"Living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good we can." - Peter Singer
"Common sense is not so common." - Voltaire
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The ethics of admitting you messed up

By Janet D. Stemwedel | October 14, 2013
The Scientific American Blog
@docfreeride

Here is an excerpt:

Ethically speaking, mistakes are a problem because they cause harm, or because they result from a lapse in an obligation we ought to be honoring, or both. Thus, an ethical response to messing up ought to involving addressing that harm and/or getting back on track with the obligation we fell down on. What does this look like?

1. Acknowledge the harm. This needs to be the very first thing you do. To admit you messed up, you have to recognize the mess, with no qualifications. There it is.

2. Acknowledge the experiential report of the people you have harmed. If you’re serious about sharing a world (which is what ethics is all about), you need to take seriously what the people with whom your sharing that world tell you about how they feel. They have privileged access to their own lived experiences; you need to rely on their testimony of those lived experiences.

The entire article is here.

Report: NSA collecting millions of contact lists

Phys.org
Originally published October 15, 2013

The National Security Agency has been sifting through millions of contact lists from personal email and instant messaging accounts around the world—including those of Americans—in its effort to find possible links to terrorism or other criminal activity, according to a published report.

The Washington Post reported late Monday that the spy agency intercepts hundreds of thousands of email address books every day from private accounts on Yahoo, Gmail, Facebook and Hotmail that move though global data links. The NSA also collects about a half million buddy lists from live chat services and email accounts.

The entire story is here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The potential benefit of the placebo effect in sham-controlled trials: implications for risk-benefit assessments and informed consent

By Remy L Brim and Franklin G Miller
J Med Ethics 2013; 39:703-707 doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-101045

Abstract

There has been considerable debate surrounding the ethics of sham-controlled trials of procedures and interventions. Critics argue that these trials are unethical because participants assigned to the control group have no prospect of benefit from the trial, yet they are exposed to all the risks of the sham intervention. However, the placebo effect associated with sham procedures can often be substantial and has been well documented in the scientific literature. We argue that, in light of the scientific evidence supporting the benefits of sham interventions for pain and Parkinson's disease that stem from the placebo effect, these sham-controlled trials should be considered as offering potential direct benefit to participants. If scientific evidence demonstrates the positive effect of placebo from sham interventions on other conditions, sham-controlled trials of interventions for the treatment of these conditions should be considered to have prospects of benefit as well. This potential benefit should be taken into account by research ethics committees in risk-benefit analyses, and be included in informed consent documents.

The article is here.

Pharmaceutical firms paid to attend meetings of panel that advises FDA

By Peter Whoriskey
The Washington Post
Originally published October 8, 2013

A scientific panel that shaped the federal government’s policy for testing the safety and effectiveness of painkillers was funded by major pharmaceutical companies that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the chance to affect the thinking of the Food and Drug Administration, according to hundreds of e-mails obtained by a public records request.

The e-mails show that the companies paid as much as $25,000 to attend any given meeting of the panel, which had been set up by two academics to provide advice to the FDA on how to weigh the evidence from clinical trials. A leading FDA official later called the group “an essential collaborative effort.”

Patient advocacy groups said the electronic communications suggest that the regulators had become too close to the companies trying to crack into the $9 billion painkiller market in the United States.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Moral responsibility for (un)healthy behaviour

Rebecca C H Brown
Journal of Medical Ethics
J Med Ethics 2013;39:695-698 doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-100774

Abstract

Combating chronic, lifestyle-related disease has become a healthcare priority in the developed world. The role personal responsibility should play in healthcare provision has growing pertinence given the growing significance of individual lifestyle choices for health. Media reporting focussing on the ‘bad behaviour’ of individuals suffering lifestyle-related disease, and policies aimed at encouraging ‘responsibilisation’ in healthcare highlight the importance of understanding the scope of responsibility ascriptions in this context. Research into the social determinants of health and psychological mechanisms of health behaviour could undermine some commonly held and tacit assumptions about the moral responsibility of agents for the sorts of lifestyles they adopt. I use Philip Petit's conception of freedom as ‘fitness to be held responsible’ to consider the significance of some of this evidence for assessing the moral responsibility of agents. I propose that, in some cases, factors outside the agent's control may influence behaviour in such a way as to undermine her freedom along the three dimensions described by Pettit: freedom of action; a sense of identification with one's actions; and whether one's social position renders one vulnerable to pressure from more powerful others.

The entire article is here.

Preventing Weight Bias: A Toolkit for Professionals in Clinical Practice

Yale Rudd Center
Resource for Clinicians

Weight bias jeopardizes patients' emotional and physical health. As the majority of Americans are now overweight or obese, this is an important clinical concern, one that no provider can afford to ignore.

This toolkit is designed to help clinicians across a variety of practice settings with easy-to-implement solutions and resources to improve delivery of care for overweight and obese patients. The resources are designed for busy professionals and customized for various practice settings. They range from simple strategies to improve provider-patient communication and ways to make positive changes in the office environment , to profound ones, including self-examination of personal biases.

The entire 8 Module Toolkit is here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Dangers of Pseudoscience

By MASSIMO PIGLIUCCI and MAARTEN BOUDRY
The New York Times - Opinionator
Originally published October 10, 2013

Philosophers of science have been preoccupied for a while with what they call the “demarcation problem,” the issue of what separates good science from bad science and pseudoscience (and everything in between). The problem is relevant for at least three reasons.

The first is philosophical: Demarcation is crucial to our pursuit of knowledge; its issues go to the core of debates on epistemology and of the nature of truth and discovery. The second reason is civic: our society spends billions of tax dollars on scientific research, so it is important that we also have a good grasp of what constitutes money well spent in this regard. Should the National Institutes of Health finance research on “alternative medicine”? Should the Department of Defense fund studies on telepathy? Third, as an ethical matter, pseudoscience is not — contrary to popular belief — merely a harmless pastime of the gullible; it often threatens people’s welfare, sometimes fatally so. For instance, millions of people worldwide have died of AIDS because they (or, in some cases, their governments) refuse to accept basic scientific findings about the disease, entrusting their fates to folk remedies and “snake oil” therapies.

The entire article is here.

Suit Could Determine Protections for Police Department Whistle-Blowers

By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN
The New York Times
Published: October 13, 2013

When Officer Craig Matthews complained to his precinct commander about a quota system that he believed was resulting in illegal street stops and arrests, it did not take long, he said, for him to see a response: he was given undesirable assignments, a mediocre performance review and the cold shoulder from his immediate supervisors.

So Officer Matthews filed a federal lawsuit, seeking protection from retaliation by invoking the First Amendment — a standard strategy for whistle-blowers who believe they have been punished for coming forward.

