Tag: journalism

Bioethics News

American CRISPR Experiments and the Future of Regulation

By Michael S. Dauber, MA, GBI Visiting Scholar

According to a report in The MIT Technology Review, researchers in a lab based in Portland, Oregon have successfully created genetically modified human embryos for the first time in U.S. history, using a technique called CRISPR. The project, directed by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a researcher at Oregon Health and Science University, was published in Nature, and consisted of modifying the genes of human embryos to prevent a severe, genetically inherited heart condition. The embryos were destroyed several days after the experiments.

CRISPR stands for “clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeats.” It is a genetic editing technique that allows scientists to cut out pieces of DNA and replace them with other pieces. CRISPR originated as a naturally occurring cellular defense system in certain bacterial that allows a cell to defend itself from foreign genetic material injected into cells by viruses. RNA strands that match the problematic genes bind with the piece of DNA to be removed, and enzymes work to remove the defective material. When CRISPR is used to edit the human genome, scientists apply CRISPR RNA strands and the corresponding enzymes that match the genes they wish to edit in order to extract the problematic genes.

Mitalipov is not the first scientist to use CRISPR to edit the human genome. Scientists in China have been using the technique in research using human embryos dating back to 2015. One notable study consisted of attempts to make cells resistant to HIV. Another controversial study involved the injection of CRISPR-modified cells into a patient with advanced lung cancer.

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

Trump is Gross: Taking Political Taste (and Distaste) Seriously

by Shelley Park 

ABSTRACT. This paper advances the somewhat unphilosophical thesis that “Trump is gross” to draw attention to the need to take matters of taste seriously in politics. I begin by exploring the slipperiness of distinctions between aesthetics, epistemology, and ethics, subsequently suggesting that we may need to pivot toward the aesthetic to understand and respond to the historical moment we inhabit. More specifically, I suggest that, in order to understand how Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and in order to stem the damage that preceded this and will ensue from it, we need to understand the power of political taste (and distaste, including disgust) as both a force of resistance and as a force of normalization.

My 5-year-old granddaughter refers to foods, clothes, and people she does not like as “supergross.” It is a verbiage that I have found myself adopting for talking about many things Trumpian, including the man himself. The gaudy, gold-plated everything in Trump Towers; his ill-fitting suits; his poorly executed fake tan and comb-over; his red baseball cap emblazoned with “Make America Great Again;” his creepy way of talking about women (including his own daughters); his racist vitriol about Blacks, Muslims and Mexicans; his blatant over-the-top narcissism; his uncontrolled tantrums; his ridiculous tweets; his outlandish claims; his awkward hand gestures and handshakes; the disquieting ease with which he is seduced by flattery; his embarrassing disregard for facts; his tortured use of language; his rudeness toward other world leaders; the obsequious manner in which other Republicans are treating the man they despised mere months ago; the servility of many Democrats in the face of a military–industrial coup.

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 Specter of Authoritarianism

by Andrew J. Pierce

ABSTRACT. In this essay, I provide an analysis of the much-discussed authoritarian aspects of Donald Trump’s campaign and early administration. Drawing from both philosophical analyses of authoritarianism and recent work in social science, I focus on three elements of authoritarianism in particular: the authoritarian predispositions of Trump supporters, the scapegoating of racial minorities as a means of redirecting economic anxiety, and the administration’s strategic use of misinformation. While I offer no ultimate prediction as to whether a Trump administration will collapse into authoritarianism, I do identify key developments that would represent moves in that direction.

The unorthodox campaign and unexpected election of Donald Trump has ignited intense speculation about the possibility of an authoritarian turn in American politics. In some ways, this is not surprising. The divisive political climate in the United States is fertile soil for the demonization of political opponents. George W. Bush was regularly characterized as an authoritarian by his left opposition, as was Barack Obama by his own detractors. Yet in Trump’s case, echoes of earlier forms of authoritarianism, from his xenophobic brand of nationalism and reliance on a near mythological revisionist history, to his vilification of the press and seemingly strategic use of falsehoods, appear too numerous to ignore. In this essay, I attempt to provide a sober evaluation of the authoritarian prospects of a Trump administration. As presidential agendas inevitably differ from campaign platforms, much of this analysis will be unavoidably speculative. However, the nature of Trump’s carefully studied campaign, the early actions of his administration, and the wealth of philosophical reflections on earlier forms of authoritarianism provide ample resources to inform such speculation.

