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    Forum Posts by
    Susan Gilbert

    • Fresh Territory for Bioethics: Silicon Valley

      Posted on October 28, 2015

      Biomedical researchers are increasingly looking to Silicon Valley for access to human subjects, and Silicon Valley is looking to biomedical researchers for new ventures. These relationships could be a boon to medicine, but they also raise questions about how well-informed the consent process is and how securely the privacy of the subjects’ identity and data… Read more

    • Why College Students Use Cognitive Enhancers: It’s Not Only about Grades

      Posted on June 3, 2015

      As the school year winds down, it’s safe to assume that many college students used stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall to get through finals. While the students may have been motivated to improve their odds of getting good grades, a new study suggests that students’ reasons for taking stimulants aren’t so blatantly opportunistic. The students in the study… Read more

    • Federal Recommendations on Use of Cognitive Enhancers

      Posted on April 20, 2015

      The idea that we can get better grades at school and advance our careers by taking drugs that improve concentration and other brain functions is at once controversial and tempting. Is this cheating, or is it in the same realm as drinking coffee to increase alertness? Bioethicists, medical professionals, and the general public are divided… Read more

    • Responding to Ebola: Selected Commentaries on Key Ethical Questions

      Posted on August 22, 2014

      The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest and deadliest on record, and the crisis is evolving rapidly. More than 2,200 people have been infected in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Nigeria, and more than half have died. The response to the epidemic has raised ethical questions about the fair allocation of scarce resources, the appropriate… Read more

    • More French Paradoxes

      Posted on August 8, 2014

      Death is hard to deal with anywhere, but France has some contradictory ways of providing end-of-life care, as two recent articles discuss. On the lighter side, Agence France-Presse reports on a novel service that one French hospital will launch next month to improve the quality of life of terminally ill patients: a wine bar in the… Read more

    • New Bioethics Education Resources: Read about Them Here; Find Them When the Government Shutdown Is Over

      Posted on October 2, 2013

      The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues recently announced its release of new, free materials for bioethics education. The educational materials were available for download on the commission’s website,, until 12:01 AM on October 1, when the government shut down and went dark. But you don’t have to wait until the government… Read more

    • Support for Returning Results of Alzheimer’s Disease Biomarker Research

      Posted on August 28, 2013

      This used to be a purely academic question: If you could know, years before you had symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, that you were likely to develop it–and there was no treatment or cure–would you want this information? Now it is a real dilemma because there are brain scans and other biomarker tests to detect very… Read more

    • What if the Patient is Your Mother?

      Posted on April 1, 2013

      The problems with end-of-life care are clear enough. Patients and their families/significant others still have trouble talking with one another and their doctors about how they would and would not want to spend their final days. All too often, for many reasons, patients’ wishes are not honored. Overtreatment persists, with incentives in the health care… Read more

    • Why Hospitals Should Go Greener

      Posted on December 5, 2012

      Conventional wisdom: Making environmentally friendly changes is a luxury that most hospitals can’t afford. Evidence: Making environmentally friendly changes can save hospitals a lot of money – and save the U.S. health care system billions of dollars. That is the finding of a study published by the Commonwealth Fund last month, “Can Sustainable Hospitals Help Bend the… Read more

    • When Cutting Mental Health Spending Means Passing the Buck

      Posted on November 14, 2012

      It’s no secret that community-based mental health and substance use treatment services are underfunded, but less widely known is the extent of the problem. Since 2009, the height of the Great Recession, state funding for these services has fallen by $4.35 billion. And yet the prevalence of behavioral health disorders has remained fairly constant. What… Read more

    • Health Care for Undocumented Immigrants: A Family Issue

      Posted on October 12, 2012

      In a presidential campaign riven with disagreement about nearly everything to do with health care, there is a notable area of bipartisan accord: both parties support improving children’s health and access to health care. But the reality is more complex, particularly when it concerns the American-born children of undocumented immigrants.  A commentary just posted on the Center’s… Read more

    • Take Our Poll: The Facebook Effect on Organ Donation

      Posted on September 20, 2012

      Blair and Alfred Sadler reported here a few weeks ago on the effect of Facebook’s feature, introduced last spring, that enables users to link to their local organ donation registries and share their donor status. The Sadlers, who helped write the federal law on donation, were interested in the potential of social media to help reduce the shortage… Read more

