ELECTRONIC FETAL MONITORING:  A BLATANT DISREGARD OF MEDICAL ETHICS

Prominent medical malpractice attorney Thomas P. Sartwelle and neurologist James C. Johnston, MD, JD, published a new article on cerebral palsy and electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) in the journal Clinical Ethics, co-authored with renowned medical ethicist Professor Berna Arda, and neurologist Dr. Mehila Zebenigus.  

This article represents the latest in an ongoing series by these authors who have related publications in the Journal of Child Neurology; Neurologic Clinics; Surgery Journal; Maternal Health, Neonatology and Perinatology; Journal of Pediatric Care; Journal of Maternal, Fetal and Neonatal Medicine; Medical Law International; Journal of Childhood and Developmental Disorders; and several other journals and book chapters.  These articles may be accessed on ResearchGate.net. In this particular Clinical Ethics article, the authors discuss the use of EFM without informed consent which represents a blatant disregard of patient autonomy.

An abstract summary highlights the content:  A half century ago electronic fetal monitoring was rushed into clinical use with the promise that the secrets of fetal heart rate decelerations had been discovered and that the newly discovered knowledge would prevent cerebral palsy with just in time cesarean sections (C-sections) preventing babies from experiencing asphyxia, which was thought to be the primary cause of cerebral palsy. In the years since electronic fetal monitoring’s debut, it has been discovered that asphyxia is a rare cause of cerebral palsy. At the same time electronic fetal monitoring use increased to 85% of all labors, the C-section rate increased to 33% without an attributable decrease in the rate of cerebral palsy. What went wrong with electronic fetal monitoring?

The answer lies in a new analysis of the physiologic theories concerning fetal heart rate decelerations, demonstrating that the earlier electronic fetal monitoring theories were wrong. This revelation is only the latest evidence that electronic fetal monitoring use today is harming mothers and babies with useless C-sections. Yet electronic fetal monitoring use continues unabated. Why? This article explores the complex answers and bioethical concerns, through a review of the new evidence underlying fetal heart rate decelerations in labor.

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NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES: A GLOBAL HEALTH THREAT

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World Association for Medical Law Congress in Tokyo on 6-8 August 2019.     

Non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes) are collectively responsible for 7 out of 10 deaths in the world, 41 million people every year.  Many of these people die prematurely and the vast majority of these deaths are in the low income countries.  The World Health Organization considers non-communicable diseases to be one of the top ten global health threats.

The situation is even worse in the least developed nations that are facing a triple burden on ongoing infectious diseases, rapidly increasing non-communicable disease and the effects of globalization including accidents and injuries, compounded by a dearth of healthcare workers.

Neurologist and Attorney James C. Johnston, MD, JD and Neurologist Mehila Zebenigus, MD discussed these concerns at the 2018 United Nations (UN) High Level Political Forum in New York and provided specific recommendations for improving healthcare access in the least developed nations, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.

On behalf of Global NeuroCare® Drs. Johnston and Zebenigus published a written statement on improving healthcare as a strategy for poverty reduction at the UN 56th Commission for Social Development with specific recommendations for Member States to improve healthcare access.  Global NeuroCare® is a non-profit organization holding Special Consultative Status with the United Nations ECOSOC.  This allows Drs. Johnston and Zebenigus, as Directors of the NGO, to provide expert analysis on issues related to global health, make written and oral recommendation statements, and serve as UN Delegates at the United Nations sessions in New York, Geneva and Vienna.

Drs. James C. Johnston and Mehila Zebenigus reviewed their recommendations for improving healthcare in developing regions with leading international experts from over 40 countries at the 24th World Association for Medical Law Congress in Tel Aviv, Israel.  The WAML, in conjunction with the Israeli Ministry of Health and Tel Aviv University honored Dr. Johnston with the Inaugural Davies Award in Public Health.  Dr. Johnston dedicated the award to the Addis Ababa University Department of Neurology and donated the funds to Global NeuroCare.®

Drs. Johnston and Zebenigus have published another statement for the 57th Session of the UN Commission for Social Development addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through advancing healthcare strategies.

