Tag: social problems

Bioethics Blogs

Teaching Disability Studies in the Era of Trump by Pamela Block

In spring semester of 2017 we (Pam Block and Michele Friedner) co-taught the graduate course “Conceptual Foundations of Disability Studies.” Though the readings were the same as in previous iterations of the course, the emphasis and tone of the class shifted, not just because of the co-teaching but because we were now teaching in a context in which the rights and lives of disabled people are at increased risk. This essay will focus on one class session devoted to a discussion of how disability studies and eugenics are strikingly intertwined in some ways, and why it is salient and important to think about eugenics in the present moment, especially in relation to the current United States presidency.

Eugenics opens up a way to talk about immigration; traits and qualities of and in people; desirability; deservedness; “good” and “bad” science; and the making of facts. Eugenics comes to mind when we think of silencing and containing nasty women and ejecting bad hombres. While we are not arguing that Trump himself advocates eugenics, we argue that a study of the history of eugenics offers an entry point to considering the emergence of past and present norms and normals, especially in relation to perspectives on bodily variation. We also think that a discussion of eugenics affords different ways of conceptualizing what disability studies scholars Snyder and Mitchell (2010) call “able-nationalism,” (riffing off of Puar’s (2007) work on homonationalism). That is, a discussion of eugenics allows for consideration of how disability—and the values attached to it– is mobilized in different time periods, in the service to the nation.

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

The biological status of the early human embryo. When does human life begins?

“Those who argue that that embryo can be destroyed with impunity will have to prove that this newly created life is not human. And no-one, to the best of our knowledge, has yet been able to do so.”

Introduction

In order to determine the nature of the human embryo, we need to know its biological, anthropological, philosophical, and even its legal reality. In our opinion, however, the anthropological, philosophical and legal reality of the embryo — the basis of its human rights — must be built upon its biological reality (see also HERE).

Consequently, one of the most widely debated topics in the field of bioethics is to determine when human life begins, and particularly to define the biological status of the human embryo, particularly the early embryo, i.e. from impregnation of the egg by the sperm until its implantation in the maternal endometrium.

Irrespective of this, though, this need to define when human life begins is also due to the fact that during the early stages of human life — approximately during its first 14 days — this young embryo is subject to extensive and diverse threats that, in many cases, lead to its destruction (see HERE).

These threats affect embryos created naturally, mainly through the use of drugs or technical procedures used in the control of human fertility that act via an anti-implantation mechanism, especially intrauterine devices (as DIU); this is also the case of drugs used in emergency contraception, such as levonorgestrel or ulipristal-based drugs (see HERE), because both act via an anti-implantation mechanism in 50% of cases.

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

The biological status of the early human embryo. When does human life begins?

“Those who argue that that embryo can be destroyed with impunity will have to prove that this newly created life is not human. And no-one, to the best of our knowledge, has yet been able to do so.”

Introduction

In order to determine the nature of the human embryo, we need to know its biological, anthropological, philosophical, and even its legal reality. In our opinion, however, the anthropological, philosophical and legal reality of the embryo — the basis of its human rights — must be built upon its biological reality (see also HERE).

Consequently, one of the most widely debated topics in the field of bioethics is to determine when human life begins, and particularly to define the biological status of the human embryo, particularly the early embryo, i.e. from impregnation of the egg by the sperm until its implantation in the maternal endometrium.

Irrespective of this, though, this need to define when human life begins (see our article  is also due to the fact that during the early stages of human life — approximately during its first 14 days — this young embryo is subject to extensive and diverse threats that, in many cases, lead to its destruction (see HERE).

These threats affect embryos created naturally, mainly through the use of drugs or technical procedures used in the control of human fertility that act via an anti-implantation mechanism, especially intrauterine devices (as DIU); this is also the case of drugs used in emergency contraception, such as levonorgestrel or ulipristal-based drugs (see HERE), because both act via an anti-implantation mechanism in most of the time.

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

Tackling Patients’ Social Problems Can Cut Health Costs

“It’s almost like self-sabotage,” Gurley said about her many attempts to steady her client’s life. “We get really close to an important doctor’s appointment or getting him connected with stable housing, and his impulsiveness gets in the way of that.”

