will continue to be a co-curricular activity until 2017 when all students will be required to choose one of the paths offered in the medical school.

“We really want to educate people to be the ethics committee consultants of the future. I think it's pretty unique to have the option of pursuing this extracurricular program because essentially it teaches you leadership skills and how to be a self-directed learner. These are skills you'll really need when you become faculty. Students can take their interest in ethics and pursue it further.”             
Lauren Smith, M.D., Associate Professor of Pathology

Lauren Smith is the Director of the Path of Excellence. Andrew Barnosky, Christian Vercler, Ed Goldman, Kathryn Moseley, Janice Firn, Sacha Montas, and Raymond De Vries are core faculty members.

Start Seeing Ethics Lunch Discussions

As part of the Medical Ethics Path of Excellence, we offer lunch time discussions of cutting-edge topics in ethics. The content of these discussions includes topics such as conscientious objection, mandatory vs. optional vaccinations, patient centered care and shared decision making.  We have also used these discussions to hold mock ethics committee meetings with discussion of a specific case. Facilitators provide a relaxed atmosphere in which students can feel comfortable asking questions and voicing opinions.

 

"It is exciting to see medical students engage with the ethical issues that arise in the clinic and the classroom.  With encouragement from us they are beginning to see that there is more to medical ethics than just the well-known issues at the beginning and end of life.  While these ethical issues are important, there are also moral consequences associated with the mundane aspects of being a student and working with patients." Raymond De Vries, PhD, Director, Ethics Education Initiative

 

Supporting information for: 2016 CBSSM Research Colloquium and Bishop Lecture (William Dale, MD, PhD)

Katrina Hauschildt, MA, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology: “Language and Communication as Professionalization Projects in Clinical Ethics Consultation”


Although sociologists have examined the field of bioethics broadly, less empiric research has explored the process of clinical ethics consultation (CEC) in practice. This paper seeks to describe how UMHS’ CEC service focuses on communication, language, and terminology in professionalizing their membership and broadening the scope of their services. The CEC service established a specific communication standard for its written recommendations that emphasizes specificity and clarity for patients and their families, other providers, and members of the ethics committee. By identifying and reinforcing the importance of language and word choice in their own recommendations, newer members of the CEC are “trained” in how to craft recommendations, develop a specific jargon, and establish communication standards that differ from those used in other aspects of medical practice and documentation. The CEC service is often involved in addressing a variety of communication issues that arise in patient care, and these problems are thusly considered within the professional scope of the CEC service. By establishing the CEC service as an appropriate resource for dealing with communication issues between patients and their care team, the CEC service expands the professional boundaries of their work beyond strictly ethical expertise. The implications of these processes for professionalization and communication may be applicable to CEC services more broadly.


Devan Stahl, PhD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Ethics, Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, MSU: "Is there a right not to know?"


There is a widespread presumption within medicine that terminally ill patients have a “right not to know” their prognosis. Guidelines for giving bad news (SPIKES; ABCDE) all require that the patient be asked first. There may be a dark side to this practice, however: terminally ill patients’ ignorance or denial of their prognosis too often lasts to the very end, one important factor discouraging timely referral and use of palliative and hospice care. Because of a possible link between a right not to know one’s prognosis and the aggressive treatment that patients with advanced illness too often receive at the end of life, the claim that there is a right not to know needs much more serious examination than it has received.

The authors argue that patients with advanced illness do not have a right not to know their prognosis. Withholding prognostic information in deference to a right not to know impedes patients’ capacity to make informed autonomous decisions about their treatment, encourages denial, and increases the likelihood of poor end of life care.

Chithra Perumalswami, MD MSc, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar: "Insurance Status of Elderly Americans and Location of Death"


Context:  The decision to forego curative treatments (which includes the Medicare Skilled Nursing Facility Medicare benefit) is not financially neutral for terminally ill patients who do not have concurrent insurance (Medicaid or private insurance) in that they are subsequently asked to pay for room and board of the nursing home if they choose the Medicare hospice benefit.  The association between insurance status and location of death is currently unknown.  
Purpose: To determine whether the concurrent insurance status with Medicare (Medicaid vs. private insurance) of decedents is associated with location of death in a nationally representative survey of elderly Americans.
Methods: Longitudinal analysis of 7,979 decedents aged 50 years or older in the Health and Retirement Study from 2000-2010 (6 biennial waves). We examined associations between insurance status and location of death (home, hospital, nursing home, hospice) using multinomial logistic regression models and adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, and clinical variables.
Results:  Decedents with dual eligible insurance before or at the time of death were significantly more likely to die in a nursing home than to die in a hospital (relative risk ratio (RRR) 2.6; 95% CI, 1.9-3.6, p<0.001). 
Those dying in a nursing home tended to be unpartnered (widowed, separated or divorced, never married), cognitively impaired or with dementia. Elderly Americans less likely to die in a nursing home were blacks and Hispanics, individuals with cancer, and those with the highest wealth.
Conclusions:  Dual eligible patients are substantially more likely to die in a nursing home than a hospital, and therefore may miss out on valuable services at the end of life, including hospice care. This study may have several implications for current proposed Medicare policy changes to allow patients access to both curative care and hospice care at the same time. 