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

Psychedelic Medicine – New Frontiers in Palliative Care

Exciting new research is revealing that psychedelic drugs, such as psilocybin and MDMA, may offer significant benefit for patients struggling at the end of life and those beset by major depressions and treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress. 


A conference at the University of Washington School of Law, on October 27, 2017, brings together doctors, scientific researchers, attorneys and ethicists to consider the medical, legal and ethical implications of this evolving research.


Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dan Abrahamson, Senior Legal Advisor, Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of Legal Affairs, Oakland, CA
  • Ira Byock, M.D., Founder and Chief Medical Officer, Providence Institute for Human Caring, Torrance, CA
  • Rick Doblin, Founder and Executive Director of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Boston, MA
  • Representative Roger Goodman, Washington State Legislature, Kirkland, WA
  • Sam Kamin, marijuana law reform expert and Slate series author of “Altered States: Inside Colorado’s Marijuana Economy,” Professor of Law, University of Denver, Denver, CO
  • Patricia Kuszler, Charles I. Stone Professor of Law, University of Washington School of Law, Seattle, WA
  • Don Lattin, award-winning author and journalist, author of Changing our Minds—Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy, adjunct faculty, Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley, CA
  • Lynn Mehler, partner, Hogan Lovells, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology practice, Washington, DC
  • Leanna Standish, Ph.D., School of Naturopathic Medicine, Bastyr University, Seattle, WA
  • Kathryn Tucker, Executive Director, End of Life Liberty Project

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

Internal investigation of research misconduct often fails

What characterizes a research scandal? In a short article in Hastings Center Report, Carl Elliott uses as an example the case of Paolo Macchiarini at the Swedish Karolinska Institutet.

Macchiarini’s deadly experiments with stem cell-covered artificial trachea, transplanted to patients who did not have life-threatening diseases, have unique features linked to the personality and charisma of the researcher. However, the scandal resembles other scandals on one point, Elliott says. Whistle-blowers who use internal channels at the home university to handle research misconduct often fail. Justice is not done until the press reveals the scandal. In this case, a Swedish documentary film, The Experiments, exposed the scandal.

If Elliott is right, I personally draw two conclusions. The first is that investigative journalism is important. It reveals misconduct that would otherwise not be exposed. My second conclusion is that we cannot be satisfied with this.

Angry customers who want to force the shop assistant to correct what they think went wrong can threaten: “If you don’t fix this, I’ll contact the local newspaper.” A responsible person who suspects research misconduct should not have to act in a way that others can interpret as partial exercise of power. It poisons the situation and increases the risk for the whistle-blower.

If internal channels often fail to handle research misconduct, as Elliott claims, a system of external management is required. Therefore, it is good that a Swedish public inquiry recently suggested that an independent agency should investigate suspected research misconduct.

Contacting the media should not have to be “the way” of effectively exposing research misconduct; it is a way out if the standard way fails.

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

Interview with Arthur Caplan

by Kaitlynd Hiller and Rachel F. Bloom

It is a difficult task to succinctly describe the professional accomplishments of Arthur Caplan, PhD. For the uninitiated, Dr. Caplan is perhaps the most prominent voice in the conversation between bioethicists and the general public, as well as being a prolific writer and academic. He is currently the Drs. William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty Professor of Bioethics at NYU Langone Medical Center and NYU School of Medicine, having founded the Division of Bioethics there in 2012. Additionally, he co-founded the NYU Sports and Society Program, where he currently serves as Dean, and heads the ethics program for NYU’s Global Institute for Public Health. Prior to joining NYU, he created the Center for Bioethics and Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, serving as the Sidney D. Caplan Professor of Bioethics. Dr. Caplan is a Hastings Center fellow, also holding fellowships at The New York Academy of Medicine, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American College of Legal Medicine. He received the lifetime achievement award of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities in 2016.

Dr. Caplan’s experience is not at all limited to the academic realm: he has served on numerous advisory counsels at the national and international level, and is an ethics advisor for organizations tackling issues from synthetic biology to world health to compassionate care. Dr. Caplan has been awarded the McGovern Medal of the American Medical Writers Association, the Franklin Award from the City of Philadelphia, the Patricia Price Browne Prize in Biomedical Ethics, the Public Service Award from the National Science Foundation, and the Rare Impact Award from the National Organization for Rare Disorders; he also holds seven honorary degrees.

