Tag: population control

Bioethics Blogs

Penny-Foolish

April 07, 2017

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Penny-Foolish

The 2018 federal budget battle has barely begun and already critics – including myself – are questioning the wisdom of Trump’s proposal to drastically cut key agencies like the US Department of State, Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency in order to build a wall that no one wants, to buy fighter jets that no one needs, and to give tax breaks that no one earned.

The Trump Administration claims that the President’s proposal will make Americans safer, healthier, and wealthier, but the unprecedented cuts and reallocations in this budget are likely to make us poorer, sicker, and endangered. They are also likely to do irreparable harm to America’s image overseas. Although Ronald Reagan famously described America as “a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere,” we will soon be seen as the exact opposite as the very programs that save lives, promote equality, combat poverty, and advance human rights – the very values and ideals that Americans cherish – are dismantled.

Consider, for example, Trump’s plan to cut funding from a program that provides life-saving treatment to those living with HIV/AIDS across the globe. Known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), that program was created in 2003 by then President George W. Bush. It would not be hyperbole to describe PEPFAR as President Bush’s greatest legacy, redeeming an otherwise disastrous administration best known for embroiling America in an unjust and seemingly unending war in the Middle East and for trigger the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression.

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

In the Journals – December 2016, Part I by Livia Garofalo

Here is the first part of our December article roundup. Three journals have special issues this month (abstracts in the post below):

Enjoy reading (and what’s left of the holidays)!

American Anthropologist

The Contingency of Humanitarianism: Moral Authority in an African HIV Clinic

Betsey Behr Brada

One consequence of the recent expansion of anthropological interest in humanitarianism is the seeming obviousness and conceptual stability of “humanitarianism” itself. In this article, I argue that, rather than being a stable concept and easily recognizable phenomenon, humanitarianism only becomes apparent in relation to other categories. In short, humanitarianism is contingent: it depends on circumstance and varies from one context to another. Furthermore, its perceptibility rests on individuals’ capacity to mobilize categorical similarities and distinctions. One cannot call a thing or person “humanitarian” without denying the humanitarian character of someone or something else. Drawing on research conducted in clinical spaces where Botswana’s national HIV treatment program and private US institutions overlapped, I examine the processes by which individuals claimed people, spaces, and practices as humanitarian, the contrasts they drew to make these claims, and the moral positions they attempted to occupy in the process. More than questions of mere terminology, these processes of categorization and contradistinction serve as crucibles for the larger struggles over sovereignty, inequality, and the legacies of colonialism that haunt US-driven global health interventions.

Scripting Dissent: US Abortion Laws, State Power, and the Politics of Scripted Speech

Mara Buchbinder

Abortion laws offer a point of entry for “the state” to intervene in intimate clinical matters.

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

Musings on the Materiality of Health Care by Cristina A. Pop

Nightstand in a psychiatry hospital from Alba-Iulia, Romania. The picture was taken by Odeta Catana in November 2014, as part of a project initiated by the Center for Legal Resources. Reproduced with permission.

In October of 2014, Romanian mass-media featured the local story of a few dozen citizens—most of them Orthodox nuns—refusing their newly issued state health insurance cards, on the grounds that the term card imprinted on the card would spell, when read backwards, drac—the Romanian word for “devil.” It seemed that the nuns, along with a few Orthodox priests and monks and other laymen, rejected the cards because they saw in them instruments of population control imbued with malefic powers. In their view, anyone who would accept the biometric chip-enabled health insurance card would bear the “mark of the beast,” as prophesied in the Christian Book of Revelation. “The beast” would be the computerized data system of global surveillance, whose ultimate aim is to strip humans of their God-bestowed freedom.

