State University of New York Institute of Technology
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Ethics Blog #3

Ethics Issues in Science and Medicine Draw World-Press Attention

U.S. researcher says unrealistic optimism may harm patients in cancer-treatment trials; Australian doctor upbraided for auctioning off day with him that could involve watching surgery; Indian scientist says scientists have ethical duty to dispel misconceptions

The fields of science and medicine proved fertile ground for ethics coverage last week. Among the stories:

  • A new study argues that participants in early trials of experimental cancer treatments may become, or be led to become, overly optimistic about the possible results. One of the main clinical and ethical issues involved is that patients who overestimate the value of an experimental program may disregard other options or choices they might have made if they better understood the true balance of risks and benefits.
  • An Australian doctor’s fund-raising idea has been attacked as unethical, reports the Agence France-Presse. Neurosurgeon Charlie Teo said he auctioned off a day with him, to include visiting patients and possibly attending an operation, in order to raise money for cancer research. But the executive director for surgical affairs at the Australian College of Surgeons objects: “We’re not in favor of selling seats for surgery,” he told the AFP. “We are not in favor of non-medical people being in an operating room just for the sake of viewing.”
  • A prominent Indian scientist told a nationwide convention that scientists have an ethical duty to dispel unfounded beliefs, reports the New Delhi-based Hindustan Times. Speaking to the Indian Women Scientists Association, atomic scientist R. L. Sinha added: “They have a duty to dispel any misconceptions of ethical issues such as reproduction and agriculture that directly affect or benefit the common man.” Sinha also maintained that senior scientists should mentor younger co-workers on ethical issues.


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