Tag: birth control

Bioethics Blogs

Reproducing the Speculative: Reproductive Technology, Education, and Science Fiction by Kaitlyn Sherman

Walter, a Synthetic, quietly makes his rounds in the brightly lit, pristine interior of the Covenant, a Weyland Corporation Spaceship. Fingers pressed to the translucent, impermeable glass, he checks the status of each crew member as they rest in their cryochambers, suspended in chemically-induced comas until they reach their destined planet in seven years and four months’ time. The ship’s artificial intelligence system, Mother, chimes, “Seven bells and all is well.” Reassured of their security, Walter moves on to the next zone, where another 2,000 cryochambers contain sleeping colonists from Earth. This zone also features a panel of drawers, each housing dozens of embryos—over 1,100 second-generation colonists. They are packed individually into river-stone sized ovoids; clear, solid, egg-like. Amid the rows, an embryo has died, and its artificial uterine-sack is clouded and dark. Observing it briefly, Walter takes it from its socket with a set of tongs and places it into a biohazard bin. The Covenant is on a mission to colonize a habitable, distant planet. Their ship contains everything that could be useful in setting up a new colony: terraforming vehicles, construction materials, and human life itself. Even though these frozen embryos aren’t yet actively developing, they reflect a technology that allows for such a feat, while ensuring a population boom that is not dependent upon the limited space of mature female colonists’ wombs.

This scene is part of the opening sequence of the latest film in Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise. Alien: Covenant (2017) is the most recent science fiction film to illustrate advances in reproductive technologies, especially that of ectogenesis, or external gestation and birth.

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

Tennessee Inmates Consenting to Vasectomies or Birth Control Implants Offered Reduced Time

If Tennessee inmates consent to receiving a free vasectomy or birth control implant, Judge Sam Benningfield has ruled that they can have their jail time reduced by up to thirty days. Critics are claiming that the initiative violates inmates’ constitutional rights, amongst them the American Civil Liberties Union and numerous district attorneys. Advocates are claiming that the program, in effect since May 15th, precludes the potential burden of childrearing for otherwise unintentional parents.

In response to the backlash, Benningfield has emphasized that the procedures are reversible and do not involve sterilization. According to Reuters, he said that “the idea grew out of an earlier program he created with the state’s Department of Health under which inmates’ sentences were reduced by two days if they completed an education program on the risks of raising children while using illegal drugs… Unplanned and unwanted children and the resulting obligations complicate their lives and make their reintegration into society more difficult.”

Nashville’s News Channel 5, which drew attention to the program earlier this week, has stated that 32 women have received the four-year birth control implant and 38 men have signed up for vasectomies. Initially designed for women at risk of birthing children with drug dependencies, the program now encompasses procedures for both sexes in order to avoid discriminatory practices.

“We do not support any policy that could compel incarcerated individuals to seek any particular health services,” said a spokeswoman for Tennessee’s Department of Health. Despite assurances from Benningfield about the procedures’ reversibility, District Attorney Bryant Dunaway said that “it’s comprehensible that an 18-year-old gets this done, it can’t get reversed and then that impacts the rest of their life.”

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

Article Announcement:Which lives matter most? Thinking about children who are not yet born confronts us with the question of our ethical obligations to future people.

Professor Dominic Wilkinson and Keyur Doolabh have recently published a provocative essay at Aeon online magazine:

Imagine that a 14-year-old girl, Kate, decides that she wants to become pregnant. Kate’s parents are generally broadminded, and are supportive of her long-term relationship with a boy of the same age. They are aware that Kate is sexually active, like 5 per cent of 14-year-old girls in the United States and 9 per cent in the United Kingdom. They have provided her with access to birth control and advice about using it. However, they are horrified by their daughter’s decision to have a child, and they try to persuade her to change her mind. Nevertheless, Kate decides not to use birth control; she becomes pregnant, and gives birth to her child, Annabel.

Many people might think that Kate’s choice was morally wrong. Setting aside views about teenage sexual behaviour, they might argue that this was a bad decision for Kate – it will limit her access to education and employment. But let’s imagine that Kate wasn’t academically inclined, and was going to drop out of school anyway. Beyond those concerns, people might worry about the child Annabel. Surely Kate should have waited until she was older, to give her child a better start to life? Hasn’t she harmed her child by becoming pregnant now?

This issue is more complicated than it first seems. If Kate had delayed her pregnancy until, say, age 20, her child would have been conceived from a different egg and sperm. Because of this, Kate would have a genetically different child, and Annabel would not have existed.

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

Birth Control Is Working Better–Or at Least, It’s Failing Less

March 3, 2017

(NPR) – If you’re failing less, then you’re succeeding more, right? That’s exactly what appears to be happening with birth control in the United States, according to a new study released by the Guttmacher Institute. Contraceptive failure rates for all of the most common contraceptives (think: the pill, condoms, and IUDs) fell from 2006-2010, according to the most recent data collected for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Survey of Family Growth. Overall, the one-year failure rate for forms of contraception dropped from 12 percent in 2002, the last time the data was collected, to about 10 percent.

