Tag: philosophy

Bioethics Blogs

Ethics of the Trump Budget: The Social Contract is Dead

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

President Trump released his blueprint for a 2018 federal budget. From an ethical standpoint, the President seems to operates from a Hobbesian standpoint—life is nasty, brutish and short. However, unlike Hobbes who believed that we came together to protect ourselves from this reality, the new budget seems to encourage this idea. The new budget makes deep cuts to all social and scientific programs while boosting the military. In Hobbesian terms, Trumps’ social contract is all about bullying outsiders while leaving insiders in a state of hopeless diffidence.

Since World War II, the United States has invested heavily in science and technology, developing transportation, and building a better world (and winning wars). Since the 1960s, the US has provided a safety net for the poor, support for the arts, and public broadcasting. Since 1970, the U.S. has worked to ensure that people have the opportunity for flourishing by protecting the environment, providing financial aid for college, and strengthening our relationships with international partners—peace through diplomacy.

The 2018 budget undoes 80 years of social progress and support. The new budget defunds the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and most development agencies. Also eliminated are environmental management, research and education; after school programs, clean energy, chemical safety, community services and development, national service programs, clean air, home investment programs, energy assistance programs for low income adults, minority business development, science education, support for the homeless, and peace.

In addition, the budget significantly reduces funding for science (medicine, basic research, NASA, climate science), health care, the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department, Departments of Labor, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Housing & Urban Development, Transportation and Interior.

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

7th Annual Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference

The Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Workgroup and the WMU Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine Program in Medical Ethics, Humanities & Law is proud to announce the 7th Annual Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference


September 14-15, 2017

Kalamazoo, Michigan


Overview:  Proponents of medical humanities contend that the humanistic dimensions of medicine and health are a critical component of those disciplines; not only do these dimensions help us to understand the very nature of medicine and health, their apprehension allows caregivers to relate to their patients, to treat those patients with respect and dignity, and to provide more holistic and empathetic care. 



The 7th Annual Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference is committed to the creative, dynamic, interdisciplinary explorations of the range of themes within the broad theme of medical humanities. This highly interdisciplinary conference draws participants from a wide range of backgrounds, including those from academic, creative, and medical communities.



Keynotes: This year’s conference Keynote speakers will be Dr. Jay Baruch and Professor Katie Watson.



AbstractsAbstracts will be considered in the following categories:

  • Oral Presentations: 20 minute presentations by one or two authors
  • Panel discussions: 60 minute presentations by a panel of speakers (generally 3-5). Panel discussions are expected to be interdisciplinary and explore a single topic from multiple perspectives.
  • Workshops: 60-90 minute presentations with a focus on audience interaction and the creation of some artwork. Previous successful workshops have included mentored drawing, poetry writing, performance dance, etc.
  • Posters/Visual Arts: Displays of visual arts, and performances (including dance, musical, theatre, etc.) are welcome.

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

What is Feminist Neuroethics About?

By Ben Wills

Ben Wills studied Cognitive Science at Vassar College, where his thesis examined cognitive neuroscience research on the self. He is currently a legal assistant at a Portland, Oregon law firm, where he continues to hone his interests at the intersections of brain, law, and society.
As the boundaries of what may be considered “neuroethics” extend with the development of new kinds of technologies and the evolving interests of scholars, its branches encounter substantial structures of adjacent scholarship. “Feminist neuroethics” is a multidimensional construct and a name that can be afforded both to approaches that fall within the bounds of mainstream neuroethics and metatheoretical challenges to the scope and lines of debate within neuroethics. While acknowledging that scholarship at the intersections of academic feminism/gender studies, feminist science studies, ethics, and neuroscience is much more substantial and diverse than I’m considering here, my modest aim in this post is to highlight how the label “feminist neuroethics” has been used to look at what scholars consider important for neuroethics. In so doing we can see what scholars in these fields see as worth highlighting when identifying their work as such.

The phrase “feminist neuroethics” is young, first used (to my knowledge) in peer-reviewed literature by philosopher Peggy DesAutels in her 2010 article on “Sex differences and neuroethics,” published in Philosophical Psychology (though see Chalfin, Murphy, & Karkazis, 2008 for a close antecedent). She writes that, having found herself considering the ethics of neuroscience, the neuroscience of ethics, and sex/gender differences, her “overlapping approach could neatly be summarized as feminist neuroethics” (p.

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 News

Is It Morally Acceptable to Have Children?

Given the uncertainty of outcomes of our potential children, and given the many problems humanity faces due to overpopulation, is it morally acceptable to have children? Travis Rieder and I discuss that question and many related ones in a fascinating philosophy edition of SIO!

Source: Bioethics Bulletin by the Berman Institute of Bioethics.

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 Ethics of the New GOP Health Plan – Violating Justice & Solidarity

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Whatever one may think of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it began with noble intentions. The ACA was built on a philosophy of providing more people not only with access to health insurance but also with assistance to pay for it. The goal was not to derive a right to health care for all Americans, but rather to provide a level playing field for all people to purchase health insurance. Toward that aim, the ACA made some tough calls—requiring insurance for everyone so that the payments of the young and healthy would subsidize the needs of the ill whose ranks in the insurance pools were likely to grow.…

Source: bioethics.net, a blog maintained by the editorial staff of The American Journal of Bioethics.

