Tag: public relations

Bioethics News

Salk Institute Under Fire For ‘Smear’ On Women Suing It For Discrimination

July 20, 2017

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Leaders of the San Diego, California, research center have strenuously denied the allegations made by biologists Vicki Lundblad and Katherine Jones, and publicly questioned their productivity and the quality of their scientific work.

The case has divided the institute’s staff, and Salk’s statements about the women have drawn social media dismay and rebukes from prominent biologists, including Nobel laureates. “The fact that an institution would treat its own distinguished faculty in this way is very disturbing,” says Nancy Hopkins, professor emerita of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, who in the late 1990s led a groundbreaking review of MIT’s treatment of its female faculty.

Salk President Elizabeth Blackburn said in a statement that she is “saddened that an institute as justly revered as the Salk Institute is being misrepresented by accusations of gender discrimination. … I would never preside over an institute that in any way condoned, openly or otherwise, the marginalizing of female scientists.”

… Read More

Image: By TheNose – http://www.flickr.com/photos/tatler/339218853/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1708238

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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

Happy 15th Birthday, Neuroethics!

[This post first appeared in the Neuroethics Blog on May 13, 2017: http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2017/05/happy-15th-birthday-neuroethics.html]

Fifteen years ago, on May 13, 2002, a two-day conference called “Neuroethics: Mapping the Field” began at the Presidio in San Francisco. And modern neuroethics was born. That conference was the first meeting to bring together a wide range of people who were, or would soon be, writing in “neuroethics;” it gave the new field substantial publicity; and, perhaps most importantly, it gave it a catchy name.


That birthdate could, of course, be debated. In his introduction to the proceedings of that conference, William Safire, a long-time columnist for the NEW YORK TIMES (among other things), gave neuroethics a longer history:

The first conference or meeting on this general subject was held back in the summer of 1816 in a cottage on Lake Geneva. Present were a couple of world-class poets, their mistresses, and their doctor. (Marcus)

Safire referred to the summer holiday of Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley; Byron’s sometime mistress, Claire Clairmont; and Shelley’s then-mistress, later wife, known at the time as Mary Godwin and now remembered as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The historically cold and wet summer of 1816 (“the year without a summer”) led them to try writing ghost stories. Godwin succeeded brilliantly; her story eventually was published in 1818 as FRANKENSTEIN: OR, THE NEW PROMETHEUS.

Camillo Golgi, image courtesy of
Wikipedia.
Safire’s arresting opening gives neuroethics either too little history or too much. If, like Safire, one allows neuroethics to predate an understanding of the importance of the brain, early human literature – both religious and secular – show a keen interest in human desires and motivations.

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

Happy 15th Birthday, Neuroethics!

By Henry T. Greely

Henry T. (Hank) Greely is the Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law and Professor, by courtesy, of Genetics at Stanford University. He specializes in ethical, legal, and social issues arising from advances in the biosciences, particularly from genetics, neuroscience, and human stem cell research. He directs the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences and the Stanford Program on Neuroscience in Society; chairs the California Advisory Committee on Human Stem Cell Research; is the President Elect of the International Neuroethics Society; and serves on the Neuroscience Forum of the National Academy of Medicine; the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law of the National Academy of Sciences; and the NIH Multi-Council Working Group on the BRAIN Initiative. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007. His book, THE END OF SEX AND THE FUTURE OF HUMAN REPRODUCTION, was published in May 2016. 

Professor Greely graduated from Stanford in 1974 and from Yale Law School in 1977. He served as a law clerk for Judge John Minor Wisdom on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and for Justice Potter Stewart of the United States Supreme Court. After working during the Carter Administration in the Departments of Defense and Energy, he entered private law practice in Los Angeles in 1981. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1985. 
Fifteen years ago, on May 13, 2002, a two-day conference called “Neuroethics: Mapping the Field” began at the Presidio in San Francisco. And modern neuroethics was born.

