A blog from the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

Category: In the profession (Page 1 of 5)

Can positive action improve a meritocracy?

Despite political efforts to change the situation, gender imbalance is still evident in European universities and research institutions. A powerful tool for change is positive action. The tool may seem to be at odds with the meritocratic values that distinguish academia. Resistance to such measures may seem particularly well-motivated in science, which is supposed to be value-neutral and only let academic merit be the decisive factor behind researchers’ success in the competition for employment and research grants.

However, merits can be assessed and measured in different ways and merit systems may, for historical reasons, favor men over women. There are still societal expectations that the woman should take the main responsibility for children and aging parents, as well as for other household tasks. This pattern is reflected in working life, where female researchers can be expected to also take care of the academic housework. Dual household work reasonably gives women worse conditions in a competitive work environment that rewards productivity and quantity. Can the merit system then be said to be value neutral? Or does it prevent important changes not only to the gender distribution, but also to the system itself, which possibly favors quantity over quality, certain types of research questions over others, and self-absorbed competition over good collaboration?

Meritocracies, like everything else in this world, are changeable. They can change without ceasing to be meritocracies. Positive action could give the academic merit system a push in a possibly better direction, with better ways of assessing scholarly merit, soon helping to render the tool redundant. We therefore need to approach the question of positive action with our eyes open to both opportunities and risks.

The European project MINDtheGEPs (gender equality in research) recently published a policy brief, intended to support thoughtful implementation of positive action in European research. The tool can be used in three important areas: when awarding research grants and fellowships, when hiring full professors, and in the composition of evaluation committees. The policy brief provides an overview of common arguments for and against in the debate about positive action in European research organizations, divided into these three important areas. It is instructive to see the arguments side by side, as well as the counterarguments against the counterarguments. Because is it really self-evident that positive action must undermine a meritocracy?

Read MINDtheGEPs’ policy brief here: Gender quotas & positive action: An attack on meritocracy? There you will also find case studies of positive action at two Italian universities.

MINDtheGEPs hosts a series of Open Forums to discuss gender equality in the academic and research & innovation sectors, to facilitate knowledge exchange and mutual learning among scholars, practitioners and professionals supporting gender equality policies and measures. On 20 March 2024, their next Open Forum, they will share and discuss the contents of their latest policy brief – exploring the contentious topic of positive action, assessing arguments for and against, and drawing insights from MINDtheGEPs’ Gender Equality Plan development.

Pär Segerdahl

Written by…

Pär Segerdahl, Associate Professor at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics and editor of the Ethics Blog.

Solera C, Cipriani N, Holm Bodin A. (2023) Gender quotas & positive action: An attack on meritocracy? Zenodo. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.1002437

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We challenge habits of thought

Time to forget time

A theme in recent blog posts has been our need for time. Patients need time to be listened to; time to ask questions; time to decide whether they want to be included in clinical studies, and time for much more. Healthcare workers need time to understand the patients’ situation; time to find solutions to the individual problems of patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, and time for much more. This theme, our need for time, got me thinking about what is so great about time.

It could be tempting to conduct time and motion studies of our need for time. How much time does the patient need to spend with the doctor to feel listened to? How much time does the nurse need to spend with the patient to get the experience of providing good care? The problem with such studies is that they destroy the greatness of time. To give the patient or the nurse the measured time, prescribed by the time study, is to glance at the clock. Would you feel listened to if the person you were talking to had a stopwatch hanging around their neck? Would you be a good listener yourself if you waited for the alarm signal from the stopwatch hanging around your neck?

Time studies do not answer our question of what we need, when we need time. If it was really a certain amount of time we needed, say fifteen minutes, then it should make no difference if a ticking stopwatch hung around the neck. But it makes a difference! The stopwatch steals our time. So, what is so great about time?

I think the answer is well on its way to revealing itself, precisely because we give it time to come at its own pace. What we need when we need time, is to forget time! That is the great thing about having time. That we no longer think about it.

Again, it can be tempting to conduct time studies. How much time does the patient and the doctor need to forget time? Again, time studies ruin the greatness of time. How? They frame everything in time. They force us to think about time, even when the point is to forget it.

