HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Creighton University School of Law

Saturday, September 17, 2005

More Abortion Developments

As reported in this morning's Jurist "Paper Chase|News Blast":

A federal judge in Missouri Friday slapped a temporary restraining order on a law signed the day before [JURIST report] by Missouri Governor Matt Blunt that allowed parents to file suit against anyone who helped their minor daughters get abortions without their consent. US District Judge Nanette Laughery said the legislation [SB 1 text] "threatens an immediate chilling effect on all abortion counseling within Missouri and nearby states". . . .  AP has more.


September 17, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

New Book on Health Care Competition

In September, the Cato Institute will release the book Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It

The authors are:  Michael F. Cannon, Cato’s director of health policy studies, and Michael D. Tanner, Cato’s director of health and welfare studies, explain how market competition makes products of ever-increasing quality available to an ever-increasing number of consumers. 

According to the press release about the book: 

They demonstrate how market competition can do the same for medical care and health insurance. The authors even show how encouraging competition can lower the cost of public health programs and improve government regulation of health care. 

 Cannon and Tanner recommend spurring greater competition in the private sector by expanding health savings accounts (HSAs).  The authors propose creating “large HSAs” that would give workers control over all their health benefits, rather than just a portion as HSAs now do.

The authors offer advice to Congress, the states and the new Medicaid Advisory Commission (a panel created by Congress) on reforming that program.  They argue that Congress should reform Medicaid as it reformed the old AFDC cash-assistance program: cap federal funding and give states broad flexibility to reduce dependence.  At the same time, states should encourage private competition by returning their Medicaid programs to their original mission of providing medical care to the truly needy.

The book explores Medicare’s enormous unfunded liabilities – which are six times those of Social Security – and argues allowing today’s workers to save a portion of their Medicare taxes in a personal account.  The authors argue this would encourage competition and “minimize the cost of meeting existing Medicare obligations.”


September 17, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Abortion Battle Shapes Up in South Dakota

An AP story in today's Rapid City Journal reports on a court cases challenging a recent South Dakota law:

Professionals with impressive credentials and experience in medicine and ethics are being retained on both sides of a court case that will decide if doctors in South Dakota must tell women that abortions end lives.

The 2005 Legislature passed a measure requiring that information to be given to women who consider abortions. They must be told that abortion terminates the life of a human being and may later result in depression and possible suicide.

Those pushing the measure hope it will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court and be the vehicle that ultimately will cause the high court to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade case that affirmed the constitutional right of women to seek an abortion legally.

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota obtained a temporary court order against the state to stop the legislation from becoming law July 1. The measure violates the rights of doctors and women seeking abortions, Planned Parenthood said.

Because of divided opinions on the issue of when life begins and the need to fully develop legal arguments on such an emotional issue, both sides have been given several months to get ready for a hearing on a permanent injunction.

Among those pressing for enactment of the proposed law to further regulate abortion in South Dakota is Dr. Bernard Nathanson, 79, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology in his New York office. Although a founder in 1969 of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, he has since switched sides on the issue.

Nathanson, 79, who said he has "delivered an uncountable number of babies and performed and supervised tens of thousands of abortions," has been called to testify as an expert witness in a variety of court cases involving medical practices.

After reviewing the legislation that was placed on hold June 30 by U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier, Nathanson said it is an accurate statement of scientific and medical fact that abortion "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."

. . .

Another document, filed in support of Planned Parenthood's challenge, comes from Paul Root Wolpe, a professor at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also bioethics chief for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Wolpe disputes the belief of those who contend that it is a scientific or medical fact — or that there is consensus in those fields — that an embryo or fetus is a whole, living human being from the moment of conception.

"That is a statement that mixes a number of philosophical, rhetorical and scientific ideas in language that is ambiguous and surely debatable despite its appearance of being factual," he said.

"To describe an embryo or fetus scientifically and factually, one would have to say that a living embryo or fetus ... is a developing organism of the species Homo Sapiens which may become a self-sustaining member of the species if no organic or environmental incident interrupts its gestation," Wolpe said.