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

Big Pharma Quietly Enlists Leading Professors to Justify $1,000-Per-Day Drugs

February 23, 2017

(Pro Publica) – Over the last three years, pharmaceutical companies have mounted a public relations blitz to tout new cures for the hepatitis C virus and persuade insurers, including government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, to cover the costs. That isn’t an easy sell, because the price of the treatments ranges from $40,000 to $94,000 — or, because the treatments take three months, as much as $1,000 per day. To persuade payers and the public, the industry has deployed a potent new ally, a company whose marquee figures are leading economists and health care experts at the nation’s top universities.

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

Biopolitical News of 2016

The biggest surprise of the year was probably the birth, in Mexico, of a baby who was conceived following controversial mitochondrial manipulation (“3-parent IVF”). The location was chosen by a New York-based fertility doctor who noted that in Mexico “there are no rules.” Since 3-person IVF is technically a form of inheritable genetic modification, one big question is whether its increasing use and normalization will open the door to wider acceptance of gene editing for human reproduction.

The gene editing shockwaves of 2015 – when Crispr was first applied in human embryos, and controversy about the prospect of using it for human reproduction became explicit – developed into a somewhat more predictable flood of activity and comment in 2016. The big, and unfortunate, news here is perhaps the non-news: the absence of any significant efforts to encourage public participation in deliberations about whether powerful new genetic manipulation tools should be used in efforts to control the traits of future children and generations.

The most consequential news of the year for biopolitics as for so much else may well turn out to be the US presidential election result, but the consequences themselves remain somewhat unclear. Trump’s comments about having “the right genes” are ominous warning signs, which are perhaps getting worse, as partly described below.

Cross-border commercial surrogacy was in the news this year because of scandals, disputes, and changes in the laws of several nations where it had taken hold. Commercial pressures were particularly apparent in the slick marketing being used to promote egg freezing among young women with no fertility problems.

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

Fighting over Brittany’s legacy

Brittany Maynard’s mother, Deborah Ziegler, and her husband, Dan Diaz, at a memorial service   

Brittany Maynard was a 29-year-old woman whose 2014 YouTube video about her impending death was very influential in the campaign to legalise assisted suicide in California. Her charm and poise, turbocharged by a sophisticated public relations campaign by Compassion & Choices, made it seem like a sensible option to millions.

Now her husband and her mother are locked in a struggle over her legacy. Deborah Ziegler has just published a book about her daughter, Wild and Precious Life. It purports to offer “hope, empowerment, and inspiration to the growing tens of millions of people who are struggling with end-of-life issues”.

Brittany’s husband, Dan Diaz, has protested. He has posted a statement on Facebook revealing that Brittany did not want her mother to tell her story and that she had appointed Diaz as the only person authorized to tell her story.

He complained that Ms Ziegler’s book is inaccurate and inappropriate and announced that he is working on a film about his wife to lobby for legislation “so that terminally ill individuals in her predicament will have the option of a gentle passing in their own state”. 

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees.

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

Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu backs assisted suicide in District of Columbia

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Overlooked in the ghastly spectacle of America’s I-can-dig-up-more-dirt-than-you-can election is a campaign in Washington DC to legalise assisted suicide. The issue goes to a vote on Monday in a full meeting of the District of Columbia Council.

Supporters of the measure have scored a public relations coup by enlisting Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a hero of the struggle against apartheid, Desmond Tutu, who is also an Anglican archbishop. Although Tutu reversed his opposition to aid-in-dying in 2014, he declined at the time to say whether he would take advantage of it himself.

Now, just ahead of the vote in the Council, he has published an op-ed in the Washington Post in which he urges voters to legalise assisted suicide, as Canada and California have already done. His essay has been reinforced with a YouTube video made by the assisted suicide lobby group Compassion & Choices.

