Health Policy and Bioethics Consortia

The Health Policy and Bioethics Consortia is a monthly series that convenes two international experts from different fields or vantage points to discuss how biomedical innovation and health care delivery are affected by various ethical norms, laws, and regulations.

They are organized by the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics and the Program on Regulation, Therapeutics, and Law (PORTAL) at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in collaboration with the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. Support provided by the Oswald DeN. Cammann Fund at Harvard University.

Be sure to subscribe here for more information about the 2021-2022 Health Policy and Bioethics consortia!

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Past Events

  • Supplying International Aid Effectively: Ethics and Law

    April 8, 2022 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    Confronting pandemics and improving health in low-income countries requires ambitious public health plans. Global health responses to HIV/AIDS and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis can provide guidance on how to garner public support and gain financial and political commitments to implement large-scale public health interventions and systems. In this session experts will discuss what it takes to finance and operationalize major public health programs.

    Discussants:

    Jim Yong Kim, MD, PhD
    Vice Chairman and Partner, Global Infrastructure Partners;
    Former President (2012-2019), The World Bank Group

    Teeb Al-Samarrai, MD
    Director of Science and Policy, Office of the Surgeon General

    Prashant Yadav, PhD, MBA
    Lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School

    Moderator:

    Rebecca Weintraub, MD
    Founder, Director, Global Health Delivery Project, Harvard University;
    Assistant Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School

  • Wherefore ART? Ethics of, and Differential Access to, Assisted Reproductive Technologies

    March 11, 2022 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    Infertility diagnostics and assisted reproductive technologies are not required in insurance coverage. Although an increasing number of states have enacted mandates, access to them remains inconsistent across the country, raising ethical concerns about whose parenthood is supported. In this session, two experts will examine system and legal barriers and opportunities related to assisted reproductive technologies.

    Discussants:

    Judith Daar, JD
    Ambassador Patricia L. Herbold Dean and Professor of Law
    Chase College of Law, Northern Kentucky University

    Eli Adashi, MD
    Professor of Medical Science
    Brown University

    Moderator:

    Bea Brown, MBE
    Research Specialist, Program on Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL)

  • Should Alexa Diagnose Alzheimer’s?

    February 11, 2022 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    Technology is now part of our lives in ways that was not possible only ten to twenty years ago. Smart devices, like watches, phones, and speakers, can gather vast amounts of information about their users, often without the user's knowledge or consent. As technology continues to improve, many of these devices may also be leveraged to serve diagnostic functions. Technologies such as Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant can ambiently and continually monitor a variety of information about an individual's location, voice, and movement. As this technology merges with wearables, such as the Apple Watch or FitBit, it may become possible to diagnose a wide range of diseases, including Alzheimer's. But should it?

    To help answer that question, Dr. Barbara Evans and Dr. Jason Karlawish will discuss the medical, legal, and ethical implications of using such technology to diagnose diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

    Discussants:

    Barbara J. Evans, JD, PhD
    Stephen C. O'Connell Chair and Professor of Law, University of Florida Levin College of Law;
    Professor of Engineering, University of Florida Wertheim College of Engineering

    Jason Karlawish, MD
    Professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and Neurology, University of Pennsylvania;
    Co-Director, Penn Memory Center

    Moderator:

    David Simon, JD
    Research Fellow, Digital Home Health, Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School

  • A New Inheritance: Reshaping Our Environment with Gene Drives

    December 10, 2021 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    Breakthroughs in genetic technologies make possible a new method of changing our environments using gene drives, the introduction of certain traits into wild populations. From reducing the impact of invasive species to wiping out disease-carrying mosquitoes, gene drives offer the possibilities to improve human health. But, they also raise concerns—once this Pandora’s box is opened, can it ever be closed and what will be the lasting effects on other species? We will examine the science making gene drives possible, their potential to eradicate some diseases, and the ethical implications of research in the wild that reshapes our environment.

