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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (#WEADD)

Kathy Greenlee,
Vice President for Aging and Health Policy

Why I Am Tired and Inspired

Kathy Greenlee is the Vice President for Aging and Health Policy at the Center for Practical Bioethics. She previously served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Aging and Administrator of the Administration for Community Living from 2009 to 2016. She will be the keynote speaker at “A Conference on Elder Rights and Protection” in Maui, Hawaii on June 15, 2017, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

The United Nations recognizes June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Started in 2006 by Elizabeth Podnieks of the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, the day has become an international opportunity to highlight the global problem of the abuse of older people.

During my tenure as U.S. Assistant Secretary for Aging, I had the honor of observing “World Day” in venues as exotic as the White House and the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The problem of abuse of the aged is ubiquitous. It happens in every corner of the world, in every culture. Unfortunately and outrageously, it happens to one out of every 10 older adults in the United States.

The impact of abuse can be immediate, such as a sudden punch or a sexual assault. It can develop over time, as is the case with older adults who are neglected and allowed to languish, decline and die from the horrible circumstances that accompany the failure to receive care. Elder abuse can be caused by family members who strike out because of stress, anger or greed.

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.

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Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax

It was 70 years ago that the poet W.H. Auden published “The Age of Anxiety,” a six-part verse framing modern humankind’s condition over the course of more than 100 pages, and now it seems we are too rattled to even sit down and read something that long (or as the internet would say, tl;dr)

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.

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The Neuroethics Blog Series on Black Mirror: Virtual Reality

By Hale Soloff
Hale is a Neuroscience PhD student at Emory University. He aims to integrate neuroethics investigations with his own research on human cognition. Hale is passionate about science education and public science communication, and is pursuing a career in teaching science. 
Humans in the 21st century have an intimate relationship with technology. Much of our lives are spent being informed and entertained by screens. Technological advancements in science and medicine have helped and healed in ways we previously couldn’t dream of. But what unanticipated consequences may be lurking behind our rapid expansion into new technological territory? This question is continually being explored in the British sci-fi TV series Black Mirror, which provides a glimpse into the not-so-distant future and warns us to be mindful of how we utilize our technology and how it can affect us in return. This piece is the first in a series of posts that will discuss ethical issues surrounding neuro-technologies featured in the show and will compare how similar technologies are impacting us in the real world. 

Black Mirror – Plot Summary 

Some of the neuro-technologies featured in Black Mirror at first seem marvelous and enticing, but the show repeatedly illustrates how abusing or misusing such technologies can lead to disturbing, and even catastrophic, consequences. This may seem scary enough, but what if the goal of a device was to intentionally frighten its user? 

In the episode “Playtest” a man named Cooper volunteers to help a video game company test out a brand-new device, referred to as a “mushroom.”

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.

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Controlling Direct Access to Personal Health Information

By Sarah Duranske

In 1978, for the first time, an American woman could take a pregnancy test in the comfort of her own home. Critics claimed that home pregnancy tests only would be used by promiscuous or immoral women who were too ashamed to visit their doctors, but the appeal to women was undeniable. [1] Today, eight out of ten women learn they are pregnant from a home pregnancy test.[2]

In the 1980s, as the AIDS crisis swept the nation, the FDA banned the use of at-home AIDS tests over fears of poor test reliability and insufficient counseling.[3] Advocacy groups bolstered these fears by highlighting the suicide of a man who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge after testing positive for HIV.[4]  But with improvements in testing technology and treatment options – and stymied by a stubbornly high infection rate – the FDA reversed its stance.  It encouraged home test kit applications in 1990 and approved two home collection kits in 1996.[5]  Within a year, more than 175,000 people purchased kits, and the expanded screening was not associated with any increase in the suicide rate.[6]

In 2013, the FDA shut down 23andMe’s health-related genetic tests due to concerns that users would act, or fail to act, to their detriment based on incorrect test results or unsupported clinical interpretations. In spite of experts’ concerns, 23andMe had genotyped around 400,000 individuals between its 2007 market entrance and the FDA’s 2013 action.[7] Studies consistently demonstrate (for better or worse) that people don’t change their behavior based on genetic tests that report on disease risk.

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.

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Time to Secure Your Implantable Medical Devices from Hackers

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

In the last few weeks, a major malware attack (WannaCry) paralyzed computers around the world, including electronic health records at the UK’s National Health Service and at hospitals throughout the world. Hacking is a growing problem that can cripple computer systems and even household appliances. Consider that in October 2016, an internet attack came from web-enabled residential devices (cameras, refrigerators, virtual assistants, thermostats, all of which are part of the internet of things) that crippled major websites.…

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.

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Web Roundup: A Hack By Any Other Name by Emily Goldsher-Diamond

Hacking has been on our minds for months now, namely due to the American (and now French) presidential election. But hacking has been of interest to scholars for decades, and in many iterations. Hacking has been analyzed as a craft, an aesthetic, a historical practice, a subculture, a form of activism, a mode of resistance, and more. Scholars such as Gabriella Coleman have made it their life’s work to study hacking. Hacking has inspired powerful works of fiction and art. But here we are: hacking in public discourse is largely distilled down into its relationship to the 2016 presidential election (perhaps aside from the large-scale Wannacry hack this month). But there is so much more to hacking, broadly and at this moment in time. Hacking is polysemic, as evidenced by what follows here this month.

What do you think of when you think of a hacker? Probably not one Liverpool billboard that was changed by hackers this week to say, “we suggest you improve your security.” Hackers, in some regard, are a helping profession. Over at The Conversation, you can read about how ethical hacking may help point out otherwise unknown system vulnerabilities. Maybe, as Motherboard suggests, young women who hack will shape the worldHacking can also by legitimized by those in power. Noted in a piece about piracy and the pirate at The American Interest, hackers can have both criminal and political motives. This isn’t new: hackers have been political for as long as there’s been hacking. But it continues to be worth asking: Are they still hackers if they are supported and deployed by the state?

