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Journal: Philosophy, ethics, and humanities in medicine : PEHM

23

Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) remain recalcitrant to the medical profession, proving less suitable for homogenic treatment with respect to their aetiology, taxonomy and diagnosis. While the majority of existing medical research methods are designed for large scale population data and sufficiently homogenous groups, MUS are characterised by their heterogenic and complex nature. As a result, MUS seem to resist medical scrutiny in a way that other conditions do not. This paper approaches the problem of MUS from a philosophical point of view. The aim is to first consider the epistemological problem of MUS in a wider ontological and phenomenological context, particularly in relation to causation. Second, the paper links current medical practice to certain ontological assumptions. Finally, the outlines of an alternative ontology of causation are offered which place characteristic features of MUS, such as genuine complexity, context-sensitivity, holism and medical uniqueness at the centre of any causal set-up, and not only for MUS. This alternative ontology provides a framework in which to better understand complex medical conditions in relation to both their nature and their associated research activity.

Concepts: Medicine, Causality, Physician, Ontology, Philosophy of science, Philosophy, Metaphysics, Philosophy of mathematics

18

Ethical analyses of disorders of consciousness traditionally focus on residual awareness. Going one step further, this paper explores the potential ethical relevance of the unawareness retained by patients with disorders of consciousness, focusing specifically on the ethical implications of the description of the unconscious provided by recent scientific research.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Research, Consciousness, Ethics, Focusing, Aristotle

15

In light of the World Anti Doping Agency’s 2013 Code Revision process, we critically explore the applicability of two of three criteria used to determine whether a method or substance should be considered for their Prohibited List, namely its (potential) performance enhancing effects and its (potential) risk to the health of the athlete. To do so, we compare two communities of human guinea pigs: (i) individuals who make a living out of serial participation in Phase 1 pharmacology trials; and (ii) elite athletes who engage in what is effectively ‘unregulated clinical research’ by using untested prohibited or non-prohibited performance enhancing substances and methods, alone or in combination. Our comparison sheds light on norms of research ethics that these practices exacerbate with respect to the concepts of multiplicity, visibility, and consistency. We argue for the need to establish a proper governance framework to increase the accountability of these unregulated research practices in order to protect the human guinea pigs in elite sports contexts, and to establish reasonable grounds for the performance enhancing effects, and the risks to the health of the athlete, of the methods and substances that might justify their inclusion on the Prohibited List.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Medicine, Comparison, Clinical trial, Comparisons, Reason, World Anti-Doping Agency

9

This essay provides an ethical and conceptual argument for the use of informed consent prior to the diagnosis of brain death. It is meant to enable the family to make critical end-of-life decisions, particularly withdrawal of life support system and organ donation, before brain death is diagnosed, as opposed to the current practice of making such decisions after the diagnosis of death. The recent tragic case of a 13-year-old brain-dead patient in California who was maintained on a ventilator for over 2 years illustrates how such a consent would have made a crucial difference.

Concepts: Death, Life, Informed consent, Logic, Bioethics, Clinical death, Legal death, Brain death

9

Cultural congruence is the idea that to the extent a belief or experience is culturally shared it is not to feature in a diagnostic judgement, irrespective of its resemblance to psychiatric pathology. This rests on the argument that since deviation from norms is central to diagnosis, and since what counts as deviation is relative to context, assessing the degree of fit between mental states and cultural norms is crucial. Various problems beset the cultural congruence construct including impoverished definitions of culture as religious, national or ethnic group and of congruence as validation by that group. This article attempts to address these shortcomings to arrive at a cogent construct.

Concepts: Sociology, Greek loanwords, Culture, The Culture, Indigenous peoples, Nationality

7

Use of humanities content in American medical education has been debated for well over 60 years. While many respected scholars and medical educators have purported the value of humanities content in medical training, its inclusion remains unstandardized, and the undergraduate medical curriculum continues to be focused on scientific and technical content. Cited barriers to the integration of humanities include time and space in an already overburdened curriculum, and a lack of consensus on the exact content, pedagogy and instruction. Edmund Pellegrino, physician and scholar of the latter twentieth century, spent much of his professional life promoting the value and importance of the humanities in medical education, seeking the best way to incorporate and teach this content in clinically relevant ways. His efforts included the founding of multiple enterprises starting in the 1960s and 1970s to promote human values in medical education, including the Society for Health and Human Values and its Institute on Human Values in Medicine. Regardless of his efforts and those of many others into the current century, the medical humanities remains a curricular orphan, unable to find a lasting home in medical education and training.

6

Expertise has been a contentious concept in Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM). Especially in the early days of the movement, expertise was taken to be exactly what EBM was rebelling against-the authoritarian pronouncements about “best” interventions dutifully learned in medical schools, sometimes with dire consequences. Since then, some proponents of EBM have tried various ways of reincorporating the idea of expertise into EBM, with mixed results. However, questions remain. Is expertise evidence? If not, what is it good for, if anything?

Concepts: Medicine, The Canon of Medicine, Evidence-based medicine, Systematic review, Avicenna, Medical school, Alternative medicine, Medical literature

6

This article aims to contribute to a better conceptualization of pain and suffering by providing non-essential and non-naturalistic definitions of both phenomena. Contributions of classical evidence-based medicine, the humanistic turn in medicine, as well as the phenomenology and narrative theories of suffering and pain, together with certain conceptions of the person beyond them (the mind-body dichotomy, Cassel’s idea of persons as “intact beings”) are critically discussed with such purpose.

Concepts: Greek loanwords, Cognition, Ontology, Idea, Concept, Personal life, Abstraction, Suffering

6

Medical school curricula, although traditionally and historically dominated by science, have generally accepted, appreciated, and welcomed the inclusion of literature over the past several decades. Recent concerns about medical professional formation have led to discussions about the specific role and contribution of literature and stories. In this article, we demonstrate how professionalism and the study of literature can be brought into relationship through critical and interrogative interactions based in the literary skill of close reading. Literature in medicine can question the meaning of “professionalism” itself (as well as its virtues), thereby resisting standardization in favor of diversity method and of outcome. Literature can also actively engage learners with questions about the human condition, providing a larger context within which to consider professional identity formation. Our fundamental contention is that, within a medical education framework, literature is highly suited to assist learners in questioning conventional thinking and assumptions about various dimensions of professionalism.

Concepts: Medicine, Human, Physician, Question, Meaning of life, Anthropology, Literature, Medical school

6

The 2012 Varsity Medical Debate between Oxford University and Cambridge University provided a stage for representatives from these famous institutions to debate the motion “This house believes that trainee doctors should be able to use the developing world to gain clinical experience.” This article brings together many of the arguments put forward during the debate, centring around three major points of contention: the potential intrinsic wrong of ‘using’ patients in developing countries; the effects on the elective participant; and the effects on the host community. The article goes on to critically appraise overseas elective programmes, offering a number of solutions that would help optimise their effectiveness in the developing world.

Concepts: Effectiveness, Developing country, Francis Crick, Ohio, University of Oxford, Cambridge, University of Cambridge, Oxbridge