    Discussants:

    Jason Delborne, PhD
    Professor of Science, Policy, and Society University Faculty Scholar Genetic Engineering and Society Center Executive Committee Member North Carolina State University

    Omar Akbari, PhD
    Professor Division of Biological Sciences Cell and Developmental Biology Section
    University of California, San Diego

    Moderator:

    Insoo Hyun, PhD
    Director of Research Ethics, Center for Bioethics, Harvard Medical School; Professor of Bioethics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

    *Joint event with the Ethics in Research and Biotechnology Consortia

  • Watching This Talk Will Save Your Life: Dealing with Health Misinformation in the COVID Era

    November 12, 2021 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    The COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine rollout has highlighted the broad reach and prevalence of health misinformation. From outright lies to fuzzy claims, what makes such misinformation convincing and why does it take hold? When misinformation threatens individuals’ or the public’s health, are its propagators protected by the First Amendment? We will examine the current state of health misinformation and what can be done to push back against its spread.

    Discussants:

    Wendy Parmet, JD
    Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law and Director, Center for Health Policy and Law, Northeastern University School of Law

    Joseph Cappella, PhD
    Gerlad R. Miller Professor Emeritus of Communication, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

    Moderator:

    Michael Sinha, MD, JD, MPH
    Research Fellow, Harvard-MIT Center for Regulatory Science;  Affiliated Researcher, Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL)

  • A Long, Strange Trip: Turning Psychedelics into Therapeutics

    October 8, 2021 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    Psychedelics have been classified as schedule I substances—illegal to possess—since 1973, but research has increasingly highlighted potentially beneficial clinical applications of psychedelic treatment. Ballot initiatives and local ordinances have decriminalized some psychedelic substances, ushering in public discussion about the uses and abuses of drugs and law enforcement. In this session, we’ll hear from experts at the forefront of psychedelic research and advocacy about the ethical and legal challenges of proving that psychedelics can be effective and safe medicines.

    Speakers:

    Sharmin Ghaznavi, MD, PhD
    Associate Director and Director of Cognitive Neuroscience, Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics, Massachusetts General Hospital; Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

    Rick Doblin, PhD
    Founder and Executive Director, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

    Mason Marks, MD, JD
    Senior Fellow, Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law, Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School; Assistant Professor of Law, University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law

  • A Fair Shot: Vaccine Patent Protections and Global Access

    September 10, 2021 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    The spectacular clinical success of COVID-19 vaccines has been undermined by barriers to access to the vaccine, particularly in low- and middle-income settings around the world. Dissemination of the vaccine requires global coordination, which can be challenging in the face of patents and other barriers to sharing technological know-how. This session will explore how we have successfully distributed other essential medicines to patients around the world, what some of the novel issues are facing access to the COVID-19 vaccine, and the role of patents and patent waivers, donations, and other strategies in giving everyone a fair shot. 

    Speakers:

    Lisa Larrimore Ouellette, PhD, JD 
    Professor of Law, Stanford Law School; Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy and Research

    Paul Farmer, MD, PhD
    Kolokotrones University Professor Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine Harvard Medical School

    Hussain Lalani, MD, MPH
    Clinical Research Fellow

  • Health Care for Incarcerated Populations

    April 9, 2021 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    Caring for populations in prisons raises distinct medical ethics and policy challenges, including pressures on the traditional doctor-patient relationship. Years of litigation have improved conditions in prisons and access to health care services but problems remain. In this panel, experts will share their experiences promoting change through the courts and law, describe how the COVID19 pandemic has been handled, and consider how ethical imperatives to secure equitable health care treatment and conditions can be pursued in the future.

    Discussants:

    Robert Greifinger, MD  
    Consultant
    Correctional Health Care

    David Fathi, JD
    Director
    National Prison Project
    American Civil Liberties Union

    Moderator:

    Shannon Bell, MD
    Assistant Professor
    Obstetrics and Gynecology
    Boston University School of Medicine

  • The ACA in the 2020s: Where Does U.S. National Health Coverage Go from Here?

