Obama Administration to Revise Contraceptives Coverage Accommodation

In response to the SCOTUS decision granting Wheaton College a preliminary injunction against having to comply with the terms of the HHS accommodation available to non-profit religious organizations who object to covering contraceptives for their employees (i.e., submitting a form to their insurance providers), the Obama Administration has announced that it will revise the terms of that accommodation. Instead of requiring objecting employers to provide the form and notice to insurers or third party administrators of self-insured health plans so that they can jump in to provide free coverage directly to employees, HHS will issue new regulations in short order, the details of which remain to be worked out, but will likely allow nonprofit institutions to write a letter stating their objections, rather than filling out the form (see the WSJ story here). This will leave the government to make sure employees are not left without contraceptives coverage.

I may be oversimplifying things, but I think this extended accommodation really isn’t such a big deal.  It seems to just add the government in as a middleman between the objecting employer and the insurer or third party administrator that was responsible for providing coverage under the original accommodation.  In other words, before, nonprofit religious employers with an objection had to fill out the form and give it directly to their insurers; after the modification, those employers could just let the government know, and presumably the government will notify their insurers.  A bit more bureaucracy, but shouldn’t be too big of a problem – probably just a drop in the bucket of the massive ACA bureaucracy, and potentially unnoticeable by the women seeking free contraceptives.  That is unless the employers claim that even this approach leaves them complicit in violation of their religious beliefs.

Since SCOTUS’s substantial burden test as applied in Hobby Lobby focused on the hefty fines for noncompliance, rather than the extent to which the employers’ religious beliefs were directly v. indirectly burdened, the complicity point is an important one to keep an eye on.  Will religious employers be satisfied with simply adding another link to the causal chain?  Perhaps (and I hope).  Technically, all they would be asked to do is announce to the world that they have a religious objection.  What the government does with that information is beyond their control.  If this works out, the revised accommodation could also be extended to the closely held for-profit corporations with religious objections to contraceptives coverage that SCOTUS determined could not be forced to comply with the mandate, such that their employees too could retain access.

So let’s see what HHS can come up with.  Haters gonna hate, as they say, so I’m sure there will be more litigation on this, but hopefully we’re nearing a solution – and I think a good compromise.  The bigger issue will be dealing with all those other services that must be included as essential benefits or preventive services to which religious employers may object, and to which insurers are likely to object to providing free coverage.  But let’s see if the ACA lives to die another day after Halbig and King.

Vaccines and Spying

The NY Times is reporting that the CIA has banned its “operational use” of vaccination programs, which came to light in the context of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. As if it weren’t already hard enough to launch successful vaccination campaigns (domestically and globally), this vaccination+spying taint has surely added further obstacles. And while it’s great to have an affirmative statement that the program has been stopped, significant damage has already been done – trust has already been lost, and it will be incredibly difficult to get skeptical populations back on board. Unfortunately, a statement from the spy promising not to spy anymore isn’t likely to do much. We’ve seen lasting impact of the Wakefield paper linking vaccines to autism, despite its retraction and extensive repudiation – the long term global impact of the CIA’s program could be even worse, with refusal to participate in vaccination programs compounded by violence against public health workers accused of covert activity. Put this alongside physician involvement in executions under the heading: “Ways Not to Mix Medical and Non-Medical Objectives.”

#BELHP2014 Plenary 3, Michael Hallsworth, UK Behavioral Insights Team

[Ed. Note: On Friday, May 2 and Saturday, May 3, 2014, the Petrie-Flom Center hosted its 2014 annual conference: "Behavioral Economics, Law, and Health Policy."  This is an installment in our series of live blog posts from the event; video will be available later in the summer on our website.]

Today’s lunchtime plenary, Applying Behavioural Insights in Theory and in Practice, was presented by Michael Hallsworth, Principal Advisor, The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT)

Michael described the BIT as a “social purpose” company, originally founded within the UK government, but separated from it (in part) in February 2014.  The company is now partly owned by government, partly owned by its employees, and partly owned by the innovation charity, Nesta.  Michael indicated that when the Team was started, there was genuine doubt about whether behavioral interventions could make a difference or whether this was just a trendy new fad.  The Team responded by implementing rigorous methods of testing, measuring, and evaluating its proposals.

