Tag: prisoners

Bioethics Blogs

A Bioethics View of Executions in Arkansas

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

This week the state of Arkansas had planned to execute 8 death-row inmates in 4, back-to-back killings using lethal injection over 10 days. The last execution in Arkansas was 12 years ago, so why the sudden rush? As part of the three-drug cocktail used by this state, their supply of midazolam—an anesthetic—is about to expire. If they do not use the drug by the expiration date, then they can’t use it and the company that makes the drug will not sell it to the state for this purpose.

Arkansas had planned to use a combination of 3 drugs in the execution, midazolam (an anesthetic), vecuronium bromide (a paralytic), potassium chloride (to stop the heart). This cocktail would be used to kill the 8 men.

I say “had planned” because last week, two of the prisoners had judges issue stays on their executions. This move is not unusual as there is often a flurry of court appeals and filings in the time before an execution. What is unusual is that over the weekend, another judge placed a stay on all executions on the request of drug companies and distributors—Pfizer, Fresenius, West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, and McKesson—who do not want their drugs to be used in an execution. McKesson’s concern is that when they learned the reason the state bought the vecuronium bromide, that they refunded the cost and asked for the drug to be returned. Drug manufacturers and distributors have come out against their products being used to kill prisoners. The association is unlikely to be good for sales or brand 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 Blogs

Lincoln in the Bardo in the Bardo/ by Russell Teagarden

Russell Teagarden is an Editor of the NYU Literature Arts and Medicine Database and helped lead the Medical Humanities elective at the School of Medicine this past winter. In this blog post, he experiments with creating a text collage from recent reviews of George Saunders novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.

Author’s note:
George Saunders is well known for his inventive and affecting short stories. Lincoln in the Bardo is his first novel, and as described by Charles Baxter in his review in the April 20, 2017 issue of The New York Review of Books, it “doesn’t resemble any of his previous books…nor does it really resemble anyone else’s novel, present or past. In fact, I have never read anything like it.” The story is told by a chorus of spirits or ghosts in a “bardo,” which is a Tibetan limbo of a sort for souls transitioning from death to their next phase. Saunders rarely gives any individual spirit more than 2 or 3 lines of dialog, and he intersperses short snippets from historical textsasome real, some notato provide contextual background. Of particular interest to the medical humanities community will be the focus on the well-trodden subject of grief through this experimental approach. The book has attracted the attention of many serious critics, so many in fact, that they can be assembled into a chorus to derive a review of the book in the book’s format. I have thus taken excerpts from published reviewsamost real, a few notato produce a review that covers how the book is laid out (I), how the bardo works (II), how the story flows (III), and how it’s critically received (IV) as can be told by a chorus of reviewers in a bardo of their own.

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

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: March 10, 2017

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Politics

White House Slammed by Federal Ethics Chief for Not Disciplining Kellyanne Conway
U.S. government’s official ethics watchdog blasted White House for not taking disciplinary action against senior counselor Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump’s products on TV

Trump’s Ethics Order Seen as Boost for Shadow Lobbying
President Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday explains executive order to ban lobbying for five years for officials who leave office – addresses the ethics of “draining the swamp”

George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer says Jeff Sessions’ denial of Russia talks ‘a good way to go to jail’
Alleged ethics violations Jeff Sessions may have made when he claimed under oath that he “did not have communications with the Russians”

ACLU lawyer files ethics complaint against Sessions over Russia testimony: report
An American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer, Christopher Anders, formally filed an ethics complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee denying any contact with Russian officials

Trump’s team nixed ethics course for White House staff
White House staff has received no ethics training under the Trump transition team and now presidency

Medical Ethics

House Republicans would let employers demand workers’ genetic test results
Bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars; employers see that genetic and other health information

Prisoners with serious mental health problems face urgent treatment delays
Prisoners in the UK are supposed to receive mental health services after being referred to such a unit within 14 days and new official numbers have indicated that regulations are not being followed

New pregnancy testing technique needs limits say ethics body
Press release from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics explores the ethics of Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) and explains why they are calling for a moratorium on the use of the new technology

Ethical Implications of User Perceptions of Wearable Devices
Wearable devices can save time at medical appointments and may even save lives – ethical implications of having large amounts of personal information stored in devices that are shared with third parties

When Evidence Says No, But Doctors Say Yes
Medical costs increasing and patient benefits are declining  – ethical conundrum of why medical professionals continue to prescribe unnecessary treatment, and calls for responsible regulation

States Wrestle With Legalizing Payments For Gestational Surrogates
Legislators proposed a bill that would regulate gestational surrogacy — potentially adding legal oversight to fertility clinics that facilitate these pregnancies

Environmental Ethics

EPA environmental justice leader resigns, amid White House plans to dismantle program
Key environmental justice leader at the Environmental Protection Agency has resigned, saying recent budget proposal to defund work would harm the people who most rely on the EPA

Why Won’t American Business Push for Action on Climate?

