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A Tale of Two Data Scientists

March 25, 2021 • Posted in Blog

 

Neil Ferguson, Ph.D. Infamous Graph Youyang Gu

 

D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A. Executive Director

It was a long year ago (March 2020) that a dire prediction was issued by a group at Imperial College London (UK) regarding the possible effects of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. The model predicted more than 500,000 UK deaths, and >2.2 million deaths in the U.S. by summer if no action were taken. One of the data scientists issuing that proclamation was Neil Ferguson, Ph.D. He and his group advised the government that “in the UK and US context, suppression will minimally require a combination of social distancing of the entire ...read more

Is It Science or Scientism?

February 28, 2021 • Posted in Blog

Joyce Shelton, Ph.D. Professor of Biology, Trinity International University Guest Column

In the climate of fear, uncertainty and urgency engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is often difficult to know what to do or whom to trust. Public policy makers are daily making decisions and enacting rules that affect our lives and dictate our actions in the name of protection. They lend authority and justification to their decisions by claiming that they are following the science, implying that this appeal to a trusted, rational voice should be enough to calm our concerns and guarantee our compliance. But the elevation of science to the ...read more

The Ethics of Rationing COVID-19 Vaccine for the Sickest Among Us

January 13, 2021 • Posted in Blog

C. Ben Mitchell, Ph.D Distinguished Fellow

We must not allow our combined COVID-19 fatigue to prevent us from asking important questions about public health ethics. At the time I am writing this essay, we are just transitioning into Phase 2 of the vaccination plan. I am sure our public health officials are doing the best they can under unprecedented circumstances, so we should give them the benefit of the doubt. But for the sake of clarity in the future, some retrospective analysis will be crucial.

For instance, in our own state, we have abandoned traditional triage ethics in favor of a purely age-based ...read more

Parenting in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

December 27, 2020 • Posted in Blog

Janet Liljestrand, M.D., M.A.*

Rearing children is a time-consuming and emotionally taxing undertaking. The current pandemic has magnified the enormity of this task by disrupting the lives of adults and children alike. What does a parent say and do in the midst of a pandemic that has the added burden of activity restrictions, a 24-hour news cycle, multiple voices on social media, and changing messages from the “experts,” all mixed with a touch of hysteria? The basics of parenting in the midst of a pandemic are much the same as any other stressful time with the possible exception that the stressful ...read more

The Problem of Ill-Gotten Gain in Health Care

October 22, 2020 • Posted in Blog

C. Ben Mitchell, Ph.D. Distinguished Fellow

The politicized debate about President Trump’s treatment for Covid-19 may have shrouded an important set of questions about the science of developing treatments, viz., the problem of ill-gotten gain.

Among other treatment protocols, the President received Regeneron’s REGN-COV2, a “cocktail” of two neutralizing antibodies that has shown promise in some animal studies (see here and here). The media jumped on an association between REGN-COV2 antibodies and fetal cells, some even claiming that the antibodies were developed from fetal cells.

 

Screenshot of NYT headline on Oct. 8, 2020

 

 

 

 

The fact of the matter is REGN-COV2 was tested for its virus-neutralizing ...read more

Flourishing in Difficult Times

July 27, 2020 • Posted in Blog

Zen Nails, in Brentwood, TN, recently reopened for business.  The nail salon had been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.  But it had not been idle. The owners, along with other volunteers, decided to contribute to the common good in a very needed way.  They sewed masks and donated them to medical workers as well as to the Navajo nation.

Read the story here.

Focusing on “Culture”

July 27, 2020 • Posted in Blog

D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A. Executive Director

The Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture exists to promote human dignity in the face of 21st Century bioethics challenges. Our theme for 2020 is Human Flourishing. Living in the surreal time of a pandemic with all the increased complexity of our lives, flourishing can almost seem too high an ideal. Artist Carol Harkness penned the following essay (lightly edited) about the important building blocks of culture—integrally related to flourishing—and that not only for our day.

We are still busy with bioethics as well. Here are a few recent articles you may want to check out:

“Dying ...read more

When Breath Is (Not Enough) Air: Let’s Talk about Ventilators

June 11, 2020 • Posted in Blog

There has been much public discussion about ventilators amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It is humbling to consider that we, or someone we love, might require one. Most people know something about the benefit of a ventilator when needed; but how well do we really understand the functions and risks of mechanical ventilation? The pandemic presents an opportune time to learn about this. So I posed a series of questions about these machines and the processes involved in using them to a physician, who is a specialist in using ventilators to treat very ill patients. Those questions, and her answers, follow.  

1) ...read more

When the Foundations Are Wobbling, Part II

May 22, 2020 • Posted in Blog

 

Death Certificates and COVID-19

D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A. Executive Director

One of the tasks assigned to physicians is the completion of death certificates—at least, the portion of death certificates that list cause of death (COD). I learned the importance of accuracy of death certificate completion as a pathology student fellow, an extra year of pathology training in the middle of my medical school career. We were instructed never to use the mechanism of death, such as cardiac or respiratory arrest, as a cause of death. Additionally, the use of terms like “probable” or “suspected” were not allowed. After all, the goal of ...read more

When the Foundations Are Wobbling, Part I

April 27, 2020 • Posted in Blog

 

The Denominator of Death Rates

D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A. Executive Director

How many people in the U.S. have died of SARS-CoV-2 infection, or COVID-19? That is difficult to say, and not for lack of numbers on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The case fatality rate for a particular disease is, basically, the number of persons dying of a disease, divided by the number of persons who have the disease, and multiplied by 100, to give an answer in terms of percentage:

# persons dying of COVID-19 disease X 100 # persons infected with SARS-CoV-2

How is this complicated? ...read more