On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that all opiate medications will be required to carry the agency’s most stringent warning, the “black box,” in hopes of deterring doctors from prescribing the drugs in inappropriate cases. The “black box” warning is reserved for cases with experimental evidence of serious or life-threatening adverse events associated with a drug. The addition of this warning is the latest effort by the federal government to combat the rising tide of opiate-related deaths in the United States, with the aim of stopping opiate addiction where it often begins – with prescription pills. Other federal efforts to address the increasing number of overdose deaths are in process but have largely stalled on Capitol Hill. Local governments in some cities have looked to creating safe injection centers as a means to at least lower the amount of death and disease associated with these addictions, and CVS has made the “overdose reversal” drug Narcan (naloxone) available without a prescription in many states, including Pennsylvania. Prevention Point Philadelphia, an outreach organization many Jefferson students may be familiar with, currently offers Narcan and Narcan training as a component of its harm-reduction approach to treatment of substance abuse.
In October 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown sent a bill to his legislature that would allow terminally ill patients to control their own deaths. California’s End of Life Option Act will go into effect June 9, 2016, making California the fifth state to legalize aid in dying. Vermont, Washington, Montana, Oregon and now California have all passed legislation enabling a terminal patient to obtain the drugs necessary to end his life at a time that he chooses. In all five states, two doctors must agree that the patient is terminal and has six months or less to live. Proponents of aid in dying legislation, or physician-assisted suicide as it is often referred, argue that the laws in these five states provide patients a chance to die with dignity, while sparing themselves and their families weeks, or possibly months, of pain and suffering. Opponents have expressed concerns regarding abuse, communication and coordination among nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and others who may play a role in guiding a patient towards self-medicating with lethal drugs. The testimonials of patients who were able to choose this option, and thereby assure that they would die in the company and comfort of their families, are quite moving and may serve to help physicians who struggle with the inherent conflict of healing their patients versus actually helping some of them to die.
Article: California To Permit Medically Assisted Suicide As Of June 9
This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the most consequential abortion case in decades, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
The case evaluates the constitutionality of a Texas law requiring all abortion clinics to meet the standards required of “ambulatory surgery centers,” and all physicians providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Proponents of the law maintain it is a safety measure protecting women’s health, pointing to such notorious cases as Philadelphia’s Kermit Gosnell.
Opponents claim this law has caused numerous clinics to close needlessly, thus imposing an undue burden on women seeking abortions. Many doctors who perform abortions (including Jefferson’s Dr. Lisa Perriera) have stated that the law in fact does not improve patient safety – for reference, it imposes more stringent standards on abortions than on other procedures with higher rates of complications (colonoscopies, wisdom teeth removal, and appendectomies, to name a few).
Both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have stated that the new law will do more harm than good by impeding women’s access to care. Opponents claim that it may have even led to a rise in second trimester abortions and therefore an increase in surgical (as opposed to medical) abortions.
Following the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the now-8-member court appears sharply dividedon the issue, with female justices taking a vocal role and regular swing voter Justice Kennedy hinting that he may even send the case back to lower courts for additional data collection. The court is expected to release a decision in June.
Article: Supreme Court Appears Sharply Divided as it Hears Texas Abortion Case