The law is Chapt. 186 of the 2005 S.D. Session Laws (HB 11667)[tm]

September 17, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Tenet, La. Attorney General to Meet Regarding Bodies

From Modern Healthcare's "Daily Dose" today:

Tenet Healthcare Corp., Dallas, said its general counsel is scheduled to meet Monday with Louisiana's attorney general to discuss the 45 bodies removed earlier this week from Tenet's Memorial Medical Center, New Orleans. On CNBC, Tenet Chief Executive Officer Trevor Fetter said the company had received no indication it is the target of a criminal investigation, but Tenet is cooperating fully with authorities. Fetter echoed Tenet's previous statements on the matter, emphasizing that no living patient was left behind in the evacuation of the hospital. The only person who remained at either of Tenet's two New Orleans hospitals -- Memorial and Lindy Boggs Medical Center -- was a physician who stayed at Lindy Boggs until Monday to care for pets, Fetter said. Asked if Tenet faced civil liability for patients who died during the emergency, Fetter said Louisiana law protects healthcare providers and other Good Samaritans for actions during emergencies. Suggestions that the company will face civil lawsuits are part of the litigious environment in healthcare, he said

Newsday today has a story that predicts a spate of civil lawsuits against Tenet and has a number of quotes that suggest that employees and officers of the company, especially at Memorial, have nothing to fear from either the state's AG or the plaintiffs' bar:

Just before dawn on the Wednesday after the hurricane, the hospital went black. The water stopped running later that day.

Outside, a quickly rising flood surrounded the building and gunshots punctuated the night. Inside, there was no way to administer dialysis or insulin injections, to do blood tests, X-rays or CAT scans. To keep patients cool, nurses wiped foreheads with pillowcases soaked in melting ice and fanned them with ripped pieces of cardboard.

Memorial Medical Center was no longer a hospital.

"The temperature rose to ungodly degrees, well past 100," said registered nurse Charles Jarreau. "It was do or die. Save your patients. It was like war."

The state attorney general's office earlier this week opened an investigation into why 45 bodies were found inside after the hospital emptied.

The doctors and nurses who were there said they did the best they could -- recalling stories of how Jarreau's chest was crushed when he helped lift a 400-pound man in a wheelchair into a helicopter, and the two doctors who hot-wired a fishing boat in a lot across the street to transport patients.

They said 10 of the bodies in the hospital were already in the morgue, waiting for funeral homes to retrieve them. Jarreau said about 11 patients died after the generator ran out of fuel and there was no way to run suction machines. "They essentially drowned in their own secretions," Jarreau, 26, said with a whisper from the Baton Rouge home of a relative where he is recovering. "We tried to make every patient comfortable, to have dignity."

The rest of the dead patients were from an 82-bed acute long-term-care facility on the seventh floor run separately by LifeCare Hospitals, the doctors and nurses said. A LifeCare spokeswoman, Rosemary Plorine, said those patients "had end-of-life diseases and were fragile" and the company was not clear on when they died. She said all living patients were evacuated.

After there were already two bodies per drawer in the morgue, they were kept in the chapel. Dr. John Kokemor said that was done out of respect, not because the chapel was the only space available.

Kokemor and other staff members said they welcome an investigation, that they are eager to tell officials that no patients were abandoned and that no euthanasia took place, as had been charged in some reports.

Tenet Healthcare Corp., which owns and operates Memorial, said through a spokesman, "After Memorial was evacuated, we provided private security to protect the bodies of those who had died, and we asked repeatedly for their removal by the coroner. Because of the crisis, it took until Sept. 11 for the coroner to accomplish the removal."


September 16, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Upcoming EPA/Public Health Briefing

Ethical Considerations for Research on Housing-Related Health Hazards Involving Children: Public Briefing Sept. 19, 2005 2:00 p.m to 3:30 p.m. EST


Webcast Launched from home page:

In April the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cancelled a study of how young children are exposed to indoor pesticides and other household chemicals after critics argued that child participants were intentionally placed at risk and parents were not fully informed of the study's potential dangers. A recent study of lead-based paint abatement by the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore also drew sharp criticism for its work with child participants. Ethical Considerations for Research on Housing-Related Health Hazards Involving Children, a new report from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, outlines how to conduct such research in a way that ultimately improves child health, ensures that child participants do not face inappropriate risks, and fully informs their parents. The report will be released at a public briefing.

