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Interim Co-Director Brian Zikmund-Fisher was featured in “Medicine at Michigan.” Brian shared his personal experience with risk and probability in medical decision making.  This experience provided him with the personal career goal of improving patients’ lives by making health information easier to understand.

This is the first featured story in the new section “Gray Matters,” which gives our faculty members the opportunity to write about complex issues in medicine, such as ethics and decision-making.

"A Calculation of Risk"

Mon, October 19, 2015

Beth Tarini is lead author on study published in the Journal of Pediatrics that found that few primary care physicians say they would order genetic testing or refer a child to a genetics specialist as a first step when they see children with two or more developmental delays, despite the higher risk of genetic disorders in these children.

Brian Zikmund-Fisher and Wendy Uhlmann are also co-authors.

Citation:

Tarini, Beth A., Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher, Howard M. Saal, Laurie Edmondson, and Wendy R. Uhlmann. "Primary Care Providers' Initial Evaluation of Children with Global Developmental Delay: A Clinical Vignette Study." The Journal of Pediatrics.

Research Topics: 

Tolu Olorode, MSW, MUP

Alumni

Tolu joined CBSSM in September 2012 as a graduate work study student then transitioned into a full-time Research Area Specialist Associate from August 2015 to May 2017. She received her joint Master’s in Social Work and Urban Planning from the University of Michigan. The bulk of her work at CBSSM includes assisting Dr. Susan Goold on an evaluation of the Healthy Michigan Plan (Michigan’s Medicaid Expansion).

Research Interests: 
Last Name: 
Olorode

Sacha Montas, JD, MD

Faculty

Dr. Montas is a Clinical Lecturer in the Department of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Montas holds a law and medical degrees from the University of Michigan and a Master of Bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania. He has been a member of the University of Michigan Adult Ethics Committee since 2009. His research interest is in the intersection of Law and Medicine, and Bioethics, with a focus on the influence of the legal system and legal norms on patient-physician communication and decision making.

Last Name: 
Montas

Michele Heisler, MD, MPA

Faculty

Michele Heisler, MD, MPA, is Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, Professor, School of Public Health, and Research Scientist at the Ann Arbor VA's Center for Clinical Research Management. Dr. Heisler's clinical interest is chronic disease, with a focus on diabetes. Her research centers on patient self-management of chronic illnesses, patient-doctor relations and disparities in processes and outcomes in chronic illnesses.

Last Name: 
Heisler

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury (Jun-09)

How should the US judicial system determine compensation for "pain and suffering"  Take a look at a complicated case. 

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury

Let's suppose that you're a member of a jury for a court case involving an industrial accident. A 29-year-old employee, Charlie, has suffered brain damage in this accident.

Charlie was once a skilled worker who operated complex machinery. Since the accident, he has functioned cognitively at the level of a three-year-old child, and there is no chance for improvement of his state. Charlie has no visible scars on his body and is not experiencing physical pain from the accident.
 
Furthermore, as a result of the brain damage, Charlie is emotionally happier than he was before the injury. Several witnesses have testified that Charlie was somewhat volatile before the accident—he got angry easily and had bouts of sadness. The witnesses noted that since the accident Charlie is always happy, despite his cognitive impairment.
 
You are now in the jury room. You and your fellow jury members have decided that the factory where Charlie worked had inadequate safety precautions. The jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff, Charlie. The jury has already agreed on a sum to compensate Charlie for his medical expenses, his ongoing medical care, and lost wages for the rest of his life.
 
Charlie's attorney has asked for an additional monetary award for pain and suffering. Which statement below most closely describes your thoughts, as a juror trying to decide on an award for pain and suffering?
 
  • Charlie should get a very large award for pain and suffering, since his life overall has been so adversely affected by the accident.
  • Charlie should get a moderate award for pain and suffering, since he has suffered cognitive impairment, but he does not have ongoing physical pain.
  • Charlie should get a very small award for pain and suffering, since he is actually happier now than he was before the accident.
  • I don't think that the US judicial system should allow awards for pain and suffering at all.
  • I'm not sure what pain and suffering means in a legal sense, and I don't know what to award to Charlie.

How do your answers compare?

In a recent article, CBDSM's Peter A. Ubel and Carnegie Mellon University's George Loewenstein challenge the conventional view that awards for pain and suffering should be made literally as compensation for feelings of pain and of suffering. Ubel and Loewenstein argue from their expertise in the psychology of judgment, decision making, adaptation, and valuation of health states.

They cite many studies showing that people adapt well to very serious disabilities, such as paraplegia and blindness, returning fairly quickly to near-normal levels of happiness after a period of adjustment. Thus, if juries make pain-and-suffering awards literally on the basis of misery, such awards would be unacceptably small.

But Ubel and Loewenstein delve further. Even though people with serious disabilities have normal levels of happiness, they would still prefer not to have the disabilities. "We believe that the reason for this discrepancy between hedonic measures and stated preferences . . . is that people care about many things that are not purely hedonic, such as meaning, capabilities, and range of feeling and experience."

