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Human overpopulation of the earth myth

Is our planet really overpopulated?

The problem of human overpopulation of the Earth is often raised in different social settings and especially in some media, often resulting in the promotion of antinatalist policies. But is our planet really overpopulated?

This is a complex issue that is impossible to address here, but we would like to provide some information extracted from an article by Norbert Treitz, professor of physics at the University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany), published in Investigación y Ciencia (July 2014, pages 86-89).

Treitz provides some interesting facts on the heterogeneous distribution of the population in different regions of the world.

On average, 13 persons per square kilometre live on the surface of the planet, around 50 on terra firma. In view of the extensive unpopulated regions on Earth, this is a huge number. We, humans, are very unevenly distributed in the different regions and countries. Moreover, the closer we look at the situation, the more deviations we find with respect to the average.

Among the European countries, Holland holds the record, with 402 inhabitants per square kilometre, although it is surpassed by the German region of North Rhine-Westphalia, with 523. Topping the world list is Bangladesh, with around 1,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. However, it is overshadowed by tiny countries like Monaco and the Vatican, and particularly districts with no parks in major cities; around 40,000 people per square metre live in the 11th arrondissement (district) of Paris, between the metro stations of Bastille, Nation and République. If they all lived at ground level, the average distance between two individuals would be around five metres.

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.

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Zika in India and Public Health Ethics

Chhanda Chakraborti argues for a more ethically aware public health response to the to Zika in India.

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On May 27, 2017, Indian newspapers reported that the WHO confirmed three cases of Zika virus in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. The first case, in November 2016, involved a 34-year-old woman, who tested positive for Zika after she delivered a baby at B. J. Medical College. The second case, in January 2017, involved a a 22-year-old woman in her 37th week of her pregnancy. The third case, in February 2017, involved a 64-year-old man who was identified during a random monitoring and surveillance activity conducted by the B. J. Medical College.

In February 2016, the Minister of Health proclaimed that India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had adopted several actions and countermeasures to prevent the spread of Zika. However, the alerts and guidelines about Zika, that were created in consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO), only became publicly available on the Ministry’s website after media reports of Zika in India. In May 2017, the WHO asserted that India’s Ministry of Health has taken the necessary steps to address the situation. These steps include sharing national plan and guidelines on Zika with the States, setting up an Inter-Ministerial task force, displaying Zika- related information for travellers in the airports.

B. J. Medical College, Ahmedabad

Beyond the media reports and the statements issued by the Ministry and the WHO, there has been little public discussion about Zika in India. The local neighbourhood Ahmedabad, as well as the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (which is responsible for public health in the area) reportedly were unaware of the Zika cases until these were publicized by the media. In sharp contrast, there

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.

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FDA Advisory Committees and Industry-Funded Patient Advocacy

Cross-posted on Objective Intent and Notice & Comment.

Industry funding of patient advocacy organizations recently has received attention from media and researchers.  For example, one 2017 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that over 80% of patient advocacy organizations with annual revenues of at least $7.5 million reported receiving industry funding; another study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that approximately 65% of patient advocacy organizations with a median annual revenue of about $300,000 reported receiving industry funding; and a post on the Hastings Center’s website (and an earlier JAMA Internal Medicine editorial) reported that one pharmaceutical company funded an advocacy organization that, in turn, recruited other patient advocacy groups to speak in favor of the company’s drug when the FDA was considering approving it.  This last story highlights one area where the rubber meets the road with respect to FDA and patient advocates’ conflicts of interest: advisory committee meetings.

Advisory committees play an important role at FDA, including for new drug approvals.  Often when FDA is considering whether to approve a new drug, it will ask an advisory committee—a group of outside experts—to provide the agency with advice on various scientific questions about the drug.  At a typical drug-related advisory committee meeting, the drug company and FDA will each take a turn presenting the scientific evidence about the unapproved drug, then there will be an open public hearing at which any interested member of the public may speak, followed by the advisory committee’s discussion of, and vote on, the questions that FDA has posed to 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.