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

Projection NOT Promotion: Why the Violence of Sports is Ethical in Society

Image via

STUDENT VOICES

By Maria Trivelpiece

It is quite difficult to get through a day without hearing or seeing some mention of sports or athletics in our world. They practically dominate society. Professional athletes are some of the highest paid people on the planet. They are the epitome of what children aspire to be, fans fawn over and television networks profit from. Yet, in the midst of all the glory of these games, the evident violence that accompanies them seems to be conveniently overlooked. But is it okay to simply ignore that the most watched event on television is a game of grown men tackling each other, beating each other and then celebrating the fact that they physically harmed another human being? Is it ethical to teach our children that the most exciting moment in ice hockey is when the defensemen drop their gloves and fist fight? I am here to say that it is. The violence of sports, in technicality, is ethical because sports are not promoting violence, but rather mimicking and projecting the society that we live in.

We want to rationalize and determine if an action is ethical. Just recently we have seen Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem and cannot imagine why anyone would even condemn him for expressing his freedom of speech. But then, we see the war veteran without legs who so bravely defended our country and does not have the privilege to stand for the flag he fought for and our ‘ethical’ minds question, what is right and what is wrong?

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

Projection NOT Promotion: Why the Violence of Sports is Ethical in Society

Image via

STUDENT VOICES

By Maria Trivelpiece

It is quite difficult to get through a day without hearing or seeing some mention of sports or athletics in our world. They practically dominate society. Professional athletes are some of the highest paid people on the planet. They are the epitome of what children aspire to be, fans fawn over and television networks profit from. Yet, in the midst of all the glory of these games, the evident violence that accompanies them seems to be conveniently overlooked. But is it okay to simply ignore that the most watched event on television is a game of grown men tackling each other, beating each other and then celebrating the fact that they physically harmed another human being? Is it ethical to teach our children that the most exciting moment in ice hockey is when the defensemen drop their gloves and fist fight? I am here to say that it is. The violence of sports, in technicality, is ethical because sports are not promoting violence, but rather mimicking and projecting the society that we live in.

We want to rationalize and determine if an action is ethical. Just recently we have seen Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem and cannot imagine why anyone would even condemn him for expressing his freedom of speech. But then, we see the war veteran without legs who so bravely defended our country and does not have the privilege to stand for the flag he fought for and our ‘ethical’ minds question, what is right and what is wrong?

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

Research Ethics Roundup: New Informed Consent Models, Animal Behavior and Neuroscience, FDA’s Safety Record, New Science Journalism Infographic

This week’s Research Ethics Roundup covers experts’ views on the future of informed consent, why neuroscientists are not studying animals’ natural behavior, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s defenders highlight its success record, and Nature reacts to a science journalism infographic.

The post Research Ethics Roundup: New Informed Consent Models, Animal Behavior and Neuroscience, FDA’s Safety Record, New Science Journalism Infographic appeared first on Ampersand.

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

Web Roundup: If it Ledes, it Bleeds by Emily Goldsher-Diamond

This contemporary moment begs the question: what is a fact? And how do facts circulate? These questions are historical cornerstones in the study of the production of knowledge, and scaffold work in disciplines from philosophy to anthropology; however, in a post-truth climate asking after the genesis and dissemination of facts takes on a new and curious significance. The production and transmission of facts also engages new questions: where and how do people discover facts? What is the relationship between a fact and its reader? What is a fact’s effect?

The following will briefly think on the complexities of the fact as it has been thrown about in the past month, with special attention to the media (as a vector for transmission, a group of people and an object of study) that specializes in the production and dissemination of certain kinds of facts. These are stories about stories, about knowledge and power, and about the particular leakiness of information–if it ledes (a word for the opening text of an article) it is safe to say that it will likely bleed far from its initial and intended context. It is worth reflecting on what happens when a fact–a category already up for grabs–bleeds?

Harvard recently hosted an event entitled, “The Future of News: Journalism in a Post-Truth Era.” Earlier this month, the Harvard Gazette posted a comprehensive report on the meeting that convened reporters and thinkers from major outlets to weigh in on truth, facts and the media. The talks on “post-factualism” bridge the erosion of public trust in the media, what it means to be a reliable source, the notion of coastal elites and thinking carefully about language.

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.