Tag: motivation

Bioethics Blogs

Does Female Genital Mutilation Have Health Benefits? The Problem with Medicalizing Morality

By Brian D. Earp (@briandavidearp)

Please note: this piece was originally published in Quillette Magazine.

 

Four members of the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Islam living in Detroit, Michigan have recently been indicted on charges of female genital mutilation (FGM). This is the first time the US government has prosecuted an “FGM” case since a federal law was passed in 1996. The world is watching to see how the case turns out.

A lot is at stake here. Multiculturalism, religious freedom, the limits of tolerance; the scope of children’s—and minority group—rights; the credibility of scientific research; even the very concept of “harm.”

To see how these pieces fit together, I need to describe the alleged crime.

* * *

The term “FGM” is likely to bring to mind the most severe forms of female genital cutting, such as clitoridectomy or infibulation (partial sewing up of the vaginal opening). But the World Health Organization (WHO) actually recognizes four main categories of FGM, covering dozens of different procedures.

One of the more “minor” forms is called a “ritual nick.” This practice, which I have argued elsewhere should not be performed on children, involves pricking the foreskin or “hood” of the clitoris to release a drop of blood.

Healthy tissue is not typically removed by this procedure, which is often done by trained clinicians in the communities where it is common. Long-term adverse health consequences are believed to be rare.

Here is why this matters. Initial, albeit conflicting reports suggest that the Dawoodi Bohra engage in this, or a similar, more limited form of female genital cutting – not the more extreme forms that are often highlighted in the Western media.

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

Does Female Genital Mutilation Have Health Benefits? The Problem with Medicalizing Morality

Does Female Genital Mutilation Have Health Benefits? The Problem with Medicalizing Morality

By Brian D. Earp (@briandavidearp)

Please note: this piece was originally published in Quillette Magazine.

 

Four members of the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Islam living in Detroit, Michigan have recently been indicted on charges of female genital mutilation (FGM). This is the first time the US government has prosecuted an “FGM” case since a federal law was passed in 1996. The world is watching to see how the case turns out.

A lot is at stake here. Multiculturalism, religious freedom, the limits of tolerance; the scope of children’s—and minority group—rights; the credibility of scientific research; even the very concept of “harm.”

To see how these pieces fit together, I need to describe the alleged crime.

* * *

The term “FGM” is likely to bring to mind the most severe forms of female genital cutting, such as clitoridectomy or infibulation (partial sewing up of the vaginal opening). But the World Health Organization (WHO) actually recognizes four main categories of FGM, covering dozens of different procedures.

One of the more “minor” forms is called a “ritual nick.” This practice, which I have argued elsewhere should not be performed on children, involves pricking the foreskin or “hood” of the clitoris to release a drop of blood.

Healthy tissue is not typically removed by this procedure, which is often done by trained clinicians in the communities where it is common. Long-term adverse health consequences are believed to be rare.

Here is why this matters. Initial, albeit conflicting reports suggest that the Dawoodi Bohra engage in this, or a similar, more limited form of female genital cutting – not the more extreme forms that are often highlighted in the Western media.

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

When Women are Surrogate Mothers: Is that work?

Alana Cattapan, Angela Cameron, and Vanessa Gruben warn that speaking about “compensation” is a way of avoiding difficult conversations about payment to surrogates.

__________________________________________

A recent Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) news article reported that the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS) has called for the federal government to reconsider the ban on payment for surrogacy in Canada. The article suggests that industry professionals and academics alike are coming around on compensation for surrogacy, with support growing all the time.

In Canada, payment for surrogacy, egg donation, and sperm donation is banned under the 2004 Assisted Human Reproduction Act. Under the Act, surrogates (like egg donors and sperm donors) can be reimbursed for receipted expenses. With a note from their doctor, surrogates can also receive some money for lost work-related income during pregnancy.

The Act states that this reimbursement of expenses must follow the relevant regulations. Until now, however, these regulations have never been drafted. After more than a decade, Health Canada is now in the throes of making them. This is occurring as surrogacy in Canada is expanding to accommodate more and more people from countries where surrogacy is more expensive, harder to access or banned completely.

Women Working in a Field by Winslow Homer 1867.

