Tag: dangerousness

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals July 2016 – Pt. I by Christine Sargent

Check out the first instalment of this month’s In the Journals!

 

Critical public health 

Global mental health and its critics: moving beyond the impasse (open access)

Sara Cooper

The field of Global Mental Health has very quickly engendered a new institutional and research landscape, having recently established a number of its own research centres and training programmes. Under the banner of this field, there has also been an explosion of international research programmes and interventions which have received significant financial backing from a range of international donors, development agencies, and governments.1 In sum, Global Mental Health has increasingly captured the imagination of a wide range of stakeholders and has made major strides in establishing mental health as a priority within the global health arena. Indeed, a recent Google search for ‘Global Mental Health’ on 1 November 2009 identified approximately 62,300 related sites, of which over 85% of them were registered since 2008 (Patel & Prince,2010). This increasingly powerful field has, however, also elicited a range of critical responses, with growing controversy over its conceptualisations, goals and imagined outcomes (Campbell & Burgess, 2012; Kirmayer & Pedersen, 2014; Mills & Fernando, 2014).

Stigmatizing surveillance: blood-borne pathogen protocol and the dangerous doctor

Valerie Webber, Janet Bartlett & Fern Brunger

HIV and hepatitis B and C are viruses that have been unduly set apart from other infectious diseases in terms of the symbolic pull they exert and the anxiety they produce. This is reflected in health care policy and protocol. Hospitals, health care regions and colleges of physicians and surgeons create guidelines and procedures that single out HIV or hepatitis B and C as requiring special attention.

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

In the Journals May 2016 Part I by Melanie Boeckmann

Following Anna’s post on current special issues, here are abstracts from this month’s journal outputs.

American Ethnologist

Skill and masculinity in Olympic weightlifting: Training cues and cultivated craziness in Georgia

Perry Sherouse

At the Georgian Weightlifting Federation in Tbilisi, Georgia, a mainstay of coaching is the training cue, a shouted word or phrase that coaches use to prompt weightlifters to perform in a certain psychological, physical, or technical way. In this practice, coaches cultivate and naturalize dimensions of physiology and psychology, aligning masculinity with animality, lack of restraint, and emotional surfeit, and femininity with gracefulness, control, and good technique. Although Olympic weightlifting remains stereotypically hypermasculine, coaches compliment female weightlifters’ technique as superior to men’s and train their athletes to integrate masculine “nature” and feminine “culture” in the expression of physical strength. In doing so, coaches do not instill fully formed subjectivities but manage embodied forms, using exclamatory cues to disaggregate the athlete into action, affect, and anatomy. 

“I am a radioactive mutant”: Emergent biological subjectivities at Kazakhstan’s Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site

Magdalena E. Stawskowski

The Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in Kazakhstan was conceived as an experimental landscape where science, technology, Soviet Cold War militarism, and human biology intersected. As of 2015, thousands of people continue to live in rural communities in the immediate vicinity of this polluted landscape. Lacking good economic options, many of them claim to be “mutants” adapted to radiation, while outsiders see them as genetically tainted. In such a setting, how do post-Soviet social, political, and economic transformations operate with radioactivity to co-constitute a “mutant” subjectivity?

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 rise of developmental science: Debates on health and humanity – A Special Issue of Social Science and Medicine by Francis Mckay

Shaping the modern child: Genealogies and ethnographies of developmental science
Dominique P. Béhague, Samuel Lézé

Introductory article. No abstract.

Fertile bodies, immature brains?: A genealogical critique of neuroscientific claims regarding the adolescent brain and of the global fight against adolescent motherhood
Ofra Koffman

This article presents a critique of neuroscientific claims regarding the adolescent brain and the suggestion that adolescent motherhood disrupts the healthy development of the mother and her child. It does so by presenting a genealogical investigation of the conceptualisation of ‘adolescence’ in Western psychology and the emergence of the problematization of ‘adolescent motherhood’. This examination reveals that antecedents to neuroscientific claims regarding adolescent immaturity, impulsivity and instability were articulated by psychologists throughout the first half of the 20th century. However, up until the 1960s there was no problematization of ‘adolescent motherhood’ per se and adolescent mothers were only discussed as part of the concern with ‘unwed mothers’. Exploring the continuities and shifts in assertions regarding adolescence, this article highlights the complex history of some of the notions currently found in neuroscience. In doing so it aims to contribute to a growing body of critical literature questioning the universality of neuroscientific findings.

Developing gender: The medical treatment of transgender young people
Claudia Castañeda

Situating the contemporary medical treatment of transgender young people – children and adolescents – in the longer history of engagement between transgender activists and the medical community, this article analyzes the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s (WPATH) Standards of Care (SOC) concerning the medical treatment of transgender young people. It traces how the SOC both achieves medical treatment for children and adolescents and reinforces a normative gender system by cleaving to a developmental approach.