Our need for time is not about measured quantities of time, but about the timeless quality of not thinking about time. Thinking about time steals time from us. Since it is not really about time, it does not have to take that long.

Pär Segerdahl

Written by…

Pär Segerdahl, Associate Professor at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics and editor of the Ethics Blog.

This post in Swedish

We challenge habits of thought

Moral stress: what does the COVID-19 pandemic teach us about the concept?

Newly formed concepts can sometimes satisfy such urgent linguistic needs that they immediately seem completely self-evident. Moral stress is probably such a concept. It is not many decades old. Nevertheless, the concept probably appeared from the beginning as an all-too-familiar reality for many healthcare workers.

An interesting aspect of these immediately self-evident concepts is that they effortlessly find their own paths through language, despite our efforts to define the right path. They are simply too striking in living spoken language to be captured in the more rigid written language of definitions. However, the first definition of moral stress was fairly straightforward. This is how Andrew Jameton defined the concept:

“Moral distress arises when one knows the right thing to do, but institutional constraints make it nearly impossible to pursue the right course of action.”

Although the definition is not complicated in the written language, it still prevents the concept from speaking freely, as it wants to. For, do we not spontaneously want to talk about moral stress in other situations as well? For example, in situations where two different actions can be perceived as the right ones, but if we choose one action it excludes the other? Or in situations where something other than “institutional constraints” prevents the right course of action? Perhaps a sudden increase in the number of patients.

Here is a later definition of moral stress, which leaves more open (by Kälvemark, Höglund and Hansson):

“Traditional negative stress symptoms that occur due to situations that involve an ethical dimension where the health care provider feels he/she is not able to preserve all interests at stake.”

This definition allows the concept to speak more freely, in more situations than the first, although it is possibly slightly more complicated in the written language. That is of course no objection. A definition has other functions than the concept being defined, it does not have to be catchy like a song chorus. But if we compare the definitions, we can notice how both express the authors’ ideas about morality, and thus about moral stress. In the first definition, the author has the idea that morality is a matter of conscience and that moral stress occurs when institutional constraints of the profession prevent the practitioner from acting as conscience demands. Roughly. In the second definition, the authors have the idea that morality is rather a kind of balancing of different ethical values and interests and that moral stress arises in situations that prevent the trade-offs from being realized. Roughly.

Why do I dwell on the written and intellectual aspects of the definitions, even though it is hardly an objection to a definition? It has to do with the relationship between our words and our ideas about our words. Successful words find their own paths in language despite our ideas about the path. In other words: despite our definitions. Jameton both coined and defined moral (di)stress, but the concept almost immediately stood, and walked, on its own feet. I simply want to remind you that spoken-language spontaneity can have its own authority, its own grounding in reality, even when it comes to newly formed concepts introduced through definitions.

An important reason why the newly formed concept of moral stress caught on so immediately is probably that it put into words pressing problems for healthcare workers. Issues that needed to be noticed, discussed and dealt with. One way to develop the definition of moral stress can therefore be to listen to how healthcare workers spontaneously use the concept about situations they themselves have experienced.

A study in BMC Medical Ethics does just this. Together with three co-authors, Martina E. Gustavsson investigated how Swedish healthcare workers (assistants, nurses, doctors, etc.) described moral stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. After answering a number of questions, the participants were requested to describe, in a free text response, situations during the pandemic in which they experienced moral stress. These free text answers were conceptually analyzed with the aim of formulating a refined definition of moral stress.

An overarching theme in the free text responses turned out to be: being prevented from providing good care to needy patients. The healthcare workers spoke of a large number of obstacles. They perceived problems that needed to be solved, but felt that they were not taken seriously, that they were inadequate or forced to act outside their areas of expertise. What stood in the way of good care? The participants in the study spoke, among other things, about unusual conditions for decision-making during the pandemic, about tensions in the work team (such as colleagues who did not dare to go to work for fear of being infected), about substandard communication with the organizational management. All this created moral stress.

