Tag: kindness

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Putting a Price on Empathy

Guest Post by Sarah Carter

My paper is another to add to the ever-increasing number of articles about moral (bio)enhancement – but why is this issue so important?  To take a cynical view: if we had a pill or injection that could make people more moral, less prone to harming others, and so on, it would likely be very attractive to governments (perhaps because of real concerns that we’re headed for disaster unless such steps are taken, or simply because it would save on policing and military bills).  So it’s very important to try to get our heads around this subject while it’s still something that’s merely an idea, rather than waiting until it’s something in our medicine cabinets.  This means thinking about and discussing everything from what moral enhancement would actually involve, right through to questioning how it should be distributed, regulated, and even – as my paper addresses – promoted to the public.

Writers such as Persson and Savulescu argue that there is a need to undertake moral bioenhancement as a means to avoid mankind wandering down the path of ultimate harm, but they concede that many people (especially those we might say to be most in need of moral bioenhancement) would be unlikely to undergo it willingly.  In 2014, Vojin Rakic suggested that incentives such as tax breaks, retirement benefits, schooling allowances, and affirmative action policies, should be used as a way to encourage people to undergo moral bioenhancement.  I think that Rakic’s idea, while prima facie sensible and reasonable, simply will not work. This is not due to issues of coercion or social justice that we would normally associate with the use of incentives, but rather because likely public perceptions of moral bioenhancement mean that the use of incentives for this purpose may present a taboo trade-off.

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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Cecil the Lion: Can Health Care Professionals Ethically Be Sport Hunters

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

In James Patterson’s book (and now TV miniseries) Zoo, the animals have acquired an intelligence that removes their fear of humans. More specifically, the animals attack humans, driven by radio waves from technology. In character’s belief, the animals are banding together to take care of the greatest threat to their existence—us. With that perspective, I examine the social media uproar over a dentist killing Cecil the Lion.

The social media buzz started not because a man hunted a lion, but because he happened to shoot a beloved lion. Cecil was a 13-year-old lion who lived in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. He was a well-known tourist attraction, wore a tracking collar and was part of an Oxford University study. There are debates over whether the hunt was legal. What is legal and what is ethical are too different things. This blog is about the latter.

Cecil’s killing is buzzworthy, but he is only one of 244 lions that will be hunted this year—that’s the average number of lions hunted for trophy each year. We might not have heard of lion trophy hunting if a celebrity animal had not been shot. The other 243 did not cause a ripple in the social media universe.

Walter James Palmer is a dentist from Minnesota. He reportedly paid $50,000 to hunt a lion with a crossbow. Most hunts make about $60,000 to $120,000 with the costs of hunting license, visit, travel, and preparation of the carcass for display. Lion hunting is legal in 27-32% of the animal’s current territory and many African nations that had limits on hunting have removed them.

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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Pixelization in Crip Time: Disability, Online Sociality, and Self-Making in Russian Apartments by Cassandra Hartblay

Vakas is a Russian man in his 30s with a traumatic brain injury acquired during childhood. He spends most of his days in his room in his family apartment. Occasionally, he convinces his parents to let him go out. Or, he tricks them and slips away when his mother is at work or his father isn’t paying attention. Vakas is a poet and prose writer. In his recent memoir, he recalled one such stolen excursion:

One day I went in a taxi by myself to [the day center for adults with disabilities]. Mama was against it, as always, but remembering what happens if she tries to keep me at home, let me go anyway. I wanted to give my chapbook to L–a – she wasn’t at her desk, but it was still worth it that I went!

I talked with an acquaintance who was working there as a psychologist (and I left two copies of the chapbook there), then I went as far as the intersection with Komsomolskii, and on the way saw so many people. But the real culmination of the walk ended up being asking someone that I met to call the operator for the taxi service. I asked her to call me a taxi from the 777-777 number.
She asked if I didn’t want a different one, 56-06-06, I think it was. She said that she works there and would get me a discount (she said she would do it). She took me across the street and set me up there to wait for the taxi (and told the driver to help me), then she wished me well (In general, I have good luck).

