Tag: children

Bioethics Blogs

Neil Gorsuch, Aid in Dying, and Roe v. Wade

In the absence of any “paper trail” that would give clues to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s views on abortion, many commentators have turned to his book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, based on his doctoral dissertation at Oxford, where he worked with natural law theorist John Finnis.  Ronald M. Green notes with alarm that Gorsuch relies on an inviolability-of-life principle that would likely lead him to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Furthermore, Green writes that Gorsuch’s conservative preference for allowing states to make their own decisions, would lead to a return to the pre-Roe reality in which women would have to travel long distances for abortions in those states that allowed it.  (https://ronaldmgreen.com/2017/02/17/how-will-neil-gorsuch-vote-on-roe-v-wade/)

However, there are more dire possibilities to consider. In a long and fascinating essay in Vox (March 20, 2017), J. Paul Kelleher argues that Gorsuch is not an originalist in the Scalia mold, but actually a natural law adherent like his mentor Finnis.  Natural law theorists believe that there is an over-arching moral law that judges can and must rely on when existing laws are unclear, or manifestly unjust.  The recognition of human life as a “fundamental good” that can never be intentionally harmed, is an example of such a moral law, and one that Gorsuch relies on in his condemnation of assisted suicide.

It’s important to see that Gorsuch is not merely agreeing with the current legal status of assisted suicide in our country.   In Washington v. Glucksberg, in 1997, the Court declined to follow the logic of the “privacy” cases stretching from contraception through abortion and find a constitutional right to assistance in ending one’s life.  Glucksberg leaves the country, with respect to assisted suicide, in the same position in which we would left with respect to abortion, if Roe were overturned: at the mercy of the legislative wisdom of the individual states.   Gorsuch goes further in arguing that the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment forbids treating the lives of terminally ill people differently from those of the healthy, by allowing the “killing” of the first but not the second (a view often argued by philosopher Felicia Nimüe Ackerman).  In other words, Gorsuch would presumably view favorably an appeal to the Court to strike down existing “death with dignity” laws in Oregon and elsewhere.

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 “disabled” person speaks out against a particular form of discrimination

Amidst lots of dark and tragic stories, a bright ray on the BBC website this week: Kathleen Humberstone, a 17 year-old English girl with Down syndrome, addressed the UN in Geneva to mark World Down Syndrome Day.

Rather than reading anything I have to say, a far better use of your time would be to read what Ms. Humberstone said. You can find the full text here; if you scroll down you can listen to her speech and an eloquent talk her mother gave afterwards.

The speech is only 3 minutes 42 seconds, and the mother’s talk 5 minutes 48 seconds. It is well worth every second of your time to listen to these women. However, for those of you who don’t have the time or place to listen, I will give a few highlights here.

From Kathleen’s talk (when she refers to “testing,” she’s talking about prenatal genetic testing to detect and abort fetuses suspected to have Down syndrome):

Bonjour, Hello! I can’t believe I’m here! I’m at the UN, in Geneva! Do you know why? Because I have 47 chromosomes. That’s just crazy!! Thank you Down syndrome! I’m here to talk to you about my life and why it is worth living . . . I love everybody. I can’t help it! I hope everybody loves me. I have Down syndrome. Yes. Is that so wrong? So, why all this testing? Why? My name is Kathleen Humberstone and I love my life!!

From Kathleen’s mother’s talk:

You know that trisomy 21 happens to be one of the easiest disabilities to identify at the moment in utero. More will follow. And eventually all disabilities will be identifiable in utero. So, parents of future generations will have quite a few choices to make.

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 Future of Bioethics: Organ Transplantation, Genetic Testing, and Euthanasia

By Ana Lita

When you think of bioethics, some of the first hot-button topics you may consider are organ transplantation, fertility and genetic engineering, and end-of-life-care. The Global Bioethics Initiative serves as a platform to address many bioethical questions and engages in public debates to develop resolutions to present and emerging issues.