But because Officer Matthews, 40, is with the New York Police Department, his rights are less assured.

The city has taken the position that because officers are expected to report misconduct, those who come forward as whistle-blowers are simply fulfilling their duty established by the patrol guide, a voluminous book of police procedures.

The entire story is here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Drug discovery: A jump-start for electroceuticals

Kristoffer Famm, Brian Litt, Kevin J. Tracey, Edward S. Boyden & Moncef Slaoui
Nature 496, 159–161 (11 April 2013) doi:10.1038/496159a

Here are some excerpts:

Imagine a day when electrical impulses are a mainstay of medical treatment. Your clinician will administer 'electroceuticals' that target individual nerve fibres or specific brain circuits to treat an array of conditions. These treatments will modulate the neural impulses controlling the body, repair lost function and restore health. They could, for example, coax insulin from cells to treat diabetes, regulate food intake to treat obesity and correct balances in smooth-muscle tone to treat hypertension and pulmonary diseases.

(cut)

Critics will argue that we underestimate the complexity of the nervous system; the challenges in reliably, durably and non-disruptively manipulating groups of individual neurons and the sheer volume of neural information flowing through these circuits. We would argue that miniaturization and big-data handling have been among the most rapidly advancing areas of scientific research in the past decade. Starting off with peripheral intervention points and simpler circuits should also help.

The entire story is here, hiding behind a paywall.

Tracking Suicide Risk Factors Through Twitter in the US

By Jared Jashinsky, Scott H. Burton, Carl L. Hanson, and others
Crisis  DOI10.1027/0227-5910/a000234

Background:
Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Social media such as Twitter is an emerging surveillance tool that may assist researchers in tracking suicide risk factors in real time.

Aims:
To identify suicide-related risk factors through Twitter conversations by matching on geographic suicide rates from vital statistics data. Method: At-risk tweets were filtered from the Twitter stream using keywords and phrases created from suicide risk factors. Tweets were grouped by state and departures from expectation were calculated. The values for suicide tweeters were compared against national data of actual suicide rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Results:
A total of 1,659,274 tweets were analyzed over a 3-month period with 37,717 identified as at-risk for suicide. Midwestern and western states had a higher proportion of suicide-related tweeters than expected, while the reverse was true for southern and eastern states. A strong correlation was observed between state Twitter-derived data and actual state age-adjusted suicide data.

Conclusion:
Twitter may be a viable tool for real-time monitoring of suicide risk factors on a large scale. This study demonstrates that individuals who are at risk for suicide may be detected through social media.

The entire article is here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ethical questions science can’t answer

By Massimo Pigliucci
Rationally Speaking Blog
Originally posted October 11, 2013

Yes, yes, we’ve covered this territory before. But you might have heard that Sam Harris has reopened the discussion by challenging his critics, luring them out of their hiding places with the offer of cold hard cash. You see, even though Sam has received plenty of devastating criticism in print and other venues for the thesis he presents in The Moral Landscape (roughly: there is no distinction between facts and values, hence science is the way to answer moral questions), he is — not surprisingly — unconvinced. Hence the somewhat gimmicky challenge. We’ll see how that ones goes, I already have my entry ready (but the submission period doesn’t open until February 2nd).

Be that as it may, I’d like to engage my own thoughtful readers with a different type of challenge (sorry, no cash!), one from which I hope we can all learn something as the discussion unfolds. It seems to me pretty obvious (but I could be wrong) that there are plenty of ethical issues that simply cannot be settled by science, so I’m going to give a few examples below and ask all of you to: a) provide more and/or b) argue that I am mistaken, and that these questions really can be answered scientifically.

The entire article is here.

Behind Flurry of Killing, Potency of Hate

By KATRIN BENNHOLD
The New York Times
Published: October 12, 2013

Here are some excerpts:

“What you’re seeing in that moment,” he said in an interview last week, “is not a human being.”

It is dangerous to assume that it takes a monster to commit a monstrosity, said Herbert Kelman, professor emeritus of social ethics at Harvard.

“We are all capable of such things,” said Mr. Kelman, 86, whose family fled Vienna under the Nazis in 1939. “It doesn’t excuse anything, it doesn’t justify anything and it is by no means a full explanation. But it’s something that is worth remembering: We are dealing in a sense with human behavior responding to certain circumstances.”

Overcoming a deep-seated proscription against killing is not easy. In his book “Ordinary Men,” Christopher R. Browning described how a German police battalion staffed with fathers, businessmen and plumbers struggled as they executed thousands of Jews in Poland.

The entire story is here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

I'm OK, You're Not OK: Right Supramarginal Gyrus Plays an Important Role in Empathy

Science Daily
Originally published October 9, 2013

Egoism and narcissism appear to be on the rise in our society, while empathy is on the decline. And yet, the ability to put ourselves in other people's shoes is extremely important for our coexistence. A research team headed by Tania Singer from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences has discovered that our own feelings can distort our capacity for empathy. This emotionally driven egocentricity is recognised and corrected by the brain. When, however, the right supramarginal gyrus doesn't function properly or when we have to make particularly quick decisions, our empathy is severely limited.

When assessing the world around us and our fellow humans, we use ourselves as a yardstick and tend to project our own emotional state onto others. While cognition research has already studied this phenomenon in detail, nothing is known about how it works on an emotional level. It was assumed that our own emotional state can distort our understanding of other people's emotions, in particular if these are completely different to our own.

The entire story is here.


Magnetic Manipulation of the Sense of Morality

By Mo Castandi
Neuroscience
Originally published March 10, 2010

WHEN making moral judgements, we rely on our ability to make inferences about the beliefs and intentions of others. With this so-called “theory of mind”, we can meaningfully interpret their behaviour, and decide whether it is right or wrong. The legal system also places great emphasis on one’s intentions: a “guilty act” only produces criminal liability when it is proven to have been performed in combination with a “guilty mind”, and this, too, depends on the ability to make reasoned moral judgements.

MIT researchers now show that this moral compass can be very easily skewed. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they report that magnetic pulses which disrupt activity in a specific region of the brain’s right hemisphere can interfere with the ability to make certain types of moral judgements, so that hypothetical situations involving attempted harm are perceived to be less morally forbidden and more permissible.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Proposed Treatment To Fix Genetic Diseases Raising Ethics Issues

by ROB STEIN
NPR News
Originally published October 09, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Specifically, the research would create an egg with healthy mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Unlike the DNA that most people are familiar with — the 23 pairs of human chromosomes that program most of our body processes — mtDNA is the bit of genetic material inside mitochondria, living structures inside a cell that provide its energy.

Scientists estimate that one in every 200 women carries defects in her mtDNA. Between one in 2,000 and one in 4,000 babies may be born each year with syndromes caused by these genetic glitches; the syndromes range from mild to severe. In many cases, there is no treatment and the affected child dies early in life.

