News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Dr. Rebecca Brendel on What Happens During Hospitalizations For Mental Health Issues

CLBB Director of Bioethics Dr. Rebecca Brendel spoke with WBUR’s Morning Edition to talk about the process that occurs when someone is hospitalized for mental health issues. Dr. Brendel, also director of the master’s program in bioethics and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, commented,

“What the evaluators in the emergency room really would be looking for would be symptoms consistent or supporting a risk of harm…and has the individual taken steps toward the plan to actually harm themselves or harm somebody else?”

Listen to the entire segment below, or go to WBUR for more on the interview.

A Systematic Review of Dropout From Psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Iraq and Afghanistan Combat Veterans

By Elizabeth M. Goetter, Eric Bui, Rebecca A. Ojserkis, Rebecca J. Zakarian, Rebecca Weintraub Brendel, and Naomi M. Simon | Journal of Traumatic Stress | September 16, 2015

Abstract: 

A significant number of veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet underutilization of mental health treatment remains a significant problem. The purpose of this review was to summarize rates of dropout from outpatient, psychosocial PTSD interventions provided to U.S. Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation New Dawn (OND) veterans with combat-related PTSD. There were 788 articles that were identified which yielded 20 studies involving 1,191 individuals eligible for the review. The dropout rates in individual studies ranged from 5.0% to 78.2%, and the overall pooled dropout rate was 36%, 95% CI [26.20, 43.90]. The dropout rate differed marginally by study type (routine clinical care settings had higher dropout rates than clinical trials) and treatment format (group treatment had higher dropout rates than individual treatment), but not by whether comorbid substance dependence was excluded, by treatment modality (telemedicine vs. in-person treatment), or treatment type (exposure therapy vs. nonexposure therapy). Dropout is a critical aspect of the problem of underutilization of care among OEF/OIF/OND veterans with combat-related PTSD. Innovative strategies to enhance treatment retention are needed.

Read the full article here.

Autonomy and Mental Health

By Rebecca Brendel | Cosmologics | July 29, 2015

Very early in my training, a middle-aged mother of two school-age children was referred to me for psychiatric care. In the past, she had struggled with periods of depressed mood, but she had never sought treatment. She came to me after, as she described it, her husband had “dropped her off” at the hospital and she was sent to me.

“Why would your husband do such a thing?” I asked her, trying to understand more about what had happened.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“Perhaps we can figure it out together?” I suggested, feebly trying to establish rapport.

“The only thing you can do is tell them all that there is nothing wrong with me. I don’t need medication. I don’t need you. I just want to go home to my kids and never come back here again.”  Continue reading »

CLBB Director of Law & Ethics to lead HMS Master’s Program in Bioethics

As of fall 2014, CLBB Director of Law & Ethics Rebecca W. Brendel, JD, MD, will join the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics to lead the development of a new Master’s Program in Bioethics. Originally established as the Division of Medical Ethics, The Center was rebranded in spring 2014 to serve as a convener for faculty who will collaborate with the ethics services at the HMS affiliates and with ethics programs at schools throughout Harvard University. Dr. Brendel will develop and then lead the new Master’s Program in Bioethics at HMS.

The Master of Bioethics Degree, beginning fall 2015, will combine resources from the Center for Bioethics, Harvard teaching hospitals, and departments across the University in a one-year full time course of study and is open to working professionals holding a terminal degree in any discipline. A core group of applicants is expected from medicine, law, nursing, public health, social work, public policy, scientific and biotechnology research, journalism, and business.

Rebecca W. Brendel

Dr. Brendel is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of Law & Ethics at CLBB. An expert consult-liaison psychiatrist and ethicist, Dr. Brendel has published widely on issues including voluntary psychiatric hospitalization (2014), evaluation of capacity to appoint a healthcare proxy (2013), and legal issues including mandatory reporting and informed consent (2010).

Dr. Brendel will be stepping down as Clinical Director of the Home Base Program — a collaboration of the Red Sox Foundation and MGH — in order to step into the new role at the Center for Bioethics.  Continue reading »

Scammers take aim at aging population

Elder financial abuse
Researchers analyzed media reports from April through June 2010, and pinpointed 314 unduplicated reports of elder financial abuse that included detailed information. Source Metlife Study on Elder Financial Abuse. Credit: James Abundis, Boston Globe.

By Kay Lazar | The Boston Globe | January 6, 2014

Roughly 21,000 times last year, physicians, social workers, family members, and other concerned residents contacted Massachusetts Protective Services authorities to report suspicions that an elderly person was being abused.

In about one third of those cases, the concern involved financial exploitation, according to state officials, a problem that is expected to grow significantly as the population ages and the number of older adults left vulnerable by Alzheimer’s disease nationwide is projected to double, and perhaps triple, by 2050.

With a potential tsunami of elder financial abuse on the horizon, researchers, health care leaders, lawyers, and lawmakers have launched a number of initiatives to better understand the size and scope of the issue and craft strategies to minimize harm. Continue reading »