Dr. Ana Lita, founder of the Global Bioethics Initiative, discusses the various areas GBI addresses and highlights the organization’s contributors in their prospective fields. She acknowledges the valuable contribution of the current president of GBI, Dr. Bruce Gelb, in the field of organ transplantation. She also addresses the original co-founder of GBI, Dr. Charles Debrovner, and his lifelong passion in the field of fertility and genetic engineering. Lastly, Dr. Lita offers a brief insight into the future of Bioethics in these uncertain times.

ORGAN MARKETS AND THE ETHICS OF TRANSPLANTATION 

Recent developments in immunosuppressive drugs and improved surgical techniques have now made it much easier to successfully transplant organs from one human body to another. Unfortunately, these developments have led to the rise of black-markets in human organs. This underground market is where people who need kidneys to survive or to improve the quality of their lives, for example, purchasing such organs from impoverished persons in the developing world. In January 2017, scientists announced that they successfully created the first human-pig hybrid and a pig embryo with some human characteristics. Given the increasing need for transplant organs, should such markets be regulated and legalized?  Could the success of therapeutic cloning eliminate the need to consider this option?

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

Pornography as a Public Health Issue

Jacqueline Gahagan advocates for a national sexual health promotion strategy.

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Pornography is concerned with the development and the circulation of sexually explicit books, magazines, videos, art, and music aimed at creating sexual excitement. Public health is concerned with keeping people healthy and preventing illness, injury and premature death. With the growing use of internet-based pornography and the relative ease by which it can be accessed, the effects of “online violent and degrading sexually explicit material on children, women and men” have become an important public health issue. This issue is best addressed through the development and introduction of a national sexual health promotion strategy – a strategy that includes current and comprehensive sexual health education in our primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools.

Health promotion, in concert with public health, involves encouraging safe behaviours and improving health through healthy public policy, community-based interventions, active public participation, advocacy, and action on key determinants of health. I am confident that several of these strategies can be used to address concerns about the ready access to internet-based pornography. For example, health promotion initiatives that take a harm reduction approach to healthy sexuality include an emphasis on screening and testing for sexually transmitted infections, the use of condoms, a shared understanding of consensual sex, as well as the use of other safer sex interventions.

A review of existing sexual health education in Canadian schools, however, reveals that many Canadian youth do not receive the level of sexual health education they need to help them make informed decisions about sexual risk-taking.

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 Semantics of Therapy, Part II

A previous blog post of “The Semantics of Therapy” posed three questions about the human genome being a “patient” to be treated. One reader found the post “provocative and disturbing” and called for further explanation and discussion of the questions posed. That will take some time and several postings.

The first of the questions to be considered is this: If the “patient” is a genome, to whom does the researcher answer?   An answer from recent history may shed some light on this important issue.

33 infertile couples underwent a novel procedure at New Jersey’s Saint Barnabas Medical Center during the years 1996-2001. Embryologist Jacques Cohen used cytoplasmic transfer–ooplasm from the oocytes of fertile women was transferred into the eggs of infertile women–in the hope of establishing pregnancies in the latter. The outcome was 13 pregnancies and 17 babies from the Saint Barnabas experience (see accounts here and here).

According to a 2014 BBC article, one resulting pregnancy, which ended in miscarriage, revealed a missing X chromosome in the fetus. The same anomaly was noted in another child: one of a set of twins from a different pregnancy. Later, one child showed evidence of developmental delay. In 2014, Cohen estimated that the worldwide experience of cytoplasmic transfer between oocytes had resulted in the births of 30-50 babies, although the FDA had effectively stopped the procedure in the U.S. in 2002.

What had the follow-up on the babies born through cytoplasmic transfer been in 2014?

Due to a lack of funding, Cohen says, it hasn’t been possible to find out about how any of the children like Alana who were born from cytoplasmic transfer are doing.

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 Breast Milk Sharing—Limited Regulation with Social Justice Implications

February 01, 2017

by Valeria Vavassori-Chen, MS Bioethics, Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (2011)

Human Breast Milk Sharing—Limited Regulation with Social Justice Implications

After the birth of both of my children I found myself producing more milk than my kids could consume. I decided to donate my extra supply to any family whose child might need it. While researching the best venue to do so, I discovered a huge demand for free human breast milk and a completely unregulated market.