Lauren B. Smith, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Pathology/Ginny Sheffield, UM Medical Student (M3): "Special treatment for the VIP patient:  Is it ethical?  Is it dangerous?"


The care of VIP patients is often prioritized at medical centers and this prioritization may lead to disparate access to care and patient safety issues. VIP patients may be donors, celebrities, or other physicians. Allowing VIP patients access to earlier care or “special treatment” not only raises social justice issues, but also has been shown to lead to medical error and suboptimal treatment. Ethical considerations will be discussed and recommendations will be presented.

Naomi Laventhal, MD, MA, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases: "Roman Charity Redux: The Moral Obligations of the Breastfeeding Physician"


Female physicians must often reconcile the seemingly contradictory goals of valuing the health and well-being of their patients above all else, and actively mothering young children. One of the fundamental ethical precepts in medicine is for the physician to put the best interests of her patient ahead of her own.  For example the Fellowship Pledge of the American College of Surgeons states, “I pledge . . . to place the welfare and the rights of my patient above all else.” The challenge of weighing the needs of one’s own children against those of a patient is painfully acute for the breastfeeding physician. Is it ethically permissible to leave a busy clinic - or a patient in the under anesthesia in the operating room - in order to express breastmilk? Pragmatic strategies, such as mandates for appropriate space and time to pump, offer modest gains. However, we will suggest the need to re-envision the concept of “patient-first”, which is a vestige of the patriarchal hegemony that gave rise to our modern medical ethos, whereby nursing mothers are highly disadvantaged and virtually unable to reach the highest moral ideals of the profession.  Is the “right” to breastfeed absolute, or if should it be superseded by the needs of the patient? We will explore whether this issue is deeply personal, to be reconciled by affected individuals, or warrants an “outside-in” approach in which  physicians and bioethicists collectively and more philosophically consider whether and how to support women who choose to work and breastfeed.

Archana Bharadwaj, Graduate Student, UM School of Public Health: "Patient understanding and satisfaction regarding the clinical use of whole genome sequencing: Findings from the MedSeq Project"


Background: The expanded use of Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) has generated excitement due its potential to tailor medical treatment. However, clinical use of WGS poses challenges for informed consent and disclosure of results. Few empirical studies have examined patients’ understanding of and satisfaction with the clinical communication of WGS results.
Methods: The MedSeq Project is a randomized clinical trial examining the impacts of WGS in primary care and cardiology. We analyzed survey data from patients’ initial enrollment and at multiple time points following physician disclosure of results. Domains of interest included understanding of informed consent, subjective understanding, satisfaction with communication of results, and decisional regret.
Results: Survey responses were provided by 202 participants (mean age = 55 years; 51% male; 80% college graduates). At enrollment, participants understood the majority of key facts about the study (mean = 19.6 / 22 items answered correctly), although some incorrectly answered items addressing results to be returned (e.g., 18% believed they would receive their entire DNA sequence. Higher informed consent knowledge scores were associated with female gender and higher genomic knowledge, subjective numeracy, and education levels (all p < .05). After results disclosure, participants had low scores of decisional regret regarding study participation; they also reported high levels of satisfaction with their physicians’ disclosure of results (mean = 5.9 on a 6-point scale), although ~20% of participants reported receiving “too much” information. Satisfaction with communication did not vary by participants’ demographics or other characteristics (e.g. genomic knowledge).
Conclusions: This study suggests that the intervention was well understood by patients, with low levels of decisional regret and high satisfaction with communication. Future research will need to examine these issues in more diverse samples, where misconceptions about the clinical WGS and concerns about information overload may be magnified.

Kayte Spector-Bagdady, JD, MBioethics, CBSSM Postdoctoral Research Fellow: "Direct‐to‐Consumer Biobanking"


23andMe is back on the market as the first direct‐to‐consumer genetic testing company that “includes reports that meet Food and Drug Administration standards for being clinically and scientifically valid.” Its current product includes 36 health‐related carrier‐status reports and consumers’ raw genetic data. But while its front‐end product is selling individual genetic tests online, its back‐end business model is amassing one of the largest privately owned genetic databases in the world.
This article argues that as the Department of Health and Human Services revises its regulation of research with human subjects as well as its proposal to exempt autosomal recessive carrier screens from premarket authorization it should contemplate the intersection of these areas of rulemaking—and consider how enhancing the security of federally funded research but loosening private access to biospecimens will drive more research into the private sector and result in less, not more, protection for human subjects.