But they also talked about the pandemic itself as an obstacle. The prioritization of COVID-19 patients meant that other patients received worse care and were exposed to the risk of infection. The work was also hindered by a lack of resources, such as personal protective equipment, while the protective equipment prevented staff from comforting worried patients. The visiting restrictions also forced staff to act as guards against patients’ relatives and isolate infected patients from their children and partners. Finally, the pandemic prevented good end-of-life care. This too was morally stressful.

How can the healthcare workers’ free text responses justify a refined definition of moral stress? Martina E. Gustafsson and co-authors consider the definition above by Kälvemark, Höglund and Hansson as a good definition to start from. But one type of situation that the participants in the study described probably falls outside that definition, namely the situation of not being taken seriously, of feeling inadequate and powerless. The study therefore proposes the following definition, which includes these situations:

“Moral stress is the kind of stress that arises when confronted with a moral challenge, a situation in which it is difficult to resolve a moral problem and in which it is difficult to act, or feeling insufficient when you act, in accordance with your own moral values.”

Here, too, one can sense an idea of morality, and thus of moral stress. The authors think of morality as being about solving moral problems, and that moral stress arises when this endeavor encounters challenges, or when one feels inadequate in the attempts to solve the problems. The definition can be considered a refined idea of what moral stress is. It describes more precisely the relevant situations where healthcare workers spontaneously want to talk about moral stress.

Obviously, we can learn a lot about the concept of moral stress from the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the study here, which contains poignant descriptions of morally stressful situations during the pandemic: “Being prevented from providing good care: a conceptual analysis of moral stress among health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Finally, I would like to mention two general lessons about language, which in my view the study highlights. The first is that we can learn a lot about our concepts through the difficulties of defining them. The study took this “definition resistance” seriously by listening to how healthcare workers spontaneously talk about moral stress. This created friction that helped refine the definition. The second lesson is that we often use words despite our ideas about what the words mean or should mean. Spoken language spontaneity has a natural weight and authority that we easily overlook, but from which we have much to learn – as in this empirical study.

Pär Segerdahl

Written by…

Pär Segerdahl, Associate Professor at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics and editor of the Ethics Blog.

Gustavsson, M.E., von Schreeb, J., Arnberg, F.K. et al. “Being prevented from providing good care: a conceptual analysis of moral stress among health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic”. BMC Med Ethics 24, 110 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-023-00993-y

This post in Swedish

Minding our language

Research nurses on ethical challenges in recruiting participants for clinical research

In clinical research with participating patients, research nurses play a central role. On a daily basis, they balance the values of care and the needs of research. For these nurses, it is clear that patients’ informed consent for research participation is more than just a one-time event completed by signing the form. The written consent is the beginning of a long relationship with the patients. The process requires effective communication throughout the course of the study, from obtaining consent to subsequent interactions with patients related to their consent. The research nurses must continuously ensure that participating patients are well informed about how the study is progressing, that they understand any changes to the set-up or to the risks and benefits. If conditions change too much, a new consent may need to be obtained.

Despite research nurses being so deeply involved in the entire consent process, there is a lack of research on this professional group’s experiences of and views on informed consent. What problems and opportunities do they experience? In an interview study, Tove Godskesen, Joar Björk and Niklas Juth studied the issue. They interviewed 14 Swedish research nurses about ethical challenges related to the consent process and how the challenges were handled.

The challenges were mainly about factors that could threaten voluntariness. Informed consent must be given voluntarily, but several factors can threaten this ethically important requirement. The nurses mentioned a number of factors, such as rushed decision-making in stressful situations, excessively detailed information to patients, doctors’ influence over patients, and disagreement within the family. An elusive threat to voluntariness is patients’ own sometimes unrealistic hopes for therapeutic benefit from research participation. Why is this elusive? Because the hopes can make the patients themselves motivated to participate. However, if the hopes are unrealistic, voluntariness can be said to be undermined even if the patients want to participate.

