Tag: terrorism

Bioethics News

That euthanasia stuff… does anyone remember what we decided?

Catherine Fonck (l) and Health Minister Maggie De Block in Parliament  

Despite – or perhaps because of – scathing criticism of their 2002 law by foreigners, Belgians approach legalised euthanasia with a certain nonchalance. “We’re in charge. We know what we’re doing. Life’s good. So get … um … lost!” seems to sum up the official approach.

However, a question posed by a member of Parliament, Dr Catherine Fonck, early last month, must have rattled that complacency.

Dr Fonck, a renal physician who was a minister in the government of Elio di Rupo, queried Health Minister Maggie De Block about why the full text of the country’s euthanasia law has never been published.

It turns out that the original text was amended in 2005 with the intention of controlling the lethal drugs used in euthanasia cases better. Both chambers of Parliament agreed that extensive information about the drugs and the pharmacist should be included in the official report submitted by the physician. The amendment received royal assent. It was therefore the law of Kingdom of Belgium.

But it was never published in the official gazette of December 13, 2005 -– so no one knew about it. Corrections were published in the gazette of September 25, 2006, but the amendment did not appear there, either. Dr Fonck raised the unsettling possibility that promulgation of the amendments had been sabotaged by an unknown individual.

“I find this completely surreal,” Fonck told the Minister. “Could you enlighten me on why this surreal situation, namely that legislation passed in both chambers, in committee and in a Plenary session of the House and Senate was – twice – not included in the Moniteur Belge [the official gazette]?” 

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

Fordham Panel to Address Questions about Human Rights in Age of Fear, Violence and Scarce Resources 

By: Michael Aprea       

Few realities have shaken the foundation of human rights and the inherent liberties viewed common to all as profoundly as fear. Human rights, the set of rights believed to be intrinsic to the human person, are the cornerstone of modern society. They are the very building blocks of our nation and of the free world.

On April 5th, the Fordham Center for Religion and Culture and the Fordham Center for Ethics Education will hold an interdisciplinary forum to address questions about the endurance of human rights in the wake of society’s struggle to maintain both justice and compassion in world torn by violence, injustice, hatred and limited resources. This symposium, titled “In Good Conscience: Human Rights in an age of Terrorism, Violence, and Limited Resources,” will feature distinguished speakers:

Ivan Šimonović: Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Consolee Nishimwe: Rwandan genocide survivor and author of Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience, and Hope.

Celia B. Fisher, PhD: Marie Ward Doty University Endowed Chair and Professor of Psychology, Director Center for Ethics Education, Fordham University

Matthew C. Waxman: Liviu Librescu Professor of Law; Faculty Chair, Roger Hertog Program on Law and National Security, Columbia University

Andrea Bartoli, PhD: Dean of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University

The panel will address questions at the core of human rights. Historically, through an undertone of fear, rhetoric has been a call to see the other not as human with needs and rights common to self; rather fear has been manipulated to shape the other into a threat to one’s own needs and rights.

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

Who is Afraid of CRISPR Art? by Eben Kirksey

A crowd-sourced Indiegogo funding campaign that raised over $45,000 for do-it-yourself gene editing kits in December, asks: “If you had access to modern synthetic biology tools, what would you create?”  This campaign, which aims to democratize science “so everyone has access,” was launched by Josiah Zayner, who earned a PhD in Molecular Biophysics from the University of Chicago.  For $130 Zayner offers a DIY CRISPR kit that “includes everything you need to make precision genome edits in bacteria at home including Cas9, gRNA and a Donor DNA template.”  This Indiegogo campaign has a special Note to BioHackers: “Each kit comes with all sequence and cloning detail so you can perform your own custom genome engineering.”

Genetically modified organisms, created with CRISPR or other technologies, have the potential to run wild and cause harm to human health and ecological communities.  Zayner’s Indiegogo campaign attracted supporters from around the world, including many nations where there are no clear laws about containment for organisms that have been “biohacked.”  The Federal Bureau of Investigation has targeted hacking communities with the Bioterrorism Protection Team to ferret out possible malicious uses of emergent technologies.  Biohacking can pose significant risks, according to Charis Thompson, Professor of Sociology at University College London and at UC Berkeley.  But security concerns should not blind us to the creative potentials of tools like CRISPR, she says.  During Thompson’s recent address to the Human Gene Editing Summit in Washington she asked: “Are the biosecurity risks exaggerated for citizen use of these technologies? What are the creative and democratic potentials of these techniques?”