Panel Presentation (Susan Goold, MD, MHSA, MA & colleagues): "Community engagement in setting research priorities: Representation, Participation and Evaluation"


We describe a 5-year project that engaged minority and underserved communities throughout the state of Michigan in deliberations about health research priorities to increase community voice in how limited health research resources are allocated. DECIDERS (Deliberative Engagement of Communities in DEcisions about Research Spending) formed a state-wide Steering Committee (SC) to develop a version of the deliberative exercise CHAT for health research priorities, then convened 47 groups to evaluate the tool and describe community research priorities.
Facilitators: Susan Goold and Zachary Rowe, Co-Directors
Panelists: Karen Calhoun, Charo Ledon, Esther Onaga, Lisa Szymecko

Supporting information for: 2014 CBSSM Research Colloquium and Bishop Lecture (Myra Christopher)

 

Andrew G. Shuman, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Otolaryngology, University of Michigan

"When Not to Operate: The Dilemma of Surgical Unresectability"

One of the most anguishing choices a surgeon can make is deciding not to embark upon an operation because a tumor is deemed unresectable.  Despite the widespread acceptance of patient autonomy and transparency in medical practice, there remains an unstated paternalism “behind the mask,” within the confines of the operating room.  The concept of surgical unresectability derives from a complex combination of tumor factors, patient factors, and surgeon factors.  In many cases, these decisions are intensely personal and subjective, with disagreements even among surgeons in the same field.  There is a risk that the voice of the patient may be lost in making these decisions, as surgeons weigh these intangible variables in ways that may be incommunicable.  However, the consequences of proceeding with an operation unlikely to achieve its intended outcome may be similarly terrifying.  In this presentation, a cancer surgeon and reconstructive surgeon will discuss these dilemmas from multiple perspectives using real-life case examples from their practice.  We will collectively try to tease out the inherent biases informing such decisions from the standpoint of doctors, patients, and clinical ethicists.  The theoretical underpinnings of the authority of surgical judgment will be explored, noting that pursuing goods internal to the practice of surgery requires such decisions, and asking whether Polanyi’s concept of tacit knowledge explains (or even permits) a degree of paternalism.  

Phoebe Danziger, BA, MD expected May 2014
 
"Beliefs, Biases, and Ethical Dilemmas in the Perinatal Counseling and Treatment of Severe Kidney Anomalies"
 

Anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract are the most common prenatally diagnosed fetal structural abnormalities, and are a major cause of end-stage kidney disease in children. Severe, prenatally diagnosed cases present a number of unique ethical issues with respect to the care of the pregnant woman, fetus, and neonate. We will use a case-based approach to explore these issues in the context of prenatal counseling, and in the neonatal period. On a case-by-case basis, efforts are made antenatally to coordinate counseling from appropriate consultants such as maternal-fetal medicine, neonatology, and pediatric urology and nephrology. We argue, however, that significant differences exist both between individual physicians and between subspecialties more broadly with regard to beliefs about prognosis, therapeutic interventions available, and appropriate utilization of palliative versus life-prolonging options. Unlike for other high-risk perinatal conditions such as extreme prematurity, no guidelines or standardized interprofessional processes exist for the provision of coordinated, timely, and non-directive care to these patients. This has implications for choices made regarding prenatal care, resuscitation efforts at birth, and utilization of palliative and life-prolonging care options, and we argue that the implicit biases and differences in both counseling and practice must be explicitly addressed and considered in order to facilitate more effective counseling for families facing these diagnoses. We will discuss the prenatal use of the term “lethal pulmonary hypoplasia,” a term that implies an unequivocal outcome but is a tissue-based diagnosis that can only be made after birth, not on the basis of obstetric ultrasound. We will also discuss the strikingly different rates of utilization of and attitudes towards dialysis initiated in the neonatal period, both between individual care providers and between institutions. 

 
Kathryn L. Moseley, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, University of Michigan
 
"Electronic Medical Records: Challenges for Clinical Ethics Consultation"
 
Electronic medical records (EMRs) are rapidly replacing their paper counterparts. Their advantages include readability, access, organization, and comprehensiveness. The qualities that make EMRs so attractive also create new challenges for the clinical ethics consultant and the consultation process. This transition from a handwritten record of examinations and diagnoses that resided in close proximity to the patient to an electronic record that can be read remotely creates a number of concerns uniquely problematic for ethics consultation.  
We identify 4 hazards that EMRs present to ethics consultants:
Accessing significant medical information remotely, before face-to-face contact, can bias the consultant and lead to the premature development of conclusions/recommendations.
The ability to access medical information remotely can tempt the consultant to be less thorough in face-to-face information-gathering.
The paucity of nuanced information about the patient/family social and emotional situation and the content of patient/family meetings can misinform and mislead the consultant.
Remotely accessing information can delay communication with the patient and family, potentially undermining their trust in the objectivity of the ethics consultation process.
We propose the following 3 recommendations for training programs and ethics committee members to begin to address the concerns above:
1) Training programs for ethics consultants should emphasize the importance of face-to-face encounters with all stakeholders as soon as possible after receiving a consult.  Telephone only consults should be discouraged.
2) Hospital ethics committees should create procedures and processes that encourage and support face-to-face information gathering.
3) New consultants should be educated about the limitations of the EMR, especially as an accurate source of information about the emotional or social situation of the patient/family and the content of patient/family meetings.
 