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

Neuroeconomics and Reinforcement Learning: The Concept of Value in the Neuroscience of Morals

By Julia Haas
Julia Haas is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Rhodes College. Her research focuses on theories of valuation and choice.
Imagine a shopper named Barbara in the pasta aisle of her local market.  Just as she reaches for her favorite brand of pasta, she remembers that one of the company’s senior executives made a homophobic statement. What should she do? She likes the brand’s affordability and flavor but prefers to buy from companies that support LGBTQ communities. Barbara then notices that a typically more expensive brand of pasta is on sale and buys a package of that instead. Notably, she doesn’t decide what brand of pasta she will buy in the future.

Barbara’s deliberation reflects a common form of human choice. It also raises a number of questions for moral psychological theories of normative cognition. How do human beings make choices involving normative dimensions? Why do normative principles affect individuals differently at different times? And where does the feeling that so often accompanies normative choices, namely that something is just right or just wrong, come from? In this post, I canvass two novel neuroethical approaches to these questions, and highlight their competing notions of value. I argue that one the most pressing questions theoretical neuroethicists will face in the coming decade concerns how to reconcile the reinforcement learning-based and neuroeconomics-based conceptions of value.
One popular approach to the problem of normative cognition has come from a growing interest in morally-oriented computational neuroscience. In particular, philosophers and cognitive neuroscientists have turned to an area of research known as reinforcement learning (RL), which studies how agents learn through interactions with their environments, to try and understand how moral agents interact in social situations and learn to respond to them accordingly.

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

Gene Therapy: A Threat to the Deaf Community?

Teresa Blankmeyer Burke considers the problematic nature of gene therapy research aimed at eliminating hereditary deafness.

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Typically, gene therapy involves combining a therapeutic gene with a vehicle known as a viral vector. This vector is used to deliver the therapeutic gene into a target cell by a process known as transduction. In the case of the inner ear, there is a low transduction efficiency in sensory cells using such viral vectors, including the vector known as AAV1. As a result, there has been variable and inefficient uptake of therapeutic genes.

A recent study in mice, however, published in the journal Molecular Therapy, describes a new method for delivering genes to the sensory hair cells of the inner ear as a potential treatment for deafness. This research describes a new type of viral vector, exo-AAV1, which is more efficient than AAV1 and which may be an effective viral vector for delivering therapeutic genes to treat hereditary deafness by gene therapy.

The use of exosome-associated viruses raises important questions about risks (and unwanted side-effects). There is, for example, the risk of transferring genes that might facilitate the spread of disease through the delivery of genetic material and/or pathogenic proteins. These risks, while important, are not as pressing, however, as the larger issue of whether researchers should conduct research that threatens to eradicate a community.

Members of the signing Deaf community argue that research which aims to eliminate or cure deafness is a form of cultural genocide. The argument goes like this: the use of gene therapy to cure hereditary deafness would result in smaller numbers of deaf children.

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

Home Birth, Hospital Birth, and the Myth of the Good Mother – Reflections from a Bad Mother

Written by Leslie McNolty

In the eyes of many, I started out in motherhood as a bad mother. I decided to birth my first child in a free-standing birth center with a midwife instead of at a hospital with a “Level 3 NICU” (as I’ve often seen advertised to pregnant women).

Things only got worse from there.

I chose to birth my next two children at home. My daughters were born in our dining room in the presence of their siblings, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

I did a lot of research about place of birth before choosing to have my babies outside of a hospital. Ultimately, I decided that I was more likely to emerge from the transformative experience of birth physically and emotionally intact if I avoided modern obstetrics practice.

But I think it’s fair to say that the popular consensus is that my choices were irresponsible at best and selfish at worst.  Irresponsible because the place of birth study that has gotten the most popular press attention is the Wax Study which purports to demonstrate a statistically significant increased risk of neonatal death in home births. And selfish because the dominant cultural narrative around motherhood is one of sacrifice. Mothers are expected to sacrifice their own interests for their children. In choosing home birth, in part to protect my own health and in pursuit of the birth experience I wanted, I flouted this sacrificial requirement of mothers.

My lecture on March 8th will explore some of the pressing ethical question that arise when women exercise autonomy in ways that resist the professional medicalization of pregnancy and birth and defy traditional gender stereotypes about maternal sacrifice:

What makes a good mother?

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

Dangerous Love and Anti-Love Drugs: Neuroethics & Public Health Problems

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.
The half-priced heart-shaped boxes of chocolates lining grocery store shelves serve as an undeniable marker of the recent holiday. Replete with conceptions of idyllic romance, Valentine’s Day provides an opportunity to celebrate partnership, commitment, and love. However, for those experiencing heartbreak or unrequited love, Cupid may be a harbinger of suffering rather than giddy affection.

The transition from love to pain is an incredibly common experience, and one that is formative for many. The extent of character building in heartbreak and other negative affection experiences is bounded, though, by certain types of “dangerous love”. According to Brian Earp and colleagues, this classification might include domestic abuse, pedophilia, or even jealousy-induced homicide (Earp et al 2013). The suffering associated with these cases surpasses any beneficial emotional development, leading instead to potential enduring physical and psychological harms. Instances of “dangerous love” might become the targets for “drugs that manipulate brain systems at whim to enhance or diminish our love for one another” (Young 2009, 148), which seem to be a reasonable potential product of current trajectories of neuropharmocological research.
Image courtesy of Flikr

These “anti-love” drugs are certainly beneficently intended, and may indeed be of great value in some instances.

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.