Tag: social good

Bioethics Blogs

What’s Behind Gender Panic in the Restroom?

North Carolina recently adopted a statute that requires people to use public restrooms consistent with the sex assigned to them at birth, and other jurisdictions are debating similar proposals. Legislators in Kansas have proposed a bill that would require financial compensation to people who encounter people using restrooms that do not reflect the sex assigned to them at birth. To avoid those outlays, the operators of those restrooms and locker rooms will have to monitor the premises closely.

In fact, a lot of gender policing already goes on in public restrooms. Both men and women face hostility when they don’t seem qualified to use a particular lavatory because of their appearance. “Excuse me,” the gender police will say, “but this is a ladies’ room” or “the men’s room,” as the case may be. Sometimes, the remarks are cruder, more direct, or laced with threats, but states considering restroom and locker room restrictions are not usually worried about protecting people with atypical gender expression. They worry more about danger at the hands of those people, or at least they say they do.

These legal efforts involve no small amount of posturing. Even the states moving to restrict access to rest rooms and locker rooms acknowledge the need for fluidity in sex classifications. They admit as much when they allow people to change the classification of sex assigned to them at birth. There’s a social contradiction in both permitting this kind of change and also obstructing its effects. In effect these states are saying, “Yes, you may change your sex as known to the state.

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

Transdisciplinary Problematics: A Special Issue of Theory, Culture and Society by Michelle Pentecost

The latest issue of Theory, Culture and Society offers a stellar set of offerings on the problematics of transdisciplinarity, through the lenses of philosophy, STS, feminist theory, and gender studies. Enjoy!

Problematizing Disciplinarity, Transdisciplinary Problematics

Peter Osborne

This article situates current debates about transdisciplinarity within the deeper history of academic disciplinarity, in its difference from the notions of inter- and multi-disciplinarity. It offers a brief typology and history of established conceptions of transdisciplinarity within science and technology studies. It then goes on to raise the question of the conceptual structure of transdisciplinary generality in the humanities, with respect to the incorporation of the 19th- and 20th-century German and French philosophical traditions into the anglophone humanities, under the name of ‘theory’. It identifies two distinct – dialectical and anti-dialectical, or dialectical and transversal – transdisciplinary trajectories. It locates the various contributions to the special issue of which it is the introduction within this conceptual field, drawing attention to the distinct contribution of the French debates about structuralism and its aftermath – those by Serres, Foucault, Derrida, Guattari and Latour, in particular. It concludes with an appendix on Foucault’s place within current debates about disciplinarity and academic disciplines.

 

Introduction to Serres on Transdisciplinarity

Lucie Mercer

Excerpted from an article on Leibniz first published in 1974 in Hermès III, la Traduction, Michel Serres’s ‘Transdisciplinarity as Relative Exteriority’ offers a synoptic view of Serres’s vision of the relationship between philosophy and the sciences. Serres charts four historical strategies by which philosophy has secured its theoretical control over the sciences, four versions of philosophical exteriority towards the scientific field.

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

New Rules Proposed to Address Privacy and Trust in the Precision Medicine Initiative

With the launch of the US Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), patient autonomy within the practice of informed consent is being revisited. The PMI is designed to amass the data of a million volunteers in an effort to advance research and support public health. Alongside this national effort, proposed revisions to the “Common Rule” that regulates research with human subjects in the US are open for public comment through December 7, and are summarized in a Perspective published in the New England Journal of Medicine on October 28, 2015 by NIH director Francis Collins and NIH senior advisor Kathy Hudson.  

In general, the process known as “informed consent” is designed to give research participants the autonomy to consider the risks and benefits associated with a research study as part of their decision making about whether to agree or refuse to participate. Early on in biomedical and genomics research, the risks and benefits presented as part of the process were confined to health side effects and therapeutic outcomes. More recently, with the advent of advances in biotechnology, supercomputing, and the construction of large-scale data sets, risk and benefit have taken on new meaning.

In a country that is struggling to address national healthcare within the context of racial and economic inequities, analyses of risk and benefit must expand beyond traditional definitions. This is especially true as biomedical research has become increasingly dependent on human bodies, cells, tissues, and DNA. Today, healthy volunteers in clinical trials can gain financial benefit in the form of payment or compensation; contributors of genetic information must consider privacy and discrimination risk associated with release of genetic information; and patients must be aware of profits made from research on biospecimens collected as part of diagnosis or therapy.

