Our democracy was designed for the Members of Congress to reflect the will of the people. But who hasn’t complained over the same cup of coffee about both the cost of health insurance and the deficit? And did I hear one more complaint that all they do in Washington is squabble? Maybe Washington is behaving closer to the will of the people than we give them credit for.
Recent decades have seen extraordinary advances in the fields of neuroscience, molecular biology, genetics, psychology, and cognitive science. In particular, the National Institutes of Health called the last 10 years of the 20th century the “Decade of the Brain.” Aside from the scientific advances made during that time, government agencies, foundations, and professional organizations put forth substantial efforts to increase public awareness about brain development and diseases. A growing number of neuroscientists indicate that these efforts need to be elevated in order for neuroscience findings to be translated into principles that can facilitate sound policymaking relevant to early childhood education.
My first encounter with informed medical consent came as a young law student. I was assigned to assist a lawyer in the defense of an older man who had refused treatment for leukemia. His daughter objected, and asked the court to appoint her to be his conservator so she could compel him to undergo treatment. When the father spoke to my supervisor, his position became clear. His atypical choice was informed by his cultural background and personal character. An immigrant from Eastern Europe, he was adamantly against yielding control of his life to his daughter. He had tried the medicines, and found they sapped his strength and made him weak. He would rather go on strong for as long as possible and remain his own master.
Among the most controversial of medical issues is the resuscitation of newborns that are unlikely to survive. The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA), enacted in 2002, and the enforcement guidelines later issued by the United State’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) outlined clinical procedures to be used in the resuscitation and care of infants born between 20 and 24 weeks gestation. (A normal, full-term pregnancy is 37 to 42 weeks of gestation.) This act has gained remarkably limited attention, and many neonatologists are not familiar with the act or DHS guidelines concerning its enforcement. A recent study published in Pediatrics suggested that most neonatologists surveyed did not agree with the legislation, but that it did have the power to change medical practice if it was enforced.
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- Does Language Trigger Visual Memories? – Part 2