 
Helen Morgan, MD,  Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan
 
"Academic Integrity in the Pre-Health Undergraduate Experience"
 
Introduction: There is evidence that academic misconduct early in a student’s career can initiate a continuum of later unethical behaviors.  Multiple studies have reported that the best predictor of whether a student will cheat in medical school is whether they had a history of cheating in college.   Cheating in medical school has been found to be the strongest predictor of disciplinary action by state medical boards for practicing physicians. There is a paucity of data on perceptions of academic integrity in pre-health students. Methods: In the fall of 2013, we administered a survey on academic integrity to first-year pre-health students in the Health Science Scholars Program.  The curriculum for their course included sessions on academic integrity in the health care profession, and in the pre-health experience.  Follow-up assessments in the spring of 2014 included a re-administration of the same integrity survey, as well as a survey on students’ perceptions of what pressures and justifications lead to cheating behaviors. Results:  In the fall, students reported that 7.5% had cheated already in college, 26.2% had witnessed cheating in college, and 59.4% believed that academic misconduct was a problem at the University of Michigan.  In the spring, the percent of students who reported cheating in college was unchanged at 7.1%, and there was an increase in the number of students who reported witnessing cheating in college at 40.8% (p=0.027).    Students cited admissions requirements for graduate programs as the highest sources of pressure to cheat. Conclusion: This pilot data demonstrates that there is a need for curriculum development that could potentially prevent academic misconduct in vulnerable pre-health students.
 
 
Tanner Caverly, MD, MPH, Health Services Research Fellow, Ann Arbor VA Medical Center and Clinical Lecturer, University of Michigan
 
"How transparent are cancer screening & prevention guidelines about the benefits and harms of what they recommend?"
 
Transparent risk information -- that is, presenting absolute risks on both benefits and harms -- is essential for medical decision making. Without this information clinicians and policy-makers cannot know how much an intervention helps, whether the potential benefit is worth the potential harms, or whether one service is more helpful than another service. We recently did a structured review of clinical practice guidelines and two widely-used clinical resources. We found that few recommendations are accompanied by transparent risk information on the benefits and harms of the recommended cancer prevention service (only 23%). This talk focuses on how risk information WAS presented and the implications of our findings.
 
 
Susan D. Goold, MD, MHSA, MA , Professor of Internal Medicine and Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan
 
"Controlling Health Costs:  Physician Responses to Patient Expectations for Medical Care"
 
Background: Physicians have dual responsibilities to make medical decisions that serve their patients’ best interests but also utilize health care resources wisely.  Their ability to practice cost-consciously is particularly challenged when faced with patient expectations or requests for medical services that may be unnecessary. Objective:  To understand how physicians consider health care resources and the strategies they use to exercise cost-consciousness to respond to patient expectations and requests for medical care. Design:  Exploratory focus groups of practicing physicians were conducted.  Participants were encouraged to discuss their perceptions of resource constraints, experiences with redundant, unnecessary and marginally beneficial services, and asked about patient requests or expectations for particular services. Participants:  Sixty-two physicians representing a variety of specialties and practice types participated in 9 focus groups in Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota in 2012. Measurements:  Iterative thematic content analysis of focus group transcripts. Principal Findings:  Physicians reported making tradeoffs between a variety of financial and nonfinancial resources, considering not only the relative cost of medical decisions and alternative services, but the time and convenience of patients, their own time constraints, as well as the logistics of maintaining a successful practice.  They described strategies and techniques to educate patients, build trust, or substitute less costly alternatives when appropriate, often adapting their management to the individual patient and clinical environment. Conclusions:  Physicians often make nuanced trade-offs in clinical practice aimed at efficient resource use within a complex flow of clinical work and patient expectations.  Understanding the challenges faced by physicians and the strategies they use to exercise cost-consciousness provides insight into policy measures that will address physician’s roles in health care resource use.
 
 
 
 

Supporting information for: 2011 CBSSM Research Colloquium

A bureaucratic framework of IRBs: Understanding how cultural forces influence the contemporary IRB bureaucracy

Presenting author: Apurba Chakrabarti, Undergraduate Student, University of Michigan

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) system is almost universally considered dysfunctional. Numerous commentators accuse IRBS of both over-regulation and inadequate protection.  Understanding IRBs within a bureaucratic framework provides a theoretical lens to analyze the genesis and persistence of failings in academic IRBs.  While some authors have used legal approaches, there has been little analysis of the influence of culture on the IRB bureaucracy.  Additionally, there is an absence of literature using the sociology of IRBs approach, where IRBs act as a model to understand bureaucracies in the general terms of organizational theory.  Accordingly, this paper will show that 1) IRBs are a Weberian bureaucracy, 2) a bureaucratic framework of IRBs explain why the contemporary IRB system has a procedural focus and censors research, and 3) IRBs can illustrate new dimensions about how culture influences bureaucracy, as posited in regulation, such as community sensitivity.  This failure is a result of culture-induced goal displacement.  The bureaucratic IRBs respond to the American distrust of government by avoiding real ethics debates and instead have a particularly high focus on more “objective” procedure and paperwork.  Furthermore, a combination of a culture of fear and an expectation of infallible regulatory bodies influences bureaucracies to censor ethically sound, but legally risky research in an effort to protect bureaucratic reputation and prevent legal liability. These examples illustrate how subtle cultural forces influence organizations, as postulated in neoinstitutional theory.  A bureaucratic framework helps address the influence of culture on the IRB bureaucracy, and informs ideas for reform that must not only consider legal and legislative issues, but cultural forces that molded the contemporary IRB system.