What does the BIT do?  Michael explained that its goal is to incorporate empirical findings about behavior into policy making. Although it has been colloquially referred to as the “Nudge Unit” and Richard Thaler does indeed advise them, the BIT is not actually a nudge unit.  Its first question is not how to nudge but rather how to solve policy problems.  It is a fact that policy tends (and is intended to) influence behavior.  Behavioral insights can allow governments and other policymakers to enhance and assess policy options, and offer new ones.  Put another way, Michael explained that there is not a distinction between policy-making and influencing behavior, they are one and the same.

Michael also argued that we should use behavioral insights as a lens through which to see all government action.  Moreover, whenever the government has decided to act, it should do so in way that it is actually most effective; there is a moral duty to maximize effectiveness and to spend limited government resources wisely.

Michael then went on to describe seven different ways of applying behavioral analysis to show that the best option is to:

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#BELHP2014 Panel 5, Behavioral Economics and the Doctor-Patient Relationship

[Ed. Note: On Friday, May 2 and Saturday, May 3, 2014, the Petrie-Flom Center hosted its 2014 annual conference: "Behavioral Economics, Law, and Health Policy."  This is an installment in our series of live blog posts from the event; video will be available later in the summer on our website.]

This session was kicked off by Jennifer Zamzow, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Center for Ethics and Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, with a talk called “Affective Forecasting in Medical Decision-Making: What Do Physicians Owe Their Patients?”  Jennifer began with an example of a recently paralyzed patient requesting termination of life-sustaining care on the grounds that his injury feels like a fate worse than death.  On the one hand, we feel compelled to respect the decisions of competent patients, but on the other hand, given what we know about errors in affective forecasting, we anticipate that the patient would be able to eventually adapt to his new circumstances and lead a happy, full life.  The question, then, is whether physicians have any obligation to help their patients make more accurate affective forecasts.

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Public Briefing on Contraceptives Coverage Mandate from KFF

For those of you following the contraceptives coverage mandate litigation:

Later this month, the Supreme Court will hear two cases from for-profit corporations, Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties, challenging the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement to cover contraceptives on religious grounds. On Tuesday, March 11, two weeks before the hearings, the Kaiser Family Foundation will host a public briefing and panel discussion from 9:30am-11:00am ET in its Washington, DC office to discuss the implications of these court cases on the ACA, corporate and individual religious protections, and civil rights. For those unable to attend, a live webcast will be hosted on kff.org.

Speakers include:

Welcome and Introduction Alina Salganicoff, Ph.D. (Moderator),Vice President and Director, Women’s Health Policy, Kaiser Family Foundation

An Overview of the Contraceptive Coverage Requirement and Legal Challenges Laurie Sobel, J.D., Senior Policy Analyst, Women’s Health Policy, Kaiser Family Foundation

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act and its Application to These Cases Marci A. Hamilton, J.D., Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University

Possible Rulings and Outcomes Tom Goldstein, J.D., Publisher SCOTUSblog, Partner Goldstein & Russell, P.C.

Panel Discussion on Implications


When: 
Tuesday, March 11, 9:30am-11:00am ET, (Registration and breakfast beginning at 9:00am)

Where: Barbara Jordan Conference Center, Kaiser Family Foundation Offices, 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, D.C., (one block west of Metro Center)

RSVP: Please register online to attend this event in person.

Live Webcast: A live webcast will be available on kff.org.

A solution to the contraceptives coverage mess?

While prepping for a guest lecture on the contraceptives coverage mandate currently before SCOTUS, I had the opportunity today to review the merits briefs filed in the Hobby Lobby case.  I think both petitioners and respondents put out their absolute strongest arguments, as one would expect at this highest level of review.  The government asserts a fairly convincing case that for-profit corporations were not meant to be covered by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and that individual shareholders are not burdened by the mandate, and the respondents convincingly argue that RFRA does indeed apply and the numerous exemptions already offered by the government have eviscerated any claim that refusing religious exemptions to for-profit corporations is necessary to achieve a compelling government interest.