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

Altruism, Ethics, and Markets

Mario Macis, PhD, together with Vikram Chib, PhD and Jeffrey Kahn, PhD, MPH were awarded funding by the JHU Exploration of Practical Ethics program for their project titled “Altruism, Ethics and Markets: A Behavioral and Neuroscientific Experimental Study.” This is an experimental study at the intersection of ethics, economics and neuroscience that addresses controversial economic transactions, such as receiving financial compensation for organ donation. The research team will create an experimental laboratory setting that reproduces several of the features of organ donation, and will study the ethical and economic implications of different institutional regimes of procurement. By measuring neural activity (through fMRI) and behavior, this study will provide insight into how altruism, the desire for economic gain, and the tolerance for physical pain interact to produce outcomes. The study will also consider how those interactions depend on institutional arrangements and will examine the neural mechanisms associated with people’s preferences.

 

Dr. Macis answers our questions.

 

Explain the different scenarios in which participants can “donate” in this experiment.

 

Participants are presented with three scenarios. In the first two scenarios, in exchange for a physical cost (i.e., pain from an electric shock), participants will have the possibility to earn some money for a charity of their choice (“pure altruism”), or for both a charity and themselves (“paid altruism”). In the third scenario, participants are given the opportunity to transfer a certain amount of their endowment as a payment to another person who agrees to take a given shock, and a charity receives a given sum of money (“market”).

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

Predicting adult crimes from observing toddlers

Big data makes it possible to predict which children will grow up to be the greatest economic burden on the community, according to an article in a new journal, Nature Human Behaviour. Researchers who analysed the lives of nearly a thousand people from birth to age 38 in the New Zealand city of Dunedin found that 20% of the population accounts for 80% of social costs such as crime, welfare dependence and health-care needs when they are adults.

Just one-fifth of the study population accounted for 81% of criminal convictions and 77% of deadbeat dads, consumed three-quarters of drug prescriptions, two-thirds of welfare benefits and more than half of the hospital nights and cigarettes smoked.

The researchers found they could have predicted which adults were likely to incur these costs as early as age 3 based on assessments of “brain health,” giving them hope that early interventions could avoid some of these social costs.

Big Data is essential to identify candidates. “We know every location they’ve lived, every name they’ve used. We’re able to match them with pretty much 100% accuracy back for many years,” said Terrie Moffitt, a Duke researcher.

“The digitization of people’s lives allows us to quantify precisely how much a person costs society and which people are using multiple different costly health and social services. Apparently, the same few clients use the courts, welfare benefits, disability services, children’s services, and the health-care system. These systems could be more joined up.”

The Duke researchers stress that this ability to identify and predict a person’s life course from their childhood status is an invitation to intervene, not to discriminate.

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

Making humans morally better won’t fix the problems of climate change

Guest Post: Bob Simpson, Monash University

Climate change, cooperation and moral bioenhancement

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has repeatedly said that greenhouse gas emissions increase the likelihood of severe and irreversible harm for people and ecosystems. And in his State of the Union address in 2015, Barack Obama emphasised these problems, saying that climate change poses the greatest threat to humanity’s future. We’ve come to expect pronouncements like these. Political leaders and transnational policy institutions both have an important role to play in implementing the measures needed to address threats from climate change – measures like international economic agreements, energy sector reform, and technological research.

By contrast, we wouldn’t expect advocates of biotechnological human enhancement to be proposing solutions to climate change. What does human enhancement have to do with oceanic warming or greenhouse gas emissions? According to people like Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu, who advocate “moral bio-enhancement”, these things are in fact related. They say that we should be finding ways to use biotechnological interventions to make people more trusting and altruistic towards strangers, and hence more willing to make personal sacrifices – like, say, dramatically reducing their carbon footprint – in order to cooperate in global policies aimed at mitigating the impact of climate change.

To some this may sound like a totalitarian brave new world. For Persson and Savulescu, though, where the survival of human life as we know it is at stake, taking the steps needed to make people more cooperative and less destructive – both in this area, and in relation to other grave dangers, like political extremists getting their hands on bioweapons that could unleash super-pandemics – is the lesser of two evils.

