Tag: adverse effects

Bioethics Blogs

Don’t Feed the Trolls: Bold Climate Action in a New, Golden Age of Denialism

by Marcus Hedahl and Travis N. Rieder

ABSTRACT. In trying to motivate climate action, many of those concerned about altering the status quo focus on trying to convince climate deniers of the error of their ways. In the wake of the  2016 Election, one might believe that now, more than ever, it is tremendously important to convince those who deny the reality of climate science of the well-established facts. We argue, however, that the time has come to revisit this line of reasoning.  With a significant majority of voters supporting taxing or regulating greenhouse gases, those who want to spur climate action ought to focus instead on getting a critical mass of climate believers to be appropriately alarmed. Doing so, we contend, may prove more useful in creating the political will necessary to spur bold climate action than would engaging directly with climate deniers.

Less than a month after the 2016 presidential election, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus stated that climate change denialism would be the “default position” of the Trump administration (Meyjes 2016). In March 2017, Scott Pruit, President Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, expressed his belief—contrary to the estabilished scientific consensus—that carbon dioxide was not one of the primary contributors of climate change (Davenport 2107). Given this existence of climate denialism at the highest reaches of U.S. government, one might believe that, now more than ever, it is tremendously important to convince those who deny the reality of climate science of the well-established facts.[1] Surely, with truth on our side, we must trumpet the evidence, making deniers our primary target and acceptance of the truth of climate change our primary goal.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

How to Ensure Nutrition for Everyone Under Climate Change and Variability

July 10, 2017

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A better understanding of the pathways linking climate change and nutrition is key to developing effective interventions to ensure that the world’s population has access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Undernutrition can be exacerbated by the effects of climate change at all stages of the food value chain. In addition, disease is affected by climate and can, in turn, increase the demand for nutrients, while reducing nutrient absorption.

By some projections (IFPRI 2017), medium-to-high levels of climate change are expected to result in an additional 4.8 million undernourished children by 2050, half of whom will reside in Africa south of the Sahara. The emphasis on linkages between climate change and malnutrition is supported by a plethora of evidence of the adverse effects of malnutri-tion on productivity and health at different scales—be they individual, household, national, or global (Victora et al. 2008).

Nutrition is determined by diet, and diets are also a driving factor of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to its direct and indirect impacts on health, climate change influences nutritional status through the enabling food…

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Feed the Future: Gender, Climate Change, and Nutrition Integration Initiative (GCAN)

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals – June 2017, part one by Aaron Seaman

Anthropology and Aging (open access)

The Social Context of Collective Physical Training among Chinese Elderly: An Anthropological Case Study in a Park in Beijing

Yeori Park

This study analyzes the social context in China where the elderly participate in collective physical training, a cultural activity specific to the country. For this study, senior citizens aged 60 or above who participated in collective physical training in a park in Beijing were observed for five months. Research results found that collective physical training enables formation of social networks providing mutual caring and support. On the other hand, the participants conform to the self-disciplined modern discourse to survive in the post-Mao society. They do collective physical training due to their social conditions, such as the poorly established welfare system for the aged, severance pay that is too low to cover medical expenses. Although the participants seem to autonomously choose collective physical training based on their own preferences, the context of Chinese society, including hidden government intentions, leads the elderly to participate in training activities.

Social Contract on Elderly Caregiving in Contemporary Chile

Carola Salazar

This paper explores the definitions of social contract on elderly caregiving among a group of seven Chilean aging experts. The data show that for Chileans, family remains a strong institution that should provide care of its members, with daughters or daughters-in-law being the preferred person to provide care. Also, age segregation, along with the gradual privatization of services such as health care and the pension system, promotes individuality: this can become a problem for future generations because they are no longer concerned with helping others.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Human germline gene editing full report—a bit more

As Steve Phillips pointed out yesterday, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine has published, in book form, its full report on “Human Gene Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance.”  On Valentine’s day.  (I suppose it’s not so ironic.)  The entire report may be downloaded for free through this link.  Also available at that page are links to a 4-page summary report and to one-pagers on different aspects of the report.  I urge interested readers to follow the link to the National Academies’ website and read at least the executive summaries.  

Steve asks whether heritable gene editing in humans has “compelling” support, and argues not.  Regular readers of this blog will know that I have agreed, arguing this is a road we ought not to travel.  There have been numerous posts on this blog, notably in 2015, including the December 3, 2015 post with embedded links to other 2015 posts on the subject.  Rather than repeat those here I invite the reader to follow the breadcrumbs.