    March 12, 2021 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    Since its passage over a decade ago, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has expanded health care coverage for Americans but also faced constant litigation and uncertainty about its future, particularly in the last four years. With a new political administration now in place, the panelists will discuss the current state of ACA litigation and federal and state efforts that could improve the ACA and health care coverage in the U.S.

    Discussants:

    Jonathan Oberlander, PhD, MPhil, MA
    Department Chair of Social Medicine
    Professor of Health Policy & Management
    University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

    Erin Fuse Brown, JD, MPH
    Director
    Cathy C. Henson Professor of Law
    Associate Professor of Law
    Center for Law, Health & Society
    Georgia State College of Law

    Moderator:

    Michael Sinha, MD, JD, MPH
    Research Fellow
    Harvard-MIT Center for
    Regulatory Science
    Harvard Medical School

  • Medical Stereotypes: Confronting Racism and Disparities in U.S. Health Care

    February 12, 2021 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    Minority racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. have long experienced disparities in health care access and have worse health outcomes, undermining broader social, political, and economic equity. Negative stereotypes in U.S. culture can affect how minority patients are perceived and treated.

    This session will address the harms caused by the current medical discourse and how both health systems and legal changes can improve outcomes in the future.

    Discussants:

    Evelynn Hammonds, PhD, MS
    Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science,
    Professor of African and African American Studies, and Chair
    Department of the History of Science Harvard University
     
    Craig Konnoth, JD, MPhil
    Associate Professor of Law
    Director, Health Law Certificate
    University of Colorado Law School

    Moderator:

    Michelle Morse, MD, MPH
    Harvard Medical School Assistant Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital
    Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow
    Founding Co-Director, Equal Health

  • Investigational Drugs and Stem Cell Treatments: Legal and Ethical Considerations of Right to Try Laws

    December 11, 2020 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    In May 2018, the Right to Try Act was signed into law, creating a new pathway for patients with life-threatening conditions to access investigational drugs prior to FDA approval. Unlike its expanded access program, the FDA plays a limited role in right to try, which is negotiated between the patient and the drug developer. Prior to the federal law, more than half of states had passed their own versions of right to try. With two years of experiencing the law in action, two expert panelists will consider the effects of right-to-try. Early access to investigational drugs also raises numerous ethical questions, like whether individual patients should be able to bypass research, who bears liability for harms, whether informed consent is possible for an investigational drug, and if early access will delay research that could benefit all patients.  

    Discussants:

    Alison Bateman-House, MPH, PhD
    Department of Population Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine

    George Daley, MD, PhD
    Dean of the Faculty of Medicine
    Harvard Medical School

    Moderator:

    Insoo Hyun, PhD
    Professor, Department for Bioethics
    Case Western University School of Medicine
    Director of Research Ethics
    Senior Lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine, Part-time
    Harvard Medical School

  • The NFL, Youth Sport, and Concussions

    November 13, 2020 | 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET

    Potential links between contact sports and chronic traumatic encephalopathy or other long-lasting neurological effects have received renewed public interest with high-profile lawsuits and debate about the dangers of sport. There are challenges with the evidence for drawing firm conclusions, making these debates especially contentious. The concerns about sport and head injury, especially for young players, are not new. Despite recognition of the dangers inherent in contact sports, there is a history of avoiding addressing the problem head-on. American culture surrounding football, lauded for its rough style of play, also influences our understandings of risk, injury, and changes to the sport. 

    Discussants
    Kathleen Bachynski, PhD, MPH
    Assistant Professor, Muhlenberg College  

    Grant Iverson, PhD
    Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
    Harvard Medical School 
    Director, Sports Concussion Program
    MassGeneral Hospital for Children 

    Moderator:
    Cynthia Stein, MD, MPH
    Attending Physician, Sports Medicine Division
    Department of Orthopedic Surgery
    Director Medical Sports Medicine Fellowship Program