How much risk did that recent “no level of alcohol drinking is safe” study find? For the one-drink-per-day group, “a total of 400,000 bottles of gin [was] associated with one extra health problem.” [David Spiegelhalter via Flowing Data] If one of those bottles should happen to fall, 399,999 bottles of gin on the wall…
Advocates claiming the mantle of public health would like to introduce scary new warnings on foods high in sugar, salt, or fat, and restrict marketing, as by banning the use of cartoon characters. For years they’ve been trying to advance their schemes through the use of international organizations and institutions, but now the United States, or at least its federal government, has begun pushing back. The New York Times doesn’t like that one bit and my latest Cato post examines the difference between what a principled position might look like, and the position the Times actually takes. Excerpt:
Like international organizations, treaty administration bodies tend to draw for guidance on an elite stratum of professional diplomats, conference-goers, NGO and nonprofit specialists, and so forth, most of whom are relatively insulated from any pushback in public opinion. That might be a good reason to minimize the role of transnational panels in governance where not absolutely necessary. It is not a good reason to adopt the Times’s implicit position on lobbying for international standards, which is that it’s fine when done by our side but illegitimate when done by yours.
Related: Good piece on sugar/fat wars, with one proviso: when it’s Stanton Glantz spreading a tale, don’t just call it “University of California” [David Merritt Johns and Gerald M. Oppenheimer, Slate]
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has announced that Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. will pay $89,000 for failing to accommodate employees “who declined flu vaccinations based on their religious beliefs.” [EEOC press release] Mission had in fact agreed to exempt employees from the flu shot based on religious objections, but required that they declare their intention ahead of time. And that turned out to be not accommodating enough, since not requiring that extent of advance notice would not in the EEOC’s view have posed an undue hardship on the employer — hence the expensive lesson.
At our religious discrimination tag can be found cases of employees who claimed a Title VII religious discrimination right not to serve alcoholic drinks as part of the duties of a flight attendant, not to haul beer as part of a job as a trucker, not to participate in an employer’s hand-scanner system for fear that it was connected to the Biblical “Mark of the Beast,” and to take prayer breaks in groups as large as 11 at an employer that did not think it could spare that many workers off the floor at the same time.
Under federal law enacted in 1972, employers regularly come under legal constraint to grant such accommodations to workers of many different religious sects. Although from much of the current debate one might imagine that liberals were historically skeptical of accommodation requirements, the actual history is more complicated. As I wrote a while back, “Surprisingly or otherwise, the pressure for federal law to become more indulgent toward private employees’ demands for religious accommodation [has] come both from liberal lawmakers like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and from conservatives like Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal.”
Under the elastic “undue hardship” standard, employers may face much uncertainty as to how much disruption of their business they must put up with in the name of accommodation. The flu-shot example suggests that risks to co-workers, customers, and the general public might sometimes enter the calculus as well — an expensive guessing game at best.
P.S. I’ve got a post at Cato making a related point: is it really libertarians who should catch flak for being too indulgent toward persons who want to be excused from vaccination?
Public Health England “is ‘demanding’ a calorie-cap on supermarket ready meals that would limit breakfasts to 400 calories and lunches and dinners to 600 calories each.” That’s among numerous nanny-state initiatives under way in the United Kingdom, including stringent guidelines on individual drinking and the introduction of a sugary drinks tax. Madsen Pirie, Adam Smith Institute:
It is not really government’s job to make people feel miserable, and it is certainly no business of theirs to legislate what people may or may not eat. The fact that the recommended limits are so low is justified by officials on the grounds that people will always exceed recommendations, so ultra-low ones will make them exceed to tolerable rather than intolerable levels. The problem with this approach is that the ultra-low targets simply discredit the whole process of recommendation. …
There is a very good case for proposing that government should stop doing this altogether. There is plenty of good medical advice that people can read in the press, and most people are aware of the ancient dictum, “Nothing to excess.” Most of us, I suspect, would like to indulge ourselves occasionally without having official bullies making us feel bad about doing so.