C&C has recruited a number of prominent clerics, although their Christianity tends to be unconventional. One, for instance, is Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong, who dissents from mainstream Christian beliefs like the existence of God. There seems to be significant level of support within the Anglican Church for assisted suicide. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, has declared that it would be “profoundly Christian and moral”. Tutu says in his op-ed:

“I believe in the sanctity of life. I know that we will all die and that death is a part of life. Terminally ill people have control over their lives, so why should they be refused control over 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 News

A-list clash over embryos

The acrimonious fight over frozen embryos between Hollywood celebrities Sofia Vergara and Nick Loeb is due in court again in January in California and could set an important legal precedent.

The Modern Family TV star and the financier created frozen embryos in 2013 when they were living together. They signed an agreement that both had to agree if the embryos were placed in a surrogate mother. However, they split up in 2014. When Loeb proposed the surrogate mother option, Vergara refused. She was content to leave them frozen. “More than a mother, a baby needs a loving relationship of parents that get along, that don’t hate each other,” she said in a TV interview. “I wouldn’t want to bring kids to the world that is already set against them. It would be so selfish.” 

Ever since Loeb has been waging a legal and public relations battle to get custody of the embryos. At the moment Loeb’s lawyers have asked a judge to fine Vergara for refusing to sit for a deposition.

Loeb is desperate to make his case plausible. “I think the misconception is that people don’t know the difference between an embryo and an egg,” Loeb explained earlier this year. “A lot of people think I’m trying to steal her eggs and they don’t realize that an embryo is half mine — half my DNA and half her DNA. It’s actually a human being.”

The legal status of frozen embryos differs from state to state. At the trial in January, Loeb’s lawyers will claim that the agreement the couple signed is invalid.

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 “Good-Enough Anthropologist” by Elizabeth Durham

“Where are all the anthropologists?” The question came from public health worker Douglas Hamilton on the first day of the Princeton-Fung Global Forum on Ebola, held in November 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. There, the place of anthropology in the recent outbreak was touched on by the first speaker, and swiftly become one of, if not the, recurring themes of the conference. The question was addressed not to me, but to the panelists on stage — not an anthropologist among them, not that day — but as a graduate student working on issues of health in West and Central Africa, I could not help but take the question for my own. So in response, I suggest that anthropology was simultaneously everywhere and nowhere in this context, a state of affairs that goes beyond this outbreak in calling for anthropologists to conduct both research and better public relations, and in calling into question the forms public anthropology can and should take.

From the moment Peter Piot, the co-discoverer of Ebola, gave his opening remarks, the question of anthropology-in-Ebola took hold of the Forum and its diverse attendees. “We have to listen far better,” Piot argued, “to what people think before we start putting in place measures… [involving social scientists in Ebola] helped a lot. Although I had some big discussions! Some anthropologists said, ‘Okay, I need to spend two years in that village to understand what people think’ [a statement that drew laughs from the audience].” He continued: “We don’t have the time for that… we needed more kind of social marketing people, people who can do a snapshot and understand it rapidly, what’s going on.”

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

Introducing New Primer Series: Spotting and Responding to Hype

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) has released a new series of primers on spotting and responding to science hype in the media. The three primers cover hype related to topics in new technology, public health and neuroscience. The primers introduce hype about scientific topics in the media, and provide users with ways to spot hype and evaluate scientific claims in media outlets. The primers draw on topics covered in three of the Commission’s reports: New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies, Ethics and Ebola: Public Health Planning and Response, and Gray Matters: Topics at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society.

The primers are designed to help members of the public spot and respond to hyped claims in the media, which can often distort, exaggerate or misrepresent scientific information. The primers note that hype is generated from numerous sources, including scientists, communication and public relations professionals, and journalists. Each primer provides users with steps to spot hype as well as respond to hype when they counter such claims in news stories and blog posts. The primers also include examples of hyped claims that were found in news outlets.

The Commission has discussed hype in a number of its reports. In New Directions, the Commission recommended that individuals and deliberative forums should use clear language when communicating scientific information and avoid “sensationalist buzzwords” when describing topics in synthetic biology. The Commission also called for a private organization to fact-check claims that discuss advances in synthetic biology.

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.