Announcing 2014-2016 Petrie-Flom Academic Fellow Rachel Sachs

We are pleased to announce that Rachel Sachs will be joining the Petrie-Flom Center later this summer as an Academic Fellow for the 2014-2016 fellowship term. In 2013, Rachel earned her J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she was the Articles Chair of the Harvard Law Review and a student fellow with both the Petrie-Flom Center and the John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics, and Business. Rachel has also earned a Masters in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health, during which she interned at the United States Department of Health and Human Services. She also holds an A.B. in Bioethics from Princeton University. After law school Rachel clerked for the Honorable Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Rachel’s primary research interests lie at the intersection of patent law and public health, with a particular focus on problems of innovation and access and the ways in which law helps or hinders these problems. Her past scholarship has examined the interactions between patent law and FDA regulation in the area of diagnostic tests, and explored the mechanisms behind the passage of patent-related legislation. Her current scholarship applies this focus on innovation and access to the intersection of patent law and drug reimbursement policies.
You can learn more about Rachel on our website.
Welcome Rachel!

5/2-3: Petrie-Flom Center Annual Conference, “Behavioral Economics, Law, and Health Policy”

Petrie-Flom Center 2014 Annual Conference: Behavioral Economics, Law, and Health Policy

May 2-3, 2014

Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East ABC, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave.

Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein’s book  Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness brought behavioral economics to the masses, beginning a discussion of libertarian paternalism and the many ways that “choice architects” can help nudge people to make better choices for themselves without forcing certain outcomes on anyone. Some of their examples fall in the realm of health policy, as is also the case of Daniel Kahneman’s recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, which examines various cognitive errors people make in their judgments, choices, and conclusions, as well as how we might correct them.  But the conversation has only just begun.

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New Joint Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience

The MGH Center for Law, Brain and Behavior and Harvard Law School’s Petrie-Flom Center announce joint “Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience” for 2014-2016

The MGH Center for Law, Brain and Behavior and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School will collaborate on a joint venture – the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience – beginning in Fall 2014. The collaboration will include a Senior Fellow in residence, public symposia, and an HLS Law and Neuroscience Seminar.

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New Profile of Petrie-Flom Annual Conf. Keynote Speaker Cass Sunstein

From the article. (Nadav Kander/Trunk Archive)

The Atlantic has just published a new piece profiling Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein, “Our Nudge in Chief,” exploring “How, and why, Cass Sunstein believes laws and public policies should help save us from our irrational impulses.”

Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, will deliver the keynote lecture at the Petrie-Flom Center’s upcoming annual conference, “Behavioral Economics, Law, and Health Policy,” on Friday, May 2. His talk is entitled “Choosing Not to Choose.” You can find out more about the conference here.

Read the full profile.

Art Caplan on “Pediatric Euthanasia in Belgium: Disturbing Developments”

Art Caplan has coauthored a new piece in JAMA on problems with Belgium’s new law allowing terminally-ill children and their families to choose euthanasia. From the article:

The Belgian pediatric euthanasia law seeks to respect the moral status of children as agents who possess the nascent capacity for self-determination. Specifically, the law requires the medical team to demonstrate a patient has the “capacity for discernment,” indicating that he or she understands the consequences of a choice for euthanasia.

What the law does not consider, however, is that adults choose euthanasia for reasons that go beyond pain. For adults, the decision to end their life can be based upon the fear of a loss of control, not wanting to burden others, or the desire not to spend their final days of life fully sedated. These desires might be supported by the experience they have had witnessing a loved one express a loss of dignity or because they understand what terminal sedation is and wish to refuse it. Children, however, lack the intellectual capacity to develop a sophisticated preference against palliative interventions of last resort. Instead, in the case of the new Belgian law, children seem to be asked to choose between unbearable suffering on the one hand and death on the other.

This possibility causes the Belgian euthanasia law to fall short of the standard required for valid assent. The criterion related to the “capacity for discernment” runs the risk of ignoring the fact that children and adolescents lack the experiential knowledge and sense of self that adults often invoke—rightly or wrongly—at the end of their lives.

Read the full article.

