UNIT: The Health Care Industry
Issue: Is the Affordable Care Act Successful?
Yes: Gordon Whitman, from "Six Things Every Sane Person Should Know About the Healthcare Debate," Huffington Post, 2012
No: Peter Suderman, from "Obamacare's Phony Success Story," Reason, 2014
Political correspondent Gordon Whitman believes the Affordable Care Act is the best hope Americans have for making our health care system better. Reason magazine senior editor Peter Suderman counters that the law increased health spending, missed enrollment targets, and continues to experience problems with the website.
Issue: Should the Healthcare System Continuously Strive to Extend Life?
Yes: Miguel Faria, from "Bioethics and Why I Hope to Live Beyond Age 75 Attaining Wisdom!-A Rebuttal to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel’s 75 Age Limit," Hacienda Publishing, 2014
No: Ezekiel J. Emanuel, from "Why I Hope to Die at 75: An Argument That Society and Families—and You—Will Be Better Off if Nature Takes Its Course Swiftly and Promptly," The Atlantic, 2014
Physician Miguel Faria contends that lives can be productive and fulfilling and worthwhile past age 75 and that there is a difference between aging and infirmity and illness. Physician, bioethicist, and vice provost of the University of Pennsylvania Ezekiel Emanuel disagrees and claims that society and families would be better off if we died at 75 rather than be incapacitated and unable to live a full life.
Issue: Does the Affordable Health Care Act Violate Religious Freedom by Requiring Employers' Health Insurance Plans to Cover Birth Control?
Yes: Wesley J. Smith, from "What About Religious Freedom: The Other Consequences of Obamacare," The Weekly Standard, 2012
No: Elizabeth Sepper and Alisha Johnson, from "Rhetoric Versus Reality: The Contraception Benefit and Religious Freedom,” Religion and Politics, 2013
Senior fellow in the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism Wesley J. Smith believes birth control cases are just the beginning of far more intrusive violations of religious liberty to come, e.g., requiring businesses to provide free abortions to their employees. Law professor Elizabeth Sepper and research assistant and law student Alisha Johnson counter that the Affordable Care Act strikes a delicate balance by providing broad protection for religiously affiliated employers, while at the same time it protects the freedom of all Americans to live out their own religious and moral convictions.
UNIT: Health and Society
Issue: Is the Cost of Treating Cancer Unsustainable?
Yes: Lee N. Newcomer, from "Myths and Realities in Cancer Care: Another Point of View," Health Affairs, 2014
No: Dana P. Goldman and Tomas Philipson, from "Five Myths About Cancer Care In America," Health Affairs, 2014
UnitedHealthcare’s vice president for oncology, physician Lee Newcomer believes that the cost to treat cancer will be unsustainable in the near future and will undermine the progress made in cancer treatment. Professor of public policy Dana Goldman and professor of health economics Tomas Philipson maintain that it’s a myth that treatment costs are unsustainable and that restricting patients’ treatments is socially wasteful and will likely discourage research innovations.
Issue: Should Marijuana Be Legalized for Medicinal Purposes?
Yes: Kevin Drum, from "The Patriot's Guide to Legalization," Mother Jones, 2009
No: Abigail Sullivan Moore, from "This Is Your Brain on Drugs," The New York Times, 2014
Political columnist and blogger Kevin Drum contends that medical marijuana is now legal in more than a dozen states without any serious problems or increased usage. Journalist Abigail Sullivan Moore counters that young people who smoke marijuana frequently are more likely to have mental health problems and learning difficulties.
Issue: Is the Use of "Smart" Pills for Cognitive Enhancement Dangerous?
Yes: Alan Schwarz, from "Drowned in a Stream of Prescriptions," The New York Times, 2013
No: Joshua Gowin, from "How ‘Smart Drugs’ Enhance Us," Psychology Today, 2009
Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter Alan Schwarz maintains that “smart pills” such as Adderall can significantly improve the lives of children and others with ADHD but that too many young adults who do not have the condition fake the symptoms and get prescriptions for the highly addictive and dangerous drugs. Psychologist Joshua Gowin argues that these drugs aren't much different from a cup of coffee and should be treated accordingly.
Issue: Should Embryonic Stem Cell Research Be Permitted?
Yes: Jeffrey Hart, from "NR on Stem Cells: The Magazine Is Wrong," National Review, 2004
No: Ramesh Ponnuru, from "NR on Stem Cells: The Magazine Is Right," National Review, 2004
Professor Jeffrey Hart contends there are many benefits to stem cell research and that a ban on funded cloning research is unjustified. Writer Ramesh Ponnuru argues that a single-celled human embryo is a living organism, which directs its own development and should not be used for experimentation.
UNIT: Mind-Body Relationships
Issue: Should Addiction to Drugs Be Labeled a Brain Disease?
