Selecting subjects for participation in clinical research: one sphere of justice.
Recent guidelines from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandate the inclusion of adequate numbers of women in clinical trials. Ought such standards to apply internationally? Walzer's theory of justice is brought to bear on the problem, the first use of the theory in research ethics, and it argues for broad application of the principle of adequate representation. A number of practical conclusions for research ethics committees (RECs) are outlined. Eligibility criteria in clinical trials ought to be justified by trial designers. Research ethics committees ought to question criteria that seem to exclude unnecessarily women from research participation. The issue of adequate representation should be construed broadly, so as to include consideration of the representation of the elderly, persons with HIV, mental illness and substance abuse disorders in clinical research. (+info)
Narrowing social inequalities in health? Analysis of trends in mortality among babies of lone mothers (abridged version 1).
OBJECTIVES: To examine trends in mortality among babies registered solely by their mother (lone mothers) and to compare these with trends in infant mortality for couple registrations overall and couple registrations subdivided by social class of father. DESIGN: Analysis of trends in infant death rates from 1975 to 1996 for the three groups. The data source was the national linked infant mortality file, containing all records of infant death in England and Wales linked to the respective birth records. SETTING: England and Wales. PARTICIPANTS: All live births (n=14.3 million) from 1975 to 1996; all deaths of infants from birth to 12 months of age over the same period (n=135 800). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Death rates in the perinatal, neonatal, and postneonatal periods and for infancy overall. RESULTS: For the babies of lone mothers infant mortality has fallen to less than a third of the 1975 level, with a clear reduction in the gap between the mortality in these babies compared with all couple registrations: the excess mortality in solely registered births was 79% in 1975 reducing to 33% in 1996. Most of the narrowing of the sole-couple differential was associated with the neonatal period, for which there is now no appreciable gap. For couple registrations analysed by social class of father, infant death rates have more than halved in each social class from 1975 to 1996. The reductions in mortality were greater in the late 1970s and early 1990s. Infant death rates in classes IV-V remained between 50% and 65% higher than in classes I-II. Differentials between social classes were largest in the postneonatal period and smallest in the perinatal and neonatal periods. The gap in perinatal and neonatal mortality between the babies of lone mothers and couple parents in social classes IV-V has disappeared. CONCLUSIONS: The differential in infant mortality between social classes still exists, whereas the differential between sole and couple registrations has decreased, showing positive progress in the reduction of inequalities. As the reduction in the differential was confined to the neonatal period these improvements may be more a reflection of healthcare factors than of factors associated with lone mothers' social and economic circumstances. (+info)
Medical technology and inequity in health care: the case of Korea.
There has been a rapid influx of high cost medical technologies into the Korean hospital market. This has raised concerns about the changes it will bring for the Korean health care sector. Some have questioned whether this diffusion will necessarily have positive effects on the health of the overall population. Some perverse effects of uncontrolled diffusion of technologies have been hinted in recent literature. For example, there is a problem of increasing inequity with the adoption of expensive technologies. Utilization of most of the expensive high technology services is not covered by national health insurance schemes; examples of such technologies are Ultra Sonic, CT Scanner, MRI, Radiotherapy, EKG, and Lithotripter. As a result, the rich can afford expensive high technology services while the poor cannot. This produces a gradual evolution of classes in health service utilization. This study examines how health service utilization among different income groups is affected by the import of high technologies. It discusses changes made within the health care system, and explains the circumstances under which the rapid and excessive diffusion of medical technologies occurred in the hospital sector. (+info)
Gender and equity in health sector reform programmes: a review.
This paper reviews current literature and debates about Health Sector Reform (HSR) in developing countries in the context of its possible implications for women's health and for gender equity. It points out that gender is a significant marker of social and economic vulnerability which is manifest in inequalities of access to health care and in women's and men's different positioning as users and producers of health care. Any analysis of equity must therefore include a consideration of gender issues. Two main approaches to thinking about gender issues in health care are distinguished--a 'women's health' approach, and a 'gender inequality' approach. The framework developed by Cassels (1995), highlighting six main components of HSR, is used to try to pinpoint the implications of HSR in relation to both of these approaches. This review makes no claim to sociological or geographical comprehensiveness. It attempts instead to provide an analysis of the gender and women's health issues most likely to be associated with each of the major elements of HSR and to outline an agenda for further research. It points out that there is a severe paucity of information on the actual impact of HSR from a gender point of view and in relation to substantive forms of vulnerability (e.g. particular categories of women, specific age groups). The use of generic categories, such as 'the poor' or 'very poor', leads to insufficient disaggregation of the impact of changes in the terms on which health care is provided. This suggests the need for more carefully focused data collection and empirical research. (+info)
The lessons of user fee experience in Africa.