The respondents, Hobby Lobby and its family owners, articulate a variety of less restrictive alternative methods to achieve the government’s interest in promoting public health and gender equality, including having the government provide free access to contraceptives rather than demanding that employers do so. Interestingly, however, the respondents do not suggest simply extending the existing accommodation available to religious non-profits to for-profit corporations with religious objections.  This accommodation allows a religious non-profit that objects to contraceptives to sidestep the mandate, instead requiring that its insurance company exclude contraceptives from the employer’s plan and itself bear responsibility to provide preventive services without cost-sharing.   The rationale is that it should be at least cost-neutral for insurance companies to provide this coverage, on the grounds that preventing pregnancy is cheaper than covering new dependents.  (And for self-insured plans, there is a similar approach by which third party administrators bear the burden, and are compensated via adjustments to Exchange user fees.)

I can’t be certain why the respondents omitted this obvious alternative, but one possibility has to do with the fact that the accommodation is currently being challenged (e.g., by the Little Sisters of the Poor) as insufficient because objecting employers argue that they are still being required to facilitate access to objectionable services, even if they do not have to pay for them.

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Peter Singer on BatKid

This is worth a read, and, in my opinion, absolutely right.  The discussion is relevant to broader questions of identified v. statistical lives, as well as “choice architecture” questions about how charities ought to seek out donations.  Take a look:

Heartwarming causes are nice, but let’s give to charity with our heads

Full disclosure: Several years ago my family took advantage of a Make-A-Wish trip resulting from my younger brother’s leukemia.  He is now a thriving adult and doing great, and the experience was incredible, especially for those families with children facing terminal diagnoses.  But the fact remains that this really has to be seen as a “luxury” charity – and when faced with a stark side-by-side choice of where the dollars could be spent, Peter’s analysis nails it.

A new framework for considering the contraceptives mandate cases?

Just a quick pointer to an interesting new article out by Kara Loewentheil at Yale, When Free Exercise Is a Burden: Protecting ‘Third Parties’ in Religious Accommodation Law.  

Here’s her abstract (posted a few weeks ago before cert was granted):

As of November 2013, over 60 lawsuits have been filed under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), challenging the contraceptive coverage requirement (“CCR”) of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more than half brought by for-profit employers with religious objections to providing insurance coverage for contraception. The conflict combines questions of the reach of the regulatory state, the nature and purpose of free exercise rights, women’s social and economic equality, and a lightning-rod political debate. No wonder then that these cases have produced a circuit split, and are now primed for a Supreme Court ruling, as two cert petitions in these cases were filed in September 2013. It is no surprise that these cases have produced such divergent results, because the problem lies not with the courts, but with the doctrine, which frames the conflict as being between the State and the religious objector. But as the CCR cases make clear, this relationship is often beside the point entirely. Rather, some religious accommodation cases regulate not only the relationship between the State and the objector, but a variety of conflicts and relationships between the religious objectors and various other rights-holders. The courts and the scholarship have occasionally noticed that such conflicts may exist but have not suggested any systematic way of thinking about or resolving them. To remedy this lacuna, I propose a framework for identifying and analyzing these under-theorized conflicts, elaborating on strands of concern for third parties in the doctrine that have never been fully fleshed out. I argue that once we identify the set of cases in which there are sufficiently weighty third-party interests at stake – whether practical or expressive – to merit deviation from the standard doctrinal framework, the question should be whether the State can provide a solution that respects all the rights in question. If so, it should have an obligation to do so. If not, the group with equality-implicating rights (again, whether practical or expressive) should “win” – with any “tie” going to the third parties, because the purpose of religious accommodation law is to protect the equality of religious objectors, not to privilege religion. The CCR suits present a paradigmatic example in which the State’s most important interest lies in its representation of the rights of third parties, and in which comprehensive solutions respecting all parties’ rights are possible but not doctrinally required, thus providing a clear illustration of why the framework I suggest would be an improvement in religious accommodation law. Nevertheless, there are also ways to better balance the interests involved through use of the existing doctrine, as the last part of this paper demonstrates.

SCOTUS and the Contraceptives Coverage Mandate

As everyone and their brother expected, SCOTUS has just decided to take up two cases challenging the contraceptives coverage mandate: Hobby Lobby, in which the 10th Circuit ruled in favor of the religiously-objecting (but secular, for-profit) employer, and Conestoga, in which the 3rd Circuit went the other direction, maintaining that “for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise.”

I think the First Amendment piece of this is pretty much open-and-shut: the requirement that employers offer health plans that provide contraceptives coverage free of charge is pretty clearly neutral and generally applicable.  Arguments around the Religious Freedom Restoration Act are much more interesting.  For our non-lawyer readers, the basic idea behind RFRA is that the federal government may not (1) substantially burden the right to free exercise of religion, unless it does so (a) in furtherance of a compelling interest, and (2) using the least restrictive means.  This is a high hurdle, otherwise known as strict scrutiny.

