Wednesday, March 7, 2007
A recent New York Times book review by Amitai Etzioni, who advocates against selling organs for a variety of reasons, has provoked a bit of a debate. Kieran Healy, author of Last Best Gifts, writes here about his support for some organ market. He states,
At bottom, I think, monetary payments and financial incentives are simply not incompatible with the kind of moral obligations that Etzioni has in mind. We might want to idealize the distinction between morally virtuous gift-exchange and selfishly-motivated market transactions, but this boundary is crossed too often in practice for us to draw a bright line. Moreover, it is crossed in both directions: gift-exchange is often made a vehicle for self-interest; market transactions routinely have strongly moralized or normative aspects. Empirically, I would have two expectations for a viable market for kidneys. First, it would immediately incorporate a great deal of the gift form in order to legitimate itself, with market-matching between donors and recipients working largely at the back-end. Second, it would probably stratify itself in a way that reflected the structure of the U.S. health care system in general, with all that implies about the bottom-end of the market. In that sense Etzioni’s concerns are valid. But those inequities apply also to the communitarian alternative. Why should people feel any moral obligation to participate in a system that does not serve them well in other respects? To think otherwise is a kind of gift fetishism – the belief that we can guarantee the fairness of an exchange simply by insisting that it take the form of a morally obligatory gift.
For more on Etzioni's views on handling the lack of organs, see here.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Law.com has a brief write-up concerning the most recent Vioxx cases. It reports,
A New Jersey state jury dealt Merck & Co. a mixed verdict Friday in the drugmaker's latest trial over its former painkiller Vioxx. The Atlantic City jury ruled Merck was negligent and did not properly warn doctors about the cardiovascular risks in the case of one former Vioxx user who survived a heart attack. The ruling sets the stage for a second phase of the trial, starting this week, to consider whether Frederick "Mike" Humeston, 61, of Boise, Idaho, deserves compensatory and punitive damages.
The jury ruled against the second plaintiff in the trial, deciding Merck was not negligent in its marketing of Vioxx but had violated New Jersey's consumer fraud law. That means Kathleen Hermans Messerschmidt, the widow of Brian Hermans of Waupaca, Wisc., at best can recoup three times the amount he spent on Vioxx prescriptions. Hermans died at age 44 after having a heart attack on Sept. 15, 2002.
Merck said the jury's split verdict essentially means jurors decided Merck gave proper warning about Vioxx risks before Hermans died of a heart attack, but not before Humeston suffered his heart attack a year earlier. In between, Merck put a stronger warning in the detailed package insert for Vioxx, under pressure from federal regulators.
Prior to this trial, Merck had won eight cases and lost four in the massive litigation over its former blockbuster arthritis pill. Another trial with two plaintiffs ended in a mistrial in January.
The New York Times reports today on a recent New York Times/CBS News poll showing that," A majority of Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance to every American, especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to do it." The news isn't all rosy - of course - the US has to decide how to provide such health care. The article notes,
Americans showed a striking willingness in the poll to make tradeoffs to guarantee health insurance for all, including paying as much as $500 more in taxes a year and forgoing future tax cuts.
But the same divisions that doomed the last effort at creating universal health insurance, under the Clinton administration, are still apparent. Americans remain divided, largely along party lines, over whether the government should require everyone to participate in a national health care plan, and over whether the government would do a better job than the private insurance industry in providing coverage.
Still, it is good to have this issue on the frontburner - especially since life isn't getting any easier for the 47 million people without health insurance.