In enlarging the definition of pain and suffering, Ubel and Loewenstein do not propose to merely add to the factors that a jury must take into consideration in the current judicial system. Indeed, the authors find several problems with the current system, including inequities in compensation and the evaluation of injuries in isolation. They include in their article a three-part proposal for a radical change in judicial procedure.

First, they would recruit a random panel of citizens to compile and categorize injuries. Groups of injuries would be ranked on the basis of the appropriate level of compensation for those injuries. This panel would call on experts to inform their decisions. "Decisions about an injury's proper category would take into account not only the emotional consequences of the injury but also the person's ability to function across important life domains—social functioning, work functioning, sexual functioning, sleep, and the like."

This list of grouped and ranked injuries would have some similarities to the list of health conditions that the State of Oregon created in the 1990s to help allocate Medicaid funds. Another existing model for this list would be lists used to make decisions about workers' compensation claims—for example, benefits for loss of a thumb are twice as great as benefits for loss of a second finger.

Second, Ubel and Loewenstein propose a mechanism for determining monetary damages. Using the list produced by the citizen group described above, federal or state legislators could determine a maximum award for pain and suffering. Based on this damage cap, a range of awards would be set for each category of injuries.

Third, the juries would enter in, using the guidelines set up in the steps described above and then tailoring awards to the individual circumstances of each case. Under this plan, juries would do what people tend to do best: compare and rank things. Ubel and Loewenstein note that "juries could help determine if the victim has extenuating circumstances that should drive the award to either the lower or upper end of acceptable compensation for that group of injuries. . . Our proposal does not do away with jury trials but instead enables juries to involve themselves in the kind of judgments they are best suited to make."

Ubel and Loewenstein conclude, "The determination of pain-and-suffering awards should be revised to take account of recent advances in understanding human judgment and decision making."

Read the article:

Ubel PA, Loewenstein G.Pain & suffering awards: It shouldn't be (just) about pain & suffering. Journal of Legal Studies 2008;37(2):S195-216.

Announcement of Position: Faculty Ethicist

Announcement of Position: Faculty Ethicist


Background
The Clinical Ethics Service within the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM) promotes a culture of patient-centered excellence by performing a comprehensive set of ethics-related activities. The aims of this service are to: liaise with and provide support to the adult and pediatric ethics committees; provide clinical ethics consultation and engage in preventative ethics endeavors; assist with ethics-related policy development on a regular and proactive basis; organize and administer structured educational programs in clinical ethics; and coordinate empiric research with relevance to clinical ethics within CBSSM.

Program Organization
The Clinical Ethics Service is led by Christian J. Vercler, MD MA and Andrew G. Shuman, MD. A dedicated clinical ethicist will manage the program on a daily basis. A cadre of faculty ethicists will rotate on service throughout the year and work closely with the clinical ethicist. Trainees and students will rotate as well. Dedicated administrative support is organized through CBSSM.


Position
The Clinical Ethics Service employs a roster of faculty ethicists who are responsible for staffing ethics consultations arising from any of the clinical venues (inpatient and outpatient; adult and pediatric) within Michigan Medicine during their time on service. They will supervise and participate in the institutional educational endeavors and preventative ethics rounds in a regular and on-going manner. Faculty ethicists will also develop and provide clinical rotations for medical students and house officers on a cohesive ethics service. Each faculty member will be expected to rotate on service for four to six weeks per year, and attend/participate in committee meetings and other events throughout the academic year (this will not necessarily require suspension of other activities when on-service). Depending on the total number appointed, each faculty ethicist will receive $15,000-$20,000 of direct salary support annually, to be distributed and allocated in conjunction with their home department. The initial appointment will last two and a half years and is renewable. Additional appointments will last two years.


Qualifications
Candidates are expected to have faculty appointments at University of Michigan and be in good academic standing; any professional background is acceptable. Candidates are expected to have qualifications that meet the standards outlined by The American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) for accreditation for clinical ethics consultants. Direct experience with clinical ethics consultation is required. Familiarity with ethics education and related clinical research would be helpful. Excellent organizational and communication skills across multidisciplinary medical fields are required.


Application Process
Candidates will be vetted and chosen by a selection committee. Candidates are asked to submit:

  • Curriculum vitae or resume
  • One page maximum summary of (1) education/training related to ethics consultation; (2) clinical ethics consultation experience; and (3) motivation/interest in the position
  • Letter of support from Department Chair/Division Head/Center Director or equivalent
  • Submit formal application via email to: lynnam@med.umich.edu


Timeline

  • Application is due September 25, 2017
  • Appointment will take effect January 1, 2018

Contacts

  • Leaders of the Clinical Ethics Service: Christian J. Vercler, MD MA & Andrew G. Shuman, MD
  • Administrative contact: Valerie Kahn – valkahn@med.umich.edu 734 615 5371

Bioethics Grand Rounds

CBSSM’s Clinical Ethics Service sponsors the monthly Bioethics Grand Rounds, focusing on ethical issues arising in health care and medicine. This educational session is open to Michigan Medicine faculty and staff and CME credit is available.

