Tag: universities

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Gene Editing For A Long Life – A No Brainer?

Guest Post: Isabelle L Robertson
Paper: Student Essay- Designing Methuselah: an ethical argument against germline genetic modification to prolong human longevity

I am 16 years old. I am at the start of my life and looking towards my future, deciding on universities, career options and how I want my life to be. At the moment I can expect to perhaps live to 90 years of age. To me, this seems like a pretty good life. If I was offered more would I take it? I’m not sure; perhaps, if my health and independence can be guaranteed, then yes, I might.

Scientists have identified genes in mice that regulate lifespan. They have then edited these genes and have bred mice that have lived a full generation longer than their peers. These genes have their equivalents in the human genome too. Gene editing is becoming more refined by the day and it is predictable that it will one day be technically possible to edit the genome of human embryos to extend their lifespan. Again, extending from mice trials humans with these same genes altered could live to around 130 years old, the equivalent of a whole extra generation.

Gene editing technology brings with it many exciting opportunities such as the possibility of ridding some individuals of disease causing genetic variants. The possibilities extend beyond this though. It is not an unlikely prospect that in my lifetime I will be faced with the choice of deciding if I want my children to have any genetic alterations. These alterations might not just be limited to lifespan extension either; it is foreseeable that enhancements to traits as varied as intelligence, appearance and athletic capability may be potentially on offer.

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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Final Rule, three months later

It’s been three months since the announcement of the new Common Rule. Some reactions so far:

Shweder and Nisbett hope for vast deregulation

On March 12, Richard A. Shweder and Richard E. Nisbett published an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education celebrating the new final rule:

in January the federal government opened the door for universities to deregulate vast portions of research in the social sciences, law, and the humanities. This long-sought and welcome reform of the regulations requiring administrative oversight of federally funded human-subject research on college campuses limits the scope of institutional review board, or IRB, management by exempting low-risk research with human subjects from the board’s review.

In particular, they wrote that “the overhauled policy … holds that exempted research activities should be excused from board review with no requirement of IRB approval of the exemption.”

[Richard A. Shweder and Richard E. Nisbett, “Long-Sought Research Deregulation Is Upon Us. Don’t Squander the MomentChronicle of Higher Education, March 12, 2017.

Meyer asks, what’s new?

On March 16, Michelle N. Meyer tweeted a GIF showing that several of the provisions cheered by Shweder and Nisbett have been part of the regulations for decades. Indeed, since 2009, OHRP has grudgingly acknowledged that the Common Rule allows researchers to make exemption determinations. The problem has been persuading universities to take advantage of these longstanding provisions.

On the other hand, Meyer notes that the liberation of oral history is new, and that the exemption for “benign behavioral interventions” is, in her terms, “new & awesome.”

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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VR and PTSD: Healing from trauma by confronting fears in virtual reality environments

By Katie Givens Kime
Image courtesy of Flikr

What are the ethical implications of therapeutically re-exposing patients to trauma via virtual reality technologies? Of the 2.7 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, at least 20% suffer from depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other studies peg that percentage even higher. As a chronic, debilitating mental illness, one PTSD symptom is hyperarousal, in which a person repeatedly re-experiences a trauma in the form of nightmares, panic attacks, and flashbacks.  One of the most long-trusted therapeutic approaches to PTSD is exposure therapy; now, virtual reality technology is increasingly being used to simulate exposure to traumatic events and to environments related to the traumatic event.


Image courtesy of Flikr

Last month’s Neuroethics and Neuroscience in the News event featured the recent research and observations of Barbara O. Rothbaum, who is the Paul A. Janssen Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology at the Emory University School of Medicine and Director of the Emory Veterans Program & Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program. Rothbaum outlined the way in which exposure therapy (with or without the aid of virtual reality technology) is based on principles of learning and also discussed reliable findings with animals and phobic disorders (Foa & Kozak, 1986). The underlying premise of such therapy is that repeated and prolonged exposure to feared but realistically safe stimuli leads to habituation, and eventually to extinction.

The virtual reality exposure therapy (VRE) combat environments for “Virtual Vietnam” (developed by Georgia Tech and Emory Universities) includes a virtual Huey helicopter, a “fly” over the jungles of Vietnam, a “walk” in clearings near jungles and swamps, and other imaginal immersions in Vietnam-related stimuli.

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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How Ethical Is Sexual Assault Research?

Thirty-nine Australian universities will now individually release the findings of a national research project on sexual assault and harassment on campus. This announcement follows intense criticism from student bodies and sexual assault activists after it was initially announced that the findings for individual universities would not be made public

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 First Cut is the Deepest

March 23, 2017

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

The First Cut is the Deepest

Last week, President Trump publicly unveiled his 2018 budget proposal. If left unchanged, that financial blueprint would increase US federal defense spending by more than $50 billion, while also appropriating billions more to bolster immigration enforcement and build a 2,000 mile-long wall along the US border with Mexico. A self-proclaimed deficit hawk, the President would offset those increased expenditures will sharp cuts to the US Departments of State, Energy, Health and Human Services, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

In sharp contrast to campaign trail promises to boost the economy, create jobs, and protect Americans at home and abroad, however, Trump’s 2018 budget is likely to do the exact opposite. Consider, for example, the proposal to cut nearly $6 billion from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Made up of 27 different institutions and centers, the NIH is the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. Through the NIH or other funding agencies, the federal government supports almost half of all the biomedical research in the US. Private businesses support another quarter, and the remainder of biomedical research support comes from state governments and nonprofit organizations.

