Tag: social problems

Bioethics Blogs

Sexual Harm and Criminal Law

Elaine Craig  cautions against proposed alternatives to the criminal justice system for dealing with sexual violence that fail to address the underlying social problems of misogyny, gender hierarchy, and sex and gender discrimination.

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The current legal response to the social problem of sexual harm is located primarily in the criminal law. As recent media attention and public discourse has revealed, this is a system with many flaws. Primary among them is that the criminal justice process remains inhospitable, if not inhumane, to sexual assault complainants. In The Inhospitable Court I examine, through the use of trial transcripts, the ways in which the process of the criminal trial itself – its rituals – creates hierarchical conditions that can further traumatize those who turn to the state to respond to their experiences of non-consensual sex. These rituals include the scripted form of communication demanded of complainants, the physical setting of the courtroom itself, and the highly particularized manner in which complainants are required to recount their experiences.  Unfortunately, the impact of these hierarchical rituals is compounded by the reality that assessments of the credibility of complainants continue to be informed by gender based myths and stereotypes.

Self Portrait, Trauma Scars (2013) by Jane Fox

Given the inadequacies in our current legal response to sexual harm, increased attention to developing alternatives to the criminal justice system is unsurprising. Proposed alternative responses include a diverse spectrum of options including specialized sexual assault courts, restorative justice approaches, increased emphasis on the role of civil law as an avenue through which to provide survivors with access to justice and, in a recent post on Impact Ethics, a reconceptualization of sexual violence as a public health issue.

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

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

The major medical and social problems in organ transplantation owing to the increasing shortage of donor organs is well known. Solutions must therefore be sought in the fairly near future that can resolve these issues. One of these is the production of animal chimeras in which quasi-human organs can be developed. This has been attempted using human embryonic stem cells injected into mice (Nature 521; 316-321, 2015), but the practice raises significant problems, from both a medical and ethical perspective. The main difficulty from a medical point of view is that, since this is an allogeneic material, it can give rise to as yet unresolved problems with immune rejection. The use of embryonic stem cell also entails what I would call insurmountable ethical difficulties, since obtaining these types of cells requires the destruction of human embryos. Furthermore, the transplanted human cells can colonise the organs of the recipient animal, so animals may be generated with practically human organs, which means great new ethical challenges.

Aside from the use of human embryonic stem cells, though, new possibilities have now been opened for these types of experiments with the development of adult somatic cell reprogramming from which so-called iPS cells can be derived. Since these can be obtained from somatic cells of the individual requiring the transplant, they minimise immune rejection. This is an attractive therapeutic possibility that looks likely to be implemented in the fairly near future.

An interesting article on this topic was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics last year (41; 970-974, 2015).

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

Top of the Heap: Helen Verran by Hannah Gibson

For this installment of the Top of the Heap series, I spoke with Helen Verran, a historian and philosopher of science who is Adjunct Professor at Charles Darwin University in Australia as well as holding a position at the Norwegian University of the Arctic.

Helen Verran

bodyipadA display of a story about computer application that was never built – the Touch Pad Body. In 2016 it exists only as electronic seed code in a few computers. Apart from that it has life in two stories that have been told about it: a pamphlet of four pages (see PDF here; first page at right) and an academic paper (Christie and Verran, 2014). The experience of collectively imagining the Touch Pad Body as an entity, and imbuing it with what might be called ‘life in potentia’, was an element in an inquiry with the project name “East Arnhem Client Education and Health Interpreting”. That inquiry conducted as contract research for a local health services provider, instances the logic of inquiry that I elaborate here. It is the experience of such inquiry and the experience in such inquiry, which the books at the top of my pile of current reading attend to, as in undertaking methodological study I further elaborate what method in relational empiricist inquiry is. For me, unlike most of my contemporaries, method is quite a different matter than methodology.

In Australia I work as part of the Ground Up group in the Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University in Australia’s Northern Territory. We undertake contract research, what might be called commonsense inquiry in search of useful and good responses for everyday problems of those who live in the NT’s Indigenous communities.

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

In The Journals – April Part II by Michelle Pentecost

Another set of great papers from the journals in April. Enjoy!