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The Millennial Astronaut Who Wants to Go to Mars

June 15, 2017

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When Jessica Watkins was growing up, NASA was launching space shuttle missions into low-Earth orbit about every few months. But Watkins, one of NASA’s newest astronauts, doesn’t really remember watching the launches on television. Her first enduring memory of American space exploration came in 2004, when a pair of robotic rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on the surface of Mars.

“That was a really cool moment, and I kind of knew from then that it would be really awesome to work on a Mars rover,” said Watkins, who was 15 years old at the time.

Watkins and 11 others were introduced last week as NASA’s newest astronaut class, selected from a pool of more than 18,300 applicants. Watkins turned 29 years old last month, and is one of the youngest astronaut candidates in history. Two other new recruits, Kayla Barron and Zena Cardman, are the same age. This makes them the first astronauts to emerge from that much-maligned cohort, the millennials. Unlike earlier generations of astronauts, they came of age during a time in American spaceflight when space-shuttle launches were, for the most part, routine, and schools no longer interrupted lessons to wheel in bulky televisions so students could watch the action. By the time of their early twenties, the shuttle program was canceled.

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Image: NASA/BIll Ingalls

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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.

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Making the theoretical practical: Engaging undergraduate students in research methods by Hannah Mohammad

I am currently an undergraduate student in the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine at King’s College London. The Department’s UG program offers students the opportunity to study social aspects of health and medicine in a multi-disciplinary context with close collaboration between the social sciences, life sciences and biomedicine. In addition, a great emphasis is put on methods training to equip students to carry out their own empirical research projects.

Already in first year, the Research Practice and Design Studio course taught us theories and practices required for qualitative and quantitative research. However, in our undergraduate bubble, these late Tuesday afternoon sessions seemed somewhat distant from conducting actual research. In order to address this perceived disconnect, our course instructor, Dr Laurie Corna decided to adopt a problem-based learning approach that allowed us students to be positioned as emerging researchers whilst learning theoretically about a range of issues central to quantitative and qualitative research designs.

A new research methods course was designed around a series of case-based learning activities that culminated in students conducting their own mixed-methods research. Students’ assignments for the course involved working in teams of two on applying and executing various aspects of the research process in relation to the predefined topic “Physical activity in the city of London”.[1] That is, we learned how to articulate research questions, identify ethical problems, write a research proposal and develop related interview topic guides as well as survey questionnaires. Once we had conducted our research, we were tasked to present our findings in the form of a poster during a “Research Showcase” and create a final report on the research project.

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.

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Agreement and Disagreement About Experimental Treatment: The Charlie Gard Appeal

Tomorrow, the UK Court of Appeal will review the controversial case of a British infant, Charlie Gard. Charlie’s parents are appealing a recent High Court decision that gave doctors permission to withdraw his life support. They have raised money for Charlie to travel to the US for an experimental medical treatment

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.

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Agreement and disagreement about experimental treatment. The Charlie Gard Appeal

by Dominic Wilkinson and Julian Savulescu

@Neonatalethics

@juliansavulescu

Tomorrow, the UK Court of Appeal will review the controversial case of a British infant, Charlie Gard. Charlie’s parents are appealing a recent High Court decision that gave doctors permission to withdraw his life support. They have raised money for Charlie to travel to the US for an experimental medical treatment.

 

Best Interests

The legal decision for Charlie will be based upon an assessment of his best interests. He has a rare genetic disorder affecting his muscles and his brain. He has been on life support since last October and has been progressively deteriorating. A neurologist in the USA has suggested that experimental nucleoside treatment might, in theory, offer some benefit, though it has never previously been tried in this situation.

The central ethical question is whether it would be best to provide the experimental treatment and continue intensive care for Charlie for several months more, or to withdraw treatment and allow him to die. How should we weigh up the risks and benefits of those two alternatives?

We have previously written about this difficult question. In a pair of editorials in the Lancet medical journal, we expressed different points of view. Dominic Wilkinson argued that the proposed course of treatment would do more harm than good. In his view, it is likely that Charlie would experience pain and discomfort from continued treatment; it is also unlikely, given what is known about it, that Charlie would benefit from nucleoside treatment. In contrast, Julian Savulescu argued that it is not clear that continued mechanical ventilation in intensive care is so terrible a life that it would not be worth living.

