Tag: celebrities

Bioethics Blogs

Heads Up: Time to Say Goodbye to Football

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Suppose a prescribed drug caused brain damage in 99.1% of people who took it. Would you take the drug? How long before that drug was pulled from the marketplace and the lawsuits against the manufacturer began? What if that drug made the company $7.2 billion per year? What if those who took the drug became celebrities for a brief period of time? Would you consider taking it then? Most rational people would refrain from the medication and the FDA would remove it from the market.

If you substitute the word “football” for “drug,” then you know the results of a new study in

JAMA, which definitively proves that football is bad for one’s health. In the study of 111 brains of former NFL players donated to the researchers, 110 (that’s 99.1% of the sample) showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Researchers examined a total of 202 donated brains. Ninety-one brains came from non-NFL players including those who played in pre-high school; high school; college, semi-pro, and Canadian Football League. Of those brains 66 showed evidence of CTE (72.5%). The percent of players with CFL increases with the level of football play (which is a substitute for number of years in the sport and number of likely concussions).

Level of PlayPercent of Brains Showing CTE
Pre-High School0%
High School21%
College91%
Semi-Pro64%
CFL88%
NFL99%
*Maez, Daneshvar, Kiernan 2017

The severity of the brain’s CTE was correlated with the level of play as well. One hundred percent of high school player’s brains had mild CTE and 86% of professional players had severe CTE.

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 Problem with Binary

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

The Problem with Binary 

Throughout his raucous 2016 campaign, President Trump repeatedly claimed that he would be an ardent defender of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. During the Republican National Convention, for instance, he proclaimed that, “As your president I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.” Despite this statement (which stood in stark contrast to the Republican Party’s virulently anti-LGBT political platform), and diverging from the public comments and actions when he was still a private citizen, since gaining the nomination and later the presidency, Donald Trump has largely kowtowed to the more homophobic wings of his party.

Although he has yet to repeal an Obama-era order protecting LGBT federal employees from workplace discrimination, for example, he has repeatedly expressed support for the First Amendment Defense Act. Modeled on the anti-LGBT legislation passed in Indiana when Vice-President Pence was governor of the Hoosier State, that Act would allow individuals, businesses, and healthcare providers to deny services to LGBT individuals based on their religious beliefs.

More recently, in spite of prior comments that “people should use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate,” Trump rescinded existing protections for transgender students. Previously, the federal government had issued guidelines that, while not legally binding, required public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that corresponded with their gender identity rather than biological sex. Under the Obama administration, the Departments of Justice and Education had taken the position that existing regulations like Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools, also applied to discrimination based on gender identity.

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

A New Hope for Mental Illness

Both Carrie Fisher and George Michael – just like far too many celebrities and average folk — struggled with addiction. Moreover, it wasn’t just alcoholism that Carrie Fisher struggled with. She was also an outspoken advocate for other mental illnesses, courageously sharing her own experience with bipolar disorder. Carrie herself believed that her years-long battle with addiction was a result of her undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Along with other well-deserved epithets, 2016 will be remembered as the year that the mental health community lost a remarkable advocate. Despite Ms. Fisher’s untimely passing, however, there is still “a new hope”.

— Delivered by Feed43 service

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 Problem with Binary March 10, 2017 Throughout his raucous 2016 campaign, President Trum…

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

The Problem with Binary 

Throughout his raucous 2016 campaign, President Trump repeatedly claimed that he would be an ardent defender of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. During the Republican National Convention, for instance, he proclaimed that, “As your president I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.” Despite this statement (which stood in stark contrast to the Republican Party’s virulently anti-LGBT political platform), and diverging from the public comments and actions when he was still a private citizen, since gaining the nomination and later the presidency, Donald Trump has largely kowtowed to the more homophobic wings of his party.

Although he has yet to repeal an Obama-era order protecting LGBT federal employees from workplace discrimination, for example, he has repeatedly expressed support for the First Amendment Defense Act. Modeled on the anti-LGBT legislation passed in Indiana when Vice-President Pence was governor of the Hoosier State, that Act would allow individuals, businesses, and healthcare providers to deny services to LGBT individuals based on their religious beliefs.