With an annual operating budget of $30 billion, the NIH provides training and support to thousands of scientists at its main campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Moreover, through a system of extramural grants and cooperative agreements, the NIH provides financial support for research-related programs to over 2,600 institutions around the country, creating more than 300,000 full- and part-time jobs.

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 Urged to Let Abortion Pill Be Sold at Pharmacies

February 23, 2017

(STAT News) – The so-called abortion pill — now dispensed only in clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ offices — should be made available by prescription in pharmacies across the US, according to a group of doctors and public health experts urging an end to tough federal restrictions on the drug. The appeal to the Food and Drug Administration came in a commentary published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Among the 10 co-authors were doctors and academics from Stanford, Princeton, and Columbia universities, as well as leaders of major reproductive-health organizations.

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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Big Pharma Quietly Enlists Leading Professors to Justify $1,000-Per-Day Drugs

February 23, 2017

(Pro Publica) – Over the last three years, pharmaceutical companies have mounted a public relations blitz to tout new cures for the hepatitis C virus and persuade insurers, including government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, to cover the costs. That isn’t an easy sell, because the price of the treatments ranges from $40,000 to $94,000 — or, because the treatments take three months, as much as $1,000 per day. To persuade payers and the public, the industry has deployed a potent new ally, a company whose marquee figures are leading economists and health care experts at the nation’s top universities.

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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A Dangerous Wait

Colleges can’t meet soaring student needs for mental health care. STAT surveyed dozens of universities about their mental health services. From major public institutions to small elite colleges, a striking pattern emerged: Students often have to wait weeks just for an initial intake exam to review their symptoms. The wait to see a psychiatrist who can prescribe or adjust medication — often a part-time employee — may be longer still

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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Can Science Survive in a Communications Blackout: Restricting Speech Violates Scientific Ethics

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

That good ethics begins with good facts is an oft-heard mantra and was my first lesson when I began conducting clinical ethics consults 20 years ago. In the clinic, good facts come from many sources such as talking to health care providers, patients and families and from looking at test results. Empirical facts come from good science whether that is social science, bench science, health science, or theoretical science to name a few. The sharing of scientific facts, studies, and results is at the heart of the scientific enterprise. Sharing your work allows for peer-review, for confirmation of the work, for challenges to other’s work, and for furthering the progress of other scientists. What if Watson and Crick had been forbidden from publishing on the double helix? Would we have the genetics revolution of today? What if the government scientists who created DARPA net had never been allowed to share their work? Would the internet exist?

According to several news reports, the new administration issued a gag order to research scientists in several executive branch agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health & Human Services, US Department of Agriculture’s Research Service, as well as the departments of the Interior and Transportation have been ordered to cease external communications and to funnel such desires to communicate through “leadership.”

This gag rule is more than simply limiting social media posts. It apparently means no communication with the media, Congress, blogs and press releases. This may extend to webinars, presenting at scientific conferences, and even scholarly publication since some agencies have been asked to submit lists of such external speaking engagements.

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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Now Accepting Applications: Fordham/Santander Universities International Student Scholarship in Ethics Education

The 2016 Fordham/Santander Universities International Student Scholars

The application period for scholarships to attend Fordham University’s intensive three-day interdisciplinary ethics graduate course is now open! The course, or workshop, will be held May 23 – 25, 2017 at Fordham University, New York City, USA!

The Fordham/Santander Universities International Student Scholarship in Ethics Education provides direct financial support for international students who wish to pursue graduate-level study in Fordham University’s Master’s in Ethics and Society program.

Students who apply to the program through the scholarship complete the workshop titled, “CEED 6100: Theories and Applications in Contemporary Ethics” which is designed to provide cross-disciplinary perspectives on moral theory and applied ethics. Using a team-teaching approach, this course brings together faculty from at least six different disciplines to integrate foundational knowledge about moral theory from the humanities and sciences with contemporary applications and social issues.

The scholarship covers:

  • Tuition: The cost of tuition for the graduate courses and administrative fees.
  • Travel: Applicants may request funding for travel to New York City Applications should include estimates of costs, including the source for the estimate (e.g., airline website, travel agency).
  • Lodging: As part of the scholarship, housing may be provided to funded students at one of Fordham’s graduate student housing facilities.

Applications for are due March 15, 2017.

2016 Workshop Papers from Santander Scholars

Cheryl Chin: “An exploration of how healthcare clinicians have become constrained into behaving inhumanely in the context of modern healthcare and what can be done to remedy this trend”

Cornelius Ewuoso: “Institutional Norms, Moral Values and Patient’s Cultural/Religious Preferences: Overcoming Moral Distress in Physician-Patient Relationship”

Agata Ferretti: “Should there be a reproductive global 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.