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Bioethics Blogs

Vacancy: Researcher in Global Health Bioethics

The newly established Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities is currently advertising for the post of Researcher in Global Health Bioethics – Grade 7: £31,076 – £38,183 p.a. The post is full-time (part-time considered) and fixed-term for 3 years.

Based within the Nuffield Department of Population Health, the newly established Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities is a collaboration between the Ethox Centre; the Oxford Neuroscience, Ethics and Society Group; the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics; and the Wellcome Unit for History of Medicine. The Centre will conduct multidisciplinary research on the ethical challenges presented by advances in neuroscience, data science, genomics, and global health.

Working as part of a new and exciting research group bringing together researchers in the humanities with biomedical scientists, you will conduct collaborative research on the ethical issues arising in research in genomics and infectious diseases. Your key responsibilities will include managing your own academic research activities in the context of a collaborative team, analysing and interpreting quantitative and qualitative data, contributing towards research publications and providing guidance to junior members of the group.

You will have a PhD/DPhil (in philosophy, ethics, bioethics or a related field), relevant research experience and previous experience of contributing to publications/presentations. You will also have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to work as part of an interdisciplinary team.

The post is full-time (part-time considered) and fixed-term for 3 years.

The closing date for applications is 12.00 noon on 21 September 2017.

Full details about the post, including how to apply.

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

Things Which Have Once Been Conjoined: Science Fiction, Contagion, and Magic in the Age of Social Media by Samuel Gerald Collins

There are many interesting formations that might be called networked phenomena. Homophily and the tendency towards triad closure. Scott Feld’s Rule (I’m more likely to make friends with someone who has more friends than me). Small world phenomena (those 6 degrees of separation). “The Strength of Weak Ties” (reportedly the most cited sociology paper in history). In all, a series of social forms that complicates typical binarisms like individual versus group.

All of these have their positive and negative sides, but few networked phenomena have been met with more ambivalence than that of contagion, the idea that things (memes, viral videos, fashion) spread from person to person in a way that is similar to an epidemic; that is, people believe certain things or participate in certain behaviors without necessarily having “decided” to do so. Instead, the chances of “contracting” an idea, a fashion, or a new technology come down to the structural position in a network—a question, for example, of k-threshold models, where the chance of contagion depends upon the topology of connections vis-à-vis other infected nodes.

Given its identification with epidemiological contagion, it is not surprising that social contagion brings with it a negative valence, conjuring up fears of loss of autonomy, of being reduced to “hosts” for the “viral” propagation of information in a network. Contagion is at the heart of the fear and fascination of the zombie. It is also part of the latest panic in politics, one that centers on a vision of an electorate easily manipulated through fake news propagated through social media.

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

Mental Privacy in the Age of Big Data

By Jessie Ginsberg
Jessie Ginsberg is a second year student in the Master of Arts in Bioethics program and a third year law student at Emory University. 

A father stood at the door of his local Minneapolis Target, fuming, and demanding to speak to the store manager. Holding coupons for maternity clothes and nursing furniture in front of the manager, the father exclaimed, “My daughter got this in the mail! She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”
Target was not trying to get her pregnant. Unbeknownst to the father, his daughter was due in August.  
In his February 16, 2012 New York Times article entitled, “How Companies Learn Your Secrets,” Charles Duhigg reported on this Minneapolis father and daughter and how companies like Target use marketing analytics teams to develop algorithms to anticipate consumers’ current and future needs. Accumulating data from prior purchases, coupon use, surveys submitted, emails from Target that were opened, and demographics, a team of analysts render each consumer’s decision patterns into neatly packaged data sets tailored to predict their future buying choices. 

Flash forward to 2017, a time where online stores like Amazon dominate the market and cell phones are reservoirs of personal information, storing intimate details ranging from your location to your desired body weight to your mood. Furthermore, data analysis algorithms are more sophisticated than ever before, gobbling up volumes of information to generate highly specific and precise profiles of current and potential consumers.

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

Psst, The Human Genome Was Never Completely Sequenced

Some scientists say it should be. “As a matter of truth in advertising, the ‘finished’ sequence isn’t finished,” said Eric Lander, who led the lab at the Whitehead Institute that deciphered more of the genome for the government-funded Human Genome Project than any other. “I always say ‘finished’ is a term of art.”

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

Stakes of Life: Science, states, policies, publics and ‘the first thousand days’ by Fiona C. Ross

Welcome back to the “First Thousand Days of LifeSomatosphere series. Here we continue to explore the ways that a global health initiative driven by new findings in epigenetics and neuroscience and by a reframing of theories about health and disease in terms of developmental origins shape ideas about (global) health and population futures, invigorate campaigns, and take form and settle in localized contexts. Understanding the links between science, biomedicine, policy, population, well-being and relationship as simultaneously both meshed and contingent, our series posits questions about what affordances and limitations lie in new modalities of understanding human illness and well-being. It examines how policy is made and with what effects for its recipients, how states are implicated in health and its others, what forms of the everyday materialize under the lens of new findings in epigenetics and epidemiology, what modalities of knowing emerge and how they settle with older forms, and how ethnography might contribute.

Describing the research programme driven by the Thousand Days research group at the University of Cape Town, I noted that,

The emergent field both synergises a range of disciplines in the bio- and social sciences and develops new sites of humanitarian intervention, reframing current debates about population, well-being and ‘the best interests of the child’ in newly biological ways. As these findings are taken up in policy and practice, we are witnessing the making of a social object with material effects’ (www.thousanddays.uct.ac.za).

Our project has explored that making, its prior conditions and its effects.  As Michelle Pentecost noted in her opening to the Somatosphere series, the framing ‘offers fertile ground for careful thought about contemporary concepts of life, life-giving and care, offering spaces for critically assessing not only how states and people understand and enable health and well-being but also how life is conceptualized by different disciplines.’ 

