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Bioethics 101

Recommended Reading

August 31, 2010

New Issue of The New England Journal of Medicine is Now Available

The New England Journal of Medicine (Volume 363, August 2010) is now available by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Suicide-Related Events in Patients Treated with Antiepileptic Drugs” by A. Arana, C. E. Wentworth, J. L. Ayuso-Mateos, and F. M. Arellano, 542-551.

New Issue of The American Journal of Bioethics is Now Available

The American Journal of Bioethics (Volume 10, Issue 8, 2010) is now available by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Patient Willingness to be Seen by Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, and Residents in the Emergency Department: Does the Presumption of Assent Have an Empirical Basis?” by Gregory L. Larkin and Roderick S. Hooker, 1-10.
  • “Striking the Right Balance in Research Ethics and Regulation” by Franklin G. Miller, 65.

New Issues of Journal of Applied Philosophy is Now Available

Journal of Applied Philosophy (Volume 27, Issue 3, 2010) is now available by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Emergency Contraception and Conscientious Objection” by J. Paul Kelleher, 290-304.
  • “A Puzzle about Consent in Research and in Practice” by Eric Chwang, 258-272.

Democracy’s Laboratory: Are Science and Politics Interrelated?

That science and politics are nonoverlapping magisteria (vide Stephen Jay Gould’s model separating science and religion) was long my position until I read Timothy Ferris’s new book The Science of Liberty (HarperCollins, 2010). Ferris, the best-selling author of such science classics as Coming of Age in the Milky Way and The Whole Shebang, has bravely ventured across the magisterial divide to argue that the scientific values of reason, empiricism and antiauthoritarianism are not the product of liberal democracy but the producers of it. (Scientific American)

Author Simon Singh Puts Up a Fight in the War on Science

For a while there, things didn’t look too good for British writer Simon Singh. The best-selling author of the science histories Big Bang and Fermat’s Enigma knew he was heading into controversial territory when he switched tracks to cowrite a book investigating alternative medicine, Trick or Treatment? What Singh didn’t count on, however, was that writing a seemingly innocuous article for London’s The Guardian newspaper about especially outrageous chiropractic claims—one of the subjects he researched for the book—would end up threatening his career. The British Chiropractic Association sued Singh, hoping to use Britain’s draconian libel laws to force him to withdraw his statements and issue an apology. Losing the case would have cost Singh both his reputation and a substantial amount of his personal wealth. Such is the state of science, where sometimes even stating simple truths (like the fact that there’s no reliable evidence chiropractic can alleviate asthma in children) can bring the wrath of the antiscience crowd. What the British chiropractors didn’t count on, however, was Singh himself. Having earned a PhD from Cambridge for his work at the Swiss particle physics lab CERN, he wasn’t about to back down from a scientific gunfight. Singh spent more than two years and well over $200,000 of his own money battling the case in court, and this past April he finally prevailed. In the process, he became a hero to those challenging the pseudoscience surrounding everything from global warming to vaccines to evolution. It’s not necessarily a role he sought for himself, but it’s one he has embraced—he’s currently touring the world, talking about his case, libel reform, and how important it is to make sure scientists can speak truthfully and openly. Wired spoke with Singh about his case and the struggle against the forces of irrationality. (Wired Magazine)

The proper ends do justify the means

During the Nuremberg trials, convened at the end of World War II, lawyers for the German defendants, politicians accused of crimes against humanity, and physicians accused of euthanasia and barbaric medical experimentation offered the rationale of “kriegsraison” to exculpate their clients. The defence argument was that in conditions of all out war, those prosecuting the war can and must do whatever it takes to win. The Nuremberg tribunals summarily rejected kriegsraison as a defence. (The Lancet)

Tighter Medical Privacy Rules Sought

The Obama administration is rewriting new rules on medical privacy after an outpouring of criticism from consumer groups and members of Congress who say the rules do not adequately protect the rights of patients. (New York Times)

On the Origins of Cognitive Science

On the Origins of Cognitive Science is an excellent review of early twentieth century cognitive science. It stands out amongst other reviews of cognitive science by taking a broad perspective over the ideas that were alive during the cybernetic era and not limiting itself to just that part of history that seems relevant in light of current orthodoxy. Dupuy explicitly states that the book is a testament to the failure of cybernetics, which I feel is not warranted by his exegesis. I found it to be an inspiring story of a research program that had lofty ambitions of exploring the ways in which new technologies could shape the way we understand the mind. Furthermore, it becomes clear through the book how much current orthodoxy and the research programs that are challenging this orthodoxy in the 21st century all owe to the research and new ways of thinking that the cyberneticians spawned. (Metapsychology)

CANADA: Judging the value of a life

According to a recent Léger Marketing survey, an extraordinarily high proportion of Quebeckers – 71 per cent – favour decriminalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide. This, in a province that’s been the major bastion of Catholicism in North America for so many decades. The question is so complex, and so deeply fraught with moral issues and potential abuses, that it’s difficult to understand why so many people can opt for a radical solution without being, at least, a little anxious about the consequences of their choice. The Globe and Mail

The Covenant

When the geneticist Francis Collins was named director of the National Institutes of Health, last summer, he became the public face of American science and the keeper of the world’s deepest biomedical-research-funding purse. He was praised by President Obama and waved through the Senate confirmation process without objection. There also came a peer review of a sort that he’d never experienced, conducted in the press and in Internet science forums. Collins read in the Times that many of his colleagues in the scientific community believed that he suffered from “dementia.” Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard, questioned the appointment on the ground that Collins was “an advocate of profoundly anti-scientific beliefs.” P. Z. Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota at Morris, complained, “I don’t want American science to be represented by a clown.” (The New Yorker)

August 30, 2010

5-day pill moves emergency contraception back to doctor’s office

Now that the FDA has approved ella (ulipristal acetate), a prescription-only emergency contraceptive, the debate about whether to prescribe such drugs is moving back to the doctor’s office. With it comes ethical and legal questions for physicians, particularly those who object to emergency contraception for various reasons. (American Medical News)

Cash-Poor Governments Ditching Public Hospitals

Faced with mounting debt and looming costs from the new federal health-care law, many local governments are leaving the hospital business, shedding public facilities that can be the caregiver of last resort. (Wall Street Journal)

Now courier embryos, get baby

Busy childless couples and even singles who cannot afford to take extended leaves are now shipping their children-in-the-making to state clinics to be implanted in the wombs of surrogates.

