Tag: professional ethics

Bioethics Blogs

What’s the Point of Professional Ethical Codes?

For a few reasons, I’ve been thinking a bit over the last few months about professionalism and professional codes.  In fact, that’s the topic that’s attracted most of my attention here since… oooh, ages ago.  I find the idea of a code of professional ethics troubling in many ways, but also fascinating.  And one of the fascinating questions has to do with what they’re for.

They can’t be meant as a particularly useful tool for solving deep moral dilemmas: they’re much too blunt for that, often presuppose too much, and tend to bend to suit the law.  To think that because the relevant professional code enjoins x it follows that x is permissible or right smacks of a simple appeal to authority, and this flies in the face of what it is to be a moral agent in the first place.  But what a professional code of ethics may do is to provide a certain kind of Bolamesque legal defence: if your having done φ attracts a claim that it’s negligent or unreasonable or something like that, being able to point out that your professional body endorses φ-ing will help you out.  But professional ethics, and what counts as professional discipline, stretches way beyond that.  For example, instances of workplace bullying can be matters of great professional and ethical import, but it’s not at all obvious that the law should be involved.

There’s a range of reasons why someone’s behaviour might be of professional ethical concern.  Perhaps the most obvious is a concern for public protection. 

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

Expert Advisory Committees & Conflict of Interest

Jean-Christophe Bélisle-Pipon, Louise Ringuette, and Bryn Williams-Jones describe a five-step approach for managing conflicts of interest in public health decision-making.

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On a regular basis, shocking news filters into the media about conflicts of interest within public organizations that contribute to policy-making. When such allegations are proven true, public scepticism about whether public interests or commercial interests inform policy-making increases.

Public health decision-making, especially in areas of complex science, is generally supported by expert advice. One such area is publicly-funded immunization. In Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is an advisory body to the Public Health Agency of Canada, while the provinces and territories rely on advice from local expert advisory committees.

Members of immunization expert advisory committees have an important role to play in guiding public health decision-making, particularly with regard to the selection of vaccines and the scheduling of immunizations. Given this important role, independence and transparency are expected. One mechanism for promoting independence is a robust, publicly available conflict of interest policy.

We suggest a simple five-step approach for better managing conflicts of interest.

First, ask the right questions and identify red flags. What are the interests at stake and for whom?

For example, consider situations where one or more committee members receive(s) significant funding from industry. Are there external interests, as a result of this funding, that may influence the committee’s mandate and activities? This concern applies to private companies with products or business activities related to immunization, or with connections to certain advocacy or interest groups.

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

Diagnosis at a Distance Continues to Undermine Public’s Ability to Evaluate Trump Policies

Image via Gage Skidmore

President Donald Trump’s first week in office was spent signing executive orders regarding the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, visa and refugee programs and a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, all which sparked nationwide demonstrations and protests. Since the beginning of Trump’s campaign and more frequently over the past week, media outlets and select “experts”  have been gaining attention by diagnosing Trump with various mental or personality disorders. However, is it ethical for experts in psychology and psychiatry to offer professionals diagnoses of Trump and what are the political implications?

A recent article published in U.S. News & World Report titled, “Temperament Tantrum,” featured a professional assessment of the 45h President from John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist who previously taught psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University. Gartner told U.S. News & World Report that Trump has “malignant narcissism,” an incurable narcissistic personality disorder. Despite the Goldwater Rule, in Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Ethics Code, which cautions against offering a professional opinion about an individual in the public eye who has not been formally evaluated, Gartner argues that in the case of Trump, he can “make this diagnosis indisputably” and the breaking of the [Goldwater Rule within the] ethics code is warranted.

According to Dr. Celia Fisher, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education, however, such misleading statements by mental health professionals “helps the Trump administration hide their strategic intent to undermine traditional democratic principles under the guise of a President whose impulses often get the better of him.”

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

Before the Bridge Falls Down

January 12, 2017

(Undark Magazine) – In practice, this means that unless they are exposed to a robust curriculum of professional ethics at the college or university level, many engineers — licensed or not — will have only a perfunctory education in the importance of doing the right thing. “Engineers and computer scientists are in a position to have a disproportionate impact on society,” says Richard Burgess, an instructor at the National Institute for Engineering Ethics at Texas Tech University. “We could be doing a better job, and so could every other university as well.”

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

Calls for Ethical Pluralism

In separate essays, Nathan Emmerich and Igor Gontcharov argue for more flexible systems that would avoid imposing biomedical ethics on the social sciences. Emmerich calls for an emphasis on professional ethics, while Gontcharov seeks “a set of ethical principles that would better reflect the position of [social sciences and humanities] researchers and participants.” I am left unsure what either proposed reform would look like in practice.

[Nathan Emmerich, “Reframing Research Ethics: Towards a Professional Ethics for the Social Sciences,” Sociological Research Online 21, no. 4 (2016): 7, DOI: 10.5153/sro.4127; Igor Gontcharov, “A New Wave of Positivism in the Social Sciences: Regulatory Capture and Conceptual Constraints in the Governance of Research Involving Humans,” SSRN Scholarly Paper (Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, October 31, 2016), DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.2861908.]

Emmerich seeks professional ethics

Emmerich argues that

the social sciences can lay claim to a democratic ideal as its ‘higher good’ and, therefore, its guiding ethos or end… .

Given this end – democracy – social science research is persuaded not for its own sake or for the sake of knowledge in itself. Rather, its pursuit is rooted in the (admittedly diverse) socio-political needs of ‘democracy,’ understood as an ethos or normative as an end in itself.

Because of the importance of this work, he argues, researchers should not be constrained by ethics committees. Instead, he proposes that social scientists be judged by the equivalent of clinical ethics committees (CECs), which Emmerich describes as

forums healthcare professionals can attend in order to discuss any ethical issues they encounter.