More recently, in spite of prior comments that “people should use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate,” Trump rescinded existing protections for transgender students. Previously, the federal government had issued guidelines that, while not legally binding, required public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that corresponded with their gender identity rather than biological sex. Under the Obama administration, the Departments of Justice and Education had taken the position that existing regulations like Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools, also applied to discrimination based on gender identity.

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

A New Hope for Mental Illness January 3, 2017 Both Carrie Fisher and George Michael – just l…

January 03, 2017

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

A New Hope for Mental Illness

Every year, my husband and I throw a big New Year’s Eve party. Most of the time, we celebrate the coming of a new year with food, champagne and the company of good friends. This weekend’s party will be particularly poignant for me. I will be toasting not to the coming of 2017 but, rather, to the end of 2016.

This year has been particularly tumultuous for me, characterized by significant professional challenges and two recent hospitalizations. This year was also capped off by the passing of my mother, who recently succumbed to the very health problem that I have been struggling with for the past three months. The only positive thing to say about 2016 is that I have a new found appreciation for all that I have, and a plan to achieve better work-life balance in the coming year.

Of course, I am not the only person who has faced personal and professional challenges this year. In fact, my own struggles cannot compare to those whose lives have been irreparably changed by the war in Syria, the gun violence in Chicago, or the terror attacks in Belgium, Florida, France, Germany and elsewhere.

We’ve also lost what seems to be an extremely long list of political figures, sports legends, and celebrated entertainers in 2016, including Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, boxing champion and political activist Muhammad Ali, and award-winning artist Prince.

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

The battle continues over the A-List embryos

In happier times   

What began as soap opera is turning into a master class in metaphysics. “Modern Families” TV star Sofia Vergara, 44, and her former partner, entrepreneur and Hollywood producer Nick Loeb, 41, have been at war over two frozen embryos in a California IVF clinic. Vergara, now married to “True Blood” star Joe Manganiello, refuses to allow the embryos to be brought to term with a surrogate mother; Loeb insists that they have a right to life.

Both of them have deep pockets and wily lawyers. With 600,000 supernumerary embryos in deep freeze in the US, the outcome could set legal precedents in a number of areas. However, the dispute is not theoretical, but passionate and sometimes vindictive.  

The latest moves are as follows.

Slut-shaming

In mid-November Vergara’s lawyers demanded that Loeb disclose the names of two former girl friends who had abortions. They want to show that his belief that life begins at conception is insincere. “Oddly, Loeb wants us to believe that he supports a woman’s right to privacy, and to make a choice concerning reproduction. However, he seems to believe that his celebrity ex-fiancé, Sofia Vergara, does not have those same rights,” said her lawyer.

Loeb, who now has strong pro-life views, was adamant in his refusal. “Could you imagine if you had moved on with your life, gotten married and had children and kept this a secret from your family, then all of a sudden 15 years later (you were) made to reveal your abortion to the world.

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

Creative Minds: Do Celebrity Endorsements Influence Teens’ Health?

Marie Bragg

Marie Bragg is a first-generation American, raised by a mother who immigrated to Florida from Trinidad. She watched her uncle in Florida cope effectively with type 2 diabetes, taking prescription drugs and following doctor-recommended dietary changes. But several of her Trinidadian relatives also had type 2 diabetes, and often sought to manage their diabetes by alternative means—through home remedies and spiritual practices.

This situation prompted Bragg to develop, at an early age, a strong interest in how approaches to health care may differ between cultures. But that wasn’t Bragg’s only interest—her other love was sports, having played on a high school soccer team that earned two state championships in Florida. That made her keenly aware of the sway that celebrity athletes, such as Michael Jordan and Serena Williams, could have on the public, particularly on young people. Today, Bragg combines both of her childhood interests—the influence of celebrities and the power of cultural narratives—in research that she is conducting as an Assistant Professor of Population Health at New York University Langone Medical Center and as a 2015 recipient of an NIH Director’s Early Independence Award.