Apurba Chakrabarti is a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Michigan studying cellular and molecular biology.  He is completing an honors thesis in retinal patterning in zebrafish at the Raymond lab in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology.  His interests also extend into the social forces influencing the practice of research, including the organization of science and the flaws in the contemporary IRB system.

 

Online sexual racism and the prevalence of HIV among black MSM

Presenting author: Nathaniel Coleman, Graduate Student, University of Michigan

The Sydney-based campaign, www.SexualRacismSux.com, is a unique worldwide campaign against online sexual racism (OSR) among men who have sex with men (MSM).  Sexual racism (SR) is a form of social segregation on the basis of race.  Like all forms of social segregation, SR has two faces: that of exclusion (= spatial segregation) and that of exploitation (= role segregation).  Exclusionary SR consists of the race-based denial of sexual approbation or activity.  For instance, some MSM declare in their online profiles that they are “not into” blacks, or that they will accept “no blacks” for sex.  Exploitative SR consists of the offer of sexual approbation or activity, but only on racially stigmatizing terms.  For instance, some MSM offer sex to blacks only if those blacks fulfill the “ethnosexual stereotypes” of the “Black Mandingo” and the “Savage black top.”  SR reduces a black MSM’s freedom to define himself sexually, for he is restricted to either (a) no sex at all, (b) sex only with others similarly excluded and exploited, or (c) sex only in which he “plays along with” ethnosexual stereotypes.  Option (a) denies a black MSM a basic human function.  Option (b) renders the sexual networks of black MSM relatively more tightly interconnected such that if HIV enters one part of the network, it is likely to spread more rapidly throughout.  Option (c) causes a black MSM who can’t or won’t perform ethnosexual stereotypes to experience low sexual self-confidence.  He is likely to consider himself to have inferior “bartering power” in the marketplace for sex with MSM.  This may cause him (a) to offer unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) as a unique selling proposition, or (b) to give in more readily to demands to engage in UAI.  This argument suggests that those who wish to halt the disproportionately high prevalence of HIV among black MSM should collaborate with www.SexualRacismSux.com.

Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman is a doctoral candidate in moral, social, and political philosophy at the University of Michigan.  He is a Fellow at the University of Michigan’s Center for Ethics in Public Life, a member of the Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love, and a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.  Nathaniel is working under the supervision of Prof. Elizabeth Anderson.  His doctoral dissertation is entitled, The Duty to Miscegenate: From Sexual Racism to Cross-racial Companionship.  

 

Temptation and trespass in the pharmaceutical industry: Incentivizing ethical self-regulation

Presenting author: Henry Greenspan, PhD, University of Michigan

Certain structural features of the pharmaceutical industry are conducive to ethical trespass: the difficulty of developing successful new drugs; the limited time of patent exclusivity; the “blockbuster model” in which most companies rely on a very small number of drugs for a large percentage of annual sales; and the “evidence-free zone” (Gale) between product launch and before many potential adverse effects are shown. Within this business model, companies are induced to “make hay while the sun shines,” and many of the best known ethical problems follow: marketing violations like promotion for unapproved and unproven applications; failure to flag or investigate suspected problems; selective publication; tendentious research design; collusion with corruptible healthcare professionals; and, occasionally, outright data suppression and fraud.  In the meantime, studies show that most external sanctions - including criminal penalties, FDA surveillance, and product liability lawsuits - are relatively ineffective deterrents, and they always arise after the damage is done.  We have no choice, therefore, but to rely primarily on company self-regulation.  A company will always know more, and know sooner, about its products than any external regulator and draconian external sanctions only make it more likely for a company to externalize regulation on to “the cop,” which consistently results in ethical disaster (Braithwaite).  So the question becomes how to positively incentivize companies’ ethical self-regulation.  A number of potential avenues will be suggested, including “perks” like extended patent protection; ethical ratings of companies that have real-world consequences (in preferential contracts with pharmacy benefit managers, for example, along the model of “no sweat” apparel contracts); and the impact of a documented record of ethical excellence on employee productivity and consumer (including physician) loyalty.

Henry Greenspan, PhD, is a psychologist and playwright in UM's Residential College who has been writing and teaching about the Holocaust and other genocides for almost three decades. His most recent book is On Listening to Holocaust Survivors: Beyond Testimony, a second and expanded edition of the 1998 On Listening. This past January he co-led the "Hess Seminar for Professors of Holocaust Course" at the United States Holocaust Museum, the sixth such seminar the museum has offered. He was appointed Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at Concordia University in Montreal for Winter 2012. In between, he has been teaching about ethics, politics, and pharma for the past eight years and organized some of the Health Policy Forum programs on pharma-related topics. 