It is in this context that the CFAS (which is a part-medical association, part-industry organization representing the fertility industry and its doctors, lawyers, scientists and ethicists) has called for the government to reconsider the ban on payment.

 It is important to know that the market in surrogacy in Canada is a profitable one.

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

Authorship and Pets

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors is an
influential group that, as expected, takes publication and authorship very
seriously.  They have issued the most
generally accepted definition of the criteria for authorship of scientific
publications. They list these criteria very clearly and unambiguously on their website.
These criteria are:

“The ICMJE
recommends that authorship be based on the following 4 criteria:

  •            Substantial
    contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition,
    analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND

  •          Drafting the
    work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  •           Final
    approval of the version to be published; AND
  •          Agreement to
    be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related
    to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately
    investigated and resolved. “
  • They go on to say “All those designated as authors
    should meet all four criteria for authorship, and all who meet the four
    criteria should be identified as authors.” There does not seem to leave much
    doubt as to their meaning. The practise of guest authorship, including authors
    with non-substantive contributions by virtue of their position was once common
    but is now considered inappropriate. However, no simple set of guidelines can
    address all possible circumstances. Which raises the point I am addressing in
    this blog: What about pets?

    An important paper
    on atomic behaviour published in Physical Reviews by Jack Hetherington and
    F.D.C.

    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

    Authorship and Pets

    The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors is an
    influential group that, as expected, takes publication and authorship very
    seriously.  They have issued the most
    generally accepted definition of the criteria for authorship of scientific
    publications. They list these criteria very clearly and unambiguously on their website.
    These criteria are:

    “The ICMJE
    recommends that authorship be based on the following 4 criteria:

      Substantial
    contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition,
    analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND

      Drafting the
    work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AN

      Final
    approval of the version to be published; AND

      Agreement to
    be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related
    to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. “

    They go on to say “All those designated as authors
    should meet all four criteria for authorship, and all who meet the four
    criteria should be identified as authors.” There does not seem to leave much
    doubt as to their meaning. The practise of guest authorship, including authors
    with non-substantive contributions by virtue of their position was once common
    but is now considered inappropriate. However, no simple set of guidelines can
    address all possible circumstances. Which raises the point I am addressing in
    this blog: What about pets?

    An important paper
    on atomic behaviour published in Physical Reviews by Jack Hetherington and
    F.D.C. Willard is the object of this question.

    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

    Fake News and Partisan Epistemology

    by Regina Rini

    ABSTRACT. This paper does four things: (1) It provides an analysis of the concept ‘fake news.’ (2) It identifies distinctive epistemic features of social media testimony. (3) It argues that partisanship-in-testimony-reception is not always epistemically vicious; in fact some forms of partisanship are consistent with individual epistemic virtue. (4) It argues that a solution to the problem of fake news will require changes to institutions, such as social media platforms, not just to individual epistemic practices.

    Did you know that Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS? Or that Mike Pence called Michelle Obama “the most vulgar First Lady we’ve ever had”? No, you didn’t know these things. You couldn’t know them, because these claims are false.[1] But many American voters believed them.

    One of the most distinctive features of the 2016 campaign was the rise of “fake news,” factually false claims circulated on social media, usually via channels of partisan camaraderie. Media analysts and social scientists are still debating what role fake news played in Trump’s victory.[2] But whether or not it drove the outcome, fake news certainly affected the choices of some individual voters.

    Why were people willing to believe easily dis-confirmable, often ridiculous, stories? In this paper I will suggest the following answer: people believe fake news because they acquire it through social media sharing, which is a peculiar sort of testimony. Social media sharing has features that reduce audience willingness to think critically or check facts. This effect is amplified when the testifier and audience share a partisan orientation.

    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

    Reflections on the Federal Budget & LGBT Families

    Sophia Fantus argues that the expansion of a tax credit to LGBT individuals who use assisted reproduction helps to legitimize and include the perspectives, needs, and experiences of LGBT families.

