Tag: brain

Bioethics Blogs

M[Emory] Enhancement and its Implications

By Shweta Sahu
Imagine a situation in which you suffer from severe anterograde amnesia, a form of short term memory loss, and can’t recall information presented to you even 7 seconds before– let alone being able to remember the one thing you went to Target to buy, but forgot. Such is the case of Clive Wearing, a man known for his lack of short term memory. His wife notes, “you ask him a question and he’ll give you an answer but while he’s giving me the answer, he’s already forgotten the question. That’s how short it is.” He himself notes “the brain has been totally inactive—day and night the same—no thoughts at all.” Though this is one of the most severe cases of amnesia observed, it underscores how crucial memory is not only to every day functioning, but also for one’s sense of self. Autobiographical memories and the ability to recall these emotional and important events are an integral component of one’s identity. These events, in turn, get tied into personal narratives that our personalities are built on. In the case of Mr. Wearing, he is stuck in this personality because of the damage to his hippocampus and closely related brain regions, an area of the brain necessary for transferring information from short term to long term memory. As a result, he reports that he feels like he is dead and is constantly waking up into a new reality.
Video courtesy of YouTube

Realizing how significant memory is one thing, but the ability to recover or enhance memory is another.

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

Moving Toward Answers in ME/CFS

Thinkstock/Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

Imagine going to work or school every day, working out at the gym, spending time with family and friends—basically, living your life in a full and vigorous way. Then one day, you wake up, feeling sick. A bad cold maybe, or perhaps the flu. A few days pass, and you think it should be over—but it’s not, you still feel achy and exhausted. Now imagine that you never get better— plagued by unrelenting fatigue not relieved by sleep. Any exertion just makes you worse. You are forced to leave your job or school and are unable to participate in any of your favorite activities; some days you can’t even get out of bed. The worst part is that your doctors don’t know what is wrong and nothing seems to help.

Unfortunately, this is not fiction, but reality for at least a million Americans—who suffer from a condition that carries the unwieldy name of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), a perplexing disease that biomedical research desperately needs to unravel [1]. Very little is currently known about what causes ME/CFS or its biological basis [2]. Among the many possibilities that need to be explored are problems in cellular metabolism and changes in the immune system.

A number of studies suggest that abnormalities in cellular metabolism, a complex biological process that the body uses to create energy [3][4][5], may underlie ME/CFS. A recent study of metabolite pathways in blood samples from people with ME/CFS reported a signature suggestive of a hypometabolic condition, similar to a phenomenon biologists have studied in other organisms and refer to by the term “dauer” (a hibernation-like state) [5].

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 significance of 37

January 30, 2017

The significance of 37

Ana Krivokuca,

MSc in Molecular Biology, PhD in Genetics

Masters in Bioethics, Clarkson University &Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (exp. June 2017)

It’s a boy! Such a familiar statement but with somewhat peculiar and mysterious echo on the morning of 29th September, 2016. While drinking my first coffee of the day, I am wondering what is so unique about this boy to put him in the headlines of CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian and every other -post or -times that exist around the world . Aha! ˝World’s first baby born with new ‘three parent’ technique. Ok, this requires a larger cup of coffee….

Even though many believe that all of our genes reside in the nuclei of our cells, it’s more complicated than that. A small part of human genome (only 37 genes compared to an estimated 20,000-25,000 genes in the whole genome) is situated outside the nucleus, in the “energy factories” of the cells called mitochondria. Mutations in one of these 37 genes might cause mitochondria failure, cell damage, and even cell death. Mitochondrial diseases are usually progressive; they manifest differently and affect those parts of the body that have highest energy demands: brain, muscles or heart. These tiny pieces of DNA are inherited only from our mothers. So, each of us inherited these 37 genes from our mother, who inherited them from hers, and so on and so forth through generations.

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

Jahi McMath – Assess Whether She Is Alive in April 2017

This week, one of the medical defendants in Jahi McMath’s medical malpractice action filed a case management statement.  


It states that an IME (Independent Medical Exam) will be completed by 04/30/17.  This means that the defendants (jointly or individually) plan to have one or more retained independent medical experts physically examine Jahi in New Jersey.