    • TEDMED 2012: Great Expectations

      Posted on April 17, 2012

      TEDMED, which took place in Washington last week, was a beehive of doctors, nurses, medical students, leaders of medical institutions and government health agencies, entrepreneurs, engineers, patients, patient advocates, athletes, musicians, artists, poets, and, yes, bioethicists — a diverse lot united by our interest in and passion for the future of health and medicine. Expectations… Read more

    • Good News for Chimpanzees in U.S. Labs

      Posted on December 15, 2011

      Two announcements today have changed the conversation about the use of chimpanzees in research. The first announcement came from an Institute of Medicine committee and its much-anticipated report on the necessity of chimpanzees in biomedical and behavioral research. The report concluded that most of this research is unnecessary. Though it did not call for a ban on the research,… Read more

    • The Winners Are . . .

      Posted on October 18, 2011

      We are pleased to announce and congratulate the winners of the Bioethics Forum Reply All contest. Wit, creativity, and social commentary have received their due recognition. We also want to share some fascinating insights and themes that emerged in the nearly 500 other responses that we received. Reading them was like dipping a cup into… Read more

    • We Want You

      Posted on September 14, 2011

      September is traditionally when people shift gears from summer to serious. It’s back to school and back to work. But before your gears are completely switched to high octane, overscheduled, overwhelmed mode, we hope you’ll tap your creative juices and participate in the Bioethics Forum Reply All contest. You can read about it in the box… Read more

    • Boy or Girl? Down Syndrome? What to Expect When You’re Testing

      Posted on August 11, 2011

      News about simple maternal blood tests that can accurately identify the sex of a fetus, genetic disorders, and other traits early in the first trimester are reviving concerns about designer babies and an increased demand for abortion. A report this week in JAMA finds that maternal blood tests can accurately identify the sex of a… Read more

    • Full Body Scans Coming to Your Local Airport

      Posted on November 8, 2010

      In time for the holiday travel season, airports around the country are installing full body scanners for added security. There are 317 scanners at 65 U.S. airports (a list can be found here); 450 are planned by the end of the year, purchased with stimulus bill funds, and 950 by the end of 2011. Scanners are… Read more

    • Ghostwriters in the Hormone Therapy Machine

      Posted on September 8, 2010

      Halloween is more than a month and a half away, but a newly published ghost story is a must-read for everyone – patients, doctors, medical journal editors, bioethicists, and others – concerned about how pharmaceutical companies plant lies in the medical literature. “The Haunting of Medical Journals: How Ghostwriting Sold `HRT,’” just posted on PLoS… Read more

    • Industry-Funded Drug Trials: Devils in the Details

      Posted on August 10, 2010

      Like the WikiLeaks documents on the war in Afghanistan, a new study on the relationship between the funding sources of drug trials and their results doesn’t tell us much in general that we didn’t already know. The study found that—surprise!—industry-funded trials are more likely than trials with other funding sources to publish outcomes favorable to the… Read more

    • Behind the Curtain of Personalized Medicine: The Havasupai Tribe Settlement

      Posted on June 14, 2010

      Personalized medicine is the Land of Oz of health care, a world where treatments work better and have fewer side effects because they are matched to each patient, especially to genetic traits that underlie particular conditions. News over the last month made this shimmering world seem closer to reality, at least for a while. First… Read more

    • Prescribing Cognitive Enhancers: A Primer

      Posted on October 28, 2009

      Over the last year, the general public has learned a lot about the use of Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs by healthy people to improve alertness and concentration. And with that awareness there appears to be a growing acceptance, or at least resignation, as a series of recent publications strongly suggests. Is it cheating for… Read more

    • Advance Care Planning and Health Care Reform

      Posted on August 14, 2009

      Dominating the news this week was the furor over a provision in the House health reform bill for Medicare to reimburse physicians for discussing advance care planning with their patients. The uproar and misinformation were disheartening to those who work in bioethics, a field that has long supported the need for patients to have their… Read more

    • The Past, Present, and Future of Bioethics

      Posted on June 16, 2009

      The Hastings Center’s 40th anniversary celebration did more than pay homage to its cofounders, Daniel Callahan and Willard Gaylin, and throw a great party – although it did both of those things. The real meat was the Hastings Center Fellows meeting in New York, a day and a half of panel discussions on bioethics – past, present,… Read more