Thanks to Joe Hodnicki of the lawprof Law Librarians blog for this post. [bm]

September 16, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Breaking Safety Rules

There is an interesting new article concerning safety regulations and their increase in the wake of man-made diasters. As Professor Mascini reports this isn't necessarily always for the best.

"The Blameworthiness of Health and Safety Rule Violations"

Law & Policy, Vol. 27, pp. 472-490, July 2005


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Faculty of

Social Sciences


Man-made disasters usually lead to the tightening of safety regulations, because rule breaking is seen as a major cause of them. This reaction is based on the assumptions that the safety rules are good and that the rule-breakers are wrong. The reasons the personnel of a coke factory gave for breaking rules raise doubt about the tenability of these assumptions. It is unlikely that this result would have been achieved on the basis of a disaster evaluation, or high-reliability theory. In both approaches, knowledge of the consequences of human conduct hinders an unprejudiced judgement about where the blame for rule breaking lies.

Document: Available from the SSRN Electronic Paper Collection:

September 16, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Adult ADHD

Recently a variety of news organizations reported on a study showing that adults are being prescribed drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has grown at a faster rate among adults than children. According to a brief report from the AP news service:

Between 2000 and 2004, use of drugs that help keep ADHD patients focused doubled among adults aged 20 to 44, but rose only 56 percent among children, according to data compiled by Medco Health Solutions, one of the country's largest prescription benefit managers.

Franklin Lakes-based Medco's study, to be released Thursday, shows use rose 113 percent among women 20 to 44 and 104 percent among women 45 to 64, both far more than among men. Meanwhile, spending on the medicines quadrupled.

Experts say reasons for the surge range from better drugs and advertising, to parents of children newly diagnosed with ADHD realizing they have the same symptoms. . . . .

Those figures dispel earlier beliefs that children "grow out of the disorder," said Dr. Patricia Quinn, a developmental pediatrician at the National Center for Gender Issues and ADHD, and an adviser to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, an advocacy group.


September 16, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Will to Live Document

The Hospice Blog has an interesting commentary discussing the new "Will to Live" documents.  These documents have been promoted as an alternative to the Living Will document.  These new Will to Live documents and a discussion of them are available at the National Right to Life website (click on the Terri Schindler-Schiavo link to access the information).  Here is some of the backgound concerning the documents as well as some commentary: 

Background Discussion:  As an end-of-life planning document, it's actually pretty comprehensive, and addresses many specific situations that patients could find themselves in. However, one clause, is troubling, and from my perspective would make it impossible to admit a patient to hospice.

I direct that the following be provided:

* the administration of medication;
* cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); and
* the performance of all other medical procedures, techniques and technologies necessary to correct, reverse, alleviate life-threatening or health-impairing conditions, or complication arising from those conditions.

In my mind, patients signing this document, would be opting for curative treatment, not hospice care. I'm wondering whether any of your readers have had prospective patients present this document, and how they handled the situation.

I have a relative who is very active in the RTL movement, and who is an ardent follower of everything that the Hospice Patients Alliance puts out. He is very opposed to hospice. He worked on an article that appeared in a Catholic publication that recommended that Catholics sign the Will to Live. In fact in many Catholic publications, readers are being advised that they would be out of communion with the Church, and in a state of sin, if they signed a Living Will. When I pointed out patients signing this document would likely be ineligible for hospice care, he replied, "That's the point." No where are readers being advised that this document would make them ineligible for hospice care.

I suspect we're going to be seeing this document more and more, and I think a discussion would be productive.

Response:  My gut says that the clauses the e-mail noted do not make it impossible for people to go on hospice, but they do make it harder. The majority of hospice patients go on hospice because there is no aggressive treatment available. This document seems to be saying that if there is something that can be done to cure me, then I want that done. To be honest, it's rare to find a person who doesn't feel that way. The question is what you do when you don't have any more options. This document keeps someone who has options from receiving hospice, but doesn't address (in the e-mail version at least) what to do when there are not other "aggressive" options.