While the purpose of this IME may be to assess the liability issues (i.e. did defendants commit malpractice), it seems that the primary purpose of the IME will be to assess damages.  Specifically, is Jahi McMath now alive or dead?  The answer to that question can change the value of the medical malpractice case by many millions of dollars.


However, the IME may not go forward in April 2017.  The plaintiffs have renewed their motion to bifurcate the trial and discovery.  They argue that it will be more efficient to first litigate the liability issues.  Stage one: have a jury determine whether the defendants were negligent and whether that negligence caused Jahi brain injury.


Only if the jury makes such a finding on liability, will it be necessary to move to stage two: is Jahi now alive and what is the appropriate amount of compensation.  This is the far more complicated question, so it seems efficient to sequence the trial to avoid having to answer this if possible.


The hearing on the motion to bifurcate is on April 27, 2017 in Alameda County Superior Court Dept. 16.

Source: bioethics.net, a blog maintained by the editorial staff of The American Journal of Bioethics.

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

Ethics of the Trump Budget: The Social Contract is Dead

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

President Trump released his blueprint for a 2018 federal budget. From an ethical standpoint, the President seems to operates from a Hobbesian standpoint—life is nasty, brutish and short. However, unlike Hobbes who believed that we came together to protect ourselves from this reality, the new budget seems to encourage this idea. The new budget makes deep cuts to all social and scientific programs while boosting the military. In Hobbesian terms, Trumps’ social contract is all about bullying outsiders while leaving insiders in a state of hopeless diffidence.

Since World War II, the United States has invested heavily in science and technology, developing transportation, and building a better world (and winning wars). Since the 1960s, the US has provided a safety net for the poor, support for the arts, and public broadcasting. Since 1970, the U.S. has worked to ensure that people have the opportunity for flourishing by protecting the environment, providing financial aid for college, and strengthening our relationships with international partners—peace through diplomacy.

The 2018 budget undoes 80 years of social progress and support. The new budget defunds the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and most development agencies. Also eliminated are environmental management, research and education; after school programs, clean energy, chemical safety, community services and development, national service programs, clean air, home investment programs, energy assistance programs for low income adults, minority business development, science education, support for the homeless, and peace.

In addition, the budget significantly reduces funding for science (medicine, basic research, NASA, climate science), health care, the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department, Departments of Labor, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Housing & Urban Development, Transportation and Interior.

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

Would You “Donate” Your Kidney for $1,000?

Crossposted from Rising to the Challenge, The Campaign for Johns Hopkins

 

Nearly 100,000 Americans sit on the waiting list for kidney donations, but only about 17,000 of the organs are transplanted each year — despite the fact that living donors can provide kidneys. What could help close the gap between the need and the supply? Might providing some kind of altruistic incentives or financial compensation for donors be a step toward saving thousands of lives, and with what ethical implications?

 

That thorny question is one of nine that Hopkins faculty are examining with Exploration of Practical Ethics grants administered by the Berman Institute of Bioethics. Established in part by a generous gift from university trustee Andreas Dracopoulos, the program funds one-year pilot studies that address key questions in professions and scholarly disciplines, within institutions, and throughout society.

 

“Research institutions like Hopkins are perfect for this kind of inquiry, because we don’t just produce graduates who can go out into the world and solve these problems. We produce the thought processes that inform the way future leaders will make decisions,” says Maria Merritt, an associate professor in the Berman Institute and Bloomberg School of Public Health. Merritt is overseeing the portfolio of funded awards in her role as program officer for the Exploration of Practical Ethics effort.

 

Vikram Chib and Mario Macis

 

Informing the debate over the ethics of payments for organ donation is the goal of a project proposed by Mario Macis, an associate professor in the Carey Business School, Vikram Chib, an associate professor in the Whiting School of Engineering, and Nicola Lacetera, an associate professor at the University of Toronto.

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

What is Feminist Neuroethics About?