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

America’s (3D Printed) Gun Problem

by Amanda Zink, J.D.

Last week, Facebook and Instagram banned gun sales on their platforms. Despite the outcry after each mass shooting, believe it or not, America’s gun problem is only getting worse. Since the year 2000, 500,000 Americans have lost their lives to bullets, and over a million more were injured by guns. Mass shootings now occur within our borders DAILY and a child or teen is shot to death about every 3 hours. Eighty percent of the mass shootings in the world between 2000-2014 were in America. The rest of the world thinks we’ve gone mad. If the rhetoric of conservatives like Donald Trump (“Gun-free zones are target practice for sickos”) continues to override common sense and incontrovertible statistics, the only thing America is going to be great at is killing ourselves off with Glocks.

Oh, and it gets worse. Not only can you be a terrorist and easily buy a gun in this country, be mentally ill and buy a gun, be a 10 year old kid and buy a gun, or be a convicted felon and buy a gun, you don’t even have to BUY a gun now…you can just PRINT one! The technology now exists for Americans to 3D print firearms in their very own homes, and this is totally legal.

Where the Technologies Stand

When 25-year-old Cody Wilson posted the data files for the first 3D printed gun on his website in 2013, the State Department promptly ordered him to take them down…after 100,000 people had downloaded them.

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 Good Conscience: Human Rights in an Age of Terrorism, Violence, and Limited Resources

Pervasive fears sparked by acts of terror, violent crime and resource scarcity test our values and raise critical questions about how enduring our support for human rights may be.

When does the right to live safely and securely trump our obligation to uphold basic human rights? Is our attitude toward extreme remedies such as capital punishment and torture rooted in principle or in pragmatism? What do we owe survivors of genocide and other tragedies?

Join us for a forum on the challenge of upholding human rights, compassion and justice in an increasingly insecure world, April 5th, 2016, 6 – 8 p.m., Fordham Law School.

Admission is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to crcevent@fordham.edu, or call 212-636-7347. For more information, please visit the conference website.

Speakers:

Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations

Ivan Šimonović is the former Minister of Justice-designate of Croatia. He has worked as a politician and diplomat, working with organizations like the Croatian Diplomatic Corps. Šimonović is a graduate of the University of Zagreb Law School. In 1997, Šimonović moderated the United Nations Economic and Socil Council. In May 2010, Šimonović was appointed became the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.

Consolee Nishimwee

Consolee Nishimwee, Rwandan genocide survivor and author of Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience, and Hope.

Consolee Nishimwe is an outspoken speaker on the topic of genocide, and an active advocate against rights violations. She works with global issues of women’s rights, and with other genocide survivors.

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

Paris attacked by terrorists

As I write, at least 127 people have died after coordinated attacks on several venues in Paris. President Hollande has declared a state of emergency, imposed border controls and called out hundreds of troops. It appears to be the handiwork of ISIS.

President Hollande has declared defiantly that his nation would be “merciless” in responding to “the barbarians of ISIS”.

The aftermath will test the mettle of France – as it would any nation. Hostility towards the large Muslim population will grow, some French Muslims may become more radicalised, refugees will be unwelcome, and the government could be provoked into putting boots on the ground in the heartland of ISIS, in Syria.

Terrorism depersonalises people, turning innocent men and women into faceless, infrahuman enemies. Islamic terrorism does this in the name of Allah, using God as an ideological pretext for bloodlust and savagery.  

The temptation for France – and other Western nations – will be to depersonalise its enemies and to smite them with the same depersonalised, ideological rage. That, of course, is exactly what ISIS want them to do. But the nation must respond forcefully to this atrocity without losing its liberté, égalité, y fraternité. It will be difficult. 

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: KILLER ROBOTS AND THE ETHICS OF WAR IN THE 21th CENTURY

Written by Darlei Dall’Agnol[1]

I attended, recently, the course Drones, Robots and the Ethics of Armed Conflict in the 21st Century, at the Department for Continuing Education, Oxford University, which is, by the way, offering a wide range of interesting courses for 2015-6 (https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/). Philosopher Alexander Leveringhaus, a Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, spoke on “What, if anything, is wrong with Killer Robots?” and ex-military Wil Wilson, a former RAF Regiment Officer, who is now working as a consultant in Defence and Intelligence, was announced to talk on “Why should autonomous military machines act ethically?” changed his title, which I will comment on soon. The atmosphere of the course was very friendly and the discussions illuminating. In this post, I will simply reconstruct the main ideas presented by the main speakers and leave my impression in the end on this important issue. 