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

Bioethics Commission Recommends Funding Research on the Intersection of Neuroscience and the Legal System

In March of this year the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) released Gray Matters: Topics at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society (Gray Matters, Vol. 2), the second volume of its two-part report on ethics and neuroscience. In Gray Matters, Vol. 2, the Bioethics Commission analyzed three topics, including the application of neuroscience to the legal system. Advances in neuroscience might help us achieve more accuracy in decision making, decreased errors in advancing justice, and improved policymaking. However, the application of neuroscience to the legal system also raises concerns about conceptions of free will and mental privacy, among others.

Applications of neuroscience to the legal system include supporting propositions concerning competency to stand trial, mitigation of criminal responsibility, and predicting future dangerousness. The Bioethics Commission recognized the importance of comprehensive information regarding the use of neuroscience evidence in making important legal and policy decisions. The Commission urged organizations and government bodies to publish reports that address the successes, challenges, and limitations of neuroscience’s application to the legal system. Specifically, the Bioethics Commission recommended:

Relevant bodies, such as the National Academies of Science, the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Institute of Justice, and the Social Security Administration, should support comprehensive studies of the use of neuroscience in legal decision making and policy development.

In response to the surge in DNA evidence used in criminal investigations, and in response to evidence obtained by polygraph examinations, various groups produced reports and recommendations that addressed questions about and limitations of these technologies.

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

Sacred versus Synthetic? Nature Preservationism and Biotechnology

One of the long-term contributions of Earth Day is that it offers a regular, semi-official reminder that a sense of the sacred is a vital part of environmentalism. The spirit of John Muir lives on in the notion of “Respect for the land” that was emphasized in the famous Keep America Beautiful public service announcement that was launched on the first Earth Day. But in the era of biotechnology, the notion of sacredness can pull in other directions.

On April 14, a public forum on synthetic biology hosted by Friends of the Earth and some other civil society groups effectively brought out how the notion of sacredness is woven into objections to genetically modifying microorganisms to produce fuel, cosmetics, medicines, and other chemicals. The event was titled “Sacred versus Synthetic: Competing Visions for Life on Earth,” and what was especially remarkable and helpful about it was that the presentations continually brought concerns about the possible practical harms of GM microorganisms back down to concerns about the very idea of GM microorganisms. In the view that the speakers offered, the genetic modification of an organism is by definition a harm to nature, and it is perhaps the most fundamental harm to nature. We need, said one speaker, to protect life “right down to the cellular level.” (Full video of the event is available here.)

The goal of protecting life and preserving nature is a good moral starting point. It’s a goal I share, anyway. But a concern to preserve the natural world still requires careful thinking about which ways of altering nature constitute fundamental harms to nature.

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

Bioethics Commission Discusses Law and Neuroscience

This afternoon, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) turned its attention to law and neuroscience as part of its deliberations on potential recommendations related to neuroscience that it may offer to the President.

Bioethics Commission Chair Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., began by focusing discussion questions around whether and how to use neuroscience technologies in the courtroom.

“What can neuroscience in its current capacity tell us about whether any individual is legally blameworthy for his or her actions?” Gutmann asked. “What is the potential for neuroscience to answer this question? What can it tell us about moral responsibility and blameworthiness, as distinct from legal responsibility and blameworthiness?”

Commission Member Nita A. Farahany, J.D., Ph.D., framed the discussion by noting the different legal contexts in which neuroscience research is being cited. For example, lawyers are bringing neuroscience research into the courtroom to substantiate claims about defendants’ competency to stand trial, as well as to challenge traditional notions about what a mental state is and how it should be measured. Neuroscience has also come up in sentencing as a way of determining the degree to which a person is morally responsible because of diminished capacity, and whether sentencing for such an individual should be weighted more toward retribution or toward rehabilitation. Finally, criminal courts have also looked to neuroscience as a predictor of a defendant’s future dangerousness.

Farahany said she has also seen neuroscience research cited in in certain civil cases. In the past, it has been difficult to prove whether a person is suffering pain from exposure to a toxic substance.

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 devil is real, and we all know him

It is Halloween, the day when the dead walk and the devil rides.

We’re plagued by children who are risking diabetes, if not their immortal souls, by demanding the sort of sweets you only give to kids you hate. The Christians down the road, not realizing, as Luther did, that the devil can’t bear to be mocked, are holding a ‘light party’ in protest against the trick-and- treaters.

And, between door-bell rings and dispensings of deadly substances to skeletons, I’m reflecting on a talk I recently heard by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. It was on her wonderful book, Plato in the Googleplex. In the book, Plato wanders through modern America, watching, talking, bemused, amused, dismayed, misunderstood. It’s an audit of Platonism. How has it weathered?

The talk itself was a dazzling justification of the whole business of philosophy – an empassioned attempt to revive its original meaning: the love of wisdom.

She described how, as a 13 year old in an orthodox Jewish home, she discovered Plato, and had the first of her intellectual ecstasies. She came to him partly, at least, because the Holocaust had taught her that ideas were dangerous. Philosophy, she thought (and Plato in particular), gave her a way of evaluating the dangerousness of ideas.

Socrates, she noted, was killed because he questioned the fundamental premises on which people based their lives. People don’t like that, and they react nastily. The lesson she took away, and that she taught so scintillatingly in Blackwells, was that all people who agree with Plato that their own premises can and should be examined should come to the table and sort out 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.