By Ben Wills

Ben Wills studied Cognitive Science at Vassar College, where his thesis examined cognitive neuroscience research on the self. He is currently a legal assistant at a Portland, Oregon law firm, where he continues to hone his interests at the intersections of brain, law, and society.
As the boundaries of what may be considered “neuroethics” extend with the development of new kinds of technologies and the evolving interests of scholars, its branches encounter substantial structures of adjacent scholarship. “Feminist neuroethics” is a multidimensional construct and a name that can be afforded both to approaches that fall within the bounds of mainstream neuroethics and metatheoretical challenges to the scope and lines of debate within neuroethics. While acknowledging that scholarship at the intersections of academic feminism/gender studies, feminist science studies, ethics, and neuroscience is much more substantial and diverse than I’m considering here, my modest aim in this post is to highlight how the label “feminist neuroethics” has been used to look at what scholars consider important for neuroethics. In so doing we can see what scholars in these fields see as worth highlighting when identifying their work as such.

The phrase “feminist neuroethics” is young, first used (to my knowledge) in peer-reviewed literature by philosopher Peggy DesAutels in her 2010 article on “Sex differences and neuroethics,” published in Philosophical Psychology (though see Chalfin, Murphy, & Karkazis, 2008 for a close antecedent). She writes that, having found herself considering the ethics of neuroscience, the neuroscience of ethics, and sex/gender differences, her “overlapping approach could neatly be summarized as feminist neuroethics” (p.

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

Texas Mandating Support of Pregnant Women after Death

Three years ago, the Texas courts rejected a claim that the Texas Advance Directives Act required continued “life-sustaining treatment” for brain dead pregnant patient, Marlise Munoz.  After all, if the woman is dead, the treatment cannot be “life sustaining.”


But a bill introduced yesterday would change the TADA.  Texas H.B. 3542 would require:


“A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient. This section applies:
(1) regardless of whether there is irreversible
cessation of all spontaneous brain function of the pregnant patient; and
(2) if the life-sustaining treatment is enabling the unborn child to mature.”

Three years ago, the Texas courts rejected a claim that the Texas Advance Directives Act required continued “life-sustaining treatment” for brain dead pregnant patient, Marlise Munoz.  After all, if the woman is dead, the treatment cannot be “life sustaining.”


But a bill introduced yesterday would change the TADA.  Texas H.B. 3542 would require:


“A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient. This section applies:
(1) regardless of whether there is irreversible
cessation of all spontaneous brain function of the pregnant patient; and
(2) if the life-sustaining treatment is enabling the unborn child to mature.”

Source: bioethics.net, a blog maintained by the editorial staff of The American Journal of Bioethics.

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

Did His Mind Make Him Do It? How Neuroscience Entered the Courtroom

Since ancient philosophers first began to ponder the problem of criminal behavior, great minds in science and law have sought a single holy grail, the point at which the two fields intersect: What nervous or brain dysfunctions can explain how people become so incapacitated that they are not responsible for their own criminal behavior?

Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

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 significance of 37 January 30, 2017 Mitochondrial gene transfer (MGT) is a new technique…

January 30, 2017

The significance of 37

Ana Krivokuca,

MSc in Molecular Biology, PhD in Genetics

Masters in Bioethics, Clarkson University &Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (exp. June 2017)

It’s a boy! Such a familiar statement but with somewhat peculiar and mysterious echo on the morning of 29th September, 2016. While drinking my first coffee of the day, I am wondering what is so unique about this boy to put him in the headlines of CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian and every other -post or -times that exist around the world . Aha! ˝World’s first baby born with new ‘three parent’ technique. Ok, this requires a larger cup of coffee….

Even though many believe that all of our genes reside in the nuclei of our cells, it’s more complicated than that. A small part of human genome (only 37 genes compared to an estimated 20,000-25,000 genes in the whole genome) is situated outside the nucleus, in the “energy factories” of the cells called mitochondria. Mutations in one of these 37 genes might cause mitochondria failure, cell damage, and even cell death. Mitochondrial diseases are usually progressive; they manifest differently and affect those parts of the body that have highest energy demands: brain, muscles or heart. These tiny pieces of DNA are inherited only from our mothers. So, each of us inherited these 37 genes from our mother, who inherited them from hers, and so on and so forth through generations.

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.