Introducing New Contributor Katherine Record

Katherine Record is the Senior Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI). Her work, in part, focuses on healthcare reform implementation, compliance training for healthcare providers related to consent for HIV testing and disclosure, domestic and global mental health law and policy, and implementing state electronic health record databases in compliance with federal and state privacy laws.  Prior to joining CHLPI, Katherine worked at the O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law at Georgetown University.  There she focused on public health law reform, firearms control, global preparation for pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent the transmission of HIV (PrEP), and the development of the legal portion of a genetics database. Katherine received her JD, cum laude, and masters in Psychology at Duke University, her MPH from Harvard’s School of Public Health, and her BA, magna cum laude, from Georgetown University.  She is licensed to practice law in the State of New York, serves as a collaborating mentor for Boston Children’s Hospital’s Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders, on the board of directors for Our Bodies Ourselves, as the liaison to the AIDS Coordinating Committee of the American Bar Association on behalf of the Health Law Section, and on the Harvard College Global Health Review’s Board of Advisors.

Recent Publications:

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FOR HARVARD STUDENTS: TOMORROW: Dallas Buyers Club: Free Film Screening and Discussion

Image by christian razukas from Wikimedia Commons.

Dallas Buyers Club: Free Film Screening and Panel Discussion

April 16, 2014 6:00 PM
Wasserstein Hall 1010, 1585 Massachusetts Ave.

Students from across Harvard are invited to view a free screening of the Academy-award winning film Dallas Buyers Club and participate in a panel discussion about issues addressed in the film related to access to health care for the HIV community.  The panel discussion will address the following issues: the history of access to care and treatment for HIV; ongoing issues with fair pricing of HIV medications; the role of the FDA in access to experimental medicines; and the portrayal of HIV and LGBTQI individuals in the media as it impacts access to individual and public health resources. Panelists include:

  • Robert Greenwald, Director, Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation; Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Christopher T. Robertson, Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Faculty Affiliate, Petrie-Flom Center
  • Grace Sterling Stowell, Executive Director, BAGLY: Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth

This event is open to students from all Harvard schools.  No pre-registration is required.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation; the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics; and Lambda at Harvard Law School.

5/20 conference: “Biostatistics & FDA Regulation: The Convergence of Science & Law”

Biostatistics and FDA Regulation: The Convergence of Science and Law

Tuesday, May 20, 2014, 8:00am – 5:00pm

Wasserstein Hall, Milstein West AB, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave.

Symposium Presented by the Drug Information Association (DIA), the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI), and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School, in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Biostatistics and Harvard Catalyst | The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center.

Biostatistics is the application of statistics — the study of the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data — to a wide range of topics in life sciences.  Biostatistics informs the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory decision-making processes for premarket review of investigational drugs and devices and post-market surveillance of medical products, including decisions to require safety labeling changes and withdraw approval.   Recent developments, such as Congress’s creation of a new federal infrastructure for the dissemination of comparative effectiveness information, point to the need for a fresh look at the way in which biostatistical principles inform federal health care policy, particularly at the FDA.  This one-day symposium will give attendees the foundational knowledge they need to understand how biostatistics applies in FDA regulation, and will also address closely related issues residing at the intersection of statistical analysis and life sciences litigation. The full conference agenda is available on the website.

Registration is required in order to attend this event. Please register here.

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FOR HARVARD STUDENTS: 4/16: Dallas Buyers Club: Free Film Screening and Discussion

Image by christian razukas from Wikimedia Commons.

Dallas Buyers Club: Free Film Screening and Panel Discussion

April 16, 2014 6:00 PM
Wasserstein Hall 1010, 1585 Massachusetts Ave.

Students from across Harvard are invited to view a free screening of the Academy-award winning film Dallas Buyers Club and participate in a panel discussion about issues addressed in the film related to access to health care for the HIV community.  The panel discussion will address the following issues: the history of access to care and treatment for HIV; ongoing issues with fair pricing of HIV medications; the role of the FDA in access to experimental medicines; and the portrayal of HIV and LGBTQI individuals in the media as it impacts access to individual and public health resources. Panelists include:

  • Robert Greenwald, Director, Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation; Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Christopher T. Robertson, Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Faculty Affiliate, Petrie-Flom Center
  • Grace Sterling Stowell, Executive Director, BAGLY: Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth

This event is open to students from all Harvard schools.  No pre-registration is required.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation; the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics; and Lambda at Harvard Law School.

TOMORROW: Hot Topics at Presidential Commission on Bioethics

Hot Topics at the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues: Plus Q&A on Careers in Law and Bioethics!