My last note is that I think the claim that there is a lot of euthanasia in hospice is a crock of crap. That's all I have to say about that, because I can't prove my stance just like others can't prove that there is a lot of it going on. It's something that people with an agenda say to scare people, and does nothing but keep people who do need help from getting it.

Obviously the Hospice Blog has a definite viewpoint on these documents.  That said, I found the information quite helpful and plan to raise some of these same issues for my class. [bm]

September 15, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

For Your Health: Flu Shots

The American Lung Association has posted a handy-dandy website that allows users to locate the nearest location of a flu shot clinic.  Hopefully this year the supply will be sufficient so that everyone who wants one can receive one.  [bm]

September 15, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Evacuees' Health Records Go Online

Reported in today's Washington Post (note the HIPAA point at the end of the excerpt):

The federal government is making medical information on Hurricane Katrina evacuees available online to doctors, the first time private records from various pharmacies and other health care providers have been compiled into centralized databases.

The data contain records from 150 Zip codes in areas hit by Katrina. Starting yesterday, doctors in eight shelters for evacuees could go to the Internet to search prescription drug records on more than 800,000 people from the storm-racked region.

* * * The records are one step in reconstructing medical files on more than 1 million people disconnected from their regular doctors and drug stores. Officials fear that many medical records in the region, especially those that were not computerized, were lost to the storm and its aftermath.

Although the immediate focus is on urgent care for hurricane victims, participants in the effort say the disaster demonstrates a broader need to computerize individual health records nationwide and make them available throughout the medical system. Such a step could, for example, give emergency room doctors a way to quickly view medical histories for late-night accident victims.

Electronic health records are controversial among many privacy advocates, who fear the data could be exploited by hackers, companies or the government.

Ray Fowler, head of medical relief operations in Dallas, said "it was extremely scary" for doctors to have no records to rely on as thousands of evacuees poured off buses with serious injuries or infections.

Some patients had been on various medications before the hurricane, for conditions such as high blood pressure, but did not know what prescriptions they took, Fowler said.

* * * The system took about 10 days to organize, with daily conference calls involving as many as 60 state and federal officials; emergency medical providers; insurance, pharmacy and medical-software company representatives; and government lawyers.

* * * Federal regulations do not require patient consent for their records to be shared for medical purposes. Companies or organizations that have such data must have formal agreements with each other before data can be exchanged, but the government said it would not enforce those rules while Katrina victims were in need, as long at the entities had verbal agreements to use the data for the relief effort.

Thanks to Law Library Blogmaster Joe Hodnicki for this lead.  [tm]

September 14, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Cost of Health Benefits Increasingly Shifted to Employees reports that the rate of growth of health insurance costs is expected to slow for a third straight year in 2006, but only because employers continue to cut benefits and shift more of the costs to employees.   Mercer Human Resource Consulting conducted the survey of 1,883 firms.  The survey found that employers would expect average rate increases of 10% next year if they were to leave their current health plans unchanged.  But after making plan design changes, they expect actual costs to rise only 6.4%. In addition, 62% of large employers and 35% of small employers said they planned to shift more costs onto employees.   Final survey results will be released at the end of the year. 

I've seen employers shift from sliding-scale benefits packages with different levels of subsidies for employees' choices (indemnity (almost unheard of any more), PPO, HMO) to across-the-board HMO plans, leaving employees who opt for PPO coverage (in order to stick with a particular physician, for example) to pay for 100% of the difference out of their own pockets.  In some cases, there's a credible case to be made that, but for the down-grade in employer participation, some companies would have to forgo health insurance benefits altogether.  In a less than robust economy, these are the kinds of choices that are being made all the time. 