You can see several clear decision points under the RFRA analysis, and pretty much any one of them could go either way:

Do for-profit corporations have a right to free exercise?

As a threshold matter, RFRA offers protection only to those entities with free exercise rights.  Citizens United tells us that “corporations are people, my friend.”  So if that analysis applies to both the First Amendment’s free speech rights and free exercise rights, then corporations can at least pass go.  On the other hand, some courts have maintained that religion can only be exercised by individuals or religious organizations, such that RFRA would not apply to secular, for-profit corporations.

Does the contraceptives mandate impose a substantial burden? 

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Fertility and Divorce

In case you missed it, NYT had an interesting Op-Ed on Friday that addressed the inclusion of money for fertility treatments in divorce settlements – and made some suggestions about how to address fertility issues in prenups. Take a look here.

As prices drop, I wonder if/when it will become commonplace for women to start banking some “just in case” eggs in their early twenties as a matter of course. Some eager-to-be grandparents have already started the trend.

More Commentary on Why Patients May Be Discriminated Against

Given my recent piece in the New England Journal on discrimination against patients, particularly obese patients in the context of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I found this NY Times story particularly interesting: Disability and Discrimination at the Doctor’s Office. The Times story focuses on patients who are disabled in more traditional ways, but indicates that the main culprit behind the medical discrimination they may experience is not animus, but rather lack of proper equipment, which can be quite expensive.  Luckily, there may be hope on the horizon, thanks to the ACA.

Tough Advice to Swallow from the NYT Ethicist

Take a look at the answer this physician received about breaking his promise of confidentiality to a patient.  The New York Times’ Ethicist describes this as a modern problem, but it seems to me this is age-old.  And although the confession was not medical, the nature of the doctor-patient relationship and the historical trust it has cultivated can’t be ignored.  The Ethicist says he expects vehement disagreement, and that’s one thing he’s right about for sure.

Live Blogging FDA in the 21st Century Conference, Panel 9 – Addressing the Challenges of and Harnessing New Technologies

Last but not least!  Our final conference panel focused on “Addressing the Challenges of and Harnessing New Technologies,” and was moderated by Fran Miller.

We heard first from Margaret Riley on “Twenty-First Century Technology with Twentieth Century Baggage: FDA Regulation of Regenerative Medicine.”  Riley explained that regenerative medicine (i.e., the use of pluripotent stem cells) has the potential to cure disease, injury, and even remedy organ shortages.  Of course, it is a hugely political issue and the debate is emotional, value-laden, and not necessarily logical.  As a result, the legislation/regulation that results in this area may be far from ideal.

Focusing on FDA specifically, Riley explained that the agency’s approach to stem cell regulation is rooted in its regulation of gene therapy and tissue products, as initiated in the 1990s.  FDA’s regulation of autologous stem cell therapies – in which a person’s own cells are removed, manipulated, and reintroduced – as a drug was recently upheld by the District Court of DC (US v. Regenerative Sciences, 878 F. Supp. 2d 248 (DDC 2012)), but is now on appeal to the DC Circuit. Riley is not sure what the outcome will be on appeal, but noted that getting BLA’s approved on a doctor-by-doctor basis will be very difficult and likely impossible.  One possible outcome of FDA regulation is likely to be off-shoring and stem cell tourism; ironically, strict regulation may end up not protecting patients, who will end up going abroad.

Next up was Nathan Cortez, who asked “Is the FDA Equipped to Regulate Mobile Health Devices?”

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Live Blogging from FDA in the 21st Century Conference, Panel 4: Timing Is Everything

Another great conference session this afternoon: “Timing Is Everything: Balancing Access and Uncertainty.”  This one was moderated by Jeff Skopek, with presentations by Shannon Gibson, Trudo Lemmens, and Efthimios Parasidis.

First, we heard from Gibson and Lemmens on “Overcoming ‘Premarket Syndrome,’” AKA the various problems associated with relying solely on premarket data for safety and efficacy determinations.  These problems include the fact that industry studies have been shown to be more likely to be biased in favor of demonstrating a positive result, and premarket studies also cannot really demonstrate how a product will be used in clinical practice.  Moreover, for niche market drugs (e.g., those for orphan indications or pharmacogenomics), which are becoming more and more popular, there are fewer patients available to serve as clinical trial subjects, thereby inherently limiting the data that may be generated prior to approval and increasing uncertainty around safety and effectiveness.