The benefits of breast milk over formula have been well documented in the medical literature. Human breast milk is naturally designed to meet all the baby’s nutritional needs, and it provides early innate immunity, which, when compared to formula-fed babies, reduces infant morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases. The World Health Organization urges that caregivers should “exclusively breastfeed infants for the child’s first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health.” Additionally, some newborns with medical issues (especially premature babies whose digestive system is extremely immature) do not tolerate formula at all. Finally, there are many health risks associated with the use of formula.

Knowing the great benefits of human breast milk, many parents who are unable to produce enough breast milk have good reason to seek out private breast milk donors. There are, however, risks associated with human breast milk sharing. These include possible bacterial contamination and even transmission of HIV. Proper handling and storing are essential to reduce bacterial contamination, and a process called flash-heating can be used to inactivate the free-floating HIV virus.

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

Kidnapped at Birth

The question of ‘who are the real parents?’ can arise in a range of contexts. The law has traditionally regarded genetic ties as the determining factor. Other courts have placed less emphasis on genetic connection and more on intention. Still others would argue that biology, whether genetic or gestational, is not the sole factor in determining who is a parent. Surely someone who takes care of and has responsibility for a child, who loves and is loved by that child, has as much claim to be a parent as someone who is biologically related. More importantly, it seems wrong to deprive children of the people in their lives who have played significant parental roles. But what about the recent news of eighteen year old Alexis Manigo learning that Gloria Williams, the woman who raised her, has been charged with kidnapping her when she was eight hours old? Would a best interest analysis have applied were she still a minor today?

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Source: The Bioethics Program Blog, by Union Graduate College & The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

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

Horse-drawn miscarriage: a case study on culture, pregnancy, and overriding parental requests to limit treatments

Patient autonomy is a well-established principle in both U.S. law and Western medical ethics. When patients have decision making capacity, they decide to accept or decline medical interventions based on of their own goals and values. When medical decisions are made on behalf of children, the best interests standard replaces autonomy. Because children usually lack settled goals and values, the decision about medical care should be made in light of the best decision for the child. Within the context of early pregnancy, the mother’s autonomous preferences are legally recognized as sufficient to make decisions to continue or to terminate the pregnancy. Once the fetus reaches the stage of viability, however, things get a bit more complicated.

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Source: The Bioethics Program Blog, by Union Graduate College & The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

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

Is It Morally Acceptable to Have Children?

Given the uncertainty of outcomes of our potential children, and given the many problems humanity faces due to overpopulation, is it morally acceptable to have children? Travis Rieder and I discuss that question and many related ones in a fascinating philosophy edition of SIO!

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 End Of The Affordable Care Act and Its Critics’ Hollow Moral Rhetoric

From the 1940’s to the present, it’s hard to think of a
major topic on the American political agenda that has been subjected to more
tortured language and ideological extremism than healthcare. By no means am I
saying that healthcare proposals to expand access to healthcare over the years
should not have been subjected to rational scrutiny and disagreement. But it
seems, by and large, disagreement over healthcare policy proposals have always
been about the opponents of progressive options to expand insurance coverage
tapping into a certain segment of voters’ deepest fears and biases to
predispose them against any alternative for change.

All progressive leaders who have attempted reform in
healthcare, like Earl Warren (Governor of California from 1943-53) and
President Harry Truman (mid-late 1040’s), to President John Kennedy and Lyndon
Johnson in the 1960’s, to the Clintons in the 1990’s, to Barack Obama in 2009,
have been met with fierce opposition from lobbying groups representing big
business, including insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and often physicians
through the American Medical Association. The essential line of attack has been
that government would become overly involved in medical decision-making and
overshadow the influence and judgment of physicians in the care of patients.
But to win this argument decisively, the hired consultants
devised plans
to associate expanded healthcare coverage or universal
healthcare with “socialized medicine” and even the “red scare”—clear demeaning
associations with undemocratic countries, unlike the United States, that
quickly appeal to irrational sentiments and undermine any consensus for reform.
These basic underhand, scare tactics continued to be effective against the
failed Clinton proposal in 1993 and, later, President Obama’s signature
achievement—the Affordable Care Act—which currently in the process of being
repealed and radically scaled down in terms of benefits.

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.