Link to previous Bioethics Grand Rounds:

Funded by: NIH

Funding Years: 2016-2021

 

There is a fundamental gap in understanding how Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) influences treatment and Decision Making for serious illnesses, like Cardiovascular disease (CVD), in older patients. Poor understanding of Clinical Decision Making is a critical barrier to the design of interventions to improve the quality and outcomes of CVD care of in older patients with MCI. The long-term goal of this research is to develop, test, and disseminate interventions aimed to improve the quality and outcomes of CVD care and to reduce CVD-related disability in older Americans with MCI. The objective of this application is to determine the extent to which people with MCI are receiving sub-standard care for the two most common CVD events, Acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and acute ischemic stroke, increasing the chance of mortality and morbidity in a population with otherwise good quality of life, and to determine how MCI influences patient preferences and physician recommendations for treatment. AMI and acute ischemic stroke are excellent models of serious, acute illnesses with a wide range of effective therapies for acute management, Rehabilitation, and secondary prevention. Our central hypothesis is that older Adults with MCI are undertreated for CVD because patients and physicians overestimate their risk of dementia and underestimate their risk of CVD. This hypothesis has been formulated on the basis of preliminary data from the applicants' pilot research. The rationale for the proposed research is that understanding how patient preferences and physician recommendations contribute to underuse of CVD treatments in patients with MCI has the potential to translate into targeted interventions aimed to improve the quality and outcomes of care, resulting in new and innovative approaches to the treatment of CVD and other serious, acute illnesses in Adults with MCI. Guided by strong preliminary data, this hypothesis will be tested by pursuing two specific aims: 1) Compare AMI and stroke treatments between MCI patients and cognitively normal patients and explore differences in Clinical outcomes associated with treatment differences; and 2) Determine the influence of MCI on patient and surrogate preferences and physician recommendations for AMI and stroke treatment. Under the first aim, a health services research approach- shown to be feasible in the applicants' hands-will be used to quantify the extent and outcomes of treatment differences for AMI and acute ischemic stroke in older patients with MCI. Under the second aim, a multi-center, mixed-methods approach and a national physician survey, which also has been proven as feasible in the applicants' hands, will be used to determine the influence of MCI on patient preferences and physician recommendations for AMI and stroke treatment. This research proposal is innovative because it represents a new and substantially different way of addressing the important public health problem of enhancing the health of older Adults by determining the extent and causes of underuse of effective CVD treatments in those with MCI. The proposed research is significant because it is expected to vertically advance and expand understanding of how MCI influences treatment and Decision Making for AMI and ischemic stroke in older patients. Ultimately, such knowledge has the potential to inform the development of targeted interventions that will help to improve the quality and outcomes of CVD care and to reduce CVD-related disability in older Americans.

PI: Deborah Levine

CO(s): Darin Zahuranec, Lewis Morgenstern & Ken Langa

Pediatric Ethics Committee

The Michigan Medicine Committee advisory groups are appointed by the Hospital's Office of Clinical Affairs. They review ethical or moral questions that may come up during a pediatrics patient's care. The consultants facilitate communication among patients, their families and the treatment team to assist everyone in making appropriate choices when difficult decisions need to be made. The Committee's goal is to help everyone decide the right thing to do. The Michigan Medicine Ethics Committee is a sub-committee of the Executive Committee on Clinical Affairs as determined by the Medical Staff Bylaws. 

About Us


The committee is available for consultation to family members, patients, staff, and health care providers. The committee may help you and your child’s medical team clarify facts, examine ethical issues, and assist in the resolution of disagreements about your child’s care. The committee includes people with additional training in medical ethics, doctors, nurses, social workers, a lawyer, a chaplain, an administrator, and members of the community
The University of Michigan has a Pediatric Ethics Committee because the best medical care requires not only medical skill but good moral judgment. The Committee’s main purpose is to offer help and guidance on moral and ethical questions, such as:

  • Should treatment be started or stopped?
  • How much should a child be told about his or her disease?
  • Is the promise of treatment worth the suffering it may cause?
  • What is the best thing to do when we must face the end of life?
  • What happens when a meeting with the Ethics Committee is requested?

The consultants on call review the patient's medical situation and treatment options. In addition, concerns and feelings of the patient, family members, and the health care team are discussed. Members of the committee may visit with patients, families and medical personnel to discuss these concerns.

Ethics Committee members discuss the information which has been gathered. The Ethics Committee makes suggestions about the best course of action. Often there are a number of options available in the course of a patient's care. Final decisions are made by the patient, family and the health care team.

The Pediatric Ethics Committee meets on the first Tuesday of the month from 12-1:30pm at University Hospital in dining rooms C&D. If you would like to attend as a guest, please contact Amy Lynn @ lynnam@med.umich.edu

Request a Consult

Monday-Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Call 734-615-1379
After normal business hours, please call 936-6267 and ask for the clinical ethicist on call to be paged.

Resources

Financial Assistance

Withdrawal and Withholding of Medical Treatment

Committee Bylaws

 

For upcoming Bioethics Grand Rounds see Events

 

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