    __________________________________________

    Assisted reproduction is associated with high out-of-pocket expenditures as services often cost tens of thousands of dollars. For the past ten years in Canada, heterosexual couples diagnosed with medical infertility have been able to claim the cost of assisted reproduction as part of their medical expense tax credit. Recently, the Canadian Government approved a new federal budget that allows LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and single persons to also receive a tax credit for assisted reproduction. That tax credit is retroactive for up to ten years.

    The World Health Organization defines infertility as a disease in which there is a failure to achieve a pregnancy after at least 12 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Accordingly, assisted reproduction has been conceptualized as a biomedical intervention to resolve a diagnosed medical condition. The new retroactive tax credit signifies the adoption of broader definitions of infertility that include LGBT experiences.

    The Rainbow by Robert Delaunay, 1913

    The use of assisted reproduction by LGBT families separates heterosexuality and heterosexual sex from procreation, and yields novel routes to parenthood for LGBT individuals. In contrast to the typical heterosexual experience, the use of assisted reproduction by LGBT individuals is often the primary (and desired) choice for pursuing parenthood. By including the experiences of LGBT families in the federal budget, the Government is indirectly supporting a broader understanding of infertility from a medical model to a social and structural model that recognizes  single women and men, as well as LGBT couples, who require a third-party to procreate.

    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

    Have I Been Cheating? Reflections of an Equestrian Academic

    By Kelsey Drewry
    Kelsey Drewry is a student in the Master of Arts in Bioethics program at the Emory University Center for Ethics where she works as a graduate assistant for the Healthcare Ethics Consortium. Her current research focuses on computational linguistic analysis of health narrative data, and the use of illness narrative for informing clinical practice of supportive care for patients with neurodegenerative disorders.

    After reading a recent study in Frontiers in Public Health (Ohtani et al. 2017) I realized I might have unwittingly been taking part in cognitive enhancement throughout the vast majority of my life. I have been a dedicated equestrian for over twenty years, riding recreationally and professionally in several disciplines. A fairly conservative estimate suggests I’ve spent over 5000 hours in the saddle. However, new evidence from a multi-university study in Japan suggests that horseback riding improves certain cognitive abilities in children. Thus, it seems my primary hobby and passion may have unfairly advantaged me in my academic career. Troubled by the implication that I may have unknowingly spent much of my time violating the moral tenets upon which my intellectual work rests, I was compelled to investigate the issue.



    The study in question, “Horseback Riding Improves the Ability to Cause the Appropriate Action (Go Reaction) and the Appropriate Self-control (No-Go Reaction) in Children,” (Ohtani et al. 2017) suggests that the vibrations associated with horses’ movement activate the sympathetic nervous system, leading to improved cognitive ability in children. Specifically, children 10 to 12 years old completed either simple arithmetic or behavioral (go/no-go) tests before and after two 10 minute sessions of horseback riding, walking, or resting.

    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

    Are Incentives Corrupting? The Case of Paying People to be Healthy.

    Written by Dr Rebecca Brown

    Financial incentives are commonplace in everyday life. As tools of states, corporations and individuals, they enable the ‘tweaking’ of motivations in ways more desirable to the incentiviser. A parent may pay her child £1 to practice the piano for an hour; a café offers a free coffee for every nine the customer buys; governments offer tax breaks for homeowners who make their houses more energy efficient. Most people, most of the time, would probably find the use of financial incentives unobjectionable.

    More recently, incentives have been proposed as a means of promoting health. The thinking goes: many diseases people currently suffer from, and are likely to suffer from in the future, are largely the result of behavioural factors (i.e. ‘lifestyles’). Certain behaviours, such as eating energy dense diets, taking little exercise, smoking and drinking large amounts of alcohol, increase the risk that someone will suffer from diseases like cancer, heart disease, lung disease and type II diabetes. These diseases are very unpleasant – sometimes fatal – for those who suffer from them, their friends and family. They also create economic harms, requiring healthcare resources to be directed towards caring for those who are sick and result in reduced productivity through lost working hours. For instance,the annual cost to the economy of obesity-related disease is variously estimated as £2.47 billion£5.1 billion and a whopping $73 billion (around £56.5 billion), depending on what factors are taken into account and how these are calculated. Since incentives are generally seen as useful tools for influencing people’s behaviour, why not use them to change health-related behaviours?

    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.