So what should we do? Develop an improved post-market research agenda, say Gibson and Lemmens, and explore “adaptive licensing,” by which they mean rendering regulatory decisions based on the entire body of evidence collected throughout a product’s life cycle.   They argue that drug access decisions should not be binary, but instead, should be incremental and continually reassessed based on new data, including data that becomes available after a drug has been initially made available to patients. They closed by pointing out the importance of data transparency at all points in drug regulation.

Next, we heard from Efthimios Parasidis on “Innovative Regulating as a Public Health Imperative.”  Parasidis focused on the ways in which FDA can leverage its existing post-market regulatory authorities granted under the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007, including requiring post-market studies and imposing Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy requirements (REMS).

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Live Blogging from FDA in the 21st Century Conference – Peter Barton Hutt’s Plenary

We’re well on our way into the Petrie-Flom Center’s Annual Conference, FDA in the 21st Century, and we’ll be live blogging the sessions today and tomorrow here at Bill of Health.

Today’s sessions opened with a fantastic plenary from Peter Barton Hutt, who’s had more than five decades of experience with Food and Drug Law, including 4 years as Chief Counsel to the FDA.

Peter addressed a wide variety of topics in his talk on “Historical Themes and Developments Over the Past 50 Years.”

1.    FDA Management

Peter discussed various management approaches utilized by different FDA commissioners over the years, from Commissioner Edwards in the 1970s who ran the agency like a management consultant, meeting with every Center every week, to Commissioner McClellan who viewed his post through the lens of an economist.  Different management styles have been needed as the agency has grown tremendously, from 6,500 employees in 1976 to a $4 billion appropriation and more than 12,000 employees today.  As a result of that growth, the Commissioner and Center directors necessarily know less and less about what the organization is doing.  This creates tremendous possibilities for inconsistencies, mistakes, and loss of control, and ultimately, policy is now made from the bottom-up.

2.    Rulemaking

Peter described the fundamental shift in FDA’s approach to rulemaking over its history.  Before 1970, the agency relied heavily on a combination of guidance and litigation, primarily as a result of the fact that the four general counsels in that role from 1906 to 1971 were all litigators, and viewed lawsuits as the appropriate way to develop government policy.  It became clear in the 1970s that this approach couldn’t work for everything, and as a result, the agency reinterpreted an obscure provision of the Act allowing it to issue regulations for “efficient enforcement” of the law to permit substantive rulemaking, rather than just procedural rules.   This allowed huge programs to be created administratively, from nutritional labeling to OTC drug review to FOIA regulations.  Equally important was FDA’s approach to developing lengthy explanatory preambles to its regulations.

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Discrimination Against Obese Patients

Following up on a blog post I did here several months ago, take a look at – and a listen to – some additional commentary I have in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine.

The gist?  The law prohibits many, but not all, grounds for discrimination against potential patients.  Race, religion, sex, and disability are among the most uniformly protected categories, whereas less than half of states prohibit health care discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, for example. Moreover, the rejection of patients because they smoke, play contact sports, or engage in other risky behavior is legally within the realm of physician discretion, as is discrimination based on other characteristics not protected by law.

So what about obesity discrimination by healthcare providers?  Perhaps one of the last comparatively socially acceptable bases for discrimination, weight has not traditionally been treated as a protected category under civil rights laws. But one possible strategy is to consider the scope of prohibitions against disability discrimination. This is actually a pretty unsettled area of law – but the bottom line, to the extent there is one, is that rejection of an overweight or obese patient who is neither impaired to the extent of being disabled nor regarded as disabled would be legally permissible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Rejection of an obese patient who is disabled could also be permissible, so long as the disability was not the reason for the rejection.  The only problem would come up if a disabled obese patient were to be rejected on that basis, and could prove that to be the case.  So this may not be the most helpful approach to address obesity discrimination in the healthcare context, and in my opinion, reliance on simple medical professionalism and the commitment to caring for those in need has much more to offer.                          

