Greetings from Stephen Latham, Director

We have a flurry of activities coming up in this closing week of the semester:

Tom Murray, President Emeritus of The Hastings Center and our Terry Visiting Scholar in Bioethics, will give a talk entitled “Why We Play: Technology, Values and Embodiment in Sport” at 5pm on Tuesday the 23rd at ISPS. Details are below. In addition to being a leading bioethics scholar, Tom currently serves as Chair of the Ethical Issues Review Panel for the World Anti-Doping Agency. This should be a great talk on whether the values inherent in athletic competition are threatened by new enhancement technologies.

Andrew Light (Global Ethics, George Mason) will give a Technology and Ethics talk on Wednesday the 24th on “The Ethics and Governance of Geoengineering” (ISPS, 4:15). Details below.

Peter Singer (Bioethics, Princeton) will give this year’s Castle Lectures on “Effective Altruism.” The lectures will take place from 4:00 to 5:30 at Sterling Memorial Library, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, April 23, 24 and 25. The link includes a précis of the talk; details in the link and below.

Save the date: our sister organization the Program for Biomedical Ethics at the School of Medicine and the YNHH Transplant Center will host a symposium on Transplant Surgery and Marijuana Use on Tuesday, April 30 at 4:30 at the Anlyan Center, 300 Cedar Street. Panelists will include prominent transplant surgeons and leading bioethicist Art Caplan of NYU. Dinner will be served, so please RSVP to Details in the link!

Congratulations to Visiting Scholar Zohar Lederman, MD (Philosophy, Singapore), whose paper entitled “Environmental Medicine in the 21st Century” has been accepted for oral presentation at UNESCO’s International Conference on Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law in November of this year.

Any items you’d like to see included here? Send them to with the word “Frimail” in your subject line.


April 23 at 5 PM

77 Prospect St
Room A002

Thomas Murray
Dwight H. Terry Visiting
Scholar in Bioethics;
President Emeritus of
The Hastings Center

Why We Play:
Technology, Values, and Embodiment in Sport

Wednesday, April 24 at 4:15 PM
Technology & Ethics Group
Location: 77 Prospect St, rm B012
Speaker: Andrew Light, Director, International Climate Policy, Center for American Progress, and Director, Center for Global Ethics, George Mason University
Topic: The Ethics and Governance of Geoengineering

  Updates from the Summer Institute