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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Selfhood and ethics: Who am I and why does it matter?

by Keenan Davis

The following post is part of a special series emerging from Contemporary Issues in Neuroethics, a graduate-level course out of Emory University’s Center for Ethics. Keenan is a graduate student in Bioethics, whose work focuses on the use of virtue ethics and natural law to evaluate novel biotechnologies. He will be pursuing a PhD in the Graduate Division of Religion in the fall.

What should I be doing with my life? Many approach this timeless question by considering first another: Who am I? For a wide range thinkers from Plato to Dr. Phil, we can only know what to do with ourselves when we truly know ourselves. Who we are determines and constrains how we ought to behave. For example, because my parents caused me to exist, I should behave towards them with a level of gratitude and love. Perhaps through a cause-and-effect dynamic, as a result of being their son, I should treat them respectfully. We will return to this example at the conclusion of our exploration.

Historically, the question of selfhood was assessed in terms of an afterlife, seeking to resolve what happens to us when we die. If, as Plato claimed, a person is nothing more than his soul, “a thing immortal,” then he will survive physical death. Indeed, perhaps one should look forward to the separation of the soul from material constraints. How we ought to behave then is for the sake of existence after and beyond this world, a position shared by many adherents to Abrahamic religion.

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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Goya and Dr. Arrias [EOL in Art 29]

This 1820 painting shows Dr. Arrias holding a pale and weakened Goya as he administers what might be his medicine. 

The positioning and gesture of the hands of the doctor express a determination to get his patient better, and his face expresses kindness and caring.  (HT: Jeffrey Levine)

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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Remembering Alan Wertheimer

Alan P. Wertheimer, PhD, senior research scholar in the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and professor emeritus of political science at the University of Vermont (UVM), passed away on April 10, 2015.

Dr. Wertheimer was a respected leader and philosopher who made significant contributions to the field of research ethics. Much of his career, however, was spent in the field of political science. As an undergraduate student at New York University (NYU), Dr. Wertheimer took his first course in political philosophy, an experience that served as inspiration for his career. He completed his bachelor’s degree at NYU in 1964, and went on to receive his PhD from Case Western Reserve University in 1968. From there, he took a position teaching political science at UVM, where he continued to teach until 2005. He also served as visiting professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and professor of law at the University of San Diego.

Throughout his tenure at UVM, Dr. Wertheimer explored topics related to the political philosophy of law. Of particular interest were the topics of coercion, exploitation, and consent. He published numerous articles on these topics, as well as several books, including: Coercion (Princeton University Press, 1987) and Exploitation (Princeton University Press, 1996). Upon his retirement from teaching in 2005, Dr. Wertheimer was invited by Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, who served as chief of the Department of Bioethics at the NIH Clinical Center at the time, to become a visiting scholar in the department.

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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Kristján Kristjánsson on virtuous medical practice

Professor Kristján Kristjánsson is professor of Character Education and Virtue Ethics at the University of Birmingham, and Deputy Director of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. Together with five other academics he recently published a major research report on the role of the character and virtues in the medical profession in Britain. 

The paper was based on research involving four medical schools in the UK, and medical practices in roughly the same geographical areas as those schools. A survey was answered by 549 1st year undergraduates, final-year students and experienced professionals. 85 of those were subsequently interviewed. 66% of the experienced doctors were GPs.

Professor Kristjánsson recently spoke with BioEdge about the broader implications of his research.

*****

Xavier Symons: Based on your research, do you believe there is there a problem with cognitive and/or deontological approaches to teaching medical ethics? 

Kristján Kristjánsson: I did consider this a problem – for purely philosophical reasons – before we started the research project, and the findings provided empirical backbone to those concerns. They revealed a strange mismatch in the UK between general medical ethics (bioethics), where virtue ethics has become the theory of choice, and professional medical ethics which is still focused almost entirely on formal rules, regulations and codes of conduct, or highly abstract deontological principles (such as respect for patient autonomy).

"medical phronesis is not inborn – it requires attention and training, both in medical education and further in the workplace." 

The doctors – especially the more experienced ones – complained that the rules they had learned were too general, with no attention to particularities such as special circumstances and special personal characteristics of individual patients.