The entire story is here.

Researchers Press for Broad Ban on Hockey Fights

By JEFF Z. KLEIN
The New York Times
Published: October 9, 2013

Researchers at a Mayo Clinic conference on concussions in hockey called Wednesday for a ban on fighting at all levels of the sport, eight days after a Montreal Canadiens enforcer was hospitalized because of a fight on opening night of the N.H.L. season.

“Science has responded to the game on the ice,” said Ken Dryden, a Hall of Fame Canadiens goalie and a member of the Canadian Parliament, who spoke at the conference. “Now it’s time for the game to respond to the science.”

The entire story is here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quality Attestation for Clinical Ethics Consultants: A Two-Step Model from the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities

By Eric Kodish, Joseph J. Fins, and others
The Hastings Center Report
Originally published October 1, 2013

Abstract

Clinical ethics consultation is largely outside the scope of regulation and oversight, despite its importance. For decades, the bioethics community has been unable to reach a consensus on whether there should be accountability in this work, as there is for other clinical activities that influence the care of patients. The American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, the primary society of bioethicists and scholars in the medical humanities and the organizational home for individuals who perform CEC in the United States, has initiated a two-step quality attestation process as a means to assess clinical ethics consultants and help identify individuals who are qualified to perform this role. This article describes the process.

The entire story is here.

Professionalism and Caring for Medicaid Patients — The 5% Commitment?

Lawrence P. Casalino, M.D., Ph.D.
October 9, 2013 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1310974

Medicaid is an important federal–state partnership that provides health insurance for more than one fifth of the U.S. population — 73 million low-income people in 2012. The Affordable Care Act will expand Medicaid coverage to millions more. But 30% of office-based physicians do not accept new Medicaid patients, and in some specialties, the rate of nonacceptance is much higher — for example, 40% in orthopedics, 44% in general internal medicine, 45% in dermatology, and 56% in psychiatry. Physicians practicing in higher-income areas are less likely to accept new Medicaid patients. Physicians who do accept new Medicaid patients may use various techniques to severely limit their number — for example, one study of 289 pediatric specialty clinics showed that in the 34% of these clinics that accepted new Medicaid patients, the average waiting time for an appointment was 22 days longer for children on Medicaid than for privately insured children.

The entire story is here.

Thanks to Gary Schoener for this information.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Who's Afraid of Peer Review?

By John Bohannon
Science 4 October 2013:
Vol. 342 no. 6154 pp. 60-65
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6154.60

On 4 July, good news arrived in the inbox of Ocorrafoo Cobange, a biologist at the Wassee Institute of Medicine in Asmara. It was the official letter of acceptance for a paper he had submitted 2 months earlier to the Journal of Natural Pharmaceuticals, describing the anticancer properties of a chemical that Cobange had extracted from a lichen.

In fact, it should have been promptly rejected. Any reviewer with more than a high-school knowledge of chemistry and the ability to understand a basic data plot should have spotted the paper's short-comings immediately. Its experiments are so hopelessly flawed that the results are meaningless.

I know because I wrote the paper.

The entire story is here.

A Few Predictions on the Sunshine Act

By Genevieve Pham-Kanter
The Lab @ Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics - Harvard


The Sunshine Act–for those of you who did not meticulously read all 11,000 sections of Bill HR 3590–is that part of last year's health care reform law that requires pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to report payments that they make to doctors for consulting services, speaking, meals, research grants, and other gifts of monetary value.

These payments have long been cause for concern because of their potential to influence the prescribing and research practices of payment recipients (for background, see this Institute of Medicine report). Surely requiring the disclosure of these potentially distorting payments would be a good thing; what more needs to be said?

The entire story is here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The New Asylums: Jails Swell With Mentally Ill

By Gary Fields and Ericka Phillips
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published September 25, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

America's lockups are its new asylums. After scores of state mental institutions were closed beginning in the 1970s, few alternatives materialized. Many of the afflicted wound up on the streets, where, untreated, they became more vulnerable to joblessness, drug abuse and crime.

The country's three biggest jail systems -- Cook County, in Illinois; Los Angeles County; and New York City -- are on the front lines. With more than 11,000 prisoners under treatment on any given day, they represent by far the largest mental-health treatment facilities in the country. By comparison, the three largest state-run mental hospitals have a combined 4,000 beds.

Put another way, the number of mentally ill prisoners the three facilities handle daily is equal to 28% of all beds in the nation's 213 state psychiatric hospitals, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute Inc.

The entire story is here, hiding behind a paywall.

Sense and Superstition

By JANE L. RISEN and A. DAVID NUSSBAUM
The New York Times
Published: October 4, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Research finds that people, superstitious or not, tend to believe that negative outcomes are more likely after they “jinx” themselves. Boast that you’ve been driving for 20 years without an accident, and your concern about your drive home that evening rises. The superstitious may tell you that your concern is well founded because the universe is bound to punish your hubris. Psychological research has a less magical explanation: boasting about being accident-free makes the thought of getting into an accident jump to mind and, once there, that thought makes you worry.

That makes sense intuitively. What’s less intuitive is how a simple physical act, like knocking on wood, can alleviate that concern.

The entire story is here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ethics: Taboo genetics

By Ericka Check Hayden
Nature.com
Originally published October 2, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

At the root of this caution is the widespread but antiquated idea that genetics is destiny — that someone's genes can accurately predict complex behaviours and traits regardless of their environment. The public and many scientists have continued to misinterpret modern findings on the basis of this — fearing that the work will lead to a new age of eugenics, preemptive imprisonment and discrimination against already marginalized groups.

“People can take science and assume it is far more determinative than it is — and, by making that assumption, make choices that we will come to regret as a society,” says Nita Farahany, a philosopher and lawyer at Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina.

But trying to forestall such poor choices by drawing red lines around certain areas subverts science, says Christopher Chabris of Union College in Schenectady, New York. Funding for research in some areas dries up and researchers are dissuaded from entering promising fields. “Any time there's a taboo or norm against studying something for anything other than good scientific reasons, it distorts researchers' priorities and can harm the understanding of related topics,” he says.

The entire story is here.

Great Betrayals

By ANNA FELS
The New York Times - Opinion
Published: October 5, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Discoveries of such secrets typically bring on tumultuous crises. Ironically, however, in my clinical experience, it is often the person who lied or cheated who has the easier time. People who transgressed might feel self-loathing, regret or shame. But they have the possibility of change going forward, and their sense of their own narrative, problematic though it may be, is intact. They knew all along what they were doing and made their own decisions. They may have made bad choices, but at least those were their own and under their control. Now they can make new, better choices.

