Tag: rhetoric

Bioethics Blogs

More than Local Arrangements: How Conference Logistics Can Speak to Values by Sarah Pickman

In the fall of 2016, my colleagues Tess Lanzarotta, Marco Ramos, and I met as the core organizers for the “Critical Histories, Activist Futures” conference to hammer out our individual roles. We decided that I would take on the role of head of local arrangements, managing all of the practical logistics for the conference: food, room reservations, registration, etc. “Local arrangements” is, at first glance, a series of crucial but unsexy grunt work tasks. Perhaps, at this very moment, images from your own past of stacking folding chairs and wrestling with projector cords are beginning to swirl in your head at the mention of this phrase. Before you roll your eyes and click away, let me try to convince you that local arrangements can be a productive space to think about what an academic conference looks like and who it is for, as well as to grapple with the limits of the conference as a model for academic discourse.

I embraced the role initially because I do feel strongly that in order for an event to achieve its objectives, the mundane aspects must be taken care of and must run as seamlessly as possible. Prior experience organizing events has taught me that no matter how interesting and well-presented a symposium or lecture’s content is, if there is not enough food served afterwards or the room is very cold that’s all anyone will talk about. This is to say nothing of my own personal experience as a graduate student, scooping up free sandwiches at events and watching my professors race each other to the coffee dispenser during break times.

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

Beauty’s Knowledge: Hawthorne’s Moral Fable “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Leo Coleman

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” is a nineteenth-century moral fable that sets the fruits of experimental knowledge against obligations to humanity, and stages a dramatic encounter between these two apparent goods. In many ways, the moral it offers seems familiar, and could be recognized by anyone with even a passing familiarity with contemporary bioethical debates. It features a mad scientist’s garden, a gorgeous but poisonous plant of his creation, and a lovely daughter who tends to his terrible plants, and who is—like the plant—both attractive and potentially infectious. The daughter receives the attentions of a naïve medical student, and she falls in love with him, but their fate is shadowed by the actions of not one but two bad scientist father-figures who experiment upon the younger characters and try to shape their (biological) destinies without their knowledge. But Hawthorne’s story does not simply anticipate, in an antique and allegorical way, contemporary defenses of human dignity and nature’s inviolability. Nor does it merely rehearse, with its private garden and unknowingly experimented-upon subjects, a Lockean notion of our own inevitable and natural possession of our bodies and the fruits of our lives and labor.

Hawthorne’s story puts the experimental subject at the center of its moral allegory, suffering both hopes and fears provoked by her own mutability, her own biological plasticity. That is, his titular character is no innocent pawn in the hands of the great scientist: she is an artificial being—grafted and forced—and deeply morally and biologically transformed from the very beginning; but because of this she is also able to reflect on her relations with others and her environment, and to mark (in this case, tragically) a new ethical frontier.

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

Context and scale: Distinctions for improving debates about physician “rationing”

Important discussions about limiting care based on professional judgment often devolve into heated debates over the place of physicians in bedside rationing. Politics, loaded rhetoric, and ideological caricatu…

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 Women are Surrogate Mothers: Is that work?

Alana Cattapan, Angela Cameron, and Vanessa Gruben warn that speaking about “compensation” is a way of avoiding difficult conversations about payment to surrogates.

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A recent Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) news article reported that the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS) has called for the federal government to reconsider the ban on payment for surrogacy in Canada. The article suggests that industry professionals and academics alike are coming around on compensation for surrogacy, with support growing all the time.

In Canada, payment for surrogacy, egg donation, and sperm donation is banned under the 2004 Assisted Human Reproduction Act. Under the Act, surrogates (like egg donors and sperm donors) can be reimbursed for receipted expenses. With a note from their doctor, surrogates can also receive some money for lost work-related income during pregnancy.

The Act states that this reimbursement of expenses must follow the relevant regulations. Until now, however, these regulations have never been drafted. After more than a decade, Health Canada is now in the throes of making them. This is occurring as surrogacy in Canada is expanding to accommodate more and more people from countries where surrogacy is more expensive, harder to access or banned completely.

Women Working in a Field by Winslow Homer 1867.

It is in this context that the CFAS (which is a part-medical association, part-industry organization representing the fertility industry and its doctors, lawyers, scientists and ethicists) has called for the government to reconsider the ban on payment.

 It is important to know that the market in surrogacy in Canada is a profitable one.