 

Obstetrician-gynecologists’ objections to and willingness to help patients obtain abortion in various clinical scenarios: A national survey

Presenting author: Lisa H. Harris, MD, PhD, University of Michigan

Co-authors: Farr Curlin, MD, University of Chicago; Ken Rasinski, PhD, University of Chicago; Alexandra Cooper, PhD, Duke University; Anne Drapkin Lyerly, MD, MA, University of North Carolina

Background: Despite debate about abortion ethics and conscientious objection, we know little about obstetrician-gynecologists’ views, or their manifestation in clinical practice.  Methods: We analyzed results of a national survey of 1800 U.S. obstetrician-gynecologists.  We presented respondents with seven scenarios in which a woman sought abortion.  For each, we asked if respondents morally object, and if they would help the patient obtain an abortion.  We analyzed demographic correlates of objection and assistance.  Results: Objection varied by scenario, from 82% in the case of sex selection to 16% in a patient with a potentially fatal cardiopulmonary condition.  Female ob-gyns were more likely to object to abortion in one or more scenarios (odds ratio [OR] 1.5, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.0 to 2.3). excluding sex selection, objection was less likely in female(OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.49-0.89) and Jewish ob-gyns (OR 0.3; CI 0.1-0.8), and more likely among those practicing in the South or Midwest (OR 1.8, CI 1.2-2.7; OR 2.0; CI 1.3-3.0), who had Catholic or Protestant-evangelical affiliation (OR 2.6, CI 1.6-4.1; OR 4.0, CI 2.4-10), or who indicated religion was fairly, very, or most important in their life (OR 1.7, CI 1.0-2.8; OR 3.4, CI 2.1-5.6; OR 14.9, CI 7-31.4).  With the exception of sex selection, more than 80% would help a patient obtain abortion in all scenarios.  Approximately two-thirds (57-70%) of objecting ob-gyns would help the patient obtain abortion, regardless of scenario.  Excluding sex selection, assistance despite objection was more likely among female ob-gyns (OR 2.1, CI 1.3-3.3), and less likely among those from the South or for whom religion was very important (OR 0.3, CI 0.2-0.6; OR 0.2, CI 0.1-0.6).  Conclusions: Most ob-gyns help patients obtain an abortion even if they have moral objection.  Willingness to help patients varies by clinical context and physician characteristics.

Lisa H. Harris, MD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan.  She received her MD from Harvard University and completed her residency at the University of California, San Francisco, later obtaining a PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan.  Dr. Harris has focused her clinical, research, teaching and advocacy career on reproductive justice, reflecting her overarching goal of working at the intersection of medicine, culture, and politics. She also serves on the faculty of the Department of Women’s Studies.

 

The misdiagnosis of the minority problem in cancer clinical trials: Is our focus on medical mistrust causing harm?

Presenting author:  Aisha T. Langford, MPH, University of Michigan

Co-authors: Scott Kim, MD, PhD, University of Michigan

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and costs the nation approximately $263.8 billion in patient care.  Less than 5% of adults with cancer participate in cancer clinical trials.  Of those who do participate, African Americans are underrepresented despite bearing the greatest cancer burden.  While there are many reasons for lower participation among African Americans, medical mistrust dominates the literature and is often used in reference to the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee.  Tuskegee did expose structural inequalities and racism in research; however, knowledge of Tuskegee has not been empirically associated with lower enrollment among African Americans, nor can it account for the full range of issues that contribute to medical mistrust.  A person’s experience with the healthcare system and medical providers over time is what increases or reduces trust.  The data suggest that minorities are just as willing to participate in health research when provided equal access.  The Minority-Based Community Oncology Programs and the SELECT trial are prime examples of this.  While mistrust is real, its role may be overstated and a distraction form more pressing issues such as: 1) Access/proximity of clinical trials to minority communities, 2) Patient-provider communication about research, 3) Provider bias in offering clinical trials, 4) Protocol design and eligibility criteria, 5) Better training and rewards for clinical trial faculty/staff, 6)Organizational transparency in research, 7) Community engagement outside of health system walls, and 8) Diversity and cultural competency among healthcare organizations.  Nicholson et al. demonstrated that disparities framed messages have a negative impact on African Americans’ intention to use the healthcare system.  Given this, we should be cautious about perpetuating mistrust assumptions, as they may be causing more harm than good.  Appropriate “solutions” to minority participation are dependent on a correct diagnosis of the underlying problem.

Aisha Langford, MPH, has been the Director of Community Outreach for the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center since July 2007.  Prior to that time, she held positions in health communications, adult literacy, and public relations.  Ms. Langford holds a Masters Degree in Public Health, Department of Health Behavior & Health Education, from the University of Michigan.  She works with local African American churches and community organizations to implement Body and Soul, a National Institutes of Health/American Cancer Society collaboration to disseminate cancer control interventions.  Ms. Langford also works closely with Cancer Center faculty, staff, and UMHS units as appropriate to enhance health disparities research and participation by under-represented minorities in cancer clinical trials.  She serves on a variety of internal and external committees related to community outreach, minority health, and clinical trials.