And to an astonishing extent, the social blowback for such miscreants is often transient and relatively minor. They can change! Our culture, in fact, wholeheartedly supports such “new beginnings” — even celebrates them. It has a soft spot for the prodigal sons and daughters who set about repairing their ways, for tales of people starting over: reformed addicts, unfaithful spouses who rededicate themselves to family, convicted felons who find redemption in religion. Talk shows thrive on these tales. Perhaps it’s part of our powerful national belief in self-help and self-creation. It’s never too late to start anew.

The entire story is here.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Neural Basis of Free Will: Criterial Causation by Peter Ulric Tse (MIT Press, 2013)

By Stephen L. Macknik | August 12, 2013
Scientific American Book Review

Here are two excerpts:

If our universe is deterministic in this way there can be no free will because you were destined to make that same decision—every single one of your decisions—from the very moment of the big bang. It’s not that you don’t make decisions: you do. But you’ll make them the same exact way in two different universes that have identical big bangs. It means that the universe conspired from its very inception to bring you and your significant other together. It’s quite romantic, actually, so long as you’ve been fortunate enough to have a nice life. But if not, you’re truly screwed, and the universe has been literally plotting your demise for the last 14 billion years.

(cut)

Tse has thought through this enormous problem and realized something important that brings free will back to the realm of the living. Remember that determinism is an unavoidable fact of the universe at the macroscopic but not the quantum level. Well what if the macroscopic universe is not deterministic because the brain is designed to amplify quantum level particle effects to the macroscopic level through the action of specialized neuronal channels that make decisions potentially truly stochastic?

The entire story is here.

Second-Person vs. Third-Person Presentations of Moral Dilemmas

By Eric Schwitzgebel
Experimental Philosophy Blog
Originally published on 10/03/2013

You know the trolley problems, of course. An out-of-control trolley is headed toward five people it will kill if nothing is done. You can flip a switch and send it to a side track where it will kill one different person instead. Should you flip the switch? What if, instead of flipping a switch, the only way to save the five is to push someone into the path of the trolley, killing that one person?

In evaluating this scenario, does it matter if the person standing near the switch with the life-and-death decision to make is "John" as opposed to "you"? Nadelhoffer & Feltz presented the switch version of the trolley problem to undergraduates from Florida State University. Forty-three saw the problem with "you" as the actor; 65% of the them said it was permissible to throw the switch. Forty-two saw the problem with "John" as the actor; 90% of them said it was permissible to throw the switch, a statistically significant difference.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Humans Are Already More "Enhanced" by Technology Than We Realize

By Evan Selinger
Slate.com
Originally published October 4, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Transhumanists “view human nature as a work in progress” and hope that developments in science and technology will enable us to become people “with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have”.  Some of its adherents truly do believe parents are morally obliged “to have the healthiest children through all natural and artificial means available.” Brashear wants her audience to know about their controversial ideology of “procreative beneficence,” rather than remaining unaware of its existence and influence.

Brashear also wants us to question whether society has an unhealthy obsession with competitiveness. If so, we should pause and ask what will happen in the future when the skills and abilities we respect today—or even just consider typical—become obsolete?

The entire article is here.

10 ways to create “False Knowledge” in Psychology

By Graham Davey
The Graham Davey Blog
Originally posted September 30, 201

There’s been quite a good deal of discussion recently about (1) how we validate a scientific fact (herehere and here), and (2) whether psychology – and in particular some branches of psychology – are prone to generate fallacious scientific knowledge (here and here). As psychologists, we are all trained (I hope) to be scientists – exploring the boundaries of knowledge and trying as best we can’ to create new knowledge, but in many of our attempts to pursue our careers and pay the mortgage, are we badly prone to creating false knowledge? Yes – we probably are! Here are just a few examples, and I challenge most of you psychology researchers who read this post to say you haven’t been a culprit in at least one of these processes!

Here are 10 ways to risk creating false knowledge in psychology.

1.  Create your own psychological construct. Constructs can be very useful ways of summarizing and formalizing unobservable psychological processes, but researchers who invent constructs need to know a lot about the scientific process, make sure they don’t create circular arguments, and must be in touch with other psychological research that is relevant to the understanding they are trying to create. 


Thanks to Ed Zuckerman for this information.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

For Med Students, Love From the Drug Rep

By Pauline Chen
The New York Times - Well
Originally published October 3, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

A significant proportion of medical schools and teaching hospitals end up the beneficiaries of such promotional largesse. But in recent years, leaders in medical education and, more notably, a growing contingent of medical students, have called for changes in a professional culture that accepts interactions with industry as the “norm.” In 2007, the American Medical Students Association published the PharmFree Scorecard, a rating system that grades medical schools on the strength of their policies regulating interactions between industry and students and faculty. Around the same time, the Association of American Medical Colleges and several medical schools issued policy statements calling for a decrease in the influence of industry in education.

Observers hailed these initiatives as transformative, but in the years since it’s not been all that clear that a transformation has actually occurred.

The entire story is here.

More HIPAA enforcement coming

By Erin McCann
Healthcare IT News
Originally published September 24, 2013

When Office for Civil Rights Director Leon Rodriguez took the stage Monday to talk HIPAA at the HIMSS Media and Healthcare IT News Privacy and Security Forum, the timing was perfect.
With the HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule taking effect Sept. 23, Rodgriguez talked to the increased enforcement to come, the importance of properly safeguarding patient privacy and the what-not-to-dos, or the breach blunders, that have resulted in hefty monetary penalties for some groups who failed to take patient privacy and security seriously.

"Today is a critical day for the Omnibus," said Rodriguez, who explained that the agency is working to strike a balance between effective enforcement and clearly communicating what all the rules are surrounding patient privacy and security.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov

By Pam Belluck
The New York Times - Well
Originally posted October 3, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

That is the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. It found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.

The researchers say the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.

The entire story is here.

Barter sometimes allow patients to pay for health care they otherwise could not afford

By Consumer Reports
Published: September 30

Here is an excerpt:

Avitzur, who is medical adviser to Consumer Reports, recommended pool therapy, and the patient responded to it like the proverbial fish to water, shedding all his excess weight and experiencing periods of pain relief for the first time in years. But his insurance benefits for physical therapy ran out, and he couldn’t afford to continue. Avitzur suggested that he offer to help out as a therapy assistant in exchange for free use of the pool, and the pool manager accepted the deal.

Resorting to the age-old art of bartering has helped at least some of the nearly 49 million Americans who are uninsured and the millions more whose health benefits are so skimpy they often can’t afford care.

The entire story is here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Professor faked 61 pieces of research: Volkskrant

Dutch News
Originally posted September 23, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Mart Bax, who retired in 2002, was involved in fraud for at least 15 years, publishing invented research, recycling his work under other names and lying about awards and other work, the Volkskrant says.