    • Industry Funding of Research: Assessing the Harms

      Posted on May 29, 2009

      No one argues about the importance of industry funding to medical research. Most clinical trials could not take place without it. The questions are about the effects of this relationship–does it bias researchers and degrade scientific integrity and, if so, in what ways? A new study goes deeper than previous studies in answering these questions.… Read more

    • The Octuplets: Balancing the Rights of Parents and the Welfare of Children

      Posted on February 4, 2009

      The birth of octuplets in California on January 26 has focused global attention on ethical issues in human assisted reproduction. While many of the details are unknown, the mother, a 33-year-old woman who is divorced and unemployed and who already had six children, is said to have had in vitro fertilization. Tom Murray, president of… Read more

    • The Year in Bioethics: The Highs and Lows of 2008

      Posted on December 23, 2008

      It’s a tradition at The Hastings Center for staff to gather for lunch around the sturdy dining room table in the antique Hudson River mansion and former private school that is our headquarters. Attendance varies, but earlier this month everyone turned out to discuss the biggest news in bioethics over the past year – the… Read more

    • The Children’s Cold War

      Posted on November 11, 2008

      Chandra Wilson isn’t a doctor; she just plays one on TV. But  she’s giving advice about treating children’s colds that contradicts that of real doctors. Wilson, star of the hospital TV show “Grey’s Anatomy,” is the spokeswoman for a new public service campaign by the nonprescription drug trade association that says that nonprescription cough and… Read more

    • Prescribing Antibiotics for Placebo Effect

      Posted on October 24, 2008

      Would you go to a doctor who prescribes antibiotics, sedatives, and other medicines off-label as placebos? There’s a good chance that you already do. About half of U.S. internists and rheumatologists in a national survey said that they had prescribed placebo treatments to their patients in the previous year—18 percent had done so as often… Read more

    • Physician-Assisted Death: Trouble with Psychiatric Evaluations

      Posted on October 17, 2008

      In just over two weeks, Washington State residents will vote on a Death with Dignity referendum. If it passes, Washington will become the second state where physicians can legally prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients who want the option of ending their lives. And there will be all the more reason… Read more

    • Obama and McCain on Bioethics

      Posted on September 24, 2008

      The election is about six weeks away. Though the economic crisis is dominating the news now, the candidates’ positions on other issues, including many that are fundamentally bioethical, should receive attention in the presidential debates and in voters’ decisions. Here’s a roundup of where Barack Obama and John McCain stand on particular bioethics issues, as stated… Read more

    • NIMH Chelation and Autism Study: The Sound and the Fury

      Posted on July 30, 2008

      The role of news wire services is to transmit news to media outlets, but the Associated Press perhaps unwittingly went beyond its job description earlier this month with an article titled, “Fringe Autism Treatment Could Get Federal Study.” It ignited a firestorm. “Pressured by desperate parents,” the article began, “government researchers are pushing to test… Read more

    • Stem Cell Research: Fighting Ethics with Ethics

      Posted on May 30, 2008

      For nearly seven years, federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research has been banned in the United States on ethical grounds. Now, looking ahead to a new administration, proponents of lifting the ban are ramping up their effort to fight ethics with ethics. In addition to the usual ethical argument – that federal support… Read more

    • Financial Ties in Clinical Trials: Do Volunteers Care?

      Posted on April 11, 2008

      When a researcher recruits volunteers for a clinical trial, there is often an elephant in the room. The volunteers may not see it, but the researcher may wonder if it’s necessary to point it out – and how to do so without scaring the people off. The elephant is the researcher’s financial tie to the… Read more

    • The Invisible Hand in Medical Education

      Posted on March 14, 2008

      The drumbeat to restrict those “unrestricted grants” by drug companies for continuing medical education is sounding louder now that the trickle of medical journal articles raising concern has become a steady stream. One recent article stands apart: it was an expose in the British Medical Journal’s February 23 issue on the back-door deals involved in selecting… Read more

    • Fewer Bitter Pills?

      Posted on November 5, 2007

      For the first time in recent memory, there is actually some good news about drug safety. The Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act, signed into law in September, significantly expands the FDA’s power to protect us from dangerous medications. It also lifts the veil of secrecy from the process of testing new therapies. Among its… Read more