Thanks to Lindley Bain for help with this one. [tm]

September 14, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Residents Say They Are Not Prepared For Cultural Difference In Medical Practice

According to the LA Times, many resident physicians are reporting that they are unprepared to adequately communicate with people who are culturally different from themselves.  In a survey done by Dr. Joel Weissman, one in four doctors responding to the survey said they felt ill prepared to cope with patients who held health beliefs at odds with Western medicine or were recent immigrants. He reports in his article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that another 20% said they were not well versed in addressing patients whose religious beliefs affected their care.  The residents say they are inadequately trained to cope with increasingly diverse pouplations.  According to the survey, about half the doctors had little or no training in providing culturally competent care.  The residents acknowledged needing better training to understand the cultural, ethnic, and racial and religious differences they encounter as well as a better understanding of how to address patients from different culutres, identify patient mistrust and understand religious and cultural customs.  According to Newsday, Dr. Joel Weissman, an associate professor of healthcare policy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, says that "in terms of successfully providing cross-cultural care, the weight is on the medical establishment to provide training."  The survey included more than 2,000 resident physicians and assessed opinions about healthcare delivery to patients who may not speak English, may be socioculturally different from the doctor, or may have religious practices that are foreign to the treating physician.   Dr. Weissman emphasizes that his study "is the first, to our knowledge, to obtain a national estimate of the readiness of new physcians to deliver high-quality care to culturally diverse populations." 

His research was partially funded by a grant from the Commonwealth Fund in Manhattan, a nonprofit group whose mission is improving the quality of care for low-income and uninsured people and members of minority groups by supproting reserach spotlighting critical issues. 

Thanks to Lindley Bain for help with this post.  [tm]

September 14, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

La. Nursing Home Operator Charged With Negligent Homicide in 34 Deaths

It seems like just the other day -- in fact, it was just the other day -- that we were discussing the range of sanctions available against nursing homes that fall below the operational standards required by law.  In addition to various license-related actions (reprimand, suspension, revocation), we talked about the pros and cons of civil monetary penalties (intermediate sanctions) and receivership. And what about criminal liability?  Rare, I said, unless residents have died, and even then, the departure from the standard of care will probably have to be extreme or repeated enough to suggest a wanton disregard or callous indifference. 

Something like that seems to be unfolding in St. Bernard Parish near New Orleans. According to Jurist,

Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti [official website] announced Tuesday he has filed 34 charges of negligent homicide against the husband and wife co-owners of a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish near New Orleans where 34 people drowned [NYT report] in flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Foti said St. Rita's Nursing Home had an evacuation plan that was not implemented even though local officials had set aside buses to pick up the residents, and that the proprietors "didn't follow the standard of care of what a reasonable person would follow." Twenty patients were eventually evacuated from the facility by being floated out on mattresses across half a mile of floodwater; several died during transfer or afterwards. Salvador A. Mangano and Mable Mangano, who were being sought by the AG's office last week [press release], turned themselves in to authorities in Baton Rouge prior to announcement of the charges. AP has more. From New Orleans, the Times-Picayune has local coverage.

In addition to the nursing home case, AP reports that "the attorney general said he is investigating the discovery of more than 40 corpses at flooded-out Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans."  [tm]

September 14, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Upcoming Reproductive Rights Conference

Reproductive Justice For All: A U.S. POLICY CONFERENCE November 10-13, 2005 convened by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Smith College Women’s Studies Program at Smith College, Northampton, MA

This national conference will discuss and design agendas for reproductive policies in the U.S. that advance social justice. Placing race, culture, sexuality, age and class at the center of a policy conversation about women’s reproductive rights issues, the conference will consider laws and policies affecting:

· The rights of pregnant women; · The control of sexuality; · The right to be a mother; and · Assisted reproductive and genetic technologies.

Join fellow social justice activists in in-depth, intensive policy workshops to examine, imagine and design what reproductive justice looks like in policy and in practice.

Register now at:

Thanks to Professor Verna Williams for information about this conference. [bm]

September 14, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Qui Tam website

Qui Tam

Qui Tam Help is sponsored by Getnick and Getnick, a New York City law firm dedicating itself to business integrity and anti-fraud cases. Contained in the False Claims Act, qui tam is a Federal whistleblower law "designed to protect against the fraudulent use of public funds by encouraging people with knowledge of fraud on the government to blow the whistle on the wrongdoers." Whistleblowers then share in the amount recovered. The site is organized into several components useful to the qui tam researcher. The history and key features of the False Claims Act are provided. The site also offers the texts of both the Federal act and related state acts. For additional background, several notable qui tam cases are explained. Another useful offering is the "Facts You Should Know" page. Here, users will learn that qui tam cases cannot be based on publicly disclosed information and that a qui tam case is more likely to succeed when the government joins the case. For additional research, articles written by Getnick attorneys are available. The backgrounds of several multi-million dollar pharmaceutical industry cases are provided in the "Stories" section.