The entire story is here.

Thanks to Gary Schoener for this information.

Does non-belief in free will make us better or worse?

Studies have shown that people who believe things happen randomly and not through our own choice often behave much worse than those who believe the opposite.

By Tom Stafford
BBC - Future
Originally published September 25, 2013

Are you reading this because you chose to? Or are you doing so as a result of forces beyond your control?

After thousands of years of philosophy, theology, argument and meditation on the riddle of free will, I’m not about to solve it for you in this column (sorry). But what I can do is tell you about some thought-provoking experiments by psychologists, which suggest that, regardless of whether we have free will or not, whether we believe we do can have a profound impact on how we behave.

The issue is simple: we all make choices, but could those choices be made otherwise? From a religious perspective it might seem as if a divine being knows all, including knowing in advance what you will choose (so your choices could not be otherwise). Or we can take a physics-based perspective?

The entire story is here.

Monday, October 14, 2013

National Trends in Psychotropic Medication Use in Young Children: 1994–2009

By Vilawan Chirdkiatgumchai, and others
Pediatrics
doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-1546

OBJECTIVE: To examine recent national trends in psychotropic use for very young children at US outpatient medical visits.

METHODS: Data for 2- to 5-year-old children (N = 43 598) from the 1994–2009 National Ambulatory and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys were used to estimate the weighted percentage of visits with psychotropic prescriptions. Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with psychotropic use. Time effects were examined in 4-year blocks (1994–1997, 1998–2001, 2002–2005, and 2006–2009).

RESULTS: Psychotropic prescription rates were 0.98% from 1994–1997, 0.83% from 1998–2001, 1.45% from 2002–2005, and 1.00% from 2006–2009. The likelihood of preschool psychotropic use was highest in 2002–2005 (1994–1997 adjusted odds ratio [AOR] versus 2002–2005: 0.67; 1998–2001 AOR versus 2002–2005: 0.63; 2006–2009 AOR versus 2002–2005: 0.64), then diminished such that the 2006–2009 probability of use did not differ from 1994–1997 or from 1998–2001. Boys (AOR versus girls: 1.64), white children (AOR versus other race: 1.42), older children (AOR for 4 to 5 vs 2 to 3 year olds: 3.87), and those lacking private insurance (AOR versus privately insured: 2.38) were more likely than children from other groups to receive psychotropic prescriptions.

CONCLUSIONS: Psychotropic prescription was notable for peak usage in 2002–2005 and sociodemographic disparities in use. Further study is needed to discern why psychotropic use in very young children stabilized in 2006–2009, as well as reasons for increased use in boys, white children, and those lacking private health insurance.

Students Criticize 'Collusion' Between Banks and Colleges

By Kelly Field
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally published October 1, 2013

Congress and federal regulators should crack down on financial arrangements between colleges and banks, students and consumer advocates said on Monday at a forum arranged by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In both live and videotaped testimony, students described how their colleges had steered them toward banks and other companies that offered the colleges revenue sharing, staff support, or other perks. Some said they had felt "pressured" or "obligated" to sign up for high-fee debit cards or checking accounts; others said they had simply trusted their institutions to recommend the best products available.

The entire article is here.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Psychotherapy’s Image Problem

By BRANDON A. GAUDIANO
The New York Times- Op Ed
Published: September 29, 2013

PSYCHOTHERAPY is in decline. In the United States, from 1998 to 2007, the number of patients in outpatient mental health facilities receiving psychotherapy alone fell by 34 percent, while the number receiving medication alone increased by 23 percent.

This is not necessarily for a lack of interest. A recent analysis of 33 studies found that patients expressed a three-times-greater preference for psychotherapy over medications.

The entire story is here

Some Popular Misconceptions of Philosophy

By Paul So
Facebook Post
September 29, 2013 at 2:47am

From my personal experience,  I have encountered many, many, and many misconceptions that people have about philosophy. I deliberately use the word "many" three times to emphasize that it can never be emphasized any less. I have encountered so many misconceptions that I practically lost count. I want to identify some of the most popular and common misconceptions people have about not only philosophy but what philosophers do in general. The origins of these misconceptions are not entirely known, but I suspect (as usual) that it is probably related to the mass media of popular culture.

While this may seem unfair to some readers, I want to focus specifically on what philosophers from the analytic traditions do. I admit that I do have a bias for analytic philosophy and I am personally not very fond of continental philosophy (partially because postmodernism is somewhat popular in that tradition), but I also want to say that I do not know very much about continental philosophy so I cannot judge what continental philosophers really do. Another reason is that important figures from continental philosophy such as Nietzsche, Sartre, and Heidegger are often the public faces of philosophy that crowd out other equally important philosophers from the analytic tradition; analytic philosophers are largely underrepresented in the public (besides Peter Singer, Bertrand Russell, Patricia Churchland, and Noam Chomsky, who to some extent does worth within analytic tradition) compare to some historical figures associated with continental philosophy. So, I want to identify some popular misconceptions of philosophy and then explain why they are misconceptions from the point of view of analytic philosophy.

Here is a list of several popular misconceptions I come across.

(1) Philosophy is about finding the meaning of life, it is a quintessential spiritual enterprise to improve our way of life. 

The other misconceptions and entire Facebook post is here.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Testosterone Inhibits Trust but Promotes Reciprocity

By Maarten A. S. Boksem and others
Psychological Science 0956797613495063, first published on September 26, 2013

Abstract

The steroid hormone testosterone has been associated with behavior intended to obtain or maintain high social status. Although such behavior is typically characterized as aggressive and competitive, it is clear that high social status is achieved and maintained not only through antisocial behavior but also through prosocial behavior. In the present experiment, we investigated the impact of testosterone administration on trust and reciprocity using a double-blind randomized control design. We found that a single dose of 0.5 mg of testosterone decreased trust but increased generosity when repaying trust. These findings suggest that testosterone may mediate different types of status-seeking behavior. It may increase competitive, potentially aggressive, and antisocial behavior when social challenges and threats (i.e., abuse of trust and betrayal) need to be considered; however, it may promote prosocial behavior in the absence of these threats, when high status and good reputation may be best served by prosocial behavior.

The entire article is here, hiding behind a paywall.