This paper reviews the experience of implementing user fees in Africa. It describes the two main approaches to implementing user fees that have been applied in African countries, the standard and the Bamako Initiative models, and their common objectives. It summarizes the evidence concerning the impact of fees on equity, efficiency and system sustainability (as opposed to financial sustainability), and the key bottlenecks to their effective implementation. On the basis of this evidence it then draws out three main sets of lessons, focusing on: where and when to implement fees; how to enhance the impact of fees on their objectives; and how to strengthen the process of implementation. If introduced by themselves, fees are unlikely to achieve equity, efficiency or sustainability objectives. They should, therefore, be seen as only one element in a broader health care financing package that should include some form of risk-sharing. This financing package is important in limiting the potential equity dangers clearly associated with fees. There is a greater potential role for fees within hospitals rather than primary facilities. Achievement of equity, efficiency and, in particular, sustainability will also require the implementation of complementary interventions to develop the skills, systems and mechanisms of accountability critical to ensure effective implementation. Finally, the process of policy development and implementation is itself an important influence over effective implementation. (+info)
The potential role of risk-equalization mechanisms in health insurance: the case of South Africa.
International agencies such as the World Bank have widely advocated the use of health insurance as a way of improving health sector efficiency and equity in developing countries. However, in developing countries with well-established, multiple-player health insurance markets, such as South Africa, extension of insurance coverage is now inhibited by problems of moral hazard, and associated cost escalation and fragmentation of insurer risk-pools. Virtually no research has been done on the problem of risk selection in health insurance outside developed countries. This paper provides a brief overview of the problem of risk fragmentation as it has been studied in developed countries, and attempts to apply this to middle-income country settings, particularly that of South Africa. A number of possible remedial measures are discussed, with risk-equalization funds being given the most attention. An overview is given of the risk-equalization approach, common misconceptions regarding its working and the processes that might be required to assess its suitability in different national settings. Where there is widespread public support for social risk pooling in health care, and government is willing and able to assume a regulatory role to achieve this, risk-equalization approaches may achieve significant efficiency and equity gains without destroying the positive features of private health care financing, such as revenue generation, competition and free choice of insurer. (+info)
International developments in abortion law from 1988 to 1998.
OBJECTIVES: In 2 successive decades since 1967, legal accommodation of abortion has grown in many countries. The objective of this study was to assess whether liberalizing trends have been maintained in the last decade and whether increased protection of women's human rights has influenced legal reform. METHODS: A worldwide review was conducted of legislation and judicial rulings affecting abortion, and legal reforms were measured against governmental commitments made under international human rights treaties and at United Nations conferences. RESULTS: Since 1987, 26 jurisdictions have extended grounds for lawful abortion, and 4 countries have restricted grounds. Additional limits on access to legal abortion services include restrictions on funding of services, mandatory counseling and reflection delay requirements, third-party authorizations, and blockades of abortion clinics. CONCLUSIONS: Progressive liberalization has moved abortion laws from a focus on punishment toward concern with women's health and welfare and with their human rights. However, widespread maternal mortality and morbidity show that reform must be accompanied by accessible abortion services and improved contraceptive care and information. (+info)
Equality and selection for existence.
It is argued that the policy of excluding from further life some human gametes and pre-embryos as "unfit" for existence is not at odds with a defensible idea of human equality. Such an idea must be compatible with the obvious fact that the "functional" value of humans differs, that their "use" to themselves and others differs. A defensible idea of human equality is instead grounded in the fact that as this functional difference is genetically determined, it is nothing which makes humans deserve or be worthy of being better or worse off. Rather, nobody is worth a better life than anyone else. This idea of equality is, however, not applicable to gametes and pre-embryos, since they are not human beings, but something out of which human beings develop. (+info)