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Science and Law: Addington v. Texas: When can mentally ill people be committed against their will?

September 14, 2016

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ADDINGTON v. TEXAS 441 U.S. 418 (1979) The mentally ill are a controversial group in U.S. public health. Some believe they need to be committed to prevent them from harming themselves or others, but that also leads to the risk of erroneously committing people who do not require it, a serious infringement on individual liberty. […]

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Science and Law: Bragdon v. Abbott: How does HIV fit into disability law?

July 13, 2016

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BRAGDON v. ABBOTT 524 U.S. 624 (1998) In the previous post, we discussed how the Rehabilitation Act prevented a woman with tuberculosis from being fired without proper risk evaluation thanks to the act’s protections of handicapped persons. This decision helped set a precedent for a later case in 1998, 8 years after the passage of […]

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Science and Law: School Board of Nassau County v. Arline: Do people with a contagious disease qualify for disability protection?

July 11, 2016

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SCHOOL BOARD OF NASSAU COUNTY v. ARLINE 480 U.S. 273 (1987) The case of Gene Arline and the Nassau County School Board represents an important part of case law regarding the way our society defines disability and what factors employers are allowed to consider when hiring new employees. Case Background In 1987, the Supreme Court […]

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Science and Law: Quinlan v. State of New Jersey: Do patients have the right to end life-sustaining care based on the U.S. Constitution?

May 9, 2015

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QUINLAN v. STATE OF NEW JERSEY Supreme Court of New Jersey 70 N.J. 10, 355 A. 2d 647, 1976 This case is another important landmark decision in the ‘right to die’ movement. This helped to define the rights of patients and their guardians to refuse or discontinue life-sustaining medical intervention. Case Background Karen Ann Quinlan […]

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Science and Law: Griswold v. Connecticut: Can the state control your reproductive choices?

March 17, 2015

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GRISWOLD v. CONNECTICUT 381 U.S. 479 (1965) Today’s case is considered a landmark one for establishing the right to privacy in the U.S., which invalidated a state law preventing couples from accessing contraception in consultation with their doctor. Recently, there has been a great deal of controversy with regard to abortion and even contraception and […]

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Science and Law: Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health: The right to refuse medical treatment

March 14, 2015

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CRUZAN v. DIRECTOR, MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH 497 U.S. 261 (1990) This case, which came before the Supreme Court in 1990, discusses the ethics of providing life-sustaining treatment to incompetent patients, and became an important precedent for future cases discussing the right to die. Case Background On January 11, 1983 Nancy Beth Cruzan’s car overturned […]

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Science and Law: Hurley v. Eddingfield: What duty does a doctor have to treat patients?

February 22, 2015

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Hurley v. Eddingfield 59 N.E. 1058 (Ind. 1901) (Supreme Court of Indiana) This is an important case from more than a century ago that set an important precedent regarding the boundaries of physician responsibilities. While society generally agrees that we should strive to be good Samaritans, we do not require it of people, nor do […]

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Science and Law: Hospital v. Parents of Anencephalic Infant (Baby K): The duty to treat, futility, and what it means to be alive

February 21, 2015

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Hospital v. Parents of anencephalic infant 16 F.3d 590 (4th Circuit Court, 1994) This case deals with several highly controversial issues, including the duty of a hospital to treat all patients that enter the emergency room regardless of futility, the responsibilities of hospitals before attempting to transfer a patient to another facility, and the very […]

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Science and Law: McFall v. Shimp: Are people ethically or legally obligated to help others?

February 15, 2015

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McFall v. Shimp, 10 Pa. D. & C. 3d 90 (July 26, 1978) Allegheny County, Pennsylvania This case makes an important point about the limits of an average person’s obligations to help another, and reminds us of the difference between what we believe to be moral obligations, and actual legal obligations. Case Background: The plaintiff, Robert […]

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Science and Law: Grimes v. Kennedy Krieger Institute, INC.: When does research on human subjects become exploitation?

February 10, 2015

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GRIMES v. KENNEDY KRIEGER INSTITUTE, INC. 782 A.2d 807 (Md. 2001) Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland Today’s case involves an extremely controversial example of research on human subjects that can be seen as beneficial for a larger population at the expense of a smaller one. This raises important questions about the responsibilities of both […]

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