How serotonin shapes moral judgment and behavior

By Jenifer Z. Siegel and Molly J. Crockett
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Originally published September 24, 2013

DOI: 10.1111/nyas.12229

Abstract

Neuroscientists are now discovering how hormones and brain chemicals shape social behavior, opening potential avenues for pharmacological manipulation of ethical values. Here, we review recent studies showing how altering brain chemistry can alter moral judgment and behavior, focusing in particular on the neuromodulator serotonin and its role in shaping values related to harm and fairness. We synthesize previous findings and consider the potential mechanisms through which serotonin could increase the aversion to harming others. We present a process model whereby serotonin influences social behavior by shifting social preferences in the positive direction, enhancing the value people place on others’ outcomes. This model may explain previous findings relating serotonin function to prosocial behavior, and makes new predictions regarding how serotonin may influence the neural computation of value in social contexts.

The entire paper is here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

When There’s No Family

By PAULA SPAN
The New York Times
Originally published September 23, 2013

I rarely write about advance directives and end-of-life discussions without a few readers asking, sometimes plaintively: What if you don’t have a family?

“The presumption is that everyone has someone available, someone most likely younger or in better health, and better able to carry out one’s wishes or make decisions with your guidance,” Cheryl from Westchester commented the last time the subject arose.

But not everyone does.

The entire story is here.

Lacking Rules, Insurers Balk at Paying for Intensive Psychiatric Care

By REED ABELSON
The New York Times
Published: September 27, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Melissa’s treatment did not come cheap: it ultimately cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Ms. Morelli said. Patients often find themselves at odds with health insurers, but the battles are perhaps nowhere so heated as with the treatment of serious mental illness.

It was not supposed to be this way. A federal law, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, was aimed at avoiding fights like this over coverage by making sure insurers would cover mental illnesses just as they cover treatment for diseases like cancer or multiple sclerosis.

The entire story is here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Blind ethics: Closing one’s eyes polarizes moral judgments and discourages dishonest behavior

AUTHORS: E. M. Caruso and F. Gino
PUBLICATION: Cognition (forthcoming)

ABSTRACT

Four experiments demonstrate that closing one's eyes affects ethical judgment and behavior because it induces people to mentally simulate events more extensively. People who considered situations with their eyes closed rather than open judged immoral behaviors as more unethical and moral behaviors as more ethical. In addition, considering potential decisions with closed eyes decreased stated intentions to behave ethically and actual self-interested behavior. This relationship was mediated by the more extensive mental simulation that occurred with eyes closed rather than open, which, in turn, intensified emotional reactions to the ethical situation. We discuss the implications of these findings for moral psychology and ethical decision making.

The entire article is here.

Easing Doctor Burnout With Mindfulness

By Pauline Chen
The New York Times
Originally published September 26, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Research over the last few years has revealed that unrelenting job pressures cause two-thirds of fully trained doctors to experience the emotional, mental and physical exhaustion characteristic of burnout. Health care workers who are burned out are at higher risk for substance abuse, lying, cheating and even suicide. They tend to make more errors and lose their sense of empathy for others. And they are more prone to leave clinical practice.

Unfortunately, relatively little is known about treating burnout. But promising research points to mindfulness, the ability to be fully present and attentive in the moment, as a possible remedy. A few small studies indicate that mindfulness training courses can help doctors become more focused, more empathetic and less emotionally exhausted.

The entire story is here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

F.D.A. to Regulate Some Health Apps

By SABRINA TAVERNISE
The New York Times
Published: September 23, 2013

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it would regulate only a small portion of the rapidly expanding universe of mobile health applications, software programs that run on smartphones and tablets and perform the same functions as medical devices.

Agency officials said their goal is to oversee apps that function like medical devices, performing ultrasounds, for example, and that could potentially pose risks to patients. Tens of thousands of health apps have sprung up in recent years, including apps that count steps or calories for fitness and weight loss, but agency officials said they would not regulate those types of apps.

The entire story is here.

Concentrating on Kindness

Tania Singer helped found the field of social neuroscience. Now she wants to apply what has been learned—by training the world to be more compassionate through meditation.

Kai Kupferschmidt
Science 20 September 2013:
Vol. 341 no. 6152 pp. 1336-1339
DOI: 10.1126/science.341.6152.1336

Empathy made Antoinette Tuff a minor celebrity. On 20 August, a young man armed with an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition burst into the school in Decatur, Georgia, where Tuff works as a bookkeeper. It might have ended in yet another senseless mass killing if it hadn't been for Tuff's compassionate response to the gunman, recorded in its entirety because she had dialed 911.

As the man loads his weapon, Tuff seeks a human connection with him. She talks of her own struggles, her disabled son, her divorce, her thoughts of committing suicide. Finally, she persuades him to lay down his weapon, lie down on the ground, and surrender to the police. "I love you," she says near the end of the call. "You're gonna be OK, sweetheart." (Only after the man is arrested does she break down, crying "Woo, Jesus!")

Tuff's heroic conversation, posted on the Internet, was hailed by many commentators as evidence of the power of empathy and the value of compassion. If more people were like Tuff, there would be less violence and suffering, they say.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How does morality work in the brain? A functional and structural perspective of moral behavior

By Leo Pascual, Paulo Rodrigues and David Gallardo-Pujol
Frontiers

Neural underpinnings of morality are not yet well understood. Researchers in moral neuroscience have tried to find specific structures and processes that shed light on how morality works. Here, we review the main brain areas that have been associated with morality at both structural and functional levels and speculate about how it can be studied. Orbital and ventromedial prefrontal cortices are implicated in emotionally-driven moral decisions, while dorsolateral prefrontal cortex appears to moderate its response. These competing processes may be mediated by the anterior cingulate cortex. Parietal and temporal structures play important roles in the attribution of others' beliefs and intentions. The insular cortex is engaged during empathic processes. Other regions seem to play a more complementary role in morality. Morality is supported not by a single brain circuitry or structure, but by several circuits overlapping with other complex processes. The identification of the core features of morality and moral-related processes is needed. Neuroscience can provide meaningful insights in order to delineate the boundaries of morality in conjunction with moral psychology.

The entire story is here.

The Importance of the Afterlife. Seriously.

By SAMUEL SCHEFFLER
The New York Times - Opinionator
Originally published September 21, 2013

I believe in life after death.

No, I don’t think that I will live on as a conscious being after my earthly demise. I’m firmly convinced that death marks the unqualified and irreversible end of our lives.

My belief in life after death is more mundane. What I believe is that other people will continue to live after I myself have died. You probably make the same assumption in your own case. Although we know that humanity won’t exist forever, most of us take it for granted that the human race will survive, at least for a while, after we ourselves are gone.

Because we take this belief for granted, we don’t think much about its significance. Yet I think that this belief plays an extremely important role in our lives, quietly but critically shaping our values, commitments and sense of what is worth doing. Astonishing though it may seem, there are ways in which the continuing existence of other people after our deaths — even that of complete strangers — matters more to us than does our own survival and that of our loved ones.