Yes: Alan I. Leshner, from "Addiction Is a Brain Disease," Issues in Science and Technology, 2001
No: Alva Noë, from "Addiction Is Not a Disease of the Brain," National Public Radio, 2011
Alan I. Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institute of Health, believes that addiction to drugs and alcohol is not a behavioral condition but a treatable disease. Professor Alva Noë counters that addiction is a phenomenon that can only be understood in terms of the life choices, needs, and understanding of the whole person.
Issue: Do Religion and Prayer Benefit Health?
Yes: Thomas J. Cottle, from "Our Thoughts and Our Prayers," The Antioch Review, 2006
No: Michael Shermer, from "Prayer and Healing: The Verdict Is In and the Results Are Null," Skeptic, 2006
Psychologist and educator Thomas J. Cottle believes that prayer can fill patients with a spirit of security when confronted with illness. Author Michael Shermer contends that intercessory prayer offered by strangers on the health and recovery of patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery is ineffective. He also addresses flaws in studies showing a relationship between prayer and health.
UNIT: Sexuality and Gender Issues
Issue: Is It Necessary for Pregnant Women to Completely Abstain from All Alcoholic Beverages?
Yes: National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, from "Is It Completely Safe and Risk-Free to Drink a Little Alcohol While Pregnant, Such as a Glass of Wine?" National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, 2013
No: Emily Oster, from "I Wrote That It’s OK to Drink While Pregnant. Everyone Freaked Out. Here’s Why I’m Right," Slate, 2013
The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome provides evidence that even moderate quantities of alcohol can damage a developing fetus and cites new research indicating that even small amounts of alcoholic beverages consumed during pregnancy may be harmful. Economics Professor Emily Oster argues that there are almost no studies on the effects of moderate drinking during pregnancy and that small amounts of alcohol are unlikely to have much effect.
Issue: Should Pro-Life Health Providers Be Allowed to Deny Prescriptions on the Basis of Conscience?
Yes: John A. Menges, from "Public Hearing on HB4346 Before the House State Government Administration Committee," Illinois House State Government Administration Committee, 2006
No: R. Alta Charo, from "The Celestial Fire of Conscience--Refusing to Deliver Medical Care," The New England Journal of Medicine, 2005
Pharmacist John Menges believes that it is his right to refuse to dispense any medication that is designed to end a human life. Attorney R. Alta Charo argues that health care professionals who protect themselves from the moral consequences of their actions may do so at their patients' risk.
Issue: Should the Cervical Cancer Vaccine for Girls Be Compulsory?
Yes: Cynthia Dailard, from "Achieving Universal Vaccination Against Cervical Cancer in the United States: The Need and the Means," Guttmacher Policy Review, 2006
No: Gail Javitt, Deena Berkowitz, and Lawrence O. Gostin, from "Assessing Mandatory HPV Vaccination: Who Should Call the Shots?" Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 2008
The late Cynthia Dailard, a senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, argues that universal vaccination is needed because virtually all cases of cervical cancer are linked to the human papillomavirus. Most infected people are unaware of their infection, which is linked to nearly 10,000 cases of cervical cancer. Professors Gail Javitt, Deena Berkowitz, and Lawrence O. Gostin believe that mandating the cervical cancer vaccine raises significant legal, ethical, and social concerns. They are also concerned about the long-term safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
Issue: Is There a Valid Reason for Routine Infant Male Circumcision?
Yes: Hanna Rosin, from "The Case Against the Case Against Circumcision; Why One Mother Heard All of the Opposing Arguments, Then Circumcised Her Sons Anyway," New York Magazine, 2009
No: Michael Idov, from "Would You Circumcise This Baby? Why a Growing Number of Parents, Especially in New York and Other Cities, Are Saying No to the Procedure," New York Magazine, 2009
Writer Hanna Rosin argues that male circumcision decreases the risk of disease transmission and that people who oppose the operation are filled with anger that transcends the actual outcome. Michael Idov, author and contributing editor of New York Magazine, counters that newborns feel pain and that there is no valid medical reason to perform the surgery.
UNIT: Public Health Issues
Issue: Is There a Link Between Vaccination and Autism?
Yes: Alex Newman and Rebecca Terrell, from "Vaccine vs. Virus: Which Is the Bigger Threat," The New American, 2015
No: Matthew Normand and Jesse Dallery, from "Mercury Rising: Exposing the Vaccine-Autism Myth," Skeptic, 2007
Journalist Alex Newman and Nurse Rebecca Terrell claim that while the mainstream press scoffs at any association of vaccination to autism, the rates of autism have climbed precipitously since the dawn of the MMR vaccine. Psychology professors Matthew Normand and Jesse Dallery contend that studies have failed to uncover any specific link between autism and mercury-containing thimerosal vaccines.