Steve’s take is that, because of unknown risks to an affected unborn child, editing of said child at the embryo stage, or perhaps even at the germ cell stage, prior to fertilization, should not be undertaken.  The argument FOR doing it is that, in very limited cases in which there is a well-known, single-gene defect whose effects are devastating and for which treatment alternatives are absent or inadequate, parents desiring to have an unaffected child could ethically avail themselves of a gene-editing approach.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Transsexuality diagnosis and treatment

PDF version

‘The only thing that has been achieved so far is to try to adapt the body to the mind, instead of trying to alleviate the cerebral problem’

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of transsexualism is based on both medical and psychiatric findings, criteria that have been enshrined in medical guidelines, such as the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), drawn up by the American Psychiatric Association, or the tenth edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10).2

However, before attempting to determine the existence of transsexuality and its possible immediate consequence, gender dysphoria, karyotyping should be performed to try to rule out a chromosome disorder, the result of an enzyme defect, that could lead to sexual ambiguity, as occurs in Turner’s or Klinefelter syndrome.3

According to the DSM-5, in order to diagnose gender dysphoria, there has to be objective incongruity between the sex assigned at birth and the one the individual desires, i.e. a marked difference between the gender that one feels and the one assigned at birth, and this disharmony must persist for at least 6 months.

In the case of children, gender dysphoria can manifest between two and four years old, when affected children can start to express preferences or social attitudes of the sex opposite to the gender to which they biologically belong, but this desire must be determined objectively.

According to World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) guidelines, the diagnosis of gender dysphoria is an essential condition in order for a person to be able to request sex reassignment surgery.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Guest Post: Epigenetics: Barriers to the translation of scientific knowledge into public policies

Written by Charles Dupras and Vardit Ravitsky

Bioethics Programs, School of Public Health, University of Montreal

 

Environmental epigenetics is a rising field of scientific research that has been receiving much attention. It explores how exposure to various physical and social environments (e.g. pollution or social adversity) affects gene expression and, eventually, our health. Environmental epigenetics can sometimes explain why some of us carry increased risks of developing specific diseases. It provides activists a powerful vocabulary to promote environmental awareness and social justice. This new vocabulary, which allows us to discuss the consequences of disparities at the molecular level, has been enthusiastically mobilized as an effective way of stimulating political will for promoting public health preventive strategies.

However, this perspective – that we call the ‘policy translation’ of epigenetics – can be contrasted with a ‘clinical translation’ that targets the development of novel biomedical tools to assess epigenetic risks and reverse a detrimental epigenome. In a recent paper published in The Hastings Center Report, we argue that these two approaches are competing for public resources. We suggest that in Western contexts, the clinical translation of epigenetics may end up being prioritized over the policy translation of epigenetics, to the detriment of efforts to promote policy and public health. We highlight four potential barriers or biases that may impede the ‘policy translation’ of epigenetics, with the aim of cautioning against this scenario.

First, our societies operate under the ‘technological imperative’, a culturally engrained preference for technological solutions. In the context of epigenetics, this means that research findings are likely to be translated into biotechnological innovation that targets individual health.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

It’s More Than Just Bathrooms – Ethical Considerations for Prepubescent Transgender Children

By Andrew Hawkins

Social media and television have brought newfound visibility to the distinctive issues faced by transgender youth. The TLC show “I Am Jazz” documents the life of Jazz Jennings, a transgender teenage girl living in South Florida, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at the age of four—the youngest publically disclosed case of gender identity dysphoria (GID).[i] Her parents have supported her gender transition by addressing her with female pronouns and changing her name, dressing her in female clothing and enrolling her in activities that supported her gender identity. Jazz has received medical services that have enabled the development of alternative physical characteristics that include the use of pubertal endocrine blockers and cross-sex hormones. Her story is a foray into the ethical considerations associated with treatment and gender reassignment of prepubescent transgender children.

Professional opinion in regard to hormonal treatments and gender reassignment surgery has changed drastically since the publication of the Standards of Care (SOC) for transsexual people in 1980 by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).[ii]In particular, gender reassignment surgery for adults has been widely accepted and as of May 30, 2014 is an included service for Medicare recipients.[iii] According to Jack Drescher and Jack Pula, this is largely due to the relative persistence of GID in adults once a diagnosis has been made. [iv] However, children who present with GID are not necessarily fixed in their gender identity. As noted in the latest Standards of Care, only 6 to 23 percent of boys and 12 to 27 percent of girls display persistence of GID into adulthood.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Stain of the Spotless Mind: Policy Recommendations for Memory Erasure

By Peter Leistikow
This post was written as part of a class assignment from students who took a neuroethics course with Dr. Rommelfanger in Paris of Summer 2016.

