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08/11/2011 - 9:15am

In March 2011, the Ontario Court Justice held, in Rasouli v. Sunnybrook Health Sciences, that Ontario healthcare providers must use the CCB to resolve intractable medical futility disputes.  In June 2011, the Court of Appeal for Ontarion affirmed that ruling.  I discussed the Rasouli case here and here and elsewhere.  

08/11/2011 - 6:24am

When a reproductive oncologist in our clinical ethics certificate program did a presentation on drug shortages in oncology last month, I thought perhaps this was just a highly specialized problem. When a few days ago I read Zeke Emanuel's piece...

08/10/2011 - 5:26pm

According to a CBC story, a Toronto woman was chastised by security guards after taking her shirt off (leaving only her rather modest black bra) at Toronto’s Festival of Beer.

…Jeanette Martin was at the annual Toronto beer gathering on Sunday when she took up a dare from one of her friends and took off her shirt. She was wearing a bra but apparently that wasn’t enough for organizers....

08/10/2011 - 12:08pm

(Via Alexandra Carmichael of Quantified Self) “Nancy Dougherty made her own set of “mindfulness pills” – placebos labeled Focus, Willpower/Energy, Calm, and Happy. The pills were embedded with sensors that transmitted signals to her phone, recording each time she took the different pills, as well as her heart rate, activity rate, and sleep. Nancy works at Proteus Biomedical, in case you’re wondering how she made this self-experiment happen. She learned that taking an “Energy” pill actually made her bike harder to work and have a higher heart rate, and taking a “Focus” pill actually made her do more work. Watch her fun talk on managing mood and playing with the placebo effect below. (Filmed at the Bay Area QS Show&Tell Meetup #19, at Singularity University.)”

08/09/2011 - 11:53pm

For decades, criticism have been directed at Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) and the federal regulations they apply for the protection of human participants in scientific research. The procedures are thought to be too cumbersome, too bureaucratic, and too inconsistently applied. Studies that are low-risk are treated almost on a part with those of higher risk by the regulatory system, and in this way attention can get distracted from the main event, i.e. research studies in which participants really could get harmed. The IRBs were seen to be either losing their mission (with procedures that did not seem to help protect research participants) or expanding their mission in illegitimate ways (examining research methodology, tracking down potential conflicts of interest, etc.). Some researchers, of course, mostly railed at IRBs for being too damned slow, and impeding the progress of their (brilliant, earth-shattering) research. But some of the more serious criticisms must have hit the mark, because the US government's Office of Management and Budget convened a working group to brainstorm revisions to federal regulations ('Common Rule'), and the group drafted an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for public comment. The ANPRM appears in dense type for 20 pages in the Federal Register, and contains a daunting 74 questions for comment. For those not yet ready to dive headlong into the regulatory depths, Emanuel and Menikoff have published a useful summary of highlights in the New England Journal of Medicine. Personally, I was wondering what the impact the proposed new revisions would have on international research. Changing the US Common Rule is no purely domestic matter; much research covered by the US federal regulations takes place abroad, and its provisions influence the regulations of other countries -- in this way the Common Rule has tremendous global reach. On the face of it, the proposed revisions don't have much of an international flavor to them, but I have been reflecting on possible implications.

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08/09/2011 - 10:36am
Biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. He suggests that language is a piece of “social technology” that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation.
08/09/2011 - 10:18am

The intersection of social media with social unrest is a massive topic these days. Twitter has been credited with playing an important role in coordinating the pro-democracy protests in Egypt, and Facebook played a role in helping police track down culprits after the Vancouver hockey riots.

Fast-forward to early August 2011. London is burning, and the riots have spread to a couple other major UK cities. The British government has called in a few thousand extra cops. And again, social media is playing a role. But this time the focus is specifically on Research in Motion’s (RIM’s) BlackBerry, and its use as a social networking tool. There have been all kinds of reports that the BlackBerry’s “BBM” messaging has been the tool of choice for coordination among London’s rioters. RIM is probably asking itself right now whether it’s really true that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity.’...

08/08/2011 - 10:01am

The real solution has nothing to do with techno-utopianism, monetary reform, austerity, or any of the other ideological cul-de-sacs currently being promoted.

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08/08/2011 - 8:01am

There’s plenty of confusion about what CSR is. Indeed most of the definitions you’ll find online don’t even read like definitions. They’ll tell you what CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is “about,” or what it “relates to,” but they won’t tell you what it is. Any definition worth its salt ought to take the words in the term seriously, and note that the term “CSR” refers to some kind of responsibility, and then explain just what kind of responsibility it is. But good luck finding such a definition. And this failure of definition isn’t just a matter of semantics. It’s critically important, because a sloppy understanding of the term gives the appearance of unifying under a single banner people who actually hold vastly different views of what a corporation’s responsibilities are.

The following two problems form the Scylla and Charybdis of CSR. If you avoid one, you run right into the other. Both spell doom....

08/08/2011 - 6:59am

I recently watched the documentary “Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors without Borders.”  This film follows two newcomer physicians to the human rights organization Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières), as they learn the difficult ropes of providing medical care under harrowing conditions.

I like this phrase and this concept.  It has been used against parts of the pharmaceutical industry that expand the concept of disease and illness to create new markets.  But it seems to also apply to end-of-life care.  Dying is normal.  Devoting tremendous resources to attempt forestalling that by hours or not at all seems like an effort to “fix the normal.”  This is especially true when there is so much else to be fixed, not only in the MSF service areas but also in the United States....