In his presentation “What, if anything, is wrong with Killer Robots?,” (for those interested, a forthcoming paper), Alexander Leveringhaus started by trying to define a robot as an artificial device, embodied artificial intelligence, that can sense its environment and purposefully act on or in that environment. Despite the fact that this may not be a clear-cut definition, most military robots, for example, The Dragonrunner Robot, The Alpha Dog, The Predator Drone (MQ-1), Taranis, Iron Dome, Sentry Robot etc. fit this definition. He then argued that the main objection against using autonomous weapons in an armed conflict is not that there is an accountability gap between programming and operating these tools and what they will effectively do, but instead the real issue is whether the imposition of such risk can be justified.

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

State of the Armed Union

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D

In the first 274 days of 2015, there were 294 mass shootings (yes, that is more than 1 per day). As a nation, there were over 39,000 gun incidents leading to 10,104 deaths and 20,544 injuries so far in 2015.

For points of comparison

When we hear that 11,000 people have died in one year of Ebola, infant mortality, stomach cancer, and terrorism, there is a huge public health and national security effort to combat each and every situation through research, screenings, and efforts that often limit individual liberty. But when 10,000 people per year die of gunshots, the response is silence, prayer, or calls for more guns.

What can we do to change this state of armed affairs?

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

Judging a person by their friends.

Jim A.C. Everett

www.jimaceverett.com

In case any readers have been living under a rock for the last few days, the ‘hard-left’ candidate Jeremy Corbyn has been elected Leader of the British Labour Party (see here for the BBC profile on him). Just by his fellow Labour ‘comrades’ (let alone his Conservative opponents), he has been proclaimed as the death of Labour, the savior of Labour, and everything in between. By all accounts Corbyn is a man who lives by his principles (whatever we think about these principles), and yet has sustained extensive criticism from across the political spectrum – particularly based on his close relationships with some very morally dubious individuals and organisations. Corbyn has been criticized with vigour, for example, for his support of Irish Republicanism and IRA terrorists, alongside the anti-Semitic and homophobic Hamas and Hezbolla (which he calls movements of “social justice”). Corbyn seeks closer ties with Russia and Putin (who has a sketchy human rights record to say the least), and has just appointed a Shadow Chancellor (John McDonnell), who credits the terrorism of the IRA with peace in Northern Ireland, who wanted to “assassinate Margaret Thatcher” and who apparently called for the “bitch” Tory MP Esther McVey to be “lynched”. Corbynistas (as the media has dubbed his supporters) have, as would be expected, come to his defense and argued that we cannot judge the man by his friends and that, anyway, some of these comments might have been taken out of context.

This is not the place, and I am not the person, to begin an extensive discussion on the merits of Corbyn and his prospects for winning the 2020 election.

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, Optics, and Medicine as Work: Backstage at Planned Parenthood

Two days after a hidden camera video of Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services was released, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards, apologized for Dr. Deborah Nucatola’s tone:

Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide. In the video one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion. This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.

This was a reasonable corporate response, since Dr. Nucatola’s frank discussion of abortion procedures and medical research shocked even some who support their legality, and ethicists criticized her on this count as well. But I don’t think Dr. Nucatola’s tone and statements fail to reflect compassionate care—what they reflect is a doctor who believed herself to be “backstage.” And contrary to the claims of the video’s originators, what they reveal is not the “selling of baby parts,” but medicine as work.

Dr. Nucatola was videotaped at a lunch meeting with people who she believed provided medical researchers with the tissue they need by collecting it in doctors’ offices. It’s rare for people outside of medicine to hear blunt procedure dialogue from any medical specialty, and seeing that backstage dialogue put in front of an audience and performed while eating in a restaurant is especially jarring. So of course the optics on this are terrible.

But that’s different from the ethics. Discussing work while eating is something overbooked clinicians are forced to do all the time, and sociologists tell us that professionals in many fields use blunt shorthand for efficient conversations when speaking to each other outside of the public eye.

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.