Upon reading this news, I was not necessarily astonished by the fact that a narrow demographic group would express such apocalyptically articulated anxieties when facing the biopolitical regimes of health care provision. In Romania, as elsewhere, fundamentalist Orthodox websites disavow various biomedical procedures—like vaccination—on similar grounds, by equating them with receiving “the mark” and by evoking the millennialist opening of the seals that precede the coming of the Antichrist. What did surprise me was the backwards reading of the word card as drac. Why would someone read anything backwards? And how does one get the idea of reading in reverse in the first place?

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

Finally Allowed 2nd Child, Older Chinese Parents Turn to IVF

May 31, 2016

(U.S. News & World Report) – China’s decision to allow all married couples to have two children is driving a surge in demand for fertility treatment among older women, putting heavy pressure on clinics and breaking down past sensitivities, and even shame, about the issue. The rise in in vitro fertilization points to the lost dreams of many parents who long wanted a second child, but were prevented by a strict population control policy in place for more than 30 years.

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

CRISPR Eugenics in The X Files

CRISPR-Cas9 “gene editing” has been a source of hype, hope, and caution for the past several years, and its presence in labs, patent fights, policy discussions, and headlines has grown exponentially.

But in the finale of The X Files’ comeback season, it is aliens who first harness genome editing. “CRISPR patent belongs to aliens,” Sara Reardon comically claims in the Nature books and arts blog A View From the Bridge. As she notes,

it is human genome editing that forms the season’s backbone: a concept that is far more scientifically plausible today than it was in 2001 [around when The X Files went off-air] — or even 2012 [when CRISPR-Cas9 was developed as a genome editing platform].

In The X Files, the aliens use gene editing in the service of population control campaigns on other planets. In the real world, the range of potential CRISPR applications triggering social and ethical controversy includes

  1. human “germline” gene editing, i.e. creating modifications that will be passed down to future generations by engineering germ cells (gametes or embryos) prior to initiating a pregnancy — what the media sometimes call “designer babies” and
  2. climate change gene editing, i.e. attempting to alleviate the effects of anthropogenic global warming by modifying plants and animals, including drought-tolerant corn and soybeans and heat-tolerant cows.

Both of these brave-new-world applications come into play in the finale’s dystopian plot.


The Science of The X Files

The science in The X Files finale is discussed rather breathlessly, so for those might have missed it: In an earlier era of Roswell crash-landings and secretive extraterrestrial research, scientists discover that aliens had developed a “Spartan Virus” to “manage” overpopulation.

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

China ends one-child policy

After over 35 years of mass sterilization and forced abortion, the Chinese government has finally abandoned its notorious one-child policy.

The announcement, made on Thursday by the State run news agency Xinhua News, comes after decades of vocal criticism, both outside of the country and within, of the party’s coercive birth-control policy.

The government’s new ‘two-child policy’ is designed to “to improve the balanced development of population” and to deal with an aging population, Xinhua News reported.

China currently has one of the oldest populations in the world, with about 30% of population over the age of 50. It also has one of the biggest gender disparities: in 2004 approximately 121 males were born for every 100 girls. 

Oxford demographer Stuart Gietel-Basten, one of the most outspoken critics of the policy, celebrated the announcement.

“I’m shaking to be honest,” he said in an interview with the Guardian. “It’s one of those things that you have been working on and saying for years and recommending they should do something and it finally happened.”

Gietel-Basten says the decision is smart policy: “From a political, pragmatic perspective, loosening the policy is good for the party but also it is a good thing for individual couples who want to have that second child. It is a kind of win-win for everybody”.

Others said that the announcement didn’t go far enough, and called on the government to totally abandon its population control policies.

“Even if people are allowed to have two children, what if they want to have three children or more?”,

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

Who’s Afraid of ‘Brave New World’?

I was very happy to learn from George Dvorsky at io9 that Aldous Huxley’s novel “Brave New World is not the terrifying dystopia it used to be.” It’s not that the things in the novel couldn’t happen (more or less), but rather that they are happening and “we” have become much more enlightened and simply don’t need to worry about them anymore. The book is a product of its time, and our time understands these things much better, apparently.