- “Survey: Most Docs Sued for Malpractice” [John Commins, Health Leader on Medscape survey] “The Missing Link in Lavern’s Law” (New York) [Peter A. Kolbert and Andrew S. Kaufman, New York Law Journal]
- Prescription spirits: why many physicians prospered so mightily during Prohibition [Paula Mejia, Atlas Obscura]
- Third Circuit greenlights consumer financial injury class action claiming eyedrop container dispenses eyedrops that are too big [Beck and McConnell on Alcon suit; see also earlier Posner on Allergan case]
- AI in health care, spot the legal issues: “For the First Time, a Robot Passed a Medical Licensing Exam” [in China; Dom Galeon, Futurism]
- “Why FDA regulations limiting e-cigarette marketing may cost lives and violate the Constitution” [Jonathan Adler; related, Jacob Sullum, earlier here, etc.] Anti-vaping crusade represents broader scandal of public health [John Tierney, City Journal]
- Off-label prescribing offers a window on a world with much less FDA regulation, and overall it’s an attractive one [Alex Tabarrok]
- “Oral Contraceptives Should be Free (From the Third-Party Trap)” [Jeffrey Singer, Cato]
- Arbitrator awards $17.5 million after hospital fires neurosurgeon: in retaliation, or because he didn’t disclose problems with the law unrelated to practice? [Mike Baker, Seattle Times]
- Idea of empowering government to rewrite recipes for packaged food has gotten more traction in British public health sector than here [Sean Poulter, Daily Mail]
- Encyclopedia time: you can look up a variety of health topics in the now-online Encyclopedia of Libertarianism including Michael Cannon on health care generally, Gene Healy and Bruce Benson on illegal drugs, Jeffrey Schaler on psychiatry. And the Routledge Encyclopedia of Libertarianism includes Jessica Flanigan on libertarianism and medicine;
- If treatment deviating from the standard of care is the standard for malpractice, then some patients in pursuit of unconventional therapy choose it, and the law of waivers and of assumption of risk should respect their autonomy [Nadia Sawicki via TortsProf]
- About the Washington Post’s big opioid-legislation exposé, a few questions [Robert VerBruggen]
- Bill advancing in California legislature would authorize jail for nursing home staff who “willfully and repeatedly fail to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns” [Eugene Volokh, SB 219]
- “The FDA cannot get out of its own way on the issue of off-label communications.” [Stephen McConnell, Drug and Device Law Blog first and second posts]
- Public health covets territory of other studies and disciplines, part CLXXII [British Medical Journal on American College of Physicians’ resolution declaring “hate crimes” and “legislation with discriminatory intent” to be public health issues]
- Podcast on battle between Vascular Solutions and the FDA [Federalist Society with Howard Root and Devon Westhill]
- Policy U-turns needed: “Deregulation and Market Forces Can Lower Pharmaceutical Prices” [Marc Joffe, Reason]
- Florida Supreme Court ignored market history in striking down noneconomic damages limits in medical malpractice awards [Robert E. White, Jr., Insurance Journal and Andrew S. Bolin, WLF on North Broward Hospital District, et al v. Kalitan]
- States that are best at deploying coercive public health laws are also generally unable to resist meddling of other sorts [Werner Troesken via Vincent Geloso, Notes on Liberty]
- Artificial intelligence in medical practice could help curb defensive medicine — if the law cooperates [Shailin Thomas]
- “How Two Florida Hospitals Used the Power of the State to Stop Another From Being Built” [Eric Boehm, Reason]
- Organ transplants and the right to try [Sally Satel, Volokh/AEI]
- “Stronger malpractice laws may not prevent surgical complications” [Reuters/Fox News]
- State attorney general intervention and drug prices [Marc Kilmer/Maryland Public Policy Institute, Dan Menefee/Maryland Reporter]
- Has Obama administration endorsed anti-GMO campaign with new labeling law? Not really [Thomas Firey, Cato, earlier here, here, etc.]
- United Nations anti-tobacco meeting seeks to exclude persons overly involved with tobacco production, ban list turns out to include many officials of member governments [Huffington Post UK]
- Dumping Michigan tart cherries to comply with USDA marketing order? There must be a better way [Baylen Linnekin]
- “I am the man, the very fat man, who waters the workers’ beer.” [Science Daily, prompting Christopher Snowdon’s recollection of that line of song]
- Feds alone have spent $500 million chasing food-desert mirage, with “negligible” impact on health [Mac McCann, Dallas News, earlier]
- “FDA Assigns Zero Value To Smokers Who Die Because Of Its E-Cigarette Regulations” [Jacob Sullum, more on vaping]