Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ken Arrow (1921-2017)

How will we do Economics without Ken Arrow?

After living to a vigorous 95, he passed away today after a mercifully short illness.  He was in the hospital for about two weeks, then went home. He had ups and downs, but a week and a half ago I found him dressed and at his computer.

Here's a picture I took during his hospital stay, in late January. Even when he was feeling poorly, he was always the smartest person in the room.

Travel bans and rank order lists for the resident match

Residency programs have to submit their rank order lists of applicants by Feb 22. Should they try to match with doctors from countries subject to a possible renewed US travel ban?

Travel Ban Confusion Complicates Match Day Decisions

"UPDATE:  The Trump administration announced February 16 that it would discontinue its legal push in appeals court to reinstate their travel ban, but would instead issue a new, revised immigration order next week. No other details were given.
As medical school students look ahead to Match Day on Friday, March 17, some international students have additional anxiety in light of the uncertainty surrounding President Trump's executive order banning travel for people in seven Muslim-majority countries.
Residency programs also have to decide whether they will hold spots for students from the targeted countries who may not be allowed to come to the United States if legal rulings change.
First comes decision day February 22, when preferences must be ranked by both programs and students.
"Some applicants are concerned that the program directors won't rank them and there's concern from programs on whether the students can begin training on time," Mona Signer, president and CEO of the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), told Medscape Medical News.
Trump's executive order, issued on January 27, aims to prevent citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — from entering the United States for 90 days. It suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days and barred refugees from Syria indefinitely. A federal judge has since imposed an emergency stay, halting the key parts of the executive order.
The administration's next step is unclear, but news sources have reported that Trump may take the fight to the Supreme Court or issue a revised order.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 260 medical students have applied to US residency programs from the seven countries the ban covers.
Questions include whether the ban will be reinstated, and, if it is reinstated, whether medical students would be exempted. Some worry the ban could spread to other countries. Last year, 3769 non-US citizens who studied medicine abroad matched into a US residency program, according to the American College of Physicians."

Monday, February 20, 2017

The European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes

Here's the website of the European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes (ENCKEP), whose goal is to widen and deepen kidney exchange in Europe.

It's still a work in progress, with gated areas.

For those who have registered, the slides from the recent Tallinn conference are here, with updates from Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, Portugal, Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, France and the UK.


The conveners are Prof Joris VAN DE KLUNDERT at vandeklundert@bmg.eur.nl, and
Dr David MANLOVE at David.Manlove@glasgow.ac.uk .

I'm a (non-European) supporter of this effort.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Offensive trademarks

Can repugnant speech also be intellectual property? The Supreme Court has a case that touches on this. The NY Times has this recent story: Justices Appear Willing to Protect Offensive Trademarks

"The Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared deeply skeptical about the constitutionality of a federal law that denies protection to disparaging trademarks. Almost every member of the court indicated that the law was hard to reconcile with the First Amendment.
The court’s decision in the case, concerning an Asian-American dance-rock band called the Slants, will probably also effectively resolve a separate one in favor of the Washington Redskins football team.
The law denies federal trademark protection to messages that may disparage people, living or dead, along with “institutions, beliefs or national symbols.”
Malcolm L. Stewart, a deputy solicitor general, said the trademark law does not bar any speech, as the Slants remain free to continue to use their name. The law “places a reasonable limit on access to a government program rather than a restriction on speech,” he said, and so “does not violate the First Amendment.”
Continue reading the main story
But Justice Elena Kagan said that even government programs may not discriminate based on speakers’ viewpoints.
“The point is that I can say good things about something, but I can’t say bad things about something,” she said of the law. “And I would have thought that that was a fairly classic case of viewpoint discrimination.” Viewpoint discrimination by the government, the Supreme Court has said, is presumptively unconstitutional.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the law interfered with free expression.
“We have a culture in which we have T-shirts and logos and rock bands and so forth that are expressing a point of view,” he said. “They are using the market to express views.”

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Memorial conference for Professor Reinhard Selten, April 28


Memorial conference for Professor Reinhard Selten
Friday, April 28th 2017, Bonn,

Reinhard Selten was a pioneer of the analysis of strategic interaction of both fully rational players (game theory) and boundedly rational humans (experimental economics). From 1984 until his death in 2016, he was associated with the University of Bonn, where he established one of the first experimental laboratories in economics. In 1994, Selten was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, together with John Harsanyi and John Nash, for their pioneering analysis of equilibria in the theory of non-cooperative games.
To honor his outstanding contributions to Economics, the University of Bonn and the University of Cologne are hosting a memorial conference for Reinhard Selten. The aim is to bring together renowned speakers presenting work connected to or inspired by Selten’s research. The conference will take place on Friday, April 28th 2017 at the G├╝nnewig Hotel Bristol in Bonn, Germany. To help us with our planning, please register as soon as possible if you plan to attend!