Friday, April 11, 2014, 12:00pm

Pound Hall 100, Harvard Law School, 1563 Massachusetts Ave.

Please join us for an update from the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, delivered by Michelle Groman (HLS ’05), Associate Director at the Bioethics Commission.  Since its inception in 2009, President Obama’s Commission has issued reports on synthetic biology, human subjects research, whole genome sequencing, pediatric medical countermeasure research, and incidental findings. Currently, the Commission is examining the ethical implications of neuroscience research and the application of neuroscience research findings as part of the federal government’s BRAIN Initiative.  The Commission also has developed educational materials to support teaching of bioethics ideas, principles, and theories in traditional and non-traditional settings.

This final half-hour of this event will feature a discussion of career opportunities in law and bioethics, led by Ms. Groman and Holly Fernandez Lynch, Petrie-Flom Center Executive Director.  Bring your questions!

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served.

For questions, contact petrie-flom@law.harvard.edu, or 617-496-4662.

Cosponsored by the Office of Career Services at Harvard Law School. This event is supported by the Oswald DeN. Cammann Fund.

Introducing New Contributor Joel Lexchin

Joel Lexchin received his MD from the University of Toronto in 1977 and for the past 27 years has been an emergency physician at the University Health Network. He is currently a Professor in the School of Health Policy and Management at York University and an Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. From 1992-94 he was a member of the Ontario Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee and he was the chair of the Drugs and Pharmacotherapy Committee of the Ontario Medical Association from 1997-99. He has been a consultant for the province of Ontario, various arms of the Canadian federal government, the World Health Organization, the government of New Zealand and the Australian National Prescribing Service. He is the author or co-author of over 140 peer-reviewed articles on topics such as physician prescribing behaviour, pharmaceutical patent issues, the drug approval process and prescription drug promotion.

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4/10 Book Launch: The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children

Thursday, April 10, 2014, 12:00pm

Wasserstein Hall 2019A, Harvard Law School, 1585 Massachusetts Ave.

Please join us for the launch of Professor Ross E. Cheit‘s new book The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children (Oxford University Press, April 2014). It has become widely accepted that a series of high-profile child sexual abuse cases from the 1980s and early 1990s were “witch hunts.” That view first took hold in the media, then spread to the courts and academia. But purveyors of the witch-hunt narrative never did the hard work of examining court records in the many cases that reached the courts throughout the nation. Drawing on fifteen years of original trial research into these child sex abuse cases, Cheit challenges the accuracy of the narrative. The launch event will feature panel discussion including:

  • Ross E. Cheit, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, Brown University
  • Jeannie Suk, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Alan A. Stone, MD, Touroff-Glueck Professor of Law and Psychiatry, Harvard Law School

This event is free and open to the public.

For questions, contact petrie-flom@law.harvard.edu or 617-496-4662.

Smoke and Mirrors and Women, Oh My

[Guest post by Katherine L. Record, JD, MPH, MA]

Last week the Supreme Court attracted lots of attention when it heard arguments about whether a corporation can exclude mandatory preventive benefits from its employee health plan, based on a religious objection to certain types of healthcare.  This is a tale as old as time; religion has long been the basis for opposition to reproductive (i.e., women’s) health – including the preventive healthcare now in question, contraception.

Yet this argument has nothing to do with government infringement on the practice of religion.

In fact, the corporation, Hobby Lobby, covered two of the four contraceptive devices in dispute until its lawyers were actually arguing the issue in court, apparently to little detriment to the company’s faith in God.  What’s more, Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) includes more than $73 million invested in the companies that produce these objectionable contraceptives (e.g., intrauterine devices, emergency contraception).

This has not stopped Hobby Lobby from arguing that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is threatening its freedom, as a corporation, to practice religion.

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Introducing Student Contributor Elizabeth Guo

Elizabeth Guo is a first year student in the JD/MPH Program at Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Public Health. Her interests lie at the intersection of law, health care reimbursement, and biopharmaceutical regulation. Elizabeth graduated from Harvard University with a BA in social studies, focusing on the bioethics of assisted reproduction in China. Prior to law school, she was a senior associate at Avalere Health, working with life science clients on a range of health policy topics, including Medicare coverage and reimbursement, biosimilar regulation, and healthcare quality programs. Elizabeth is a student editor of the Journal of Law and Technology and a member of the Mississippi Delta Project’s Food Policy Initiative.

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