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

Medical Journal to Retract Paper after Concerns Organs Came from Executed Prisoners

February 10, 2017

(The Guardian) – A prestigious medical journal will retract a scientific paper from Chinese surgeons about liver transplantation after serious concerns were raised that the organs used in the study had come from executed prisoners of conscience. The study was published last year in Liver International. It examined the outcomes of 564 liver transplantations performed consecutively at Zhejiang University’s First Affiliated hospital between April 2010 and October 2014.

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

Vatican Defends China Invite to Organ Trafficking Summit

February 9, 2017

(BBC) – The Vatican has defended its decision to invite China to a conference on organ trafficking despite its record of using executed inmates as organ donors. The head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) admitted he did not know whether the practice was continuing but said he hoped to encourage change. Human rights groups say China is still using executed prisoners as a source of organ transplants. Beijing says forced organ harvesting ended in 2015.

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

Vatican Defends Inviting Chinese Ex-Minister to Organ Trafficking Talks

February 7, 2017

(The Guardian) – Vatican officials have defended their decision to invite a Chinese former deputy health minister to a conference on organ trafficking despite concerns that China still relies on the organs of executed prisoners in its transplant programme. Medical ethics experts and human rights activists have decried the move by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to invite Huang Jiefu to a two-day conference starting on Tuesday that aims to expose organ trafficking and seeks to find “moral and appropriate solutions” to the issue.

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

Torture does not work, says trauma expert

A Guantanamo Bay protest, with simulated water-boarding   

Scientists oppose President Donald Trump’s endorsement of torture, according to Science magazine, on ethical grounds, but also because it does not work. Metin Basoglu, head of the Trauma Studies section at the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College London. “Our work shows that waterboarding is one of the most traumatic forms of torture. Scientifically, there is no question about this issue … so one cannot administer these techniques and remain within the bounds of the law at the same time.”

In 1994 Professor Basoglu published a remarkable paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry comparing Turkish prisoners who had not been tortured with prisoners who had been tortured. The tortured prisoners had “significantly more” symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety/depression. But he was unable to publish all of the data he obtained in the course of his study. Some colleagues, human rights organisations and some of his subjects were horrified that he would release information on the most “effective” forms of torture. So the data remained unpublished.

However, what he found was that “Of all forms of torture, asphyxiation was the strongest predictor of PTSD symptoms”. Asphyxiation is the main component of waterboarding. Other gruesome tortures, surprisingly, being hanged by the wrists,, electrical torture, and beating of the soles of the feet, were not predictive of PTSD symptoms.

“Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works,” Trump told a crowd early in last year’s campaign. “Okay, folks? Torture — you know, half these guys [say]: ‘Torture doesn’t work.’ Believe me, it works.

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

Human-Pig Chimeras: The Potential and Concerns Of Hybrid Human-Animal Organs

One of the great advances in modern medicine has been the success of organ transplantation. Whilst complications still arise from its use, the refinement of drugs designed to reduce organ rejection alongside other improvements, mean that the procedure is often lifesaving.

As is frequently the case however, there is a caveat to this “wonder-cure”, namely, that far more people require organs than there are organs available. This global shortage has given rise to a host of complex ethical challenges. Several of these issues have already been explored here, including the implementation of ‘opt-in’ organ donation systems and the appropriateness of receiving organs on the basis of ability to pay1, 2, 3.

The development of chimeric human-pig embryos announced in the journal Cell last week may therefore be hailed as the much-needed answer to this problem of organ shortages. With over 120,000 people on the national transplant list in the US alone and 22 people on that list dying each day, any opportunity to increase the numbers of transplantable organs has an obvious appeal4. However, this development is far from a perfect solution.

Chimeric embryos are early life forms that are composed from 2 or more different sets of genetic material. In this case therefore, one set of genetic material is from a pig and the second from a human. These chimeras were initially made in the laboratory, before being transplanted into surrogate sows. In the study, only a fraction of the total embryos transplanted (just over 10%) showed successful development, surviving for 3-4 weeks5.

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

Two Wrongs Do Not Make A Right

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

A draft of a new executive order that would re-open CIA black site prisons (facilities outside the United States where more torturous forms of interrogation are not prohibited) and restart the use of enhanced interrogation techniques (which many consider to be torture) was made public on Wednesday. Trump also publicly stated that he believes torture works and thus thinks it should be reinstated.

Trump’s justification for torture is that without it “we’re not playing on an even field.” He said that since terrorists will torture people, we need to be able to do the same. Mr. Trump, two wrongs do not make a right.

Simply, torture is wrong. It is a willful infliction of harm on another human being, which violates notions of nonmaleficence. It also breaches a person’s dignity and autonomy. Torture defies Kant’s principle of humanity since torture victims are treated merely as means to achieving the end of learning information.

Legally, torture contravenes the Geneva Convention and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Of course, some might argue that these detainees are not prisoners of war and thus are not covered. And the US is about to abandon the UN anyway (also look here). The International Criminal Court defines torture as a crime against humanity (the US is not a member of the Court). When you capture and detain people against their will and their government’s assent, and deny them basic rights of anyone living inside your own borders, that person is in fact your prisoner.

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.