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

All the Difference in the World: Gender and the 2016 Election

by Alison Reiheld

ABSTRACT. In this paper, I analyze multiple aspects of how gender norms pervaded the 2016 election, from the way Clinton and Trump announced their presidency to the way masculinity and femininity were policed throughout the election. Examples include Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and Gary Johnson. I also consider how some women who support Trump reacted to allegations about sexual harassment. The difference between running for President as a man and running for President as a woman makes all the difference in the world.

 

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: This image shows Donald Trump on the left and Hillary Clinton on the right. Trump’s eyes are narrowed, his brow furrowed. He looks serious, and there is no hint of a smile. On the right, Clinton has a composed look with a slight, close-mouthed smile, her eyes open to a typical degree. Both are white and have greying blonde hair.

The May 21, 2007 cover of TIME magazine showed a close-up image of Mitt Romney’s face with the cover tagline “. . . he looks like a President . . .”, the first of many such claims. In 2011, as Texas Governor Rick Perry geared up for a run at the presidency, Washington Post opinion writer Richard Cohen said that Perry “actually looks like a President” (Cohen 2011). The term, here, is used as praise. Yet the power of its use as an epithet when people fail to look adequately presidential cannot be understated. During the primaries for the 2016 election, while watching Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump said in front of a reporter, “Look at that face!

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

Some Comments about Being a Philosopher of Color and the Reasons I Didn’t Write a (Real) Paper for this (Seemingly) Ideal Venue for my Work

by Sean A. Valles

ABSTRACT. This special issue conspicuously lacks work by Philosophers of Color (with the exception of this commentary). I have been given this opportunity to discuss the impediments that kept me from submitting my relevant work, offered as a small step toward recognizing the impediments faced by other Philosophers of Color. I highlight factors including direct and indirect consequences of a disproportionately White community of US philosophers, and some underrecognized risk-reward calculations that Philosophers of Color face when choosing an article project. I urge further discussion of the topic, starting with an exhortation to choose the right phenomenon and accordingly frame the right question: Why are White philosophers deliberating the “ethical and social issues arising out of the 2016 US presidential election” in a prestigious journal, while Philosophers of Color are deliberating the same issues in tense classrooms, closed offices, and on-/off-campus forums?

This is not a real article. But in this special issue on the 2016 US election and Trump it is, to my knowledge, the only contribution written by a Philosopher of Color. It is a commentary about the fact that it is the only contribution written by a Philosopher of Color.

After Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Kukla expressed consternation that the issue was full of excellent papers, but written by a roster of White philosophers, I offered to say something about why I didn’t submit any of my relevant philosophical work (on nativism, racism, health policy, Latinx health, etc.), and why it didn’t surprise me that almost none of the other well-qualified Philosophers of Color did either.

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 Limits of Choice: Abortion and Assisted Dying

Michelle Oberman compares abortion and assisted dying and argues that focusing on the ‘right to choose’ risks ignoring the social and economic factors that shape and constrain our choices.

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I’ve watched the trend toward legalizing physician assistance in dying with a vague sense of alarm. My peers, healthy and wealthy, are puzzled by my response. How is this different from abortion, they ask? You’re pro-choice on abortion, so why wouldn’t you be for assisted dying?

Here’s my problem: As much as I support reproductive rights, I am weary of the rhetoric of ‘choice’ as it applies to great swaths of women who have abortions. I’ve spent the past six years studying abortion in the United States, and in countries like El Salvador where abortion is completely banned. The more I’ve learned about why many women have abortions, the less I see abortion as a choice. Abortion is often a coerced response to desperate circumstances.

When we focus on the question of choice – framing the issue as one of individual liberty – we ignore entirely the social and economic factors that shape and constrain choice. Such constraints lead many women to undergo abortions they might otherwise deeply prefer to avoid. The most common reason that women give for seeking an abortion is financial. It is expensive to have a baby, to pay for day care, to feed, clothe, and house a child. For marginally-employed women, having a baby necessarily means plunging themselves and their families deeper into poverty.

We’ve spent decades fighting over abortion, yet we have done little to offset the economic pressures that compel some women to have one.

