Tag: theft

Bioethics Blogs

FDA recall of pacemaker raises questions about cybersecurity

by Karola Kreitmair, PhD

The FDA has issued a recall of 465,000 pacemakers on the grounds that they are vulnerable to hacking. It was discovered that unauthorized users could remotely access the implanted cardiac device and modify its programming, thereby delivering inappropriate shocks or rapidly draining the battery. In effect, a nefarious actor could hack into the very thing tasked with sustaining someone’s life and turn it into the device that kills them.

Now, luckily, patients with affected pacemakers do not need to have the device removed, an in-office software update suffices, and there have been no reports, so far, of anyone being harmed. But it does provide a poignant reminder that allowing cyber-vulnerable technology into our lives and into our bodies comes with serious risks and drawbacks. Beyond pacemakers, individuals rely on an array of wearable devices to monitor and control their health, such as wearable EMG devices to monitor seizures, or wearable patches to deliver personalized medication transdermally. A much broader group of people uses personal technology to enhance their wellbeing through devices such as fitness trackers, sleep trackers, or mental health apps. Moreover, with the internet of things (IoT), technologies are now more interconnected than ever, with cyber pathways opening up between smart household appliances and personal medical devices, via the central role of the smartphone. This makes us vulnerable not only to hackers interfering with the programming of devices, with the possibility of deadly consequences, but also to the massive theft of highly sensitive data.

We should enter into the personalized health and wellness technology era with eyes wide open.

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

Reproducing the Speculative: Reproductive Technology, Education, and Science Fiction by Kaitlyn Sherman

Walter, a Synthetic, quietly makes his rounds in the brightly lit, pristine interior of the Covenant, a Weyland Corporation Spaceship. Fingers pressed to the translucent, impermeable glass, he checks the status of each crew member as they rest in their cryochambers, suspended in chemically-induced comas until they reach their destined planet in seven years and four months’ time. The ship’s artificial intelligence system, Mother, chimes, “Seven bells and all is well.” Reassured of their security, Walter moves on to the next zone, where another 2,000 cryochambers contain sleeping colonists from Earth. This zone also features a panel of drawers, each housing dozens of embryos—over 1,100 second-generation colonists. They are packed individually into river-stone sized ovoids; clear, solid, egg-like. Amid the rows, an embryo has died, and its artificial uterine-sack is clouded and dark. Observing it briefly, Walter takes it from its socket with a set of tongs and places it into a biohazard bin. The Covenant is on a mission to colonize a habitable, distant planet. Their ship contains everything that could be useful in setting up a new colony: terraforming vehicles, construction materials, and human life itself. Even though these frozen embryos aren’t yet actively developing, they reflect a technology that allows for such a feat, while ensuring a population boom that is not dependent upon the limited space of mature female colonists’ wombs.

This scene is part of the opening sequence of the latest film in Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise. Alien: Covenant (2017) is the most recent science fiction film to illustrate advances in reproductive technologies, especially that of ectogenesis, or external gestation and birth.

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

Cross Post: Why you might want to think twice about surrendering online privacy for the sake of convenience

Written by Carissa Veliz

DPhil Candidate in Philosophy, Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford

This article was originally published in The Conversation

Just a click away once you tick this too-long-to-read privacy agreement. Shutterstock

It is inconvenient to guard one’s privacy, and the better one protects it, the more inconvenience one must endure. Enjoying privacy, at a minimum, demands installing software to block tracking online, using long and different passwords for online services, remembering to turn off the WiFi and Bluetooth signals on your mobile phone when leaving the house, using cash, and so on.

The more privacy conscious have to go through the trouble of using encryption for all their messages, covering the camera on their laptop with a sticker, suffering the slowness and limitations of using Tor (a software that enables anonymity online), and may even be willing to forgo the many advantages of having a mobile phone altogether.

Companies and institutions should not make it this hard for people to enjoy privacy – we shouldn’t have to go through all this trouble to make good on a right. However, we live in a non-ideal world, where it is more and more a fact of the matter that governments and businesses exploit people’s personal information for economic and political reasons.

So, individuals living in the real world are faced with the dilemma of either complying with the default option and surrendering their privacy, or trying to resist exposure through paying a high price in inconvenience. It makes sense to ask whether privacy is worth all the trouble.

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

User Beware: Privacy Settings just a Facade

Image via

By Brenda Curtis, Ph.D.