The entire story is here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Talk with me

By  Nigel Warburton
Aeon Magazine
Originally published September 23, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Western philosophy has its origins in conversation, in face-to-face discussions about reality, our place in the cosmos, and how we should live. It began with a sense of mystery, wonder, and confusion, and the powerful desire to get beyond mere appearances to find truth or, if not that, at least some kind of wisdom or balance.

Socrates started the conversation about philosophical conversation. This shabby eccentric who wandered the marketplace in fifth-century Athens accosting passersby and cross-questioning them in his celebrated style set the pattern for philosophical discussion and teaching. His pupil Plato crafted eloquent Socratic dialogues that, we assume, capture something of what it was like to be harangued and goaded by his mentor, though perhaps they’re more of a ventriloquist act. Socrates himself, if we believe Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus, had no great respect for the written word. He argued that it was inferior to the spoken. A page of writing might seem intelligent, but whatever question you ask of it, it responds in precisely the same way each time you read it — as this sentence will, no matter how many times you return to it.

The entire story is here.

APA releases guidelines on cutting antipsychotic overuse

By  Brie Zeltner
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Originally published on September 20, 2013

Doctors and patients should question of the use of antipsychotic medications in patients, particularly among the elderly with dementia and children and adolescents without psychotic disorders.

That’s according to a list of five common uses of the medications that are potentially unnecessary and could cause harm released today by the American Psychiatric Association as part of a national effort called the Choosing Wisely campaign.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Research shines light on the dark side of ethics

By Judy Ashton
Phys.org
Originally published March 25, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

"Fundamentally, the research shows that we are programmed to treat in-group members differently than out-group members, possibly as an evolutionary legacy of survival in the ancestral environment," says UC marketing professor James Kellaris, the James S. Womack/Gemini Professor of Signage in the Carl H. Lindner College of Business. "We tend to go easy on fellow in-group members and harder on strangers, due to complications of loyalty."

The entire story is here.

Here is the abstract to the research.

ABSTRACT

Once a matter of safety and survival, loyalty is a moral principle deeply rooted in human evolution—one that may wield a profound influence on ethical judgment and conceptions of just punishment. Consumers live in a complex Web of loyalty obligations woven through affiliations with marketers, fellow consumers, and other groups. This article examines how such affiliations shape consumers’ judgments of ethically controversial marketing conduct and preferences for punishment. In general, the more unethical an act is judged to be, the more severe the preferred punishment. However, the findings show that although consumers judge a controversial marketing act as more unethical when an in-group member targets the consumer's in-group (vs. out-group), a more lenient punishment is preferred (Study 1). Additionally, the extent to which one embraces loyalty as a moral value appears to mediate the relationship between group affiliations and preferred punishment (Study 2). This is a bias participants deny having, but believe others exhibit. This research finds evidence of loyalty to the principle of loyalty itself. A person will view an out-group member transgressing a member from that same out-group with disdain similar to that accorded an in-group member who transgresses the in-group, because the innate badness of the act is compounded by the stigma of disloyalty.

That article is here, behind a paywall, and hopefully accessible through your university library.

Why We Should Choose Science over Beliefs

By Michael Shermer
Scientific American
Originally published September 24, 2013

Ever since college I have been a libertarian—socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I believe in individual liberty and personal responsibility. I also believe in science as the greatest instrument ever devised for understanding the world. So what happens when these two principles are in conflict? My libertarian beliefs have not always served me well. Like most people who hold strong ideological convictions, I find that, too often, my beliefs trump the scientific facts. This is called motivated reasoning, in which our brain reasons our way to supporting what we want to be true. Knowing about the existence of motivated reasoning, however, can help us overcome it when it is at odds with evidence.

The entire article (and comments below it) is here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Building Better Beings: A Theory of Moral Responsibility

Manuel Vargas, Building Better Beings: A Theory of Moral Responsibility, Oxford University Press, 2013, 345pp., $55.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780199697540.

Reviewed by Tamler Sommers, University of Houston & Very Bad Wizards

We all like to believe that the problem we happen to work on is "particularly intractable," more resistant to resolution than debates in any other area of philosophy. The free will debate has a legitimate claim to this title. (Of course, I work in this area myself so I would say that.) The source of the intractability is that our intuitions about freedom and especially moral responsibility do not come in a neat consistent package. It is enormously difficult to develop a coherent view that satisfies our own set of commitments and intuitions, let alone those of other cultures or time periods. Yet a successful theory is supposed to do precisely that: offer a set of general principles that can unify our seemingly inconsistent intuitions. One of the many contributions of Manuel Vargas' book is to offer a principled way of embracing a conception of free will and moral responsibility that does not require even the pretense of success so defined.

Vargas calls his approach revisionism because "it insists that what we ought to think about responsibility conflicts with important threads of how we do think about responsibility." (p. 15) His book is divided into two parts. The first defends his revisionist methodology against the more traditional way of theorizing in the existing literature. The second offers a revisionist theory of responsibility -- the "agency cultivation model" -- that is grounded in the revisionist approach defended in Part One. The volume is long and extraordinarily rich, the culmination of a project Vargas has been developing over many years. I will not pretend that I can address the book in all of its complexity. I will divide my remarks into three sections, each focused on a critical question for Vargas' project. I hope I can elucidate some central aspects of his arguments along the way.

The entire book review is here.

Opting to Blow the Whistle or Choosing to Walk Away

By ALINA TUGEND
The New York Times
Published: September 20, 2013

WHISTLE-BLOWERS have been big news lately — from Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Pfc. Bradley Manning, to Edward J. Snowden. Yet, for most people, the question of whether to expose unethical or illegal activities at work doesn’t make headlines or involve state secrets.

But that doesn’t make the problem less of a quandary. The question of when to remain quiet and when to speak out — and how to do it — can be extraordinarily difficult no matter what the situation.

And while many think of ethics violations as confined to obviously illegal acts, like financial fraud or safety violations, the line often can be much blurrier and, therefore, more difficult to navigate.

The entire story is here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Judging Moral Issues in a Multicultural Society: Moral Reasoning and Social Dominance Orientation

By Stefano Passini & Paola Villano
Swiss Journal of Psychology

Abstract

People’s reactions to crimes sometimes change depending on whether the perpetrators are members of their own ingroup or an outgroup. This observation results in questions concerning how moral reasoning works in intergroup situations. In this research, we analyzed the combined effect of the nationality of the protagonist in a moral dilemma and the participant’s social dominance orientation (SDO) attitudes on the participant’s level of moral reasoning. A total of 230 Italian participants responded to two moral dilemmas taken from the Defining Issues Test, which had been modified so that one was about an Italian and the other about a Romanian. The results showed a significant interaction between the dilemma, the protagonist’s nationality, and the participant’s SDO: The P scores (postconventional reasoning) of low-SDO participants were on the same level when they were judging people of either nationality, while high-SDO participants tended to have a higher P score when judging Italians as opposed to Romanians.