 

 Social Science & Medicine

‘I knew before I was told’: Breaches, cues and clues in the diagnostic assemblage

 Louise Locock, Sarah Nettleton, Susan Kirkpatrick, Sara Ryan and Sue Ziebland

Diagnosis can be both a ‘diagnostic moment’, but also a process over time. This paper uses secondary analysis of narrative interviews on ovarian cancer, antenatal screening and motor neurone disease to explore how people relate assembling procedural, spatial and interactional evidence before the formal diagnostic moment. We offer the idea of a diagnostic assemblage to capture the ways in which individuals connect to and re-order signs and events that come to be associated with their bodies. Building on the empirical work of Poole and Lyne (2000) in the field of breast cancer diagnosis, we identify how patients describe being alerted to their diagnosis, either through ‘clues’ they report picking up (often inadvertently) or through ‘cues’, perceived as a more intentional prompt given by a health professional, or an organisational process. For patients, these clues frequently represent a breach in the expected order of their encounter with healthcare. Even seemingly mundane episodes or behaviours take on meanings which health professionals may not themselves anticipate. Our findings speak to an emergent body of work demonstrating that experiences of formal healthcare during the lead-up to diagnosis shape patients’ expectations, degree of trust in professionals, and even health outcomes.

 

Socio-economic divergence in public opinions about preventive obesity regulations: Is the purpose to ‘make some things cheaper, more affordable’ or to ‘help them get over their own ignorance’?

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

University Research and Journalism: Distinctions Without Differences

Google Scholar belatedly alerts me a 2014 article in which two philosophers of education seek to distinguish investigative journalism from university-sponsored community research. They suggest it makes sense to require IRB oversight of the latter but not the former, but their arguments rest on factually doubtful claims of uncertain relevance, and they fail to show that IRB oversight makes sense for either type of research.

[Anne Newman and Ronald David Glass, “Comparing Ethical and Epistemic Standards for Investigative Journalists and Equity-Oriented Collaborative Community-Based Researchers: Why Working for a University Matters,” Journal of Higher Education 85, no. 3 (2014): 283–311, doi:10.1353/jhe.2014.0013.]

As noted on this blog, many IRB apologists are sufficiently steeped in American traditions of freedom of the press to avoid calling for IRB oversight of journalism. Some, like James Weinstein, try to distinguish the two by disparaging social science as focusing on “subjects not of public concern.” Others, like Martin Meeker, take the opposite stance, suggesting that journalism is too full of “blatant bias and even hyperbole” to be taken seriously.

Though they don’t cite Meeker, Newman and Glass follow his line and attack Weinstein, arguing that equity-oriented collaborative community-based research (EOCCBR) does indeed address “policy issues that are undoubtedly matters of public concern (e.g., drinking water contamination, mentoring programs for parolees, civic engagement of low-income racialized youth).” How then, can they justify prior restraint?

Silly Claim 1: Reporters Don’t Disclose Methodology

Newman and Glass’s article is long and somewhat rambling, so I’m not sure how many distinctions they hope to draw between university research and journalism.

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

10th Anniversary Baby Markets Congress

Baby Markets: Money and the New Politics of Creating Families (Cambridge University Press 2010, 1st ed., ed. Michele Goodwin)

“We can only assess the justice of baby markets by stripping away the veneer of ‘freedom,’” said Dorothy Roberts at the Baby Markets International Congress, which met April 1-3 in Southern California. The meeting celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Baby Markets Roundtables series founded by Michele Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor at UC Irvine Law School, author of Baby Markets (2010), and founder of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy.

For three days, panelists and participants engaged with assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), reproductive justice, contractual parentage and procreation relationships, genetic testing and selection of embryos, gestational and transnational surrogacy, in vitro fertilization, abortion laws, constitutional rights to procreation and assisted reproduction, LGBT access to adoption and ARTs, selective reduction, and fertility professional negligence.

@DorothyERoberts “baby markets aren’t free” keynote address at #BabyMarkets2016 @UCILaw @UCIrvine @Penn pic.twitter.com/7K9AC45Joo

The keynote address by Dorothy Roberts, professor of law and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and CGS advisory board member, painted a rich picture of the complex systems of oppression that backdrop free trade reproduction. Roberts highlighted the wide-ranging reproductive injustices of abortion bans, neoliberal public healthcare disinvestment in the United States, dependency courts and disruptions of families of color, and centuries of ongoing racism that make it impossible for baby markets to be “liberating” for women of color.