How do the research nurses deal with the challenges? An important measure is to give patients time in a calm environment to thoughtfully consider their participation and discuss it. This also reduces the risk of participants dropping out of the study, reasoned the nurses. Time with the patients also helps the research nurses to understand the patients’ situation, so that the recruitment does not take place hastily and perhaps on the basis of unrealistic expectations, they emphasized. The interviewees also said that they have an important role as advocates for the patients. In this role, the nurses may need time to understand and more closely examine the patients’ perspectives and reasons for potentially withdrawing from the study, and to find suitable solutions. It can also happen that patients say no to participation even though they really want to, perhaps because they are overwhelmed by all the information that made participation sound complicated. Again, the research nurses may need to give themselves and the patients time for in-depth conversations, so that patients who want to participate have the opportunity to do so. Maybe it is not as complicated as it seemed?

Read the important interview study here: Challenges regarding informed consent in recruitment to clinical research: a qualitative study of clinical research nurses’ experiences.

The study also highlights another possible problem that the research nurses raised, namely the questionable exclusion of certain groups from research participation (such as people who have difficulty understanding Swedish or have reduced cognitive ability). Such exclusion can mean that patients who want to participate in research are not allowed to do so, that certain groups have less access to new treatments, and that the scientific quality of the studies is hampered.

Pär Segerdahl

Written by…

Pär Segerdahl, Associate Professor at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics and editor of the Ethics Blog.

Godskesen, T., Björk, J. & Juth, N. Challenges regarding informed consent in recruitment to clinical research: a qualitative study of clinical research nurses’ experiences. Trials 24, 801 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13063-023-07844-6

This post in Swedish

Ethics needs empirical input

Medical ethics conference in Uppsala, 10–11 June 2024

Since 2022, an annual conference in medical ethics is organized by Swedish universities. The first conference was organized by Lund University and the second by Karolinska Institutet. The next conference will be arranged on 10–11 June 2024 by us at the Centre for Research and Bioethics at Uppsala University. Conference names vary with the host university, our conference in June is thus named UMEC – Uppsala University Medical Ethics Conference.

We welcome researchers in medical ethics broadly conceived from Sweden as well as other countries, and oral presentations must be in English. If you would like to present your work at the conference, you are welcome to submit an abstract no later than March 31, 2024. We are interested in both normative approaches and empirical studies with normative relevance for issues in clinical ethics, public health ethics, research ethics and medical law.

We hope you want to attend the conference. You can find more information about the abstract and presentation as well as about the conference venue and travel options here: UMEC – Uppsala University Medical Ethics Conference.

Please note that the information is still incomplete and that more details will come as we get closer to the conference date.

Pär Segerdahl

Written by…

Pär Segerdahl, Associate Professor at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics and editor of the Ethics Blog.

This post in Swedish

We recommend conferences

Questions about evidence and guidelines in healthcare

Finding your way through the complex web of guidelines and requirements for evidence in healthcare can be challenging. It is easy to imagine that these guidelines are downloaded from above, like a collection of commandments, but the truth is that they are shaped and changed in a complex process of negotiation and deliberation.

My colleagues and I in prosthetics and orthotics in Region Uppsala in Sweden are involved in the procurement of orthopedic devices for patients, such as prostheses, orthoses, splints, sitting frames, medical corsets, orthopedic shoes and insoles. We often ask ourselves an important question: Who should receive tax-funded prosthetics and orthotics devices and how expensive should they be? Where do we find guidelines for our decisions? An example of a guiding document is the general guidelines for the prescription of assistive devices in the County Council of Uppsala (from 2015). This document is based on the laws and guidelines of the parliament, UN conventions and the Council’s own plans. It becomes clear that guidelines are not isolated rules, but rather an interweaving of different norms and values that guide healthcare decisions.

Despite clear priority levels and demands for individual assessment of health effects, we find that patients today are denied orthopedic devices with the argument that there is a lack of evidence that the aid works for the type of diagnosis in question. Is this argument as strong when it comes to orthopedic devices as it is when it comes to drug treatments? In the search for evidence in healthcare, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are often required. But must all treatments be measured by the same yardstick? Applying an arm cast or using an assistive device that enables walking does not necessarily require the same level of evidence as more complex internal medicine treatments. Sometimes it should be enough to see with your own eyes and observe improvements, such as a better gait or reduced pain.

