News Briefs

Call for renewal of bioethics in military

Bioethicist Steven Miles, MD, professor, University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, has called for a renewal of military medical ethics in the United States.

In a recent Bioethics article, Miles says that medical ethics in the United States "has not articulated a vision to strengthen the military-civilian dialogue to ensure that standards of medical ethics do not evolve simply according to the dictates of military policy."1

The trial of Nazi medical leaders at Nuremberg "had a profound effect on research ethics," and U.S. experiences, including exposing soldiers to thermonuclear blasts, during the Cold War "all led to debate and policy change," he said. However, Miles is concerned that lessons have not been learned from what he sees as more recent violations of medical ethics in the U.S. military.

He criticized how the American Medical Association (AMA) responded to the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He also claimed that prophylactic drugs were administered to 250,000 deployed soldiers to protect them from potential exposure to chemical or biological weapons in combat, but he says that the efficacy of these drugs "was theoretically plausible but not clinically proven."


  1. Miles SH. The new military medical ethics: legacies of the Gulf Wars and the War on Terror. Bioethics 2011. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2011.01920.x.

Stem cell law thrown out

A lawsuit that had threatened to end the Obama administration's financing of embryonic stem cell research recently was thrown out.

The decision, by Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, will allow the United States to continue supporting a search for cures to deadly diseases over protests that the work relies on destroyed human embryos.

Administration policy allows research on embryonic stem cells that were acquired long ago through private funding or from embryos that parents have donated after being informed of other options such as donating to an infertile woman.

Medicare hospice faces scrutiny

Government auditors recommended increased federal oversight of hospices after an analysis found that palliative care for nursing home patients has jumped by nearly 70% since 2005.

A report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) says that some hospices might be seeking out patients in nursing homes who meet certain characteristics and have a greater chance of living longer. The report called on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to reform the program's payment system to lessen the incentive for this strategy.

This development is also making waves because previous OIG work had found many hospice claims for nursing facility patients to be improper, according to reports. The report goes on to say that in 2006, 82% of claims reviewed by the OIG did not meet the requirements for Medicare coverage.