Is it Time to Say Final Goodbyes to Our Definition of Brain Death?

Written by FASPE Medical Fellows: Alexa Kanbergs and Joseph Scarpa, Jr.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the “Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain Death.”  Motivated by the number of patients in hospitals that were permanently unconscious but retained biological function, this document outlined a definition and criteria for determining brain death.  The criteria included confirming the patient is unconscious and cannot respond or perceive stimuli, loss of key brainstem functions, and that all reversible causes have been ruled out. The wide acceptance of the concept of brain death proposed in the Harvard Report then led to significant advancements in the field of organ donation.  Patients determined to meet the criteria for brain death who have consented to organ donation are the ideal source of organs, as circulation can be maintained until organ procurement takes place. The concept of brain death has been controversial since its origins, but with technology advancements that allow organs to remain viable for longer periods without a beating heart, does the definition still stand the test of time?

Read the original article on The New York Times.

When Journalism Comes Up Short, Maternal Health Suffers

Written by FASPE Journalism Fellows: Ian KullgrenChristine Rushton and Dustin Volz

News outlets covering the highly-political issue of abortion rights struggled to hit the mark while reporting on the new legislation in Alabama this May. A piece by Alexandria Neason in the Columbia Journalism Review criticized the coverage as short-sighted and damaging to related coverage on maternal health. Both local and national journalists who report on maternal health spoke out on how the national outlets sensationalized the signing, making it seem as if the law crept from nowhere despite significant work by both proponents and opponents leading up to its passage. National coverage also caused confusion, with many outlets failing to explain that the law won't go into effect for another year. Women who misunderstand might not seek treatment they can still receive for that time.

“News publications can make it seem like a doomsday,” writer Clarissa Brooks said in the CJR piece. She added that it appeared the media didn't pick the story up until the final votes.

This spotlighting of abortion rights can leave reporting on other issues in women's and reproductive health in the shadows, as reported by journalists like Anne Claire Vollers. Writing for Alabama Media Group, Vollers is spending the next year covering the consequences of inadequate access to maternal health care in the state, an issue related to but not connected to the new abortion ban. When writing about politically charged news, journalists need to seek an understanding of not only the story of the moment, but also the larger implications that otherwise might go unreported. This is especially concerning when the topic involves critical issues today like maternal health.

Read the original article in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Physician and Author Dhruv Khullar to Receive a FASPE Award for Ethical Leadership and Be Named Distinguished Fellow for 2019

NEW YORK, NY – Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) announced today that Dhruv Khullar will be named Distinguished Fellow for 2019 and receive a FASPE Award for Ethical Leadership. Khullar will be presented the award at FASPE’s annual gala and awards dinner on Monday, April 15 at CNVS in New York City.

Khullar, MD, MPP, is being honored as a Distinguished Fellow by FASPE for his broad reach in bringing public awareness to key issues in medical ethics through his writing for lay publications and his policy work.

Dr. Dhruv Khullar, a 2012 FASPE Medical Fellow, is being honored by FASPE with a Distinguished Fellow Award at the 2019 FASPE Annual Awards Dinner on April 15.
(Photo Melanie Einzig)

Khullar, an assistant professor of healthcare policy and research at Weill Cornell Medicine, is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, as well as other lay and academic publications, where he explores the intersection of medicine, health policy and economics. In 2012, Khullar was a FASPE Medical Fellow.

“In many respects, our Distinguished Fellow honor is the most important of our annual Ethical Leadership Awards,” said David Goldman, Founder and Chair of FASPE, which runs innovative fellowship programs that challenge graduate students and early-career professionals in business, journalism, law, medicine and religion to confront their ethical responsibilities.

“With this award we recognize a Fellow who has gone on to exemplify FASPE’s mission of ethical leadership. Khullar leads through his widely-read writings, which address a range of issues at the heart of medical ethics today and which challenge us to engage in thoughtful and transparent debate. We are proud to acknowledge Khullar’s important contributions in exploring traditional areas of medical ethics as well as those arising from the use of new technologies.”

Khullar, who holds a medical degree from the Yale School of Medicine and a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, recently worked in the ABC News Medical Unit, helping to communicate evolving health stories, and was previously at the White House Office of Management and Budget (O.M.B.), focusing on Affordable Care Act implementation. In addition to The New York Times, Khullar has written for publications such as The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Atlantic, Slate, Health Affairs, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). He currently serves as a Senior Research Fellow at NYC Health + Hospitals, and as Director of Policy Dissemination at the Physicians Foundation Center for Physician Practice and Leadership. 

“FASPE was such a powerful experience and one that I have thought about frequently over the years,” said Khullar. “Those relationships, lessons and insights have only grown stronger and more relevant with time. It is an honor to be recognized by an organization that has given me, and many others, so much. I am deeply grateful." FASPE is presenting Awards for Ethical Leadership to two other honorees at its gala. The global consulting and professional services firm Accenture is this year’s Corporate Honoree. Accenture is being recognized for its leadership in applying ethical principles to the development and use of artificial intelligence and other innovative 21st-century technologies. The Posthumous Honoree will be Fritz Bauer, the late judge and prosecutor who prosecuted Nazi officials following World War II in German courts, despite active opposition from his superiors.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas Accepts FASPE Posthumous Award for Ethical Leadership on Behalf of the Late German-Jewish Prosecutor Fritz Bauer

At a private reception at LRN on April 2, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas accepted FASPE Posthumous Award for Ethical Leadership on behalf of the late German-Jewish prosecutor and judge Fritz Bauer. David Goldman, Chair and Founder of FASPE, presented the Award to Maas.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas accepts the Posthumous Award for Ethical Leadership on behalf of Fritz Bauer. FASPE Chair and Founder David Goldman presented the Award to Maas. PHOTOTHEK/THOMAS INO

Fritz Bauer (1903 – 1968) was a German-Jewish judge and prosecutor who prosecuted Nazi officials following World War II in German courts, despite active opposition from his superiors. Raised in Stuttgart, Bauer became Germany’s youngest judge in 1930 at the age of 26. In 1933, he was dismissed from his position and arrested and imprisoned for political activity against the Nazi party. Bauer fled to Denmark in 1935 and later to Sweden. After the war, in 1949, Bauer returned to Germany, eventually becoming the chief prosecutor for the State of Hessen. He focused his career on reforming the German justice system and bringing Nazi officials to trial at a time when Nazis continued to hold key government positions and anti-Semitism continued to pervade German society. Bauer set in motion the arrest of Adolf Eichmann in 1960. He is probably best known for the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials, which began in 1963 and brought to trial 22 former officials of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks at the reception honoring Fritz Bauer with the FASPE Posthumous Award for Ethical Leadership. PHOTOTHEK/THOMAS INO

Maas is widely known for championing Bauer’s legacy. In 2015, when he was Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Maas established the Fritz Bauer Thesis Award for Human Rights and Contemporary Legal History. Maas has also said that the legacy of the Holocaust was pivotal to his decision to enter politics.

“I am deeply honored to accept the FASPE award on Bauer’s behalf,” said Maas, “The history of the German judiciary doesn’t have many heroes. One of the few was Fritz Bauer. He stood up for democratic values during the Weimar Republic, rejected the barbaric Nazi regime and continued his fight for justice in postwar Germany. Facing suspicion, even hostility, Fritz Bauer stayed true to his conviction that a democratic Germany could only have a future if it confronted its shameful past. His belief in justice and his quest for humanity inspire us, day by day, to stand up for human rights, to defend democratic values and to protect human dignity itself.”