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

A reader’s guide to the anthropology of ethics and morality – Part II by Webb Keane

Editor’s note: We asked several scholars which readings they would recommend to students or colleagues interested in familiarizing themselves with the anthropology of ethics and morality. This is response we received from Webb KeaneGeorge Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. Reading lists from other scholars will be forthcoming in this series.

 

The anthropology of ethics and morality is as old or as new as you’d like to make it. After all, ethics and morality were motivating questions from the very start of the discipline, evident for instance in Tylor’s call for a reformer’s science, Durkheim’s worries about anomie, Weber’s account of the Protestant ethic, Benedict’s patterns of culture, and Mauss’s total social fact. Looking at the field from this angle, one might be tempted to echo the dry remark with which one of my teachers used to greet any new and exciting idea: “But that has been known since Aristotle.” To overemphasize continuity, however, can blind us to emergent possibilities; we shouldn’t let genealogy blind us to the freshness and specificity of what we can call “the ethical turn.” So why an ethical turn now? Here are two factors, among others. First, after a generation, the turn to power critique in anthropology, important though it has been, seems to have reached a certain limit. Once “power” (or, say, “neo-liberalism”) became the answer to all questions, it started to lose both its explanatory and critical force. The turn to ethics opens up new ways of looking at political commitment.

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

Indonesia Passes Chemical Castration Law for Pedophiles

Human rights groups have objected to the punishments, arguing that violence will not be stopped by violence. The Indonesian Doctors Association said administering chemical castration would violate its professional ethics and said its members should not take part

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

Ethical Implications of Victim Blaming in Cases of Police Brutality

STUDENT VOICES 

By Emily Jenab, M.A.

Another black man has been shot and, subsequently, another case of character assassination post-death has begun.  Alfred Okwera Olango, 38, was killed as he pulled out “a three inch long vape” and allegedly pointed it at the police of El Cajun, California. The shooting of Olango, an “emotionally disturbed” man who was shot after his sister called 911 for help, has already resulted in justifications of why he deserved to die. Yes, he was holding a vape, but why did it look like a gun? Why was he standing like that? Why did he hold his vaporizer between his hands? Efforts to legitimize another murder, and state implicated violence, will be taken. The cycle repeats and ethical and emotional discussions surrounding these murders, along with the issues embedded in police systems, will continue to be ignored.

Respectability politics are pertinent for people of color, and for marginalized persons, the respectability of their very identity is questioned when they are victims of police misconducts. There is, for our cultural purposes, no “good” black man; if he is unarmed, as Eric Garner was, he still deserves to die and his murderer will not be charged. If he is armed in an open carry state, as Philando Castle was, it is asked why he even had a gun, or what he was doing prior to being pulled over. These men – employed, fathers, worthwhile members of their communities – are reduced to “thugs” in the wake of their deaths.

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

Veterinarians and the best interests of animals

By Charles Foster

English law has traditionally, for most purposes, regarded animals as mere chattels. There is now animal welfare legislation which seeks to prevent or limit animal suffering, but provided that legislation is complied with, and that no other relevant laws (eg those related to public health) are broken, you are free to do what you want with your animal.

Veterinary surgeons are in an interesting position. The UK regulatory body for veterinarians, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (‘RCVS’) publishes a Code of Professional Conduct. This provides, inter alia:

‘1.1  Veterinary surgeons must make animal health and welfare their first consideration when attending to animals.’

‘2.2  Veterinary surgeons must provide independent and impartial advice and inform a client of any conflict of interest.’ 

‘First consideration’ in 1.1 is a rather weasly formulation. Does it mean that it is the overriding consideration, trumping all others, however weighty those others might be? Or the one that veterinarians ought to consider first, before moving on to other criteria which might well prevail?

The RCVS also publishes Supporting Guidance. The relevant guidance is that relating to ‘Veterinary Care’:

‘2.2  Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses are personally accountable for their professional practice and must always be prepared to justify their decisions and actions.  When providing care, veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should: 

(c)…. make decisions on treatment regimes based first and foremost on animal health and welfare considerations, but also the needs and circumstances of the client; 

(d) recognise the need, in some cases, to balance what treatment might be necessary, appropriate or possible against the circumstances, wishes and financial considerations of the client*…..

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 Clinic in Crisis” – Special Issue of Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry by Anna Zogas

Adia Benton and Sa’ed Atshan have edited a special issue of Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry called The Clinic in Crisis: Medicine and Politics in the Context of Social Upheaval. Here are the abstracts of the articles in this timely collection.

“Even War has Rules”: On Medical Neutrality and Legitimate Non-violence (open access)
Adia Benton, Sa’ed Atshan

[excerpt] This special issue is the result of a two-day symposium held at Brown University, which was co-sponsored by the Watson Institute, the Humanities Initiative and the Department of Anthropology at Brown University and the Science, Religion and Culture Program at Harvard Divinity School in May 2014. It broadly addresses the challenges that political conflicts pose to the practice of medical neutrality and impartiality by mostly local clinicians under conditions of state-sponsored and intrastate violence. The speakers at the symposium worked in places as diverse as the US, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Pakistan, Egypt, Somalia, Israel/Palestine and Turkey. Although they represent a small sample of what was presented during the symposium, the papers in this issue contain ethnographic case studies that address the everyday negotiations of medical neutrality in times of crisis and kin concepts: global health diplomacy and humanitarian medicine. Together these papers highlight the conflicts, tensions and solidarities that politicize clinical spaces and clinical practice.

In this introduction, we will outline three themes that emerge in this set of papers, rather than providing a case-by-case summary of their contents. Together, the papers demonstrate that, as integral members of the communities in which they live and practice, doctors and other health workers are always positioned socially and politically.

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.