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 Knick by Gregory Clark

“The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same”

When I first watched The Knick two years ago, it seemed like a show about the past and the rapid pace of medical discoveries in the early days of modern medicine, before antibiotics, when patients were still brought into the hospital on an ambulance pulled by horses. When I watched the fictional Dr. Thackery using electricity for the first time in his operating room, I couldn’t help but sit back smugly and marvel at how far we have come since those early days of modern medicine.

Now, re-watching the first season of The Knick as a first year medical student in NYC, I’ve found myself focusing more on the similarities between medicine at the turn of the 20th century and today than the differences. Part of my excitement is particular to being in NYC. I get a thrill when I recognize street names, or when they mention the hospitals where I am slowly learning how to be a doctor. In a deeper way though, I no longer see the characters in The Knick as distant, historical figures. The problems that they confront are many of the problems we face in our medical culture today: the pervasiveness of racism; the stigma surrounding mental health issues; birth control rights for women; doctors becoming addicted to their own drugs; and even how to pay for the treatment of uninsured patients.

Now when I watch The Knick, I wonder how could it be possible that we are no closer to solving these problems a full century later.

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

Successful Male Contraceptive Gel Trial Brings New Form of Birth Control Closer

February 7, 2017

(The Guardian) – A male contraceptive gel has been found to work reliably in a trial in primates, bringing the prospect of an alternative form of birth control for humans closer. The product, called Vasalgel, is designed to be a reversible and less invasive form of vasectomy and in the latest study was 100% effective at preventing conception. A blob of the gel is injected into the sperm-carrying tube, known as the vas deferens, and acts as a long-lasting barrier.

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

Contraception and Reproductive Ethics: Constitutional Right vs. Right for the Country

Sophia Yin won the Reproductive Ethics category for our 2016 Bioethics Essay contest.  Our panel of judges thought Sophia’s essay presented a rigorous and clarifying analysis of a contentious and ongoing debate about reproductive rights.  We are pleased to publish Sophia’s essay, below. — The Editors

by Sophia Yin

Though the male condom seems almost ubiquitous in current American society, female contraceptive methods constantly seem to be the subject of controversy. While debates in the twentieth century centered on the legalization of contraception, the discussion now is over who should be required to pay for contraception. This question of funding may seem less pressing than the question of legality, however, ability to pay is directly tied to access: women who cannot afford contraception cannot freely use it. Though many supporters frame their case in terms of an infringement of women’s rights, this argument is inherently weak. Women should have open access to contraception regardless of whether they have the right to it. The issue of women’s access to contraception is most often viewed through a legal lens, but it should be discussed in terms of its benefits to public health.

Supporters of access to contraception argue that women have a right to contraception. This argument is based upon the rulings of Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot outlaw the use of contraception by married couples because of “the zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees.” Though the ruling did not directly state that women had a right to contraception, it did create a right to privacy in reproductive matters for married couples, which allowed them the freedom to decide, without state interference, whether they would like to use contraception.

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

In Majority Catholic Philippines, Duterte Orders Better Access to Birth Control

January 13, 2017

(NPR) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered government agencies to expand access to contraception, especially for poor women. By 2018, he instructs, all poor households in the country should have “zero unmet need for modern family planning.” Duterte’s executive order, signed Monday and announced on Wednesday, is the latest development in a long battle over birth control in the majority-Catholic Philippines. It pits the president, who says family planning is critical for reducing poverty, against the country’s Supreme Court and Catholic leadership.

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

BioethicsTV (November 2016) Continued: Further commentary on Informed Consent

by Abhi Amarnani

Chicago Med (Season 2, Episode 8, 11/10/16).

A December 1st BIOETHICSTV blog post briefly mentioned, Season 2, Episode 8 of Chicago Med. The post notes that the episode dealt with the issues of informed consent in brief. I felt that a more in-depth discussion of these issues was warranted. Consider the storylines in the episode: A young girl with a developmental disorder needs cardiac surgery. Her condition forces her mother to question whether the girl can make decisions for surgery. Second, Nurse April was coughing at the end of episode 7, and viewers learned that she is diagnosed with multidrug resistant tuberculosis (TB). Adding to this challenge is a confirmation of pregnancy. Her colleagues question her personal autonomy when she considers refusing treatment. Third, a patient dying from kidney disease is not allowed by hospital policy and law to accept a transplant from his HIV+ brother. The message is that death from organ failure is preferable to a longer life with HIV. By the end of the episode, Dr. Manning leaves a syringe on the table stating: “If you already had HIV, the procedure would be legal,” insinuating a workaround – that if the patient infects himself with his brother’s blood, then the transplant can happen. The donor and recipient acknowledge fully informed consent that receiving an HIV positive organ will infect him, but here the informed consent consideration comes up against the “do no harm” principle of medicine and United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) policy.

In the first storyline, a friendly, bubbly and trusting teenage girl, Karina, enters the hospital with cardiac issues.

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.