Bragg is currently exploring the influence of popular culture and celebrity endorsements on individuals’ eating habits. Ultimately, she wants to learn how advertisements for unhealthy, high-calorie foods and beverages—and their tendency to target African American and Hispanic teens over other groups—might play into well-established disparities among racial groups in the incidence of obesity and diabetes.

Bragg set out on this research path as a graduate student at Yale University, New Haven, CT.

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

A-list clash over embryos

The acrimonious fight over frozen embryos between Hollywood celebrities Sofia Vergara and Nick Loeb is due in court again in January in California and could set an important legal precedent.

The Modern Family TV star and the financier created frozen embryos in 2013 when they were living together. They signed an agreement that both had to agree if the embryos were placed in a surrogate mother. However, they split up in 2014. When Loeb proposed the surrogate mother option, Vergara refused. She was content to leave them frozen. “More than a mother, a baby needs a loving relationship of parents that get along, that don’t hate each other,” she said in a TV interview. “I wouldn’t want to bring kids to the world that is already set against them. It would be so selfish.” 

Ever since Loeb has been waging a legal and public relations battle to get custody of the embryos. At the moment Loeb’s lawyers have asked a judge to fine Vergara for refusing to sit for a deposition.

Loeb is desperate to make his case plausible. “I think the misconception is that people don’t know the difference between an embryo and an egg,” Loeb explained earlier this year. “A lot of people think I’m trying to steal her eggs and they don’t realize that an embryo is half mine — half my DNA and half her DNA. It’s actually a human being.”

The legal status of frozen embryos differs from state to state. At the trial in January, Loeb’s lawyers will claim that the agreement the couple signed is invalid.

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 the experts think of malign superintelligence

Skynet is not keen on those pesky humans 

Will you live long enough to see and perhaps become a slave to super-intelligent artificial intelligence? Oxford philosophy professor Nick Bostrom has often made headlines with predictions that you might.

“Before the prospect of an intelligence explosion, we humans are like small children playing with a bomb,” he writes. “We have little idea when the detonation will occur, though if we hold the device to our ear we can hear a faint ticking sound.”

His book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, was a New York Times bestseller last year, endorsed by celebrities like Tesla boss Elon Musk and Bill Gates.

But what do experts in artificial intelligence think of the philosopher’s predictions?

In MIT Technology Review, Oren Etzioni, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington, surveyed members of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. They were sceptical. About 25% thought that superintelligence would never happen and 92% thought that it was beyond the foreseeable horizon. Some of their comments were not flattering:

“Way, way, way more than 25 years. Centuries most likely. But not never.”

“We’re competing with millions of years’ evolution of the human brain. We can write single-purpose programs that can compete with humans, and sometimes excel, but the world is not neatly compartmentalized into single-problem questions.”

“Nick Bostrom is a professional scare monger. His Institute’s role is to find existential threats to humanity. He sees them everywhere. I am tempted to refer to him as the ‘Donald Trump’ of AI.”

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

Outside the Comfort Zone


I always feel a little nervous for the folks who sign up to
be contestants on “Dancing with the Stars” because despite any prior fame or
achievements they are spectacularly and uniquely vulnerable on the dance floor.
Stepping outside their comfort zone is perhaps what we admire about these
celebrities – they are suddenly vulnerable to a different and unfamiliar
scrutiny. Mastering new skills alongside an assigned partner we hope for the
best as the dancers put their best effort on display. There are criteria to be
satisfied (need to show enough Viennese Waltz and Foxtrot moves), and judges to
score how well they met these standards. While there is no small amount of
entertainment value to the evaluation of the contestants, what is interesting
is that the public votes too. This may be a reach, but as healthcare faces new
standards measuring quality under the ACA, we see some interesting parallels.


Like our intrepid celebrity dancers, healthcare institutions
need to adapt to an evolving set of quality measurements under the ACA. As
healthcare institutions brace for the uncertain impact of the ACA regulations
on the day to day operations and finances, those responsible for assuring the
delivery of care are focusing on not only the cost per patient, but also on
improving how patient experience care, and how the health of the community at
large can be improved. Like the dancers finding their footing, the ACA
challenges the healthcare industry to serve patients with agile and efficient
practices in order to not be left behind.

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.