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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PAM: It’s more than Post-Approval Monitoring; It’s also Personality And Management "Style"

By Kathy Banks, BSc, MSc, continuing review coordinator, animal ethics, University of British Columbia 

PRIM&R is pleased to share a post from Kathy Banks, a member of the PRIM&R Blog Squad for the 2015 Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) Conference. The PRIM&R Blog Squad is composed of PRIM&R members who blog here, on Ampersand, to give our readers an inside peek of what happened during the conference in Boston, MA.

As the PAM Coordinator at the University of British Columbia (UBC), the session I was most looking forward to at the 2015 IACUC Conference was C11: Attaining a New Performance Plateau Through Post-Approval Monitoring (PAM). I was hoping to glean some insight from the presenters and make connections with PAM personnel from other institutions. I was eager to learn of everyone’s successes and failures, how they set up their programs, how they handle non-compliance issues, how their reporting structure works, and more. Frankly, I wanted to pick everyone’s brains (networking at its finest!) and use their good ideas to make the UBC program better.

I was not disappointed, to say the least.

The three presenters, Christina Nascimento, CPIA, MS, Sandra L. Wilkins, LVT, RLATG, CPIA, and Jon D. Reuter, DVM, MPVM, DACLAM, were fantastic. They brought their unique perspectives on all things PAM at their institutions (which ranged from large to small, public to private), openly sharing their ideas with us. I have to extend my thanks for all of their insight during their presentations and during the question/answer period. Many of the issues they faced setting up their programs (such as principal investigator (PI) buy-in, communication tips, strategies for resistance to the PAM process, etc.),

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 Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: The Economics of Morality, By Dillon Bowen

This essay, by Oxford undergraduate student Dillon Bowen, is one of the two finalists in the undergraduate category of the inaugural Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics. Dillon will be presenting this paper, along with three other finalists, on the 12th March at the final.

 

The Economics of Morality: By Dillon Bowen

 

The Problem

People perform acts of altruism every day.  When I talk about ‘altruism’, I’m not talking about acts of kindness towards family, friends, or community members.  The sort of altruism I’m interested in involves some personal sacrifice for the sake of people you will probably never meet or know.  This could be anything from holding the door for a stranger to donating a substantial portion of your personal wealth to charity.  The problem is that, while altruism is aimed at increasing the well-being of others, it is not aimed at maximizing the well-being of others.  This lack of direction turns us into ineffective altruists, whose generosity is at the whim of our moral biases, and whose kindness ends up giving less help to fewer people.  I propose that we need to learn to think of altruism economically – as an investment in human well-being.  Adopting this mentality will turn us into effective altruists, whose kindness does not merely increase human happiness, but increases human happiness as much as possible.

 

For the first section, I explain one morally unimportant factor which profoundly influences our altruistic behavior, both in the lab and in the real world.  In the next section, I look at decision-making processes related to economics. 

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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Treated like Animals, Guest Post by Christine Korsgaard

Guest Post: Christine Korsgaard, Harvard University

On November 5, 2014, RT reported that Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia claimed that they were being “treated like animals.” On November 14, The Independent reported that the members of Pussy Riot complained that while in prison in Russia they were “treated like animals.” On November 17, the BBC reported that Nepalese migrant workers building the infrastructure for the World Cup meeting in Qatar complained of being “treated like cattle.” On November 25, The Indian Express reported that Indian tennis star Sania Merza complained that women in India are “treated like animals.”

What does it mean to be “treated like an animal”? The Filipino workers gave as an example that their “feet were chained.” Members of Pussy Riot complained that in Russian prisons, the wardens “very casually beat people up. They don’t have a sense that they [inmates] are human.” Earlier they claimed that prison administrations “just treat prisoners as they want with impunity.” By being “treated like cattle” the Nepalese migrant workers meant “working up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, including during Qatar’s hot summer months.” On December 24, Time reported that the Nepalese migrant workers are dying at the rate of one every two days. Sania Merza said that women in India face discrimination and violence. She also said, “I hope one day everyone will say that we are equal and women are not treated as objects.”

Merza’s last remark raises a question. As these examples suggest, people whose rights are violated, people whose interests are ignored or overridden, people who are abused, harmed, neglected, and unjustly imprisoned, standardly protest that they are being treated “like animals.”

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.