 

Innovative therapies in the newborn intensive care unit: The ethics of off-label use of therapeutic hypothermia

Presenting author: Naomi Laventhal, MD, University of Michigan

Co-authors: John Barks, MD, University of Michigan; Scott Kim, MD, PhD, University of Michigan

Neonatologists, like other physicians, are under pressure to use therapies supported by scientific evidence.  In the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) this is an especially thorny issue because seemingly benign but untested treatments have resulted in serious injury, yet the drive to do something for patients at risk for poor outcomes is very strong.  We examine the case of therapeutic hypothermia (TH) for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a therapy with demonstrated efficacy for full-term infants in reducing death and disability, but unproven efficacy in pre-term infants.  Clinical trials for pre-term infants are planned; meanwhile guidelines advise against off-label use.  Anecdotal evidence suggests “off-label” TH use may be common.  Here we examine arguments for and against such practices.  Arguments favoring off-label TH use include the lack of alternatives for a disease with terrible outcomes, and the “biologic plausibility” that theses uses TH will be safe and effective. More generally, limiting physicians to therapies supported by randomized control trial (RCT) data would unreasonably constrain clinical practice, and “innovative” practices can be an important driver of progress.  But even if parents are fully informed of the uncertain benefits, this may not be a “nothing to lose” scenario.  Surviving infants treated with off-label TH may have a higher incidence of severe neurologic impairment; this redistribution of poor outcomes may be unacceptable to parents and neonatologists alike.  Premature infants treated with TH may also be more vulnerable to the serious potential adverse effects and have greater mortality. From a societal standpoint, off-label TH use may delay completion or compromise quality of RCTs, resulting in pre-term infants with HIE undergoing risky, ineffective treatment unnecessarily.  We believe that arguments against off-label use of TH are stronger than those favoring it, given the individual and societal risks.  Using this case study, we will discuss a general framework for dealing with “innovative” therapies in the NICU.

Dr. Naomi Laventhal joined the University of Michigan in August 2009, after completing her residency in pediatrics, fellowships in neonatology and clinical medical ethics, and a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Chicago.  In the Holden Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, she cares for critically ill newborns, provides prenatal consultation for parents expecting to deliver premature infants, and teaches neonatal-perinatal medicine and bioethics to residents and medical students.  Her research is in neonatal clinical research ethics, and her current work focuses on attitudes of parents and health care providers regarding newborn infants as research subjects.

 

Resident attitudes and experience with palliative care in patients with advanced dementia

Presenting author: Erika R. Manu, MD, University of Michigan

Co-authors: Cathy Berkman, PhD, ACSW, Fordham University; Patricia Mullan, PhD, University of Michigan; Caroline Vitale, MD, University of Michigan

Purpose: To explore medical residents’ experience, attitudes and self-perceived confidence about end-of-life care in advanced dementia.  Methods: E-mail survey to all second, third and fourth-year residents in Internal Medicine, Medicine/Pediatrics, and Family Medicine at University of Michigan.  Queried residents’ experience, attitudes and self-perceived confidence approaching end-of-life discussions in patients with dementia, compared to heart failure and metastatic cancer.  Results: Surveys were e-mailed to 120 residents; 61 completed surveys were received after an initial e-mailing and one follow-up email reminder to non-responders, yielding a 51% response rate.  Sixty percent of respondents reported no formal training in estimating prognosis in patients with dementia.  Ninety-eight percent of respondents reported participating in family meetings addressing goals of care in the terminally ill.  Fifty-four percent of respondents agreed they felt confident eliciting patient/surrogate wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments in patients with advanced dementia, with 49% reporting this for patients with heart failure, and contrasting with 84% who agreed feeling confident eliciting wishes in patients with metastatic cancer.  Residents anticipate the need to elicit wishes of patients/surrogates of patients with advanced dementia (67%), heart failure (65%), and metastatic cancer (74%) in their future career. While only 37% feel confident assessing adequacy of caregiver support for their older patients, 82% anticipate they will be required to assess caregiver needs in their future career.  Conclusion: Medicine residents are actively involved discussing goals of care in terminally ill patients.  Despite this experience, they appear to have the lowest confidence in eliciting patient/surrogate wishes in dementia (vs. heart failure and metastatic cancer) and low confidence in assessing caregiver needs, yet believe these skills are important to attain.  These findings elucidate existing educational gaps in resident training and call attention to the need for enhanced education centering on optimal care of patients with advanced dementia.

Dr. Erika Manu is currently a fellow in Advanced Geriatrics at the VA Healthcare System and Clinical Lecturer in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine, at the University of Michigan.  She graduated from medical school in 1995 from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Timisoara, Romania.  She then completed an internship and residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Romania before relocating to the United States in 2000.  In 2009, she graduated from the Internal Medicine residency program at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Pontiac, MI.  Her interests are focused on developing a career as a clinician educator with a focus on teaching and curriculum development that covers geriatric palliative care concepts in older adults with a strong commitment to the idea of enhancing medical resident knowledge and skills as they care for patients with dementia and other advanced chronic illnesses.