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

Surrogate motherhood stirs deep controversy for both medical and ethical reasons

Surrogate motherhood can be genetic (using sperm from the contracting father or oocytes – eggs – from the contracting mother) or gestational, which refers to the implantation in the surrogate mother of an embryo that was obtained by one of three means:

  • using an egg and sperm from the contracting parents;
  • using a donor egg which is fertilised with sperm from the contracting father;
  • using donor egg and sperm.

Surrogate motherhood is illegal in most European countries, including France, Italy and Switzerland. In contrast, it is legal in Georgia and the Ukraine, and outside of Europe, in South Africa. In October 2013, altruist surrogacy was regulated in the United Kingdom (UK).

Now, the results of a survey using data from clinics authorised in the UK since 1998 to perform this practice have been published. A total of 54 clinics responded, 51.4% of those surveyed.  Of the participating clinics, 42.6% offer surrogacy. When the results were assessed, heterosexual couples were the largest group to request this service, followed by homosexual men (our last approach HERE).

The authors of the article concluded by stating that it is important that professionals in the UK are well informed of the legal implications of surrogacy and that clinics that offer this service have well-designed protocols and appropriate technical support (Reproductive Biomedicine Online 31; 327-338, 2015).

We should add that the major ethical and social problems inherent to surrogacy should not be forgotten, specifically that it might mean objectification of the surrogate.

La entrada Surrogate motherhood stirs deep controversy for both medical and ethical reasons 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

Burnout and self-care for bioethicists

by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

Like many bioethicists, I often have to research disturbing parts of American culture for various writing projects. Topics like rape, gun violence, sexism, and medical racism are often times the subjects of my scholarly articles and blogs. Many times, I have to research how these topics play out in our everyday lives, forcing me to research popular and heart-breaking news stories such as the Orlando night club shooting or the recent Stanford rape case. Because of technology, social media, and the always handy cell phone, my research often requires me to read or watch the testimonies of witnesses to heinous crimes, crime scene photos, and/or videos of murders. During my research I encounter articles written by hateful and bigoted people, but as a good researcher, I have to read their vile words as well. Sometimes my research hits a little too close to home and prompts me to think about the possibility of these disturbing occurrences happening to me, my family, or my friends. While doing research on these kinds of topics, I, understandably can feel frustrated with the world, angry, sad, hopeless, and especially discouraged. My current research project on victim-blaming has me feeling especially angry and discouraged right now, but it is also forcing me to think about how I can take care of my emotional and mental health so that I can continue what I believe to be meaningful work.

Medical educators often teach medical students and physicians how to prevent burnout, how to recognize burnout, and how to treat burnout.

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

Forgotten Stories of the Eugenic Age #5: Creating Super-People

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, 1480s

[Forgotten Stories of the Eugenic Age is a blog series exploring the lesser-known ways that eugenics affected and engaged American lives during the first half of the twentieth century.]

“Can science produce a superman?” science writer Waldemar Kaempffert wondered in the New York Times in 1928. “What kind of a superman do we want? And who shall dictate his specifications?”

In the early twentieth century, new genetic discoveries prompted supporters of eugenics to ponder the potential creation and characteristics of a superior human race. Many believed that encouraging the eugenically “fit” to mate and isolating or sterilizing the eugenically “unfit” would yield over time a superior population. They argued that breeding a better race represented the next step in human evolution. After all, careful husbandry had improved crops and livestock. Surely the production of “human thoroughbreds” could not be much different.

“Scientific” Creation
With new scientific knowledge and technologies, eugenists believed that they at last had the tools to create improved people. They were particularly interested in developing technologies for assisted reproduction, including the human application of animal husbandry techniques like artificial insemination. Dr. Julian Huxley, grandson of champion of the theory of evolution T. H. Huxley, predicted that such techniques would allow eugenically fit men and women to marry whomever they chose, but—regardless of their partners’ fertility—have children with third parties who had been specially selected for their genetic qualities. (Those who might object to this cold calculation were merely exhibiting “outworn sentimentalism,” said Huxley.)

Exhibiting similar thinking, Dr.

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.