HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blog Roundup

What's cooking on other blogs of note:

New lethal injection challenge

A Tennessee death row inmate, Sedley Alley, on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to block his scheduled execution for 1 a.m. Wednesday, as he raised a challenge to the chemical protocol used in Tennessee for executions.  The case of Alley v. Little (05-10959) [link] thus becomes the second of two cases from Tennessee on that issue. The other case, Abdur'Rahman v. Bredesen (05-1036) [link] is scheduled for consideration by the Court at its private Conference on Thursday, according to the Court's electronic docket. The two cases illustrate anew the increasingly complex puzzle the Court faces amid the increasing number of challenges to lethal injection execution methods, and a rising number of cases over the procedural issue of how inmates may pursue such challenges.

These cases are undoubtedly of greater interest to the criminal defense bar than the health care bar, but I can't help but believe that their resolution will involve much medical testimony based upon medical scholarship, and if the Court eventually holds that lethal injections as currently practiced violate the 8th Amendment, doctors will become much more involved in the design and possibly the implementation of whatever system is adopted by the states, no matter what the AMA says.

  • From the AJOB blog, news of a conference on vaccine distribution and pediatric ethics:

The brand new Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics, soon to be directed by Benjamin Wilfond, who is certain to rise to that occasion and create an entirely new kind of research and service institution, is holding a great conference on vaccines and kids, with a broad focus on all of the questions related to the ethics of the use and distribution and scarcity and side effects of vaccines. This is the program and the cost isn't awful, though good luck with cheap airfare to Seattle in July.

  • Another post from the AJOB blog originally misreported the gist of an editorial from the NY Post, which we can read for ourselves: NY is decades behind the rest of the country in providing legal authorization for family members to make end-of-life decisions for incompetent patients (as has been noted here before), and now the liberals (pro-choice and gay rights groups) are lining up to torpedo the bill:

ALBANY - In a classic case of Albany gridlock, lawmakers fixated on abortion and gay rights are blocking a bill that would rescue thousands of elderly and disabled New Yorkers from legal limbo. Legislation first proposed 13 years ago would give family members and close friends the right to make medical decisions for patients who are too sick to speak for themselves. Today, in many cases, family members have no such control, leaving the fate of their loved ones in the hands of strangers with medical degrees. Fixing this glitch should be a no-brainer. Forty-eight other states managed to do it with little fuss.

But Albany is where no-brainers go to die, because lawmakers here are all too willing to put their narrow agendas ahead of the greater good. In this case, a measure that's vitally important to patients and families across the state is being held hostage by pro-choice and gay rights purists in the Assembly.

The bill says nothing about abortion or gay relationships. But it includes a line saying family members of an incapacitated pregnant woman should, in thinking about her best interests, "consider the impact of treatment decisions on the fetus." And - unpardonable sin No. 2 - it fails to specify that same-sex partners should have the same rights as husbands and wives.


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