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.

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Snapshots of Life: Neurons in a New Light

Credit: Michael Shribak, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA

Birds do it, bees do it, and even educated fleas do it. No, not fall in love, as the late Ella Fitzgerald so famously sang. Birds and insects can see polarized light—that is, light waves transmitted in a single directional plane—in ways that provides them with a far more colorful and detailed view of the world than is possible with the human eye.

Still, thanks to innovations in microscope technology, scientists have been able to tap into the power of polarized light vision to explore the inner workings of many complex biological systems, including the brain. In this image, researchers used a recently developed polarized light microscope to trace the spatial orientation of neurons in a thin section of the mouse midbrain. Neurons that stretch horizontally appear green, while those oriented at a 45-degree angle are pinkish-red and those at 225 degrees are purplish-blue. What’s amazing is that these colors don’t involve staining or tagging the cells with fluorescent markers: the colors are generated strictly from the light interacting with the physical orientation of each neuron.

How is this possible? It requires thinking a little differently about polarized light, which means getting into a bit of physics. A traditional polarized light microscope depends on the optical path difference between two polarization components of light to generate color. That is, as two beams of light pass through an object, they travel at different speeds, which throws them out of phase. If they recombine in a certain way, the waves generate color.

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.

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Debate Reponse: Charlie Gard, Interests and Justice – an alternative view

Dominic Wilkinson

Responding to Julian Savulescu

The sad and difficult case of Charlie Gard, which featured in the media last week, is the latest in a series of High Court and Family court cases when parents and doctors have disagreed about medical treatment for a child. Doctors regard the treatment as “futile” or “potentially inappropriate”. Parents, in contrast, want treatment to continue, perhaps in the hope that the child’s condition will improve. In the Charlie Gard case, the judge, Justice Francis, rejected Charlie’s parents’ request for him to travel to the US for an experimental medical treatment. He ruled that life-sustaining treatment could be withdrawn, and Charlie allowed to die.

Two reasons

As Julian Savulescu argues,there are two different ethical reasons for health professionals to refuse to provide requested medical treatment for a child. The first of these is based on concern for the best interests of the patient. Treatment should not be provided if it would harm the child. The second reason is on the basis of distributive justice. In a public health system with limited resources, providing expensive or scarce treatment would potentially harm other patients since it would mean that those other patients would be denied access to treatment.

The importance of resources

When doctors and the courts consider cases of ostensibly “futile” treatment, they often focus exclusively on best interests. That is understandable, since the prevailing ethical and legal frameworks largely ignore the question of limited resources. The courts have no mechanism, statute or precedent, to allow them to assess whether or not a treatment would be too expensive or of too little benefit to provide 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.

Uncategorized

Debate Reponse: Charlie Gard, Interests and Justice – an alternative view

Dominic Wilkinson

Responding to Julian Savulescu

The sad and difficult case of Charlie Gard, which featured in the media last week, is the latest in a series of High Court and Family court cases when parents and doctors have disagreed about medical treatment for a child. Doctors regard the treatment as “futile” or “potentially inappropriate”. Parents, in contrast, want treatment to continue, perhaps in the hope that the child’s condition will improve. In the Charlie Gard case, the judge, Justice Francis, rejected Charlie’s parents’ request for him to travel to the US for an experimental medical treatment. He ruled that life-sustaining treatment could be withdrawn, and Charlie allowed to die.

Two reasons

As Julian Savulescu argues,there are two different ethical reasons for health professionals to refuse to provide requested medical treatment for a child. The first of these is based on concern for the best interests of the patient. Treatment should not be provided if it would harm the child. The second reason is on the basis of distributive justice. In a public health system with limited resources, providing expensive or scarce treatment would potentially harm other patients since it would mean that those other patients would be denied access to treatment.

The importance of resources

When doctors and the courts consider cases of ostensibly “futile” treatment, they often focus exclusively on best interests. That is understandable, since the prevailing ethical and legal frameworks largely ignore the question of limited resources. The courts have no mechanism, statute or precedent, to allow them to assess whether or not a treatment would be too expensive or of too little benefit to provide 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.