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

Teaching Medical Anthropology by Ari Gandsman

In the decade since becoming a full time professor, medical anthropology has been one of my core courses. I have taught it seven times.  Although the basic structure of the course remains similar, emphases have shifted over time. Perhaps I can best highlight the evolution of the course through a discussion of readings I use since readings are the backbone of a syllabus.  Even though I generally do not follow texts closely since I see lectures as overlapping but also supplemental and complimentary to readings, I try to mirror topics that they will be reading about, often highlighting a general theoretical literature or approach while the students read a single illustration.

Starting from the beginning, my history of medical anthropology remains the same, focusing on when “medicine” was subsumed into broad and now antiquated anthropological categories of magic and witchcraft. I never stray far from Evans-Pritchard’s Witchcraft, Oracles & Magic Among The Azande, an apparent professional contractual obligation for meAlthough I have given them the entire ethnography [the abridged in print edition] to read twice in the past, I have more lately just given them a short excerpt, often “The Notion of Witchcraft Explains Unfortunate Events.” I once also used W.H. Rivers Medicine, Magic and Religion but, although fascinating and of historic importance, it proved esoteric for an undergraduate course.  When I first started teaching, I tried to include more on non-Western medical systems, including using ethnographies on Traditional Chinese Medicine or Tibetan medicine. More recent students may be disappointed that I do not delve further into non-Western medical systems, what many students with hazy ideas of the discipline may think a medical anthropology course should almost entirely consist of.

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

Why Addiction Narratives Matter

By Katie Givens Kime
Image courtesy of
Merrimack Repertory Theatre.

“My Higher Power is: Science!” proclaims Sean, a newly recovered alcoholic. “Sean” is the lead character in a comedic play, “The White Chip,” which premiered last year at Merrimac Repertory Theatre outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Written by Sean Daniels, the play dramatizes Daniels’ own near demise from alcoholism, and his experience of recovery. Neuroethics is writ large as the play tells the story of how critically important various addiction etiologies can be for those struggling with alcoholism, or addiction of any sort. In Sean’s case, the etiology is the brain disease model of addiction (BDMA) in a notable combination with the “Higher Power” understanding of 12-step programs, which he credits with saving his life. Behind the curious twists of the play, questions linger: which model of addiction should be presented to those in recovery, when so much conflict exists amongst addiction researchers, clinicians, and recovery care providers? At what point does an effective (potentially life-saving) narrative of addiction etiology supersede the obligation to provide all sides of the controversial matter of addiction modeling?

When Sean “hits bottom,” he has destroyed his career, his marriage, his health, and nearly lost his life while driving drunk. He enters a rehabilitation facility, but struggles with the suggestion that he find a “Higher Power.” Such a practice is reflective of the metaphysical claim central to Alcoholics Anonymous, and every other 12-step program: surrender to a Higher Power of the addict’s understanding, and is perhaps the most significant distinguishing feature separating 12-step methods from other recovery pathways.

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 End Of The Affordable Care Act and Its Critics’ Hollow Moral Rhetoric

From the 1940’s to the present, it’s hard to think of a
major topic on the American political agenda that has been subjected to more
tortured language and ideological extremism than healthcare. By no means am I
saying that healthcare proposals to expand access to healthcare over the years
should not have been subjected to rational scrutiny and disagreement. But it
seems, by and large, disagreement over healthcare policy proposals have always
been about the opponents of progressive options to expand insurance coverage
tapping into a certain segment of voters’ deepest fears and biases to
predispose them against any alternative for change.

All progressive leaders who have attempted reform in
healthcare, like Earl Warren (Governor of California from 1943-53) and
President Harry Truman (mid-late 1040’s), to President John Kennedy and Lyndon
Johnson in the 1960’s, to the Clintons in the 1990’s, to Barack Obama in 2009,
have been met with fierce opposition from lobbying groups representing big
business, including insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and often physicians
through the American Medical Association. The essential line of attack has been
that government would become overly involved in medical decision-making and
overshadow the influence and judgment of physicians in the care of patients.
But to win this argument decisively, the hired consultants
devised plans
to associate expanded healthcare coverage or universal
healthcare with “socialized medicine” and even the “red scare”—clear demeaning
associations with undemocratic countries, unlike the United States, that
quickly appeal to irrational sentiments and undermine any consensus for reform.
These basic underhand, scare tactics continued to be effective against the
failed Clinton proposal in 1993 and, later, President Obama’s signature
achievement—the Affordable Care Act—which currently in the process of being
repealed and radically scaled down in terms of benefits.

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.