For those of you who have been concerned about the implications of the human genome and the emergence of the human metabolome, there is another strange new creature born of modern science and roaming our planet, the incidentalome. The incidentalome is a bizarre creature without clearly defined shape or form but it is not certainly not mythical. Kohane, and others have described the incidentalome as the universe of all possible incidental findings. While this universe of possibilities is not new, its boundaries are rapidly expanding as diagnostic procedures have evolved substantially. Continue reading
Many people have pointed to the conspicuous absence of an mention of Ashley’s mastectomy in Diekema and Fost’s (2006) article on growth attenuation. There is another conspicuous absence that has not received the same attention. The authors provide no data about Ashley’s weight. This absence is troublesome since the author’s justify the procedures by indicating that Ashley was getting much larger and the primary concern was that she would become to heavy to be cared for by her family. However, they provide information about Ashley’s height before and during treatment but nothing about her weight.
How heavy was Ashley? Did her treatment succeed in attenuating her weight? Continue reading
I know Peter Singer’s assertion that children with profound mental disabilities are not entitled to “moral status”. I remember Dr. Diekema argued defending the Ashley case that Ashley is not entitled to the same dignity as others are because she is just like a baby. Now I’m shocked to read a paper written by a lawyer named Christine Ryan that says profoundly incompetent persons may not be entitled to the basic rights protected by the Constitution because they can be non-persons depending on the definitions of persons.
Revisiting the legal standards that govern requests to sterilize profoundly incompetent children: in light of the “Ashley Treatment,” is a new standard appropriate?
Christine Ryan, Fordham Law Review, September 26, 2008
This is a long article of about 40 pages. Starting with a detailed review of the Ashley case and its development, the first thing the author does is to point out that profoundly incompetent persons are not entitled to the basic individual rights acknowledged by the Constitution based on the definition of personhood. It also mentions the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and states that constitutional protections attached to persons with disabilities by the Convention require consciousness as the minimum condition of personhood, Continue reading
A guideline is being prepared by US health care officials to decide whose ventilators will be disconnected in case of swine flu pandemic. It is based on what is called the New York protocol, which “calls for hospitals to withhold ventilators from patients with serious chronic conditions such as kidney failure, cancers that have spread and have a poor prognosis, or ‘severe, irreversible neurological’ conditions that are likely to be deadly.”
Dr. Carl Schultz at the University of California at Irvine says, “The problem with lowering the standard of care is where do you stop? How low do you go? If you don’t want to put any more resources in disaster response, you keep lowering the standard.”
Read the ProPublica story below for details.
Douglas S. Diekema, MD MPH, Jeffrey R. Botkin, MD, MPH Committee on Bioethics
PEDIATRICS Vol. 124 No.2 August 2009, pp. 813-822
An excerpt from the abstract:
The American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that the withdrawal of medically administered fluids and nutrition for pediatric patients is ethically acceptable in limited circumstances. Ethics consultation is strongly recommended when particularly difficult or controversial decisions are being considered.
The Med Page Today has detailed information on this statement here. It says,
The AAP’s bioethics committee, headed by Douglas S. Diekema, MD, MPH, and Jeffrey R. Botkin, MD, developed a position statement outlining limited circumstances under which clinicians can ethically halt feeding and hydration in pediatric patients. “Medically provided fluids and nutrition may be withdrawn from a child who permanently lacks awareness and the ability to interact with the environment,” according to a statement published in the August issue of Pediatrics, the official AAP journal.
Dr. Diekema, the ethicist in charge of the Ashley case who has been trying very hard to make growth attenuation therapy into general practice, is chair of the AAP committee on Bioethics now.
As part of our Work at the Disability Ethics Project, we have just launched a new Disability Ethics Bibliography. There are currently just over 600 references with abstracts and annotations in a RefShare format that is easily searchable with downloadable results. Of course, this is only a small sampling of the relevant materials and the bibliography will continue to be a work in progress.
We welcome your help in helping us identify more of items to include. I you have additional items to suggest for the bibliography please contact us for instructions on submitting items at email@example.com
I read the full text of the growth-attenuation paper written by Dr. Diekema and Dr. Fost with others in the June issue of the Pediatrics. So many questions and mysteries again. I will point out some of them here for now. Some of the questions and mysteries will be reviewed more closely in my future posts.
1. The authors’ definition of profound cognitive disability “for purpose of growth-attenuation therapy” is not totally about cognitive disabilities but mostly about physical disabilities. It disguises the fact that growth attenuation is in fact a therapy that addresses problems caused by severe physical disabilities, not by cognitive disabilities, which they have been using as a convenient excuse for justification. But maybe we should also note that the authors didn’t forget to add “for present time” when they wrote that it should be limited to children with profound cognitive disability.
2. Their justification for excluding hysterectomy and breast bud removal from discussion is something like this: Criticism was mostly targeted at hysterectomy and breast bud removal in the Ashley case controversy in 2007 (implying maybe that growth attenuation was not all that criticized and pretty much approved?), and in addition, growth attenuation does not necessarily accompany the other two interventions. But these are lame excuses. Continue reading