After a two-week hiatus, there's lots to catch up on in the field of medical ethics. But rather than try blogging on each issue, I will do a quick roundup. In no particular order, here's a few things that happened in the world the medical ethics in the past couple of weeks:
* Drug maker Merck & Co. came under criticism after it was revealed that the company had sponsored a clinical trial of its painkiller Vioxx in 1999 to support a marketing campaign. ``They went about this in a very analytic way, picking doctors who would be most influential, who will talk to other doctors and recommend Vioxx to them, and thus increase prescriptions in the area, planting the seeds of additional Vioxx use,'' Kevin Hill of Harvard Medical School and lead author of a study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, told Bloomberg. Merck, which pulled Vioxx from the market in 2004 after a study linked it to heart disease, denied the allegations. The drug maker has agreed to pay $4.85 billion (US) to settle patient claims that Vioxx, used by 84 million people worldwide, caused heart attacks or strokes.
* Wired magazine took a look at a looming issue once the US presidential election is over: the future of stem cell research funding south of the border. It's an issue this blog looked at recently, as well.
* The US secretary of veterans affairs apologized to the family of a 74-year-old vet who was denied medical treatment after he refused to take part in an Alzheimer's study. Joe Fitzgerald died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - the human form of mad cow disease - less than a month after he was dismissed without diagnosis or treatment at James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, The Washington Times reported. The paper also reported that the VA has come under criticism over its human-subject experiments amid allegations it failed to quickly notify participants in a smoking-cessation study about potentially dangerous side effects of a drug some participants were taking and an Arkansas veterans hospital uncovered rampant violations, including missing consent forms, secret HIV testing and failure to report more than 100 deaths of subjects participating in studies.
* A new book, Body Shopping, by Oxford ethicist Donna Dickenson looks at the world of medical research and commercialization of the human body. Australia and Dubai are looking to join the fast-growing medical tourism industry.
* Federal Health Minister Tony Clement questioned the medical ethics of doctors who support safe injection sites for addicts. The Canadian Medical Association says 79 per cent of Canadian doctors support such programs.
* The California Supreme Court ruled that doctors cannot deny treatment to homosexuals due to their own religious convictions. In Canada, meanwhile, the Ontario Medical Association is asking the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to change a draft policy that says doctors who deny treatment on moral or religious grounds might be contravening the Human Rights Code and committing professional misconduct.