They will also present these recommendations to the 25th  World Association for Medical Law Congress in Tokyo on 6-8 August 2019.

GLOBAL NEUROLOGY REPORT: WORLD ASSOCIATION FOR MEDICAL LAW MEETING 2018

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The 24th World Association for Medical Law (WAML) Congress held on 2-6 September 2018 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The 24th World Association for Medical Law (WAML) Congress was held on 2-6 September 2018 in Tel Aviv, Israel.  Leading international experts discussed topics related to Global Health, Medical Law and Bioethics, with a particular emphasis on Humanitarian Medicine, Law and Ethics.

Drs. James C. Johnston and Mehila Zebenigus discussed the urgent need for guidelines to improve relations between the North and South, and thereby advance healthcare access in the least developed regions.

Dr. Johnston was the only member and representative from New Zealand, and Dr. Zebenigus represented Ethiopia.  They explained that the most effective way to improve healthcare access is to establish local training programs in developing regions.  However, this requires international support which has been hampered by the unprecedented growth of global health programs, especially at United States academic medical centers.  This growth is attributable to a number of factors unrelated to improving patient care – factors such as establishing a reputation or ‘brand,’ increasing publications, and generating revenue through government, private and charitable sources.

Dr. James Christopher Johnston discussed how these academic global health programs have created a scramble for Africa characterized by self-serving short term medical missions that are highly beneficial to the sending institution but fail to provide any substantive benefit to the host country.  In fact, he described how these types of medical missions can and do cause actual harm, thereby impeding medical care in the very regions where it is most needed.

Dr. James C. Johnston discussed the urgent need for guidelines that focus on ethically advancing collaborative partnerships between the North and South to improve health care. This topic followed Dr. Johnston’s lectures last year at the WAML meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan and the prior year in Los Angeles, USA, where he and Dr. Zebenigus highlighted the medical, ethical and legal problems created by Western countries engaging in short term medical missions to resource limited nations.

This year, Drs. James Christopher Johnston and Zebenigus focused on the specific guidelines and policy recommendations which they presented to the United Nations High Level Political Forum last year and earlier this year.  James C. Johnston, MD, JD is dually qualified and licensed as a board-certified neurologist and barrister, and uniquely qualified to deal with this very specialized area of international medical law.  Mehila Zebenigus, MD is a board-certified internist and neurologist well-versed in the intricacies of global health.

Dr. James Christopher Johnston was honored for his paper on this subject with the Davies Award for Public Health.  He dedicated this inaugural award to Dr. Zebenigus and the Ethiopian team.

In terms of disclosure, Drs. Zebenigus and Johnston are Directors of the non-profit organization Global NeuroCare® which focuses on advancing neurological services in sub-Saharan Africa and particularly Ethiopia.  Dr. Johnston serves as an Honorary Professor of Neurology at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.

Global NeuroCare Statement: Addressing the UN 56th Commission for Social Development

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James C. Johnston, MD, JD presented another statement to the United Nations 56th Commission for Social Development cautioning that any successful poverty reduction strategy necessitates improving access to healthcare for people with neurological disorders by increasing the recruitment, training and retention of physicians while protecting inherently vulnerable populations through ethically congruent collaborative partnerships. Dr. Johnston recommended focusing on improving the quality of care in tandem with quantity by prioritizing implementation of a development agenda with specific goals, targets and indicators promoting a Center of Excellence for Neuroscience in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The full statement may be accessed in the UN document repository:  http://undocs.org/E/CN.5/2018/NGO/20

UN Accepts Global NeuroCare Statement

The United Nations ECOSOC accepted a statement by Dr. James C. Johnston on behalf of Global NeuroCare for presentation at the 55th Session of the Commission for Social Development 2017.  In that statement, Dr. Johnston highlights specific recommendations for developing and improving health care services in resource limited areas.  He also suggested appointment of a Special Rapporteur or Independent Expert with a thematic mandate of Global Health to examine, advise and publish relevant guidelines for the ethical promotion of North-South collaborative partnerships, especially in Africa.

This represents an extension of the recommendations Dr. James C. Johnston submitted for the UN ECOSOC High Level Political Forum on 27 July 2016.

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