Roberts also reflected on the “new eugenics” that pressures parents to make “the right genetic decisions,” leading to the widespread use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select against disability, and the support of a few enthusiasts to attempt next-generation genetic engineering with CRISPR-Cas9 to “edit” the traits of future children.

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

Using birth control to combat Zika virus could affect future generations

Written by Simon Beard
Research Fellow in Philosophy, Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford

This is a cross post of an article which originally appeared in The Conversation.

In a recent article, Oxford University’s director of medical ethics, Dominic Wilkinson, argued that birth control was a key way of tackling the Zika virus’s apparently devastating effects on unborn children – a strategy that comes with the extra benefit of meeting the need for reproductive health across much of the affected areas.

However, although this approach might be one solution to a medical issue, it doesn’t consider the demographic implications of delaying pregnancy on such an unprecedented scale – some of which could have a significant impact on people and societies.

In most of the world, Zika outbreaks have had no noticeable effect on children, but the most recent outbreak in Brazil was associated with a significant spike in the incidence of microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to have small heads and underdeveloped brains. This rose from a background incidence of around 0.07% of live births to 2% – around 4,000 new cases since October in a country of just over 200m.

Microcephaly causes intellectual impairment in almost all cases and can also cause developmental problems and mild seizure. Life expectancy is also thought to be reduced, although whether this is caused by microcephaly itself or its associated disability is unknown.

Let us assume that children born with microcephaly suffer a reduction in life expectancy. And each year of life lived with microcephaly is also associated with an 82% reduction in quality of life.

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

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: February 19, 2016

Participants in the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. | Photo via National Archives Catalog

Voices for Our Fathers Keeping Memory of Horrific Study Alive
The Tuskegee syphilis experiment recruited poor men with “bad blood” from rural Macon County, Ala., as test subjects. The study went on for decades, despite its ethical issues.

‘Government only pays for the positive outcomes.’ A strikingly new approach to social problems.
Two states announced Tuesday that they would experiment with an unusual method of financing human service programs that allows governments to pay nothing unless the programs are successful.

Needle Exchanges Can Now Get Federal Funding
Lifting the ban underscores a growing recognition that needle exchange programs can help reduce the the spread of infectious diseases

A First-Aid Class for Mental Health
Most people know how to help someone with a cut or a scrape. But what about a panic attack?

South Dakota is first state to pass bill restricting transgender students’ bathroom use
The South Dakota state legislature on Tuesday passed a bill that would require public school students to use the bathroom, shower and locker room that correspond to their biological sex.

Transgender Patients Face Challenges at the Hospital
After a skiing accident in January left him with a smashed knee, Beck Bailey, a transgender man in Greenfield, Mass., spent 15 days in a Vermont hospital undergoing a handful of surgeries. As part of his normal routine, Mr. Bailey gives himself regular shots of testosterone. But the endocrinologist on duty in Vermont told him that patients should not take testosterone post surgery.

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

Ethnographic case, legal case: From the spirit of the law to the law of the spirit by André Menard

In 1956, Claude Lévi-Strauss addressed a letter to the 1st International Congress of Black Writers and Artists held in Paris. In the letter, he stated that “after the aristocratic humanism of the Renaissance and the bourgeois humanism of the 19th century” the Congress announced the arrival of “a democratic humanism” in which “every human society must be represented, not just a few.”[1]

A societies’ access to the rank of civilization is, however, neither evident nor immediate, but requires the presence of representatives. Lévi-Strauss explained this situation in the following manner: “these civilizations of which you are the spokespeople have hardly had any written documents and some only devoted themselves to the monument’s transitory forms. For lack of these so-called noble productions, in order to comprehend them, one must focus oneself, with the same degree of passion and respect, on the ‘popular’ manifestations of culture: those shared by all members of society.”[2]

In this statement from Lévi-Strauss, we can see three things: an expression of the politics of deracialization policies promoted by organizations such as the United Nations and Unesco since the end of World War II; the promotion of the concept of culture over race as the new tool for the management of the human differences; and the creation of a new subject—indigenous peoples as an internationally recognized political and legal category.

What is perhaps most meaningful in Levi Strauss’ statement, however, is that this new global category takes the shape of a special kind of subject: the anthropological informant—that anonymous person or individual whose name always functions at a secondary level after the authorship of the ethnographer, whose role is to instantiate a collective category, which was understood in the past as race, and is today known as culture.

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.