In addition to this possibly unfair situation, where a small patient group has to suffer from requirements that are reasonable for the majority but not for all patients, the availability and scope of assistive device prescription varies between different regions in Sweden. This variation raises questions about how guidelines and principles for prioritization in healthcare are interpreted in different regions. Although the overarching principles for priority setting are the same (the principle that all humans have equal value and the same right to care, the principle of need and solidarity, and of the principle of cost-effectiveness), the interpretation and application of these principles can apparently differ. Why is it like that? In some regions, a more comprehensive and individually adapted prescription of devices is given, while other regions are more restrictive. This variation raises important questions about fair and equal care. Providing fair and equal care does not just require following rules. It also requires that we deepen our understanding of how these rules are interpreted and applied in different parts of the country, as well as assess which requirements are reasonable in different practices. It is a complex balancing act between ensuring people’s equal value and right to health while managing resources efficiently. Prescription of assistive devices as a tool to support health and participation is emphasized in the guidelines in Uppsala, but it is important to reflect on how this tool is implemented in practice and what impact it has on people’s quality of life. A common basis in the WHO’s international classification of functional status, disability and health is a good starting point (as in the National Board of Health and Welfare’s support for prescribing assistive devices). But continued discussion and reflection is required to ensure that the patient’s individual health condition is taken into account (not just the patient group), and that devices are prescribed fairly across the country.

In my work, I reflect daily on guidelines and requirements for evidence. I think it is valuable if we who work with the prescription of orthopedic devices reflect on the origin of the guidelines and the requirements for evidence that we use in healthcare. Understanding the context around why the guidelines look the way they do is crucial for us to be able to understand and apply them in our practices. For example, how should we interpret the requirement for evidence when working with prosthetics and orthotics?

I will return to discuss possible answers to these questions in future blog posts. With this post I just wanted to raise the questions.

Written by…

Jennifer Viberg Johansson, Associate Professor in Medical Ethics at Uppsala University’s Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics.

This post in Swedish

We want to be just

Antimicrobial resistance: bringing the AMR community together

According to the WHO, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development. Most of the disease burden is in the global south, but drug resistant infections can affect anyone, in any part of the world. Bacteria are always evolving, and antibiotic resistance is a natural process that develops through mutations. We can slow down the process by using antibiotics responsibly, but to save lives, we urgently need new antibiotics to fight the resistant bacteria that already today threaten our health.

There is a dilemma here: development of new antibiotics is a high-risk business, with very low return of investment, and big pharma is leaving the antibiotics field for precisely this reason. Responsible use of antibiotics means saving new drugs for the most severe cases. There are several initiatives filling the gap this creates. One example is the Innovative Medicines Initiative AMR Accelerator programme, with 9 projects working together to fill the pipeline with new antibiotics, and developing tools and infrastructures that can support antibiotics development.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to antibiotics and other anti-infectives is a community problem. Managing it requires a community coming together to find solutions and work together to develop research infrastructures. For example, assessing the effectiveness of new antibiotics requires standardised high-quality infection models that can become available to projects, companies and research groups that are developing new antibacterial treatments. Recently, the AMR Accelerator COMBINE project announced a collaboration with some of the big players in the field: CARB-X, CAIRD, iiCON and Pharmacology Discovery Services. This kind of collaboration allows key actors to come together and share both expertise and data. The COMBINE project is developing a standardised protocol for an in vivo pneumonia model. It will become available to the scientific community, along with a bank of reference strains of Gram-negative bacteria that are clinically relevant, complete with a framework to bridge the gap between preclinical data and clinical outcomes based on mathematical modelling approaches.

The benefit of a standardised model is to support harmonisation. Ideally, data on how effective new antibiotic candidates are should be the same, regardless of the lab that performed the experiments. The point of the collaboration is to improve quality of the COMBINE pneumonia model. But who are they and what will they do? CARB-X (Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator) is a global non-profit partnership that supports early-stage antibacterial research and development. They will help validation of the pneumonia model. CAIRD (Center for Anti-Infective Research and Development) is working to advance anti-infective pharmacology. They are providing a benchmark by back-translation of clinical data. iiCON has a mission to accelerate and support the discovery and development of innovative new anti-infectives, diagnostics, and preventative products. They are supporting the mathematical modelling to ensure optimal dose selection. And finally, Pharmacology Discovery Services, a contract research organisation (CRO) working with preclinical antibacterial development, will supply efficacy data.