Social media platforms continue to improve and refine their privacy settings as the demand for advanced user protections increases. Although enabling catered privacy settings to online profiles allows users to indicate who they would like share personal information with, it does not necessarily protect them from the platforms – i.e. websites and apps – themselves. Since social media accounts provide users with a sense of control over personal data, users assume that their information is safe. However, no matter what settings or privacy protections are applied to personal profiles, users do not generally have control over the online platform itself. What this means is the website or app being used usually shares information from accounts with third parties like advertising agencies or other databases. This data sharing is widespread throughout the industry, but it is not generally known by the public. This is partly because the disclosure of this sharing is done in the social media platform’s “Terms and Conditions” Which are often skimmed over or ignored.

Aside from social media websites, there are several other websites and apps that access your personal information via this information sharing to create a single database for everyone in the country. This is generally called data aggregation. One such site that has been in the news recently is FamilyTreeNow.  FamilyTreeNow is explicitly a genealogy site, and compiles information from various legal online sources to create a database full of personal information for genealogical research. This site pairs information from public records such as police records and court documents with the information collected from social media and address databases to create a sometimes way too revealing profile.

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

Mitochondrial surprises

According to the endosymbiotic hypothesis, around 1500 million years ago, the mitochrondrion was a bacterium or prokaryotic cell phagocytosed by another to which it provided energy in the form of ATP; the host cell gave it a stable, nutrient medium. Over time, instead of integrating itself in the nucleus, this invader became specialised as an energy centre and reduced its DNA to the current 37 genes. “Why do we still have mitochondrial DNA?” asked Ben Williams of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in February this year in Cell Systems. “It’s like saying you have a central library with all your books in it, but we’re going to keep 10 of them off-site in a leaky shed”, protected from fire, flood or theft.

Despite this age-old coexistence in all multicellular organisms, the mitochondrion continues to hide mysteries. It is responsible for more than 150 diseases, many of which affect the musculoskeletal and central nervous system, and have no cure. Last year, Great Britain approved so-called mitochondrial replacement — which has still not been given the green light for use in medicine — from which three-parent embryos would result: paternal spermatozoa and maternal nuclear DNA without defective mitochondria, which is transferred to an enucleated donor egg with healthy mitochondria. There has been great bioethical and scientific discussion in recent months about a technique on which few tests have been carried out and which would alter the germ line.

This is something that, in addition, appears simple on paper but is not so straightforward in the laboratory.

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

Thousands of Sardinian DNA Samples Go Missing from Research Laboratory

September 15, 2016

(The Guardian) – Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the alleged theft of thousands of DNA samples from a research laboratory in Sardinia that had been collected more than a decade ago as part of a study into longevity. The launch of the inquiry comes weeks after rights to the DNA samples were apparently sold to a British biotechnology company called Tiziana Life Sciences in a bankruptcy deal that has been vigorously opposed by some citizens and local politicians.

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

Wait for it

By Tim Lahey

At 94, my patient V. was funny and flirtatious.  Her French accent made even the name of her life-threatening fungal infection sound poetic.

“DEE-seminated HEESTO-plasmo-sees,” she said, “Oaf the skin.”

I smiled.

I also admitted her to the hospital because our treatments were not working.  I hoped intensified wound care and antibiotics and a biopsy would help us turn things around.  A couple of days in the hospital would also, I knew, give us a chance to talk about whether all of this, any of this, was what she wanted…

As the infectious diseases fellow scurried around to see new consults, I snuck off to V.’s room.  Sometimes a visit to a favorite patient can help the hurry, the hard work, the constant interruptions, feel like no big deal.

We talked about how V. felt.  I looked at her skin and saw that her ulcers were worsening.  We talked about next steps.  And then she told me about the theft.

It was bad enough, she said, to share a nursing home room with “a daft old lady,” and to eat institutional meals.  But when her copy of Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton disappeared one day, she said, “I shzust could not take it anymore!”

The nursing home staff had looked for the book – “Not so aard, I think,” said V. – but the book could not be found.  And so V. lost the ability to choose which story she would read.

By chance, I had just finished Chernow’s biography, and loved it. 

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 Secretive ‘Second World’ of Human Synthetic Biology

May 19, 2016

(The Guardian) – By their nature, it is often the most controversial, risky and ethically dubious research programmes that are conducted in secret, curtained-off from society in order to protect knowledge and technology not only from public scrutiny but also espionage or corporate theft. Therefore it should be no surprise that a behind-closed-doors meeting, convened last week at Harvard, on the prospect of synthesising the human genome, has caused a stir. The meeting was convened to discuss the prospects of coordinating a large collaborative venture to follow-up on the Human Genome Project (HGP), that would, over the next decade, seek to construct an entire human genome in a cell line.

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.