Thanks to Cornell University's In-Site project for this website.  [bm]

September 14, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Criticisms of FDA Advisory Panels Due to Conflicts of Interest

An FDA advisory panel has recommended approval of the diabetes drug, Pargluva, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb.  On Thursday, another advisory panel with some of the same members voted to recommend another diabetes treatment, Exubera, developed by Pfizer with Sanofi-Aventis and Nektar Therapeutics.  The panel in Silver Spring, MD, decided that Pargluva's benefits outweighed its potentially serious heart risks, even though no cardiologist was present for the vote, according to the N.Y. Times.  One of the panelists who is a cardiologist skipped the meeting due to a potential conflict of interest; he conducted research on PPAR-agonists, the class of drugs being debated.  The article says that "the absence of the only heart doctor on the Pargluva advisory panel is but one illustration of how conflicts of interest can affect the deliberations of F.D.A. panels, in which outside committees help the agency decide whether to approve new drugs." 

In fact, an analysis by the Center for Science in the Public Interest says both panels raised conflict-of-interest issues.  According to Director Merrill Goozner, "the public's faith in the integrity of the process is undermined when one-third of an advisory committee's membership has significant financial ties to the company seeking the product's approval."  The center reports that three of the Exubera committee's nine members had previously consulted or spoken for Pfizer or Nektar Therapeutics.  One member, acting as chairman, holds stock in Pfizer and voted against Exubera.  Another panel member participated but did not vote as a result of his industry ties. 

Currently, the Congress is addressing the issue of potential conflicts of interest by drug reviewers.  The House has adopted legislation (HR 2744) that would bar scientists with drug industry ties from participating in FDA panels.  However, Dr. Plutzky, the absent cardiologist panelists of the advisory committee, argues that the appearance of conflicts of interest is a complex issue due to the fact that the scientists most knowledgeable about drugs being reviewed are often those who have received research grants from drug companies: "Ultimately, the FDA needs to have a source of valid and rigorous information." 

Thanks to Lindley Bain for help on this post.  [tm]

September 13, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

UNESCO's Draft Bioethics Declaration Gets Ripped

On June 24, UNESCO issued its Universal Draft Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights.  Medical ethicist Richard Ashcroft, in an op-ed in a Sept. 9 essay in adds his voice to the chorus of criticisms of the document.  Ashcroft argues that the long, multinational, political process of developing the draft resulted in a watered-down document with less bite and less useful guidance than existing statements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of Helsinki. [tm]

September 13, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Mental Health and Violence Data

Scientific studies conducted over the last 15 years suggest that mental illness has a positive relationship to aggression, but psychiatric disorders make only a minor contribution to a person’s statistical risk of acting violently. Most people with mental illnesses do not act violently. Over the past couple decades, however, studies have repeatedly shown that when news stories mention mental illness, they frequently do so in the context of reporting on a violent crime. Such reporting may reinforce the public’s stereotypic association between violence and mental illness and the public’s fear of persons who have psychiatric disorders. This is why mental health professionals and their official organizations have repeatedly expressed concern about the potentially stigmatizing impact of articles such as the one at this link

in the September 9 New York Times.  The next day the New York Times ran a follow-up story of sorts.  The Times reported: 

Two days after a baby girl was stabbed in her stroller in Upper Manhattan and a man in a residential housing program for the mentally ill was arrested in the attack, some mental health advocates defended the program, saying there is no better way to help the mentally ill than by integrating them into the community.

"This is a terrible tragedy to hear about, but it's the exception," said Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.

He was speaking of the case of Bernard Derr, 48, who was arrested Wednesday evening after the police said he stabbed the 10-month-old girl, Isabelle Avins, in an apparently motiveless attack in Washington Heights.

Mr. Derr, who is under psychiatric observation, was arraigned yesterday in the prison ward of Bellevue Hospital Center. His court-appointed lawyer, Deborah Wright, said he was acting incoherently and was unable to answer questions put to him, "talking about other random things."  . . . .