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

Mailbag

Brief comments on four short articles from this week, on disparate topics:

James Capretta of the American Enterprise Institute (meaning he is politically right of center) pleads in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) for compromise between Republicans and Democrats on further healthcare policy reform.  Arguing that the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) may never pass, he believes that a better result politically and for public policy would be if legislators could, in essence, split the difference between the AHCA and current law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka “Obamacare”) on some points where he sees some agreements in principle.  He proposes: 1) a hybrid approach between the ACA’s income-based tax credits for health insurance purchase and the AHCA’s age-based approach; 2) ensuring continuous insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions by modifying the ACA’s penalties for not being insured to fall more heavily on higher-income people; 3) setting limits on the favorable tax treatment of employer-paid health insurance premiums; 4) automatically enrolling uninsured people into a bare-bones, no-premium plan from which they could opt out in favor of re-enrollment in a different plan (a proposal that sounds to me a lot like the Democrats’ “public option” with a guaranteed fight over scope of coverage); and 5) limiting Medicaid expansion to tie it to reform of the program (something that sounds to me a lot like what I understand is currently in the AHCA).  Mr. Capretta knows a lot more about health policy than I, and has been at it a lot longer. 

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

Australian assisted reproduction clinics accused of misleading success rate

This is a topic that we have addressed in depth in our Observatory [see HERE], (especially on the European and American data and the content of the brochures of most clinics), having drawn attention to how many Spanish assisted reproduction clinics claim birth rates of close to 100% on their websites, which is far from the reality. In other words, they are offering false advertising, an ethically highly reprehensible practice.

Australian assisted reproduction clinics and ACCC

Now, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has presented similar findings (see HERE), after evaluating the claims made on the websites of the major assisted reproduction clinics in Australia.

The main source of error is that the vast majority of these websites present the number of pregnancies achieved as if they were live birth rates, when it is well known that these are not comparable, since the live birth rate is always lower than the pregnancy rate.

Another source of error is that some of these clinics maintain that they offer an 85% success rate after two stimulation cycles when they do not take into account that quite some patients will have previously attended another clinic; thus, they do not include failed cycles in other centers in their statistics.

Overall, however, the ACCC review is a warning of the possible misleading advertising presented by many Australian clinics regarding the likelihood that women attending them will achieve their goal of having a child.

Poto MyCreativeShop

La entrada Australian assisted reproduction clinics accused of misleading success rate aparece primero en Bioethics Observatory.

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

‘Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us’ / a conversation with Lochlann Jain by Tara Mahfoud

In the Stanford Hospital car park, there is a sign that reads “WARNING: This garage contains gasoline and diesel engine exhaust which is known to the State of California to cause cancer and/or reproductive toxicity.” The paradox is deadly – one runs the risk of developing cancer on their way to cancer treatment. The sign blatantly highlights the starting point of Lochlann Jain’s analysis of cancer in her 2014 award-winning book Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us, which is to understand “the ways that key aspects of the economy involve both causing and treating cancer” (p. 12). Jain showed the image of that sign, taken from her book, during her talk at the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine’s 2015 Public Lecture at King’s College London. Malignant is an ethnographic investigation into how cancer, despite the millions spent to cure and prevent it, remains deeply entrenched in so many aspects of American life and culture. Jain uses her own cancer experience to reflect on prognosis and treatment, time and lifespans, screening and preventative treatment, misdiagnosis and malpractice, IVF and hormones, the war-loaded history of cancer and its treatments, and cancer objects like prostheses, wigs, and make-up. Malignant forces the reader to acknowledge the paradoxical, ugly, and inevitable reality of cancer today.

I am a teaching assistant on the Introduction to Social Medicine course at the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London, which is taught by Carlo Caduff. The course is offered as part of an interdisciplinary BA/BSc programme in Global Health and Social Medicine that combines social science and biomedical science courses.

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

Assisted reproduction clinics advertising brochures are very far from the objective medical truth

Clear example of misleading advertising

According to many advertising brochures from assisted reproduction clinics, women who attend them have 100% chance of achieving a pregnancy. However, this possibility — in our opinion — is very far from the objective medical truth.

Along with this line, an article has just been published in the British Medical Journal, evaluating the likelihood of achieving a live birth after one or more ovarian stimulation cycles.

This is a large study since it includes 113,873 women, with 184,269 complete cycles. A live birth was obtained after the first cycle in 33,154 cases (29.1%) and 48,925 after six complete cycles (43%).

These outcomes are affected by the woman’s age, duration of infertility, the number of eggs collected, and whether or not there are cryopreserved embryos, among other reasons.

When women are aged 30 years or under and have only suffered two years of infertility, the chance of having a live birth after the first cycle is 43%, and after three complete cycles is 79%.

These figures clearly indicate that in the majority of women, the possibility of achieving a live birth after six stimulation cycles is somewhat less than 50%. This circumstance does not always occur, since, in most clinics, couples decide not to continue the process after three cycles.

This likelihood of achieving a live birth contrasts drastically with that offered by most clinics in their brochures, which is unquestionably a clear example of misleading advertising of assisted reproduction clinics brochures.

See Australian case HERE

Photo Fertility Bridge

La entrada Assisted reproduction clinics advertising brochures are very far from the objective medical truth aparece primero en Bioethics Observatory.

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

Prescription Drug Costs Are On The Rise; So Are The TV Ads Promoting Them

Spending on such commercials grew 62 percent since 2012, even as ad spending for most other product types was flat. “Pharmaceutical advertising has grown more in the past four years than any other leading ad category,” said Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media, a consulting firm that tracks multimedia advertising. It exceeded $6 billion last year, with television picking up the lion’s share

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.