 

Considering virtue: Public health and clinical ethics

Presenting author: Karen M. Meagher, Graduate Student, Michigan State University

As bioethicists increasingly turn their attention to the profession of public health, many candidate frameworks have been proposed, often with an eye toward articulating the values and foundational concepts that distinguish this practice from curative clinical medicine.  First, I will argue that while these suggestions for a distinct ethics of public health are promising, they arise from problems with contemporary bioethics that must be taken into account.  Without such cognizance of the impetus for public health ethics, we risk developing a set of ethical resources meant exclusively for public health professionals, thereby neglecting implications for curative medical ethics and the practice of bioethics more broadly.  Secondly, I will present reasons for thinking some of the critiques of dominant contemporary bioethics can be met by a virtue ethics approach.  I present a virtue ethics response to criticisms that concern 1) increased rigor in bioethics discourse, 2) the ability of normative theory to accommodate context, and 3) explicit attention to the nature of ethical conflict. I conclude that a virtue ethics approach is a viable avenue for further inquiry, one that leads us away from developing ethics of public health in a vacuum and has the potential for overcoming certain pitfalls of contemporary bioethics discourse.

Karen M. Meagher is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University (MSU).  Her interests include public health ethics, philosophy of risk, and virtue ethics.  She previously taught at the University of Michigan-Flint in the Department of Public Health and Health Sciences.  She currently serves on the MSU and State Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) and is employed as a graduate assistant at MSU’s Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences.

 

The right not to hear: The ethics of parental refusal of hearing rehabilitation

Presenting author: Andrew G. Shuman, MD, University of Michigan

Co-authors: Serena Byrd, BS, University of Michigan; Sharon Kileny, MD, University of Michigan; Paul R. Kileny, PhD, University of Michigan

Objective: To explore the ethics of parental refusal of auditory-oral hearing rehabilitation.  Study Design: Case study with medical ethical discussion and review.  Methods: Two young brothers present with severe-to-profound congenital sensorineural hearing loss.  The parents, both of whom have normal hearing and work as sign language interpreters, have decided to raise their children with American Sign Language as their only form of communication.  They have chosen not to pursue cochlear implantation nor support the use of hearing aids.  Discussion: This case raises significant questions concerning whether hearing rehabilitation should be mandated, and if there are circumstances in which parental preferences should be questioned or overridden with regard to this issue.  In addition, legal concerns may be raised regarding the possible need to file a report with child protective services. While similar cases involving the deaf community have historically favored parental rights to forego hearing rehabilitation with either cochlear implants or hearing aids, we explore whether conclusions should be different because the parents in this care are not hearing impaired.  Conclusions: The ethics of parental rights to refuse hearing augmentation are complex and strikingly context-dependent.  A comprehensive appreciation of the medical, practical and legal issues is crucial prior to intervening in such challenging situations.

Dr. Andrew Shuman is the chief resident surgeon in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Michigan Hospitals.  Originally from New York, he is a 2002 graduate with high honors from the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and graduated with honors in 2006 from the University of Michigan Medical School.  He is pursuing sub-specialized fellowship training in head and neck surgical oncology.  Dr. Shuman has lectured and published in the areas of otolaryngology, emergency medicine, neurosurgery, and medical ethics.  His current research interests include clinical outcomes and ethical issues in head and neck cancer patients.

 

Pathology review of outside material: When does it help and when can it hurt?

Presenting author: Lauren B. Smith, MD, University of Michigan

Purpose: Pathology review is performed for patients when care is transferred to a tertiary care center after diagnostic tissue has been obtained.  While it has many benefits, this practice can lead to unforeseen difficulties in doctor-patient communication and patient well-being, especially if a diagnosis is overturned or modified years after treatment.  The aim of this analysis is to identify clinical situations in which pathology review can result in challenging discussions between patients and oncologists.  Methods: Representative case scenarios are presented in the subspecialty area of hematopathology.  Analysis of the clinical benefits and possible harm to patients, pathologists, and treating oncologists that may ensue from pathology review is performed.  Results: Pathology review may result in a valuable second opinion and expert sub-classification.  However, problematic situations may arise with pathology review, especially if the patient has already undergone definitive treatment and is referred to an academic institution in remission.  Difficulties can also arise when patients do not understand the limitations of diagnosing disease on small biopsies.  The patient may receive a different diagnosis or it may become apparent that the diagnosis could have been made more expeditiously.  These discrepancies must be communicated to the patient and may cause confusion and distress.  Conclusion: Pathology review can be beneficial or potentially harmful depending on the clinical situation.  Preliminary recommendations are provided for selecting cases for review.  Limiting pathology review to certain clinical situations and encouraging patients to get second opinions prior to initial treatment at local referral centers may be helpful in minimizing reassignment of diagnoses after definitive treatment.

Dr. Lauren Smith received her medical degree, pathology residence training, and hematopathology fellowship training at the University of Michigan.  She joined the University of Michigan faculty in 2007.  Dr. Smith is actively involved in the clinical hematopathology services including histopathology, flow cytometry and hemoglobin electrophoresis.  She has been a member of the adult ethics committee since 2005 and she serves on the adult ethics committee consultation service.  Her research interests include ethical issues in pathology.

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