Petrie-Flom Interns’ Weekly Round-up: 10/27 – 11/02

By Hyeongsu Park and Kathy Wang

  • Uruguay’s Senate approved a bill that allows women to have abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy for any reason. Read the NY Times article about the topic here.
  • Another NY Times article reported on October 27 that the nationwide health insurance plans sponsored by the federal government, included as part of the Affordable Care Act, will be available to consumers in every state soon. The article can be found here.
  • On November 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 28 people have now died and 386 have been sickened in the ongoing fungal meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroid injections from a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy. Read the US News article about the outbreak here. Current case count for the multistate fungal meningitis outbreak, updated daily by the CDC, can be found here.
  • The British Medical Journal has announced that, beginning in January, it will no longer publish the results of clinical trials unless drug companies and researchers agree to provide detailed study data on request.
  • Researchers at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City are worried that cells, tissues, mice, and rats used for medical research may have been lost as the Medical Center has been without power since Monday after superstorm Sandy struck. Read an NPR article about the story here.
  • The annual growth in spending on Medicaid slowed sharply last year as the economy began to improve, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found. The slowdown is due not only to more measured enrollment growth but also to continued cost-cutting by states.
  • In response to the recent meningitis outbreak, Massachusetts adopted new regulations on Thursday to keep a closer eye on compounding pharmacies, a class of drug supplier linked to the outbreak.

 

Institutional Corruption, Conflicts of Interest and Commitment, and Online Courses

I am writing this post from a terrific conference on Institutional Financial Conflicts of Interest In Research Universities, hosted at Harvard Law by the Petrie-Flom Center and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

One set of fascinating questions that has been raised is when the university should reign in the ability of faculty members to take on directorships and other outside activities. While these issues have been well-known in the sciences and medicine, increasingly it has come home to roost in the law and other faculties. The Harvard Law School  recently adopted a new conflicts of interest policy, as part of a Harvard-wide revision of its policies.

Here is a question that has received less discussion from what I have seen, though it may become more pressing given Coursera, EdX, and other online teaching venues.  The New Yorker profile of my Harvard Business School colleague and world-renowned teacher Clayton Christensen reported that he has recorded videos lectures (complete with good-looking young men and women actors playing students and laughing at the right moments, what a perk!) for the University of Phoenix’s lecture series, for significant remuneration. Imagine that this series (or one of these other non-Harvard platforms) were to offer to pay half a million dollars to me to teach a 4-hour Civil Procedure (or health law or bioethics and the law course) that would in part mirror the teaching I do of the course at Harvard Law School. Should Harvard have a veto right over me doing so? Should it demand “a piece of the action” and revenue sharing agreements as a condition of letting me participate? After all, I am in some ways trading on my capitol for teaching at Harvard, and potentially also diluting the reputational value of Harvard instruction (the informercial would go “You don’t need to go to Harvard to get a lecture from a Harvard Prof! Only $9.99!”) How can the rules governing patent and other IP ownership in the  life and other sciences help us develop a sensible policy? Would or should things be different if I gave these lectures for free on YouTube rather than selling them? [Disclosure: Harvard DOES have a policy on conflicts of commitment, though I am unaware of it speaking specifically to these issues about online lectures, but happy to be corrected].

Yale’s Friday Newsletter – 11/02/12

Sorry for the delay – the Petrie-Flom Center co-hosted a fantastic conference today on institutional financial conflicts of interest in research universities, which kept me away from a computer all day.  More to come on that, but without further ado, here is this week’s Yale Friday Newsletter, slightly modified for our readership.

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Worth Reading This Week

By Nicolas Terry

Cross-posted at HealthLawProfs

Art Caplan: MA Should Legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide

Weighing in on Question 2, Massachusetts’ ballot initiative on physician-assisted suicide, Art Caplan says we should vote “yes”:

Mass. should legalize physician-assisted suicide

Of the numerous ballot initiatives that will be decided at the state level on Tuesday, none is more hotly contested than the Massachusetts bill to decide whether to legalize physician-assisted suicide. The citizens of Massachusetts, my home state, should vote to legalize.

The proposed measure allows terminally ill patients to be given access to lethal drugs. A terminally ill patient is defined as someone with six months or less to live. The patient’s terminal diagnosis and mental competency must be attested to by two doctors. Patients would have to make a request to their doctor twice orally and once in writing. The written request would have to be witnessed.

Yet even with such restrictive conditions, opponents of the proposal say doctors should never, as a matter of professional ethics, intentionally hasten the death of one of their patients, even one who is terminally ill. The codes of medicine and nursing ethics reject helping patients die.

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Taking Allegations of Child Abuse Seriously: Former Penn State President Spanier Charged

Penn State’s former president, Graham Spanier, is the latest person to be charged in the fallout involving Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of boys on the Penn State campus.  A year ago, I blogged about Spanier’s curiously timed defense of his former staff members following the horrific allegations involving the former, popular football coach.

Jerry Sandusky’s crimes are deplorable. He was convicted of molesting boys from a charity he helped to found (Second Mile) and will serve 30-60 years in prison; he will likely die there.  Yet no less problematic were Spanier’s statements immediately following the release of the grand jury’s presentment.  Last year, the statement released by Spanier could only be described as cavalier and irresponsible.  Spanier claimed that the perjury charges against his former athletic director, Timothy Curley, and Gary Schultz, his senior vice president for finance and business, were “groundless,” and that he has “complete confidence in how they… handled the allegations” against Sandusky.  Stunning.

Remember the grand jury report?  Schultz said that the allegations were “not that serious” and that he and his colleague “had no indication that a crime had occurred.”  What we know now from the Freeh Report is that there were emails between Spanier, Curley, and Schultz about allegations of Sandusky’s showers with boys in the Penn State football locker room. Spanier claims that there may have been emails that he received, but he can’t remember them.  He told Jeffrey Toobin in a New Yorker article: “I was apparently copied on two emails…I didn’t reply to them.”  A few years later, Michael McQuery (a former graduate student) reported witnessing Sandusky sexually abusing a child in the shower; he also testified before the grand jury.

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