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

Heather Paxson’s The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America by James Babbitt

The Life of Cheese Crafting Food and Value in America

University of California Press, 2012, 332 pages.

Heather Paxson’s The Life of Cheese might seem like an odd book to review for Somatosphere, but a quick glance reveals chapters such as “Microbiopolitics” and “Ecologies of Production” which feel as familiar as well-worn flannel. The Life of Cheese examines the values and meanings produced in tandem with artisanal cheese: a process where cheesemakers involve themselves with landscapes, ruminants (goats, sheep, and cattle), bacteria, fungi, thermometers, and farmers markets. The Life of Cheese is a book about artisanal assemblages in America. Examining American agriculture—artisanal and conventional—through assemblages is a worthwhile endeavor and one that has potential for many future research projects. I hope that I will be one of them.

The first chapter “American Artisanal” introduces two important concepts underpinning Paxson’s analysis: the “unfinished commodity” and the “post-pastoral ethos.” An “unfinished commodity” is a saleable object that contains multiple values (economic, moral, personal, etc.) and an unveiled history of production. For example, the story of Jasper Hill Farm’s Bayley Hazen Blue is an integral part of the commodity and not a fetter hidden beneath an avalanche of advertising. When cheese is sold at market, photos of the farm, family, and animals might be placed alongside it to tell its tale. The commodity’s biography is consciously exposed and elucidated by its makers. This is a far cry from most food purchased at the grocery store where advertising and packaging aim to obscure the commodity’s life history. I have reservations about the “unfinished commodity” being distinct and separate from other commodities.

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: Housing in Australia– Investment Vehicle or Social Institution?

Written by Christopher Chew

Monash University

 JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, do you accept that housing in Sydney is unaffordable and the only way we’re going to make it affordable is if real house prices in real terms actually fall over the near term?

TREASURER JOE HOCKEY:

No. Look, if housing were unaffordable in Sydney, no one would be buying it…it’s expensive.…but, having said that…a lot of people would much rather have their homes go up in value

JOURNALIST:

You say that housing is affordable…what about for first home buyers…people that don’t have access to equity in other properties?

TREASURER JOE HOCKEY:

the starting point for a first home buyer is to get a good job that pays good moneyyou can go to the bank and you can borrow money and that’s readily affordable

Source: http://jbh.ministers.treasury.gov.au/transcript/144-2015/

Recent careless comments made by Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey during a radio interview (see above) have provoked a firestorm of media outrage and scorn, with accusations of being ‘out of touch’ and elitist. In all fairness, more has been made of these comments than is likely warranted – though the Treasurer’s enviable property portfolio, including an AUD$5.4 million primary residence, a history of previous embarrassing gaffes hasn’t helped.

Indeed, rising housing prices and alleged unaffordability have lately been a source of bubbling tension in Australia. In particular, first-home buyers (and indeed their parents) have found it difficult to ‘get a leg on the property ladder’, and worry that they are being priced out of the market by greedy investors.

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

Vaccines and the Ethics of Parental Choice

Ubaka Ogbogu argues that vaccinating a child against illness is in the child’s best interest and should be the default norm.

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There has been much discussion lately regarding the resurgence of vaccine-preventable childhood infectious diseases and the problems of anti-vaccination and vaccine hesitancy. These discussions were triggered, in part, by a number of recent events: (1) an outbreak of measles at Disneyland; (2) Roald Dahl’s heartrending essay recalling the loss of his seven-year old daughter Olivia to measles, and in which he urged parents to get their children immunized; and (3) the comments of US politicians like Rand Paul, who think that vaccines should be resisted based largely on conspiracy theories and the idea that individuals have the right to choose not to be vaccinated.

Vaccine proponents (like myself) have argued that vaccinations are essential to promote community welfare. We have appealed to scientific evidence, which indisputably shows that recommended childhood vaccines are generally safe and effective. Scientific evidence also shows that a sufficient number of children need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity. We have advocated for a robust and routine program of mandatory vaccinations sans religious or personal exemptions.