At the centre of this is the COMBINE project, which has a coordinating role in the AMR Accelerator: a cluster of public-private partnership projects funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). The AMR Accelerator brings together academia, pharma industry, patient organisations, non-profits and small and medium sized companies. The aim is to develop a robust pipeline of antibiotics and standardised tools that can be used by others in this community, to help in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

In parallel, the effort to slow down antibiotic resistance continues. For example, Uppsala University coordinates the COMBINE project, and in 2016, the University founded the Uppsala Antibiotic Center, a multidisciplinary centre for research, education, innovation and awareness. The centre runs the AMR Studio podcast, showcasing some of the multidisciplinary research on antimicrobial resistance around the world. The University is also coordinating the ENABLE-2 antibacterial drug discovery platform funded by the Swedish Research Council, with an open call to support programmes in the early stages of discovery and development of new antibiotics.

Our own efforts at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics are more focused on how we as individuals can help slow down the development of antibiotic resistance, and how we can assess the impact of how you frame antibiotic treatments when you ask patients about their preferences

Josepine Fernow

Written by…

Josepine Fernow, science communications project manager and coordinator at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics, develops communications strategy for European research projects

Do you want to know more?

EurekAlert! News release: Collaboration to improve the quality of in vivo antibiotics testing, 14 November 2023 https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1007971.

Ancillotti M, Nihlén Fahlquist J, Eriksson S, Individual moral responsibility for antibiotic resistance, Bioethics, 2022;36(1):3-9. https://doi.org/10.1111/bioe.12958

Smith IP, Ancillotti M, de Bekker-Grob EW, Veldwijk J. Does It Matter How You Ask? Assessing the Impact of Failure or Effectiveness Framing on Preferences for Antibiotic Treatments in a Discrete Choice Experiment. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2022;16:2921-2936. https://doi.org/10.2147/PPA.S365624

A shorter version of this post in Swedish

Approaching future issues

How do we find out if drugs are safe for groups excluded from clinical trials?

Drug development requires that the drug is tested on patients in clinical trials. Not only the drug’s effectiveness is tested on the patients, but also its safety. Does the drug have serious side effects and what dosage is safe? Thanks to such clinical research, approved drugs can be provided with safety information, which enables doctors and patients to make informed decisions about drug treatment.

However, there are vulnerable groups that are often excluded from clinical studies, such as pregnant and breastfeeding women. But this protection of a vulnerable group can make the group extra vulnerable when deciding on drug treatment. If there is no evidence, it is not known whether the medicine the woman needs risks harming her, the fetus or the child being breastfed. It is also not known what dosage should be recommended. Perhaps the woman herself refrains from taking a medicine she needs, or receives advice from the doctor to refrain from it. Not because one knows that the medicine poses risks for the group, but because one does not know.

Are there other ways to obtain evidence on medicine safety for pregnant and breastfeeding women, besides clinical studies? Yes, there are, because pregnant and breastfeeding women must of course often use medication. Several registers already contain data from women who use medicines during pregnancy. In addition, pregnant and breastfeeding women using medicines may be engaged in additional data collection activities. Thus, there is already data as well as additional opportunities to collect data, without involving the group in clinical studies.

Josepine Fernow describes in Uppsala Reports such an attempt to compile existing data and expand the possibilities of collecting new data: the European project IMI ConcePTION. This project is developing several different paths towards better future safety information about drug treatment during pregnancy and breastfeeding. One challenge is to develop a technical infrastructure where data collected in different registers and in different formats are harmonized so that they can be collected and handled in standardized ways. Another challenge is to enable pregnant women to easily report relevant data about their medication use, for example via a mobile application. The project also tries to produce new data on breastfeeding and medicine use. For example, milk is collected and analyzed from breastfeeding women who use various medicines, in order to understand and predict how these medicines are transferred to the breast milk and in what concentration. Two of these breastfeeding studies are underway in Sweden. They are coordinated by CRB and we will write about them on this blog.