Peter Leistikow is an undergraduate student at Emory University studying Neuroscience and Sociology. When he is not doing research in pharmacology, Peter works as a volunteer Advanced EMT in the student-run Emory Emergency Medical Service.
Over the course of 15 years, psychologist Dan McAdams studied how Americans describe their lives. Specifically, McAdams wanted to know what kind of life narratives were associated with lives high in “generativity;” that is, a concern for and commitment to promoting the well-being of future generations. He ultimately discovered that generative adults had narrative identities that emphasized redemption, such as a second chance or delivery from suffering (McAdams 2006).

The observation that it might be essential to have overcome adversity, reaping all the lessons and baggage it entails, in order to become a compassionate, mature adult is especially important in light of new developments in the field of dampening or even erasing memories. This alarming area of research warrants a further examination by policymakers, and it is the recommendation of this briefing that decisive limitations should be imposed on access to this technology.
Image courtesy of Flikr

Memories were not always considered malleable; it was not until the 1960s that experiments in rats challenged the ideas that memories could be subjected to further modification, given the right conditions (Singer 2009). Fearful memories are made when emotionally salient events are labeled by the amygdala in the brain as emotionally significant and sent to the hippocampus for consolidation, strengthening synaptic connections into what will become a memory (Lu 2015).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Cross Post: We have a moral obligation to allow drug analysis at music festivals

This article was originally published in The Conversation

Written by Julian Savulescu Sir Louis Matheson Distinguishing Visiting Professor at Monash University,

Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics, University of Oxford

Connor Rochford Medical Student, Monash University

Daniel D’Hotman Medical Student, Monash University

Drug analysis would be a safe, ethical and cost-effective way to reduce harm to young people. Shutterstock

At the Stereosonic festival last year, Sylvia Choi died after consuming a contaminated ecstasy tablet. Unfortunately Sylvia’s narrative is all too familiar – a bright future extinguished at a music festival that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

This summer, many young people will also choose to consume various illegal substances in pursuit of a good time. Regardless of their personal choice to break the law, most would agree that they should not have to die for it.

We have a moral obligation to minimise the risk of harm to festival-goers or “festies”. Health professionals have the technology to act on this moral imperative – drug testing. What they don’t have is permission from our politicians and law enforcement agencies. The truth is there needn’t be more tragedies like Sylvia’s: her death may have been prevented if evidence-based drug-testing facilities had been in place.

Australian politicians have typically endorsed a deterrence-based approach to drug use at music festivals, with a strong police presence and drug dogs to catch offenders. Although deterrence methods are undoubtedly well-intentioned, evidence suggests that they are ineffective at protecting Australians from the harmful effects of contaminated substances. In fact, some evidence shows that drug dogs may actually increase harm, as frightened festival-goers hastily consume large quantities of drugs to avoid detection.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

What is the current clinical usefulness of stem cell treatments, embryonic and iPS cells?

Human adult stem cells (iPS) have been found to be most clinically useful human cells for therapeutic purposes

Pluripotent cells (PCs) are defined as those from which cells of different tissue types can be obtained. These can be obtained either from preimplantation human embryonic cells, in which case pluripotent embryonic stem cells are obtained, or from somatic (adult) cells that can be reprogrammed to a state of pluripotentiality, called induced pluripotent cells (iPS cells).

Ad present stem cell treatments with human adult stem cells have been found to be most clinically useful human cells for therapeutic purposes, especially cells from bone marrow, peripheral blood, umbilical cord blood or other tissues. Mesenchymal cells obtained from bone marrow, placenta and the umbilical cord are particularly useful. These cells have the advantage of having low immunogenicity and the disadvantage that after being transplanted, they persist for very little time in the recipient, which poses problems for maintaining their effect over time. These cells can be obtained from the patients themselves or from external donors, which gives rise to autologous therapy (which uses cells from the patient themselves) or allogenic therapy (which uses cells from individuals other than the patient). Their use has so far given good results as regards their safety, which has been evaluated in very diverse clinical trials. However, pluripotent cells, both embryonic and iPS cells, have limited clinical applications as they have been used in little more than ocular diseases. Therefore, it is of no interest to analyse this clinical usefulness at present, following a magnificent review recently published in Nature Reviews/Molecular Cell Biology (17; 194-200, 2016).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.