Vaccine opponents have countered by questioning the science behind childhood vaccines or by referencing a right to be exempted from forced medical intervention that interferes with personal beliefs and preferences. Among those who oppose vaccines lies the assumption that parents have an automatic and unassailable right to make decisions regarding vaccination on behalf of their children. From this it follows that taking away that right is as a violation of the parent’s liberty or participatory interests.

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

Is Effective Altruism Killing the Love?

In July 1990, the Australian state of Victoria put a law requiring cyclists to wear helmets into effect (1). More than two decades later, it is unclear whether or not the introduction of the law had a net societal health benefit (2). This might be puzzling when considering that cycling with a helmet on is safer than cycling without it. It prevents head traumas, especially those resulting from accidents at lower speeds. In London, the police started last year to stop cyclists without helmets and to educate them about the benefits of wearing a helmet (3). However, one of the arguments against laws requiring the wearing of bike helmets is that it significantly reduces the number of people that cycle. Hence, there is a good chance that the health costs – increased morbidity due to lack of exercise outweigh the health benefits – less head traumas (2). In the words of Milton: “Easy is the descent into Hell, for it is paved with good intentions.” Might effective altruism have similar unintended consequences?

Effective giving tries to maximize the impact of donations on social good. The opposite of effective giving can, for instance, be described in terms of the identified victim effect. Baby Jessica is the poster child (or poster baby) for this effect. At the age of 18 months, Jessica fell into a well; people donated more than $700,000 for her rescue (she is alive and well). The staggering amount of donations in cases like these appears to be motivated by the strong compassion people feel for an identified victim.

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

Should Anyone get IVF?

Cast your mind back to this summer, and Christina Richie’s paper about the provision of ARTs.  It attracted a fair bit of controversy because of the way it talked about gay people’s rights to access ARTs, and their “voluntary” infertility.  For my money, that was the weakest part of the paper, and it should have been left out of the argument; the majority of the paper, and the more ethically interesting part, had to do with the environmental impact of striving to have more and more kids, irrespective of their parentage.  But I can see why the part about gay people struck many people as worth commenting on.

Why mention all that now?  Well, there’s a nice paper by Emily McTernan currently on pre-pub in the Journal of Applied Philosophy asking whether any fertility treatment should be state-funded.  In it, she asks whether IVF should be state-funded at all.  In a nutshell, her claim is that many of the arguments about the good of parenthood are either weak in their own right, or else could apply equally well to any number of other goods that a person might pursue.  Those that are weak are obviously less likely to sustain a claim that iVF should be provided; those that apply equally well to other goods obviously suggest either that governments should fund the pursuit of those other goods as well, or that if pursuit of those other goods is not funded, then neither should IVF be.  Thus

it is unjustifiable for a state to provide fertility treatment more generously than it funds other valuable like projects, both in the quantity of funding and the lack of means testing.

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

Life, Death & Governance

You think these are challenging days for the governor of New Jersey? Life is getting especially complicated for the governor of Ohio — in the myriad meanings of the word.


Ohio Governor John Kasich is well respected by abortion opponents. and last summer signed both restrictive new pro-life laws and what was considered the “most pro-life budget in history.”

But it is not the value of life at its beginning that is increasingly demanding Kasich’s attention; instead it is how, and whether, the state punishes or forgives those who kill.

Early Thursday, Ohio executed the admitted rapist and murderer of an 8-months-pregnant woman. What made this newsworthy, beyond the simple fact of state execution, was the means employed: a new lethal cocktail of drugs, used for the first time with little real sense of how much pain they would inflict or how long they would take to complete the task.

Why is this of interest, on a blog devoted not to politics or criminal justice but to community understanding and perspectives regarding medical ethics? Because of the focus on the continuum of how life is valued in American society, and how prominent the extremes have become.

While Ohio balances its belief in the justice of capital punishment with charges that it lacks a humane means to carry out the executions, hospitals in both California and Texas in recent weeks, and for very different reasons, have mechanically sustained patients determined by doctors to be dead. (Nowhere are end-of-life politics in sharper focus than Texas.)

Pardon the leap, but the most recent study by the Community Ethics Committee, to be submitted soon to the ethics leadership of Harvard Medical School and its teaching hospitals, concerns transparency and decision-making in listing for organ transplantation.

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.