ConcePTION is also developing a knowledge bank that will be available online from the end of 2024, which will make the data and knowledge generated by the project useful. There are thus several avenues for research along which one can generate evidence for better safety information about various medicines for pregnant and breastfeeding women, without involving the group in clinical studies.

Read Josepine Fernow’s description of the project here: Making medicines safer for pregnant and breastfeeding women. There you will also find several links to the project and to the project’s publications.

Pär Segerdahl

Written by…

Pär Segerdahl, Associate Professor at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics and editor of the Ethics Blog.

This post in Swedish

Part of international collaborations

How should coercive care be regulated within somatic healthcare?

Coercive measures against patients are regularly used in healthcare outside of psychiatry, for example in neurosurgical care. Examples of such measures are belting, boxing gloves, holding patients down, forced medication and hidden medication. It is mostly nurses who carry out these coercive measures. The most common motive for forcing patients is to protect them from harming themselves or others: patients may be confused or aggressive and try to pull out vital ports for intravenous drug administration or abuse staff, often without understanding what they are doing themselves. Because the staff act in a legal and moral gray zone, they often feel moral stress exercising coercion.

How can we regulate coercive care in a way that balances ethically relevant considerations about the measures, so that staff no longer have to act in a gray zone?

Different countries have chosen different paths to regulate coercive care within somatic healthcare. In Sweden, it is in principle illegal to use all forms of coercion without the support of compulsory psychiatric care. An overarching problem in the regulation of coercive care is to ensure that patients with reduced decision-making capacity receive the care they need and at the same time ensure that patients with a sufficient degree of decision-making capacity are not forced into care they do not want. In an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Amina Guenna Holmgren and I and two co-authors try to sort out these difficulties. Arguments about justice, trust in healthcare, minimizing harm and respect for autonomy are made for and against different national regulations. We conclude that a regulation that includes an assessment of the patients’ decision-making capacity and takes the patient’s best interests into account is preferable, in contrast to regulations based on psychiatric diagnoses or regulations where there are no legal possibilities to practice coercive care at all within somatic care.

If you want to take a closer look at our reasoning regarding the regulation of restraint in somatic healthcare and evaluate our proposal, you will find the article here: Restraint in somatic healthcare: how should it be regulated?

Niklas Juth

Written by

Niklas Juth, Professor of Clinical Medical Ethics at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

Guenna Holmgren A, von Vogelsang A, Lindblad A, Niklas Juth. Restraint in somatic healthcare: how should it be regulated? Journal of Medical Ethics. Published Online First: 18 October 2023. doi: 10.1136/jme-2023-109240

This post in Swedish

Thinking about law

Ethics Council at Uppsala Region: Healthcare workers shouldn’t have to report undocumented patients

Last week, the Ethics Council in Region Uppsala sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice where the Council dissociates itself from a proposal in the Tidö Agreement, a political agreement between four parties in the Swedish Parliament. The part of the agreement that the Ethics Council dissociates itself from is a proposed obligation for healthcare professionals to report patients who are undocumented migrants to authorities.

The Ethics Council writes that such a duty would be in conflict with both international and national conventions and laws. It is also contrary to the ethics of all professions in healthcare and would entail a serious threat to patient safety. Healthcare workers have not signed up to enforce decisions on expulsion or refusal of entry. They are assigned to, and their expertise relates to, the assessment of patients’ needs and to provide the best available care with those needs as a starting point.

In a reflection on the Swedish healthcare legislation, the Ethics Council also writes that an obligation to report undocumented migrants is contrary to the principle of human dignity. The principle states that all human beings have equal value and the same right to care. This includes everyone, regardless of whether we have a right to stay in Sweden or not.

The Chair of the Ethics Council, Niklas Juth, today publishes a post in our Swedish language version of this blog which also contains the entire letter sent to the Ministry of Justice. If you read Swedish, you can find his blog post here: Etikrådet i Region Uppsala tar avstånd från förslaget om anmälningsplikt för vårdpersonal.

Pär Segerdahl

Written by…

Pär Segerdahl, Associate Professor at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics and editor of the Ethics Blog.

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