Revisions to the Declaration of Helsinki

On Monday, the World Medical Association opened a 2-month public consultation on proposed revisions to the Declaration of Helsinki.  The Declaration was most recently revised in 2008, and according to the WMA, the current round of proposed changes is intended “to provide for more protection for vulnerable groups and all participants by including the issue of compensation, more precise and specific requirements for post-study arrangements and a more systematic approach to the use of placebos.”

You can see a side by side analysis of the proposed revisions and explanatory comments here.  We’ll see what happens down the road, but a few things are worth noting:

  1. The working group responsible for the revisions explicitly acknowledges that it cannot literally be true that the well-being of the individual research subjects must take precedence over all other interests (new paragraph 8/old para. 6).  Nonetheless, it retains that language for aspirational purposes – a strange choice, IMHO, which could conceivably lead to less respect for the Declaration as a whole.
  2. The revised Declaration would (in line with almost every other ethical body to consider the issue) add a new paragraph indicating that “Adequate compensation and treatment for subjects who are harmed as a result of participating in the research must be ensured” (new para. 15).  The current version (old para. 14) states only that the protocol should include “provisions for treating and/or compensating subjects who are harmed as a consequence of participation in the research study.”  The nature of the Declaration is such that it doesn’t provide much detail, but even this revised statement is a step in the right direction.  Will US regulators ever take the hint?
  3. The revisions would take a harder stance toward research involving disadvantaged or vulnerable populations, permitting research with these groups only when it could not be carried out in a non-vulnerable population (new para. 20/old para. 17).  I understand the sentiment…really I do.  But this approach seems to unduly discount the real benefits that accrue to research participants and communities just by virtue of having the research done there.  And if research is responsive to population/community needs and priorities AND the population/community stands to benefit from the research – two standards that remain in the revised Declaration – why do we need the third criterion that research couldn’t be conducted in an alternative population? Continue reading

More Thoughts on the Preemie Study and IRB Review

By now, most of you have heard about the controversial study that sought to evaluate how much oxygen to give premature newborns to preserve both their lives and their sight.  Below, Laura Stark lays out some of the key details about the study and OHRP’s response, and concludes that part of the problem may have been a result of the difficulties associated with approving multi-site research.

Maybe so, but let me offer a more fundamental challenge: perhaps IRBs are just ineffective – or not as effective as we hope they would be – at protecting human subjects.  In retrospect, it looks like all 23 IRBs that reviewed the study, all of which were applying the same regulatory standards, failed to do what OHRP, many news outlets, and as awareness grows, much of the public thinks they ought to have done to protect the babies and families involved in this study.  How could they all have gotten it wrong?  Are the regulations insufficient?  Are the procedures insufficient? Is it all just a matter of interpretation?

These questions lead to another fundamental issue: the lack of empirical evidence on IRB effectiveness.  We have data on whether IRBs follow the regulations, data on adverse events, data on OHRP warning letters, data on IRB-imposed research burdens and delays – but these all nibble around the edges of the real questions: what are IRBs supposed to be doing, are they doing it well, and how would we know?  The counterfactual – a world without IRB review – is pretty tough to study, but I’m working with a group of colleagues at the Petrie-Flom Center and elsewhere to think through some empirical methods to get at precisely these issues.  And we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Finally, as a side note, one point that seems to be getting lost in coverage of this preemie story is that although there seems to have been some major problems with the consent process, the study question itself was a very important one to ask.

New Paper on Conscience and the ACA

Piggy-backing on Glenn’s post below, I just wanted to point you to my contribution to the same symposium issue of Ethical Perspectives.  The paper, “Religious Liberty, Conscience, and the Affordable Care Act,” can be downloaded here, and copied below is the abstract:

Broadly applicable legal requirements often come into conflict with moral or religious standards that individuals and organizations feel more strongly compelled to obey. Making room for such moral and religious standards in secular society is important, but can be difficult, since any exemptions or accommodations cannot be allowed frustrate the purpose of the general law, and must also be fair to those who remain subject to it without any special arrangements.

This essay briefly surveys the ways in which the Affordable Care Act might come into conflict with moral and religious beliefs held by both individuals and institutions, and describes the government accommodations that have been offered or considered to date. In particular, it focuses on the requirement that employers offer insurance coverage for free contraceptives and the requirement that individuals purchase insurance coverage that may include services they find objectionable. In both cases, I conclude that the proffered accommodations should be altered to enhance fairness as between objectors and non-objectors.