In a growing practice, embryos from the fertilised eggs and sperm of the couple are couriered in controlled cool conditions and delivered to infertility clinics which are then transferred into the surrogate mother’s womb! (The Times of India)

First tests for stem cell therapy are near

Scientists are poised to inject cells created from embryonic stem cells into some patients with a progressive form of blindness and others with devastating spinal cord injuries. That’s a welcome step for researchers eager to move from the laboratory to the clinic and for patients hoping for cures. But beyond being loathsome to those with moral objections to any research using cells from human embryos, the tests are worrying many proponents: Some argue that the experiments are premature, others question whether they are ethical, and many fear that the trials risk disaster for the field if anything goes awry. (Washington Post)

INDIA: The country’s booming market for surrogacy

You can outsource just about any work to India these days, including making babies. Reproductive tourism in India is now a half-a-billion-dollar-a-year industry, with surrogacy services offered in 350 clinics across the country since it was legalized in 2002. The primary appeal of India is that it is cheap, hardly regulated, and relatively safe. Surrogacy can cost up to $100,000 in the United States, while many Indian clinics charge $22,000 or less. Very few questions are asked. Same-sex couples, single parents and even busy women who just don’t have time to give birth are welcomed by doctors. As a bonus, many Indians speak English and Indian surrogate mothers are less likely to use illegal drugs. Plus medical standards in private hospitals are very high (not all good Indian doctors left in the brain drain). (Slate Magazine)

Ethics of Human Enhancement

Ray Kurzweil may not be a household name, but the blind know who he is. He invented the first reading machine and then reduced its size to a hand-held gadget. Kurzweil will be remembered more as a man on a mission to tell the world what life will be like in the age of technology. Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates said he is the best in the world at predicting the future, and what a world he predicts. (Religion & Ethics News Weekly)

Lab rats? Drugs for US children tried on Indians

A law intended to speed up development of new drugs for US kids has ended up financing clinical trials in poor countries, where the medicines might never become available. (The Times of India)

August 28, 2010

New Issue of Bioethics is Now Available

Bioethics (Volume 24, Issue 7, September 2010) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “Reproductive Tourism and the Quest for Global Gender Justice” by Anne Donchin, 323-332.
  • “Care Ethics and the Global Practice of Commercial Surrogacy” by Jennifer A. Parks, 333–340.
  • “Revisiting Child-Based Objections to Commercial Surrogacy” by Jason K.M. Hanna, 341-347.
  • “Surrogacy: Donor Conception Regulation in Japan” by Yukari Semba, Chiungfang Chang, Hyunsoo Hong, Ayako Kamisato, Minori Kokado, and Kaori Muto, 348-357.
  • “The Ethics of Intercountry Adoption: Why It Matters To Healthcare Providers and Bioethicists” by Sarah Jones, 358-364.
  • “The Limits of Intimate Citizenship: Reproduction of Difference in Flemish-Ethiopian ‘Adoption Cultures’” by Katrien De Graeve, 265-372.

August 27, 2010

Article: Embryo Stem Cell Research: Ten Years of Controversy

The Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics (Volume 38, Issue 2, Summer 2010) is now available by subscription only.

Embryo Stem Cell Research:  Ten Years of Controversy” by John A. Robertson, 191-203.

New Issue of Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics is Now Available

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics (Volume 19, Issue 4, October 2010) is now available by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Should Empathic Development Be a Priority in Biomedical Ethics Teaching?  A Critical Perspective” by Bruce Maxwell and Eric Racine, 433-445.
  • “Teaching Military Medical Ethics: Another Look at Dual Loyalty and Triage” by Michael L. Gross, 458-464.
  • “The Unique Nature of Clinical Ethics in Allied Health Pediatrics: Implications for Ethics Education” by Clare Delany and Merle Spriggs and Craig L. Fry and Lynn Gillam, 471-480.
  • “What Health Science Student Learn from Playing a Standardized Patient in an Ethics Course” by Amy Haddad, 481-487.
  • “Medical Student Attitudes about Bioethics” by Cheryl C. MacPherson and Robert M. Veatch, 488-496.
  • “Rual Heathcare Ethics: No Longer the Forgotten Quarter” by William Nelson and Mary Ann Greene and Alan West, 510-517.
  • “The Humanities and the Future of Bioethics Education” by Joseph J. Fins, 518-521.

New Issue of The Journal of World Intellectual Property is Now Available

The Journal of World Intellectual Property (Volume 13, Issue 4, July 2010) is now available by subscription only.

Relevant articles include:

  • “Patent Policy for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Taiwan” by Jerry I.-H. Hsiao, 540-555.


The Bioethics Poll
Should individuals and/or institutions be allowed to patent human genes?
Yes, with some qualifications

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Which area of research should more money be invested in:
Animal-Human Hybrids
Gene Therapy
Reproductive Technology
Stem Cell Research
"Therapeutic" Cloning
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