Despite the gruesome nature of the crime, mental health advocates said that the mental health system generally works, and that Mr. Derr's case was a horrible exception.

Thanks to Dr. Doug Mossman for this post and sites.  [bm]

September 13, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Law, Culture and the Humanities Conference

ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF LAW, CULTURE, AND THE HUMANITIES Ninth Annual Conference March 17-18, 2006 Syracuse University, N.Y. Sponsored by: The Syracuse University College of Law; The Sawyer Law and Politics Program at The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and The Syracuse University College of Arts & Sciences. The Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities is an organization of scholars engaged in interdisciplinary, humanistically oriented legal scholarship. The Association brings together a wide range of people engaged in scholarship on legal history, legal theory and jurisprudence, law and cultural studies, law and literature, law and the performing arts, and legal hermeneutics.

We want to encourage dialogue across and among these fields about issues of interpretation, identity, and values, about authority, obligation, and justice, and about law's place in culture. Examples of the panels offered at previous meetings include: History, Memory and Law; Reading Race; Law and Literature; Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism; Speech, Silence, and the Language of Law; Judgment, Justice, and Law; Beyond Identity; The Idea of Practice in Legal Thought; Metaphor and Meaning; Representing Legality in Film and Mass Media; Anarchy, Liberty and Law; What is Excellence in Interpretation? Ethics, Religion, and Law; Moral Obligation and Legal Life; The Post-Colonial in Literary and Legal Study; Processes and Possibilities in Interdisciplinary Law Teaching We invite scholars with interests across the range of areas in Law, Culture and the Humanities to organize panels, performance pieces, screenings, or to submit proposals for individual paper presentations. We urge those interested in attending to consider submitting complete panels, and we hope to encourage a variety of formats-for example, roundtables or sessions in which commentators respond to a single paper or issue. We invite proposals for sessions in which the focus is on pedagogy or methodology, for author-meets-readers sessions organized around important books in the field, or for sessions in which participants focus on performance (theatrical, filmic, musical, poetic).

We also welcome volunteers for chairs and discussants from people who are not submitting proposals, as well as from those who wish to present a paper. We will be accepting papers, panel proposals and volunteers for chairs and discussants from July 1st 2005 until October 15th 2005. All submissions must be made through the ASLCH website (  Participants will be notified of their acceptance by December 31st 2005. We cannot promise that we will be able to accommodate all proposals.

ASLCH Organizing Committee: Susan Sage Heinzelman, English/Women and Gender Studies, University of Texas; (President); Paul Schiff Berman, Law, University of Connecticut (Secretary); Naomi Mezey, Law, Georgetown University (Treasurer); Anita Allen-Castelitto, Law, University of Pennsylvania; Jennifer Culbert, Political Science, Johns Hopkins University; Nan Goodman, English, Colorado (Boulder); Nasser Hussain, Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, Amherst College; Pnina Lahav, Law, Boston University; James Martel, Political Science, San Francisco State; Harriet Murav, Russian, University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana; Austin Sarat, Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, Amherst College (Editor, Law, Culture and Humanities); Adam Thurschwell, Law, Cleveland State; James Boyd White, Law and English, University of Michigan.  [bm]

September 13, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Job Opportunity: Health Law and Bioethics

Professor Bill Hing, Chair of the Faculty Appointments Committee at the University of California Davis School of Law announces an interesting job opportunity for experienced and entry-level law school professors interested in teaching Health Law:

Bioethics and Health Law

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS SCHOOL OF LAW invites applications from experienced professors and entry-level candidates with distinguished academic credentials and scholarly distinction in the field of Bioethics and Health Law, for a tenured or tenure track position. For full consideration, please send a resume and cover letter by October 11, 2005; the position will remain open until filled. Interested candidates should send a cover letter and resume by mail to Professor Bill Hing, Chair of the Faculty Appointments Committee, School of Law, University of California, 400 Mrak Hall Drive, Davis, CA 95616. E-MAIL APPLICATIONS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer and has a strong commitment to diversity among its faculty.


September 13, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)