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.

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Gender Bias in the Sciences: A Neuroethical Priority

By Lindsey Grubbs
Lindsey Grubbs is a doctoral candidate in English at Emory University, where she is also pursuing a certificate in bioethics. Her work has been published in Literature & Medicine and the American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience, and she has a chapter co-authored with Karen Rommelfanger forthcoming in the Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics.   
In a March 29, 2017 lecture at Emory University, Dr. Bita Moghaddam, Chair of the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University, began her talk, “Women’s Reality in Academic Science,” by asking the room of around fifty undergraduate and graduate students, “Who’s not here today?”
The answer? Men. (Mostly. To be fair, there were two.) Women in the audience offered a few hypotheses: maybe men felt like they would be judged for coming to a “women’s” event; maybe they wanted the women in their community to enjoy a female-majority space; maybe they don’t think that gender impacts their education and career.
Moghaddam seemed inclined to favor this third view: anecdotally, she has noticed a marked lack of interest from younger men when it comes to discussing gender bias in the sciences. More interested, she suggested, are older men who run laboratories or departments and watch wave after wave of talented women leave the profession, and those who have seen their partners or children impacted by sexism in science.
Dr. Moghaddam was invited to speak in Atlanta for her work against the systemic bias facing women in the sciences. She co-authored a short piece in Neuropsychopharmacology titled “Women at the Podium: ACNP Strives to Reach Speaker Gender Equality at the Annual Meeting.”

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.

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Reading into the Science: The Neuroscience and Ethics of Enhancement

By Shweta Sahu
Image courtesy of Pexels.

I was always an average student: I was good, just not good enough. I often wondered what my life and grades would be like if I’d had a better memory or learned faster. I remember several exams throughout my high school career where I just could not recall what certain rote memorization facts or specific details were, and now in college, I realize that if I could somehow learn faster, how much time would I save and be able to study even more? Would a better memory have led me to do better on my exams in high school, and would my faster ability to learn new information have increased my GPA?

Such has been the question for years now in the ongoing debates of memory enhancement and cognitive enhancement, respectively. I’m not the only student to have ever felt this way and I’m sure I won’t be the last. Technology and medicine seem to be on the brink of exciting new findings, ones that may help us in ways we’ve never before thought imaginable.
Though neuroscientists are still attempting to understand the intricacies of how memory functions, it has been known since the early 1900’s that memory works in three modes: working memory, short-term memory, and long term memory, each of which are regionalized to different parts of the brain. Working memory, which lasts from seconds to minutes, contains information that can be acted on and processed, not merely maintained by rehearsal. Short term memory on the other hand, is slightly longer in duration and occurs in the prefrontal cortex (think George Miller’s Magic number 7).

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.

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Where to publish and not to publish in bioethics – the 2017 list

Allegedly, there are over 8.000 so called predatory journals out there. Instead of supporting readers and science, these journals serve their own economic interests first and at best offer dubious merits for scholars. We believe that scholars working in any academic discipline have a professional interest and a responsibility to keep track of these journals. It is our job to warn the young or inexperienced of journals where a publication or editorship could be detrimental to their career and science is not served. We have seen “predatory” publishing take off in a big way and noticed how colleagues start to turn up in the pages of some of these journals. While many have assumed that this phenomenon mainly is a problem for low status universities, there are strong indications that predatory publishing is a part of a major trend towards the industrialization of misconduct and that it affects many top-flight research institutions (see Priyanka Pulla: “In India, elite institutes in shady journals”, Science 354(6319): 1511-1512). This trend, referred to by some as the dark side of publishing, needs to be reversed.

Gert Helgesson, Professor of Medical Ethics, Karolinska InstitutetThus we published this blog post in 2016. This is our first annual update (the previous version can be found here). At first, we relied heavily on the work of Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, who runs blacklists of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers and journals. His lists have since been removed although they live on in new form (anonymous) at the Stop predatory journals site (SPJ) and they can also be found archived.

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.

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Ethics & Society Newsfeed: May 5, 2017

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Politics

What Obama’s Former Ethics Counsel Thinks of Trump
Norm Eisen, former ethics counsel to President Obama and co-founder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) discusses the ethical issues of the Trump administration’s first 100 days.

White House aims for Thursday signing of religious liberty executive order
A win for conservatives, especially the Vice President, the new religious liberty executive order is expected to be signed Thursday.

Ethics office says it wasn’t consulted about Ivanka Trump job
Ivanka Trump was brought on as a White House adviser without consulting the Office of Government Ethics.

State Department Promotes Ivanka Trump’s Book In Another Ethics Blunder
A State Department office retweeted post promoting Ivanka Trump’s new book despite federal rule that bars the use of public office for private gain.

Bioethics and Medical Ethics

This New App Is Tinder For Sperm And Egg Donors
“The ethical and legal complexities of egg-shopping.”

Jimmy Kimmel’s powerful, poignant Obamacare plea crystallizes the GOP’s dilemma
Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel made an emotional plea to lawmakers to fund health-care spending for preexisting conditions, discussing his newborn son Billy’s heart condition on his show.

Firestorm brewing as scientists work to create synthetic human DNA
Scientists say that synthesized human DNA could be a reality in as little as 5 years, invoking ethical questions and concerns.

Informed Consent Becoming More Difficult?
“The recent decision in Ike White v. David Beeks, M.D., has threatened to turn this consent process on its head, especially if it were to be adopted in other states.”

5 things to know about infertility treatments
Treatment for infertility can be expensive and clinics are scarce, calling into question ethics 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.