Organisers

Friday, February 17, 2017

Vatican statement on organ transplantation

When I posted recently about the Vatican conference on organ trafficking and transplant tourism I focused on the participation of China, and the reaction it drew.

Now I've had a closer second look at the conference statement  (whose title is Statement of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Summit on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism).

It's a very tough statement, which casts quite a broad net when talking about "crimes against humanity." Here's the opening paragraph:

"In accordance with the Resolutions of the United Nations and the World Health Assembly, the 2015 Vatican Summit of Mayors from the major cities of the world, the 2014 Joint Declaration of faith leaders against modern slavery, and the Magisterium of Pope Francis, who in June 2016, at the Judges’ Summit on Human Trafficking and Organized Crime, stated that organ trafficking and human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal are “true crimes against humanity [that] need to be recognized as such by all religious, political and social leaders, and by national and international legislation,” we, the undersigned participants of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Summit on Organ Trafficking, resolve to combat these crimes against humanity through comprehensive efforts that involve all stakeholders around the world."

Here's the paragraph defining what those crimes against humanity are, which to my eye seems to conflate three very different things. It is number 1 in their list of recommendations.

"That all nations and all cultures recognize human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal and organ trafficking, which include the use of organs from executed prisoners and payments to donors or the next of kin of deceased donors, as crimes that should be condemned worldwide and legally prosecuted at the national and international level."

That is, if I read the full statement correctly (you should read it yourself), they are proposing that 

  1. taking organs from executed prisoners, 
  2. making payments to living donors, and 
  3. making payments to next of kin of deceased donors 

should all be considered crimes against humanity.  

Incidentally, the phrase "crimes against humanity"  is one that I hear most often in the context of genocide, although I recognize that it is also used for other horrific crimes that target populations.

I am not encouraged that this will lead to a sensible discussion about either incentives for donation or (even) removing financial disincentives.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Doctor assisted suicide in Colorado: repugnance outlives legalization

You can figure out much of this story from the headline (but there's more): Colorado’s aid-in-dying law in disarray as big Catholic health systems opt out

...
"A third big health system in the state, HealthONE, has decided it won’t dispense life-terminating medications or allow patients to take them on the premises of its eight hospitals. But HealthONE, which is not faith-based, won’t impose similar restrictions on its doctors. A spokeswoman declined to provide details.

"The state’s law, which became effective last month, requires that such patients be 18 or older, have six months or less to live, be mentally competent, and ask for aid in dying twice over 15 days, in addition to a separate written request.

“Everyone is in a mad scramble figuring out what they’re doing to do and how they’re going to do it,” said Jennifer Moore Ballentine, president of The Iris Project, a Colorado consulting firm that is running a series of seminars on the new law over the next few weeks.

Colorado’s aid-in-dying law contains “conscience” provisions allowing physicians, nurses, and pharmacists to “opt out” of participating. Health systems can also bar the practice on their premises. Other states where aid in dying has become legal — Oregon, Washington, California, Vermont, and Montana — have similar provisions, and Catholic health care systems in those states have taken advantage of it.

But the Colorado law specifically states that health systems can’t prohibit doctors who work for them from discussing end-of-life options with patients or writing prescriptions to be taken off-site. This provision was crafted to prevent health systems from erecting barriers to access; only Vermont has a similar rule, but it doesn’t have a heavy concentration of Catholic hospitals.

Advocates for Colorado’s law say the two big Catholic health systems may be testing that provision."
************

And in Vermont: Vermont governor discloses his father used state’s end-of-life law

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The politics of assisted suicide / death with dignity

My discussions of assisted suicide / death with dignity as a repugnant transaction included a recent post noting that in the most recent elections, Colorado joined the states (including California) that allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to mentally fit, terminally ill adults who want to end their lives.

It's therefore interesting to note that Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil M. Gorsuch has a 2006 book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia suggesting that this is never justified. The publisher's website says:
 “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia provides the most thorough overview of the ethical and legal issues raised by assisted suicide and euthanasia--as well as the most comprehensive argument against their legalization--ever published.”

In other (related) news, 
House committee moves to block D.C.’s assisted-suicide law

"In a rare step, a House committee voted 22 to 14 Monday night to block a law that would make assisted suicide legal in the District, opening a new front in the conflict between congressional Republicans and the overwhelmingly Democratic capital city.

It was one of only a handful of times in the four-decade history of D.C. home rule that members of Congress have tried to use their constitutional power to overturn a city law, and the first attempt since the GOP took control of both Congress and the White House in January.

The vote was largely along party lines, as 21 Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, voted yes while 13 Democrats and one Republican, Darrell Issa of California, voted no."