Tag: research findings

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals – October 2016 by Livia Garofalo

Here is our “In the Journals” roundup for October. In addition to a rich selection of abstracts, also of interest this month are a Special Issue of Osiris on the “History of Science and Emotions” and two recent articles by Fernando Vidal on brains in literature and cinema (linked below). Enjoy!

 

Theory & Psychology 

Desire, indefinite lifespan, and transgenerational brains in literature and film

Fernando Vidal 

Even before the brain’s deterioration became a health problem of pandemic proportions, literature and film rehearsed the fiction of brain transplantations that would allow an aging person to inhabit a younger body, so that successive surgeries may result in that person’s immortality. Such fiction makes the brain operate like an immaterial soul that does not undergo physical decline. This article examines that fiction as elaborated in Hanif Kureishi’s The Body and several films in connection with older fantasies that articulate desire, eternal youth, and personal immortality, with philosophical discussions about brain and personhood, and with people’s assimilation of neuroscientific idioms into their views and practices of personal identity. In conclusion it discusses how, in contrast to philosophical approaches that tend to focus on self-consciousness, first-person perspectives, and individual autonomy, fiction may contribute to direct attention to relationality as constitutive of personhood.

SubStance 

Frankenstein’s Brain: “The Final Touch”

Fernando Vidal 

 

Critical Public Health

A critical examination of representations of context within research on population health interventions

Jean Shoveller, Sarah Viehbeck, Erica Di Ruggiero, Devon Greyson, Kim Thomson and Rodney Knight

Research that fulsomely characterizes context improves our understanding of the processes of implementation and the effectiveness of interventions to improve the health of populations and reduce health inequalities.

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

Suppression of Necessary Gun Violence Research

STUDENT VOICES | CHYNN PRIZE SECOND-PLACE WINNER

By Colette Berg

Late in July 2015, my mother asked a surgeon friend of hers his opinion on gun control. He shook his head sadly and said, “I’ve operated on good guys shot by burglars, I’ve operated on parents accidentally shot by their children and children accidentally shot by their parents. But never have I once operated on a bad guy shot by a good guy.” He does not buy the popular notion that “good guys” with guns can defend themselves from “bad guys” with guns. Of course, this an anecdote from the life of one surgeon. However, most peoples’ opinions on gun control are based on intuition and personal experience rather than data. Good data about gun violence is hard to find, because Congress has refused to provide funding for gun violence research since 1996.

In 1993, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found a strong correlation between gun ownership and homicide. The conclusions stated, “Rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.”1 This study was funded by the Center for Disease Control. Immediately after its publication, the National Rifle Association began to lobby for the “elimination of the center that had funded the study, the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention.”2 Their efforts to shut down the Center for Injury prevention failed, but “the House of Representatives removed $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget—precisely the amount the agency had spent on firearm injury research the previous year.”3

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

Guest Post: Epigenetics: Barriers to the translation of scientific knowledge into public policies

Written by Charles Dupras and Vardit Ravitsky

Bioethics Programs, School of Public Health, University of Montreal

 

Environmental epigenetics is a rising field of scientific research that has been receiving much attention. It explores how exposure to various physical and social environments (e.g. pollution or social adversity) affects gene expression and, eventually, our health. Environmental epigenetics can sometimes explain why some of us carry increased risks of developing specific diseases. It provides activists a powerful vocabulary to promote environmental awareness and social justice. This new vocabulary, which allows us to discuss the consequences of disparities at the molecular level, has been enthusiastically mobilized as an effective way of stimulating political will for promoting public health preventive strategies.

However, this perspective – that we call the ‘policy translation’ of epigenetics – can be contrasted with a ‘clinical translation’ that targets the development of novel biomedical tools to assess epigenetic risks and reverse a detrimental epigenome. In a recent paper published in The Hastings Center Report, we argue that these two approaches are competing for public resources. We suggest that in Western contexts, the clinical translation of epigenetics may end up being prioritized over the policy translation of epigenetics, to the detriment of efforts to promote policy and public health. We highlight four potential barriers or biases that may impede the ‘policy translation’ of epigenetics, with the aim of cautioning against this scenario.

First, our societies operate under the ‘technological imperative’, a culturally engrained preference for technological solutions. In the context of epigenetics, this means that research findings are likely to be translated into biotechnological innovation that targets individual health.

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

Will Research on 10,000 New Yorkers Fuel Future Racial Health Inequality?

Image via Flickr

By Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D.

