The most sophisticated medical technologies are available in the United States. The luxury afforded elite health care consumers is best captured by “executive health care” and “personalized” medicines. Given the tailored health care afforded top-tier health care consumers, consciously or unconsciously those at the other end of the spectrum might be overlooked.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report this year that places some US states in the range of Third World countries for health outcomes with mothers and babies. The report, Infant Mortality Statistics From the 2008 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Set, exposes a sad reality; race disparities persist in medicine. The neonatal mortality rate of African Americans is about 2.5 times that of whites. What’s more—class matters. But here’s the interesting part. Class matters at both ends of the scale.
The report exposes how Mississippi, the nation’s poorest state, leads the nation in babies that will die before reaching their first birthday. According data collected by CNN, “for every 1,000 Mississippi babies born in 2011, 9.4 died before their first birthday.” One reporter found that such data “makes Mississippi’s infant mortality rate more comparable to countries such as Costa Rica (9.2), Sri Lanka (9.5) and Botswana (10.5) than the United States (6.0).” The common answer to the challenges of infant mortality looks toward poverty—and in part such analysis is right. However, wealth matters too and sophisticated reproductive choices can lead to dangerous outcomes. One of the leading causes of infant mortality is womb-crowding caused by multiple gestations, which has dramatically increased as a byproduct of assisted reproductive technologies. Those who can afford these sophisticated technologies are usually upper-income individuals, who can afford the multiple rounds of treatments, which are usually required before a pregnancy results. In fact, ART related births are associated with the 100-fold increase in higher order births in the United States. Low birth-weight, one of the leading causes of infant distress, is a common feature of multiple births—as are pre-term deliveries. As we think about solutions to these challenge public health concerns, it will be important to look at both ends of the socio-economic scale.
Don’t just read the summaries – check out the tweets themselves! From now on, links to the original tweets will be included in our round-up. Additionally, as a reminder from the last post, retweeting should not be read as an endorsement of or agreement with the content of the original tweet. With that, read on for this week’s round-up…
Arthur Caplan (@ArthurCaplan) posted an article about the growing trend of paying for convenience in healthcare with privacy, sometimes without formal consent. The latest example (and the subject of this article) is palm-scanning at New York University Langone Medical Center. (11/11) [Note: Dan Vorhaus also tweeted this the next day.]
Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) linked to a post on the potential valuables (medicines, solvents, chemical treatments) hidden amongst newly-discovered marine micro-organisms. With regulations hefty on land but largely non-existent for water, there are concerns that damage from harvesting could result in ecosystem damage or exploitation of water resource-rich developing nations. (11/11)
Dan Vorhaus(@genomics lawyer) brought up a link describing the “particularized consent approach” of the website my46, meant to facilitate the process of helping people decide what results of genetic testing to see and when to see such results. Combining this with his post about the direct-to-consumer genomics of 23andMe, it is clear that this is an area to watch. (11/12)
Daniel Goldberg(@prof_goldberg) exclaims his love for the term “empathotoxin” in conjunction with the link for this blog post. The post talks about the declining sense of empathy correlated with medical training as according to a research review by American Medicine, with results based on self-reporting. (11/12)
Kevin Outterson(@koutterson) tweeted an article about the oncoming scrutiny likely to hit Congress in the throngs of the current meningitis outbreak. While state boards and the F.D.A. are receiving much of the onslaught as a result of their lax oversight, Congress has hindered stronger regulation for drug compounders particularly in regards to defining the F.D.A.’s policing authority – and thus, say some, is partly deserving of blame. (11/14)
Daniel Goldberg(@prof_goldberg) also linked to an article that talked of lessening the gaps between the mainstream views concerning disability (the “outside” view) and those within the disability community (the “inside” view) when considering law. By proposing a certain set of “framing rules” facilitated by input from the inside view, nondisabled people can make more informed decisions regarding the relationship to disability. (11/14)
Dan Vorhaus(@genomicslawyer) posted an article that followed up on an earlier tweet from our weekly round-ups detailing China’s new draft regulation for human genetic materials, including but not limited to organs. (11/15)
Frank Pasquale (@FrankPasquale) included a link to the The New York Times piece on the massive drug shortages plaguing the nation’s healthcare system. Pasquale noted in his tweet that organizations which purchase on behalf of groups, often for hospitals, may be contributing to this shortage. (11/17)