Issue: Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?
Yes: Ronald B. Herberman, from "Tumors and Cell Phone Use: What the Science Says," U.S. House of Representatives, 2008
No: Bernard Leikind, from "Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?" Skeptic, 2010
Physician and director of the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Ronald B. Herberman maintains that radio frequency radiation associated with cell phones is a potential health risk factor for users, especially children. Physicist Bernard Leikind argues that there is no plausible mechanism by which cell phone radiation can cause cancer.
Issue: Will Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) Negatively Affect Human Health and the Environment?
Yes: John Rumpler, from "Fracking: Pro and Con," Tufts Now, 2013
No: Bruce McKenzie Everett, from "Fracking: Pro and Con," Tufts Now, 2013
Environmentalist and senior attorney for Environment America John Rumpler argues that fracking is not worth the damage to health and the environment. Energy researcher and Adjunct Professor Bruce McKenzie Everett claims fracking provides substantial economic benefits and its health and environmental problems are relatively small.
Issue: Is There a Valid Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease?
Yes: Henry Blackburn, from "In Defense of U Research: The Ancel Keys Legacy," Star Tribune, 2014
No: Jon White, from "Fat or Fiction?” New Scientist, 2014
Professor emeritus and researcher Henry Blackburn contends that valid research by Dr. Ancel Keys and his team established a strong link between saturated fat and heart disease. Opinion editor at New Scientist magazine Jon White argues that the science behind the saturated fat–heart disease link was flawed and that carbohydrates, not fats, are the real culprits.
Issue: Are Restriction on Sugar and Sugary Beverages Justified?
Yes: Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens, from "Sweet Little Lies," Mother Jones, 2012
No: Kenneth W. Krause, from "Saving Us from Sweets: This Is Science and Government on Sugar," Skeptical Inquirer, 2012
Writers Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens maintain that added sugars and sweeteners pose dangers to health and that the sugar industry continually campaigns to enhance its image. Journalist Kenneth W. Krause argues that individuals have the ability to make decisions about sugar consumption themselves and that government should not restrict our access to sugar and sugar-containing food products.
UNIT: Consumer Health
Issue: Is Weight-Loss Maintenance Possible?
Yes: Barbara Berkeley, from "The Fat Trap: My Response," Refuse to Regain, 2011
No: Tara Parker-Pope, from "The Fat Trap," The New York Times Magazine, 2011
Physician Barbara Berkeley believes that weight maintenance is not easy but possible as long as people separate themselves from the world of typical American eating. She also claims that some individuals are heavy because they are susceptible to the modern diet or because they use food for comfort. Journalist Tara Parker-Pope disagrees and maintains that there are biological imperatives that cause people to regain all the weight they lose and for those genetically inclined to obesity, it’s almost impossible to maintain weight loss.
Issue: Are Energy Drinks with Alcohol Dangerous Enough to Ban?
Yes: Don Troop, from "Four Loko Does Its Job with Efficiency and Economy, Students Say," The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2010
No: Jacob Sullum, from "Loco Over Four Loko," Reason, 2011
Chronicle of Higher Education journalist Don Troop argues that the combination of caffeine and alcohol is extremely dangerous and should not be sold or marketed to college students and young people. Journalist and editor of Reason magazine Jacob Sullum disagrees and claims that alcoholic energy drinks should not have been targeted and banned since many other products are far more dangerous.
Issue: Are Homeopathic Remedies Effective?
Yes: Rachel Roberts, from "I Don't Know How, but Homeopathy Really Does Work," Guardian, 2010
No: Harriet Hall, from "An Introduction to Homeopathy: A Brief Guide to a Popular Alternate System of Remedies Based on a Nineteenth-Century Concept That Has No Scientific Validity," Skeptical Inquirer, 2014
Homeopathic practitioner Rachel Roberts maintains that homeopathy works and scientific research confirms this. Retired Air Force physician Harriet Hall counters that scientific knowledge about biology, chemistry, and physics tells us it should not work and careful testing shows that it does not work.
Issue: Do the Benefits of Statin Drugs Outweigh the Risks?
Yes: Jo Willey, from "The Benefits of Statins 'Greatly Outweigh' Small Risks Say Experts," Express, 2014
No: Martha Rosenberg, from "Do You Really Need That Statin?" Huffington Post, 2012
Journalist Jo Willey reports that statins’ ability to prevent heart attacks and stroke outweighed any risks and that tens of thousands of deaths from cardiovascular disease could be prevented if all eligible adults took the drugs. Investigative reporter Martha Rosenberg interviewed physician Barbara Roberts, who claims that statins treat high cholesterol, which is a weak risk factor for heart disease, and that the side effects of the drugs negate any benefits, especially when taken by otherwise healthy adults with high cholesterol.