Thus, the strongest condemnation Dvorsky can offer of the eugenics program depicted in Brave New World is that it is “disquieting.” But we can get over that. Genetic engineering techniques that might have once have been met with “repugnance” are now commonplace. Newer techniques which promise more control to make more things like those in Brave New World possible will have the same fate, Dvorsky expects, trotting out the number-one cliché of progressive bioethics: “While potentially alarming, these biotechnologies and others currently in development hold great promise.” And on the basis of that “great promise” we merrily slide right down the slippery slope:

Advances in genetics will serve to eliminate a host of genetic diseases, while offering humans the opportunity to forgo the haphazard genetic roll of the dice when it comes to determining the traits of offspring. A strong case can be made that it’s both our duty and right to develop these technologies.

Problem solved!

The next non-problem Dvorsky sees in Brave New World is totalitarianism, which, along with “top-down” eugenics, he proclaims “dead.” Happy day!

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

Rohingyas battle population control

Somewhere between 6,000 and 20,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are drifting in the Andaman Sea while neighbouring countries take turns to deny them entry.

“What we have now is a game of maritime Ping-Pong,” Joe Lowry, of the International Organization for Migration in Bangkok, told the New York Times. “It’s maritime Ping-Pong with human life. What’s the endgame? I don’t want to be too overdramatic, but if these people aren’t treated and brought to shore soon, we are going to have a boat full of corpses.”

Why are they fleeing? “It’s a combination of things,” says one observer. “Their lives have become worse and worse.”

One reason is probably old-fashioned population control. The parliament of Burma (officially known as the Union of Myanmar) recently passed a new “population control” bill that could represent a serious setback for the country’s maternal health advances if implemented in a coercive or discriminatory manner, according to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).

The bill, which introduces the practice of “birth spacing” or a three-year interval for women between child births, is expected to be signed by President Thein Sein in the near future.

Although the bill seems designed to implement the Millennium Development Goals, which will expire in 2015, it could easily be used as a tool to oppress Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, especially the Muslim Rohingyas in the north.

Regional authorities will be able to impose population policies if population growth, accelerating birth rates, or rising infant or maternal mortality rates are negatively impacting regional development. According to The Irrawaddy newspaper, an “imbalance between population and resources, low socio-economic indicators and regional food insufficiency because of internal migration” are also reasons to invoke the law.

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

The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig Review – Sex, Drugs, and Population Control

(The Guardian) – “In its effects I believe that the pill ranks in importance with the discovery of fire,” wrote the British-American anthropologist Ashley Montagu in 1969, excited that the invention was already upturning “age-old beliefs, practices and institutions”. The bestower of this Promethean gift, and the hero of Jonathan Eig’s book, was an unlikely figure: Gregory Pincus, “a scientist with a genius IQ and a dubious reputation”.

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

More research needed on the Pill-brain nexus

If there is one request by patients which is universally spurned by doctors, without fear of being labelled paternalistic, it for steroids as performance-enhancing drugs. Extensive research confirms that anabolic steroids damage the liver and the heart, among other problems.  

If widespread steroid use is discouraged for men, why haven’t the neurological effects of the steroid-based contraceptive pill on women been studied as thoroughly? In a challenging article in the open source journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, three Austrian researchers argue that 50 years after its introduction, it is time to study what the pill does to the brain.

“Changes in brain structure and chemistry cause changes in cognition, emotion and personality and consequently in observable behaviors. If a majority of women use hormonal contraception, such behavioral changes could cause a shift in society dynamics. Since the pill is the major tool for population control, it is time to find out what it does to our brain…

“As the number of women using oral contraceptives constantly increases, while the age of first contraceptive use constantly decreases down to sensitive neuroplastic periods during puberty, the associated changes in personality and social behavior imply significant consequences for society.”

The article does not scaremonger, but simply sets out the state of current research and points out that there are significant gaps. 

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.