Introduction

Although multiculturalism is on the rise in public opinion and politics, people sometimes judge criminal and deviant actions differently depending on the group membership of the person involved. For instance, the Italian media regularly report people being run over and even killed by drunk drivers. People's reactions to such events, however, differ depending on whether the perpetrators are members of their own ingroup or members of an outgroup. Moreover, when the aggressors are immigrants, the media do not consider these events to be related to the problems of road safety and alcohol alone. They often also relate these events to issues of immigration and national security, and they tend to judge the event more harshly than when the aggressors are ingroup members (see van Dijk, 2000). This shift of attention from the event itself to the person involved - in terms of his/her nationality - poses new questions concerning how moral reasoning works in intergroup situations.

The entire article can be found here, hiding behind a paywall.


Once Suicidal and Shipped Off, Now Battling Nevada Over Care

By RICK LYMAN
The New York Times
Published: September 21, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

But that is just a small sampling, Mr. Herrera says, of the estimated 1,500 people who were bused all over the country in recent years from the state-operated Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Center in Las Vegas and other Nevada institutions, 500 of them to California.

“It’s horrifying,” Mr. Herrera said. “I think we can all agree that our most vulnerable and at-risk people don’t deserve this sort of treatment: no meds, no medical care, a destination where they have no contacts and know no one.”

But what makes it “even more tragic,” Mr. Herrera said, “is that on top of the inhumane treatment, the State of Nevada was trying to have another jurisdiction shoulder the financial responsibility for caring for these people.”

The entire story is here.

Here is a prior story describing this practice.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

People With Mental Illness ‘More Likely To Have Violence Done To Them Than To Inflict Harm On Others’

By Candice Leigh Helfand
CBS News - DC Office
September 18, 2013

Here are some excerpts:

In light of the news, the call for mental health care reform – especially in regards to better funding and availability of mental health programs – could be heard from individuals and organizations alike throughout the U.S. following the elementary school attack. The call for more stringent gun control was even louder, given Lanza’s easy access to a high-powered assault rifle – a Bushmaster XM15-E2S.

Ultimately, the administration of President Barack Obama set forth legislation that, in essence, married the two issues. The gun control proposal he announced in early January included a number of potential restrictions on guns and assault weapons as well as requests for funding that would go specifically toward expanding mental health treatment programs.

(cut)

“I think the challenge is this: if you look across all mental health disorders throughout the United States … nearly half of all adult Americans had a mental health disorder at some point,” Sherry A. Glied, the newly-appointed dean of New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, said to CBSDC. “The vast majority of those people have never engaged in anything violent.”

As well as all of those who have, at one point or another, grappled with mental illness, mental health problems presently plague over a fourth of the entire population of the U.S. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, approximately 26.2 percent of American adults ages 18 and older suffer from some form of mental illness.

Experts worry that stigma “might actually lead to people being reluctant to seek help,” as Dr. John Duby, the chair of the Mental Health Leadership Workgroup at the American Academy of Pediatrics, noted.

The entire story is here.

Whistle-Blower’s Letter Led to Charity’s Firing of Chief Executive

By RUSS BUETTNER and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
The New York Times
Published: September 15, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

The charity’s chief executive, William E. Rapfogel, had been conspiring with someone at the insurance brokerage, Century Coverage Corporation, to pad the charity’s insurance payments by several hundred thousand dollars a year, according to a person briefed on the investigation.

Mr. Rapfogel, whose annual compensation package exceeded $400,000, pocketed some of the money and was involved in getting the rest to politicians who supply the government grants to the nonprofit organization, the person said.

The charity, widely known as Met Council, informed state authorities of its findings, and more formal inquiries began.

The entire story is here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Suicide prevention efforts grow in statehouses

By Maggie Clark
USA Today
Originally published September 13, 2013

Here are some excerpts:

Every day, more than 100 people commit suicide in the U.S. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 25 and 34, and the third-leading cause of death among those between 15 and 24. Between 2008 and 2010, there were twice as many suicides as homicides, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Still, in many areas of the country, suicide-prevention efforts are virtually nonexistent.

(cut)

Restricting access to guns for suicidal people may well help to reduce suicides, said Dr. Richard McKeon, chief of the suicide prevention branch of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, but it's not the only thing that can work.

"What's needed is a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention using multiple interventions, not just one," McKeon said. That could include restricting weapons access, training or building general awareness, he said.

New bill breaks down telehealth barriers

By Eric Wicklund
Healthcare IT News
Originally published September 13, 2013

A bill introduced in Congress this week would enable healthcare providers to treat Medicare patients in other states via telemedicine without needing different licenses for each state.

The "TELEmedicine for MEDicare Act", or HR 3077, was introduced Sept. 10 in the House by Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J. Nicknamed the TELE-MED Act, it seeks to update current licensure laws "to account for rapid technological advances in medicine," according to its sponsors.

“By reducing bureaucratic and legal barriers between Medicare patients and their doctors, it expands medical access and choice for America’s seniors and the disabled,” Nunes said in a statement.

The entire story is here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Fairer Sex" or Purity Myth? Corruption, Gender, and Institutional Context

By Justin Esarey and Gina Chirillo

Abstract

Cross-national studies have found evidence that women are individually more disapproving of corruption than men, and that female participation in government is negatively associated with perceived corruption at the country level. In this paper, we argue that this difference reflects greater pressure on women to comply with political norms as a result of discrimination and risk aversion, and therefore a gender gap exists in some political contexts but not others. Bribery, favoritism, and personal loyalty are often characteristic of the normal operation of autocratic governments and not stigmatized as corruption; we nd weak or non-existent relationships between gender and corruption in this context. We  find much stronger relationships in democracies, where corruption is more typically stigmatized.

The entire paper is here.

Sorry

By William Germano
Lingua Franca - Blog - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally posted September 18, 2013

Are academics ever really sorry?

A recent kerfuffle (a good Chronicle of Higher Ed word) at Johns Hopkins involved an interim dean who apologized for asking a research professor to remove a blog post.

When the dean’s apology came forth, my friend Christopher Newfield at the University of California at Santa Barbara tweeted “an explanation would be better than an apology.” I take his point to be that when somebody does what they say they shouldn’t have it’s not the expression of contrition we’re after, it’s the detailed rationale—the sequence of missteps—that led to the action that finally produced the apology.

(cut)

So what do we do when caught out? We tend to the deflective (“I’m sorry, but my hands were tied”), the absorptive (“I’m sorry, but I had to do what I thought was right”), or the obstructive (“I’m sorry you feel that way”).

The entire blog post is here.