A 20-year, multi-million dollar study of more than 10,000 New Yorkers scheduled to begin next year claims that it will enable the development of theories, therapeutics, and policies to improve the health and quality of human life.  Although still in the planning stages, the breadth of the data collection proposed (including health habits, biological data, and geospatial mapping) combined with the lack of detail accompanying such a widespread publicity effort raises questions regarding the extent to which the research risks of such an endeavor has been well thought out.

Along with the contributions that such a large-scale study can make to understanding of the intersecting roles of biological and social factors influencing physical and mental health across the lifespan, comes the potential to widen existing health disparities. The National Institutes of Health’s current emphasis on funding for genetic and neurological factors as major explanatory frameworks runs the risk of reinforcing negative social stereotypes about individual and family characteristics that may inadvertently serve to maintain entrenched health inequities based on class and race/ethnicity long after the study is completed.

To be sure, the economic, racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity of New York City offers an opportunity for health research that can improve health outcomes for all New Yorkers. However, there is growing consensus that broadly worded racial/ethnic classifications to describe research populations, even if based on participant’s self-identifications, is an inaccurate and insufficient measure of genetic variation and an inadequate stand-in for unmeasured social, cultural, and economic contextual factors that play a powerful role in health disparities.

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 “Outing” of Sperm Donor 9623

Sperm banks continue to expand their search and selection criteria to include clinically ambiguous and frankly irrelevant donor information (favorite pets, astrological sign, hobbies). Yet their failures to verify the self-reported personal and medical histories of donors have recently prompted a set of legal complaints aimed at combating fertility clinic negligence in the unregulated assisted reproduction industry in the U.S.

Several families, including Angela Collins and Beth Hanson from Canada, have recently brought a lawsuit against one Georgia-based clinic, Xytex, and one particular donor. The legal questions are themselves significant, but the case also raises important considerations around disability, class, and genetic determinism.

Xytex, along with its distributor in Ontario, informed Collins and Hanson that Sperm Donor 9623 had an IQ of 160 and was pursuing a PhD in neuroscience, and had no history of physical or mental illness apart from his father’s colorblindness. The clinic did not verify this information, but relied on what Sperm Donor 9623 had reported. The parents, now raising their young son, were understandably shocked upon learning that his donor had in fact spent time in jail and received multiple diagnoses of mental illness.

Parents’ anger, and their concern about their families’ future, should of course be recognized and respected.  But so should the complicated set of issues that this case raises. How do we assess it while resisting genetic determinism, challenging biological explanations for class-based inequalities, and critiquing a purely medical understanding of disability? How do we negotiate the differences between human variation and costly, painful, mental illness?

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

Should psychiatrists tell voters what they think about Trump?

Despite Hilary Clinton’s recent claims that Donald Trump is temperamentally unsuited to be president and her suggestion that he may be unhinged – clinicians have steered clear of volunteering their professional opinion in the public forum. There is a reason for this.

According to an American Psychiatric Association regulation known informally as The Goldwater Rule, psychiatrists are not allowed to volunteer their opinion on the mental health of a public figure without having had a private consultation with the individual, and, what’s more, received their authorization to make a public statement. There is provision, however, for psychiatrists to comment on more general issues of mental health (and this often happens). A very similar rule applies to psychologists.

The advantage of this is, according to Susan H. McDaniel, president of the American Psychological Association, that psychiatrists and psychologists don’t give the impression of having “a professional relationship … with people in the public eye”.  

One disadvantage is that voters can only access amateur psycho-babble. Here’s a recent Freudian account of Trump from New York Review of Books contributor Elizabeth Drew:

“Trump just doesn’t appear to have become a fully-formed adult. He is unable to deal in nuance or seem to understand how much of life, and certainly governing, involves compromise. He wants his way and when he doesn’t get it the result is a temper tantrum of some sort. The Freudians would say that Trump is all id, the id that’s never been brought to heel.”

A notable exception to the rule is Northwestern University psychology professor Dan 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 Blogs

Response to Zika and the Olympics Letter

The following letter was received by bioethics.net in response to our link to a letter written by professionals urging the Olympics to be postponed this year because of the threat of Zika.


 by Ralph R. Frerichs

It may seem strange to hear WHO’s Margaret Chan or CDC’s Thomas Frieden quickly reject any suggestion that the Olympics be postponed or moved to avoid expanding Brazil’s Zika epidemic, not even offering caveats of future research findings.  Yet all this has occurred before, and not that many years ago.

When the world’s greatest cholera epidemic first appeared in Haiti in 2010, brought by UN peacekeepers from Nepal, the UN, WHO and CDC all were united in avoiding discovery of the source.  Rather than safeguarding the IOC and the Olympics, back then these agencies were safeguarding the image of UN peacekeeping operations, deemed more important than scientific truth for maintaining worldwide safety and stability.

All this is described in my new book, “Deadly River – Cholera and Cover-up in Post-earthquake Haiti,” (Cornell University Press, May 2016).  The non-fiction book tells the story of cholera in Haiti, of French epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux’s determined to find its origins so he could help eliminate its reach, and of the political intrigue that has made that effort so difficult. Details and visuals are found at www.deadlyriver.com.

Ralph R. Frerichs is Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology at UCLA

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

Our last Bioethics News, Nº 42 has been published now, read it here

Our last Bioethics News, Nº 42 has been published (Read HERE) and has been sended to our suscriptors.

Up-to-date news and reports from the Bioethics Observatory at the Catholic University of Valencia (Spain), covering a wide range of bioethical issues including stem cell research, abortion, assisted suicide and much more. General interest and specialised topical articles with ethical implications, based on the latest research findings from some of the world’s top medical and scientific journals.

In our opinion you can’t miss this issue with these articles and much more:

Gene editing in human embryos. England opens the gates with a scientific community deeply divided in this respect

Human sexual dimorphism. Do men and women also have different brain structures?

Can human iPS cells replace the use of human embryonic stem cells?

First Integral face transplant in an American firefighter. Ethical assessment and a brief historical review

Etc.

Gene editing in human embryos. England opens the gates in the face of a divided scientific communityFace transplant in a firefighter By far the most extensive performed successfullyAre there any ethical differences to consider between the two existing mitochondrial replacement techniques? A recent article in the site Bioethics

 

 

 

 

La entrada Our last Bioethics News, Nº 42 has been published now, read it here aparece primero en Observatorio de Bioética, UCV.

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

Our last Bioethics Reports and News, Nº 43 has been published now, read it here

Our last Bioethics Reports and News, Nº 43 has been published (Read HERE) and has been sended to our suscriptors.

Up-to-date news and reports from the Bioethics Observatory at the Catholic University of Valencia (Spain), covering a wide range of bioethical issues including stem cell research, abortion, assisted suicide and much more. General interest and specialised topical articles with ethical implications, based on the latest research findings from some of the world’s top medical and scientific journals.

In our opinion you can’t miss this issue with these articles and much more:

These technics could affect ecosystems.The question today is whether we should use this technique to alter natural populationsExplosive mix could affect ecosystems. Using gene drive and CRISPR Cas9 techniques

IVF clinic success rates. Live birth rates are much lower than those claimed in their advertising brochures.

“Medicine babies” or saviour siblings ethical debate

Producing human organs in animal chimeras raises objective medical and ethical problems

Read HERE

 

 

Are there any ethical differences to consider between the two existing mitochondrial replacement techniques? A recent article in the site Bioethicsclonación12ecology

 

La entrada Our last Bioethics Reports and News, Nº 43 has been published now, read it here aparece primero en Observatorio de Bioética, UCV.

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

When Risk, Doubt, and Difference Converge: A Review Essay by Elizabeth Lewis

On Immunity: An Inoculation
By Eula Biss
Graywolf Press, 2014, 205 pp.

The End of Normal: Identity in a Biocultural Era
By Lennard J. Davis
University of Michigan Press, 2013, 155 pp.

Autism and Gender: From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks
By Jordynn Jack
University of Illinois Press, 2014, 306 pp.

 

Disability themes have become an increasingly central figure in the media, popular culture, and everyday life. Rates of disability diagnosis have risen sharply among children in the U.S. in the past decade. Disability has exploded in the popular press in such acclaimed recent books as Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, Akhil Sharma’s Family Life, and Lisa Genova’s Still Alice. Similarly, scholarship on disability has gained new momentum. Somatosphere’s Inhabitable Worlds series, edited by Michele Friedner and Emily Cohen, featured cutting-edge writings on the study of disability within the social sciences, and the program for the 2015 American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting included over 50 papers, panels, and posters on disability themes. Without question, disability has emerged from the margins of scholarship and public interest.

Three recent books – Eula Biss’ On Immunity: An Inoculation, Lennard Davis’ The End of Normal: Identity in a Biocultural Era, and Jordynn Jack’s Autism and Gender: From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks – make important insights regarding the contours and textures of disability in the contemporary U.S. Biss, an essayist and social critic, offers a fascinating analysis of the persistent anxiety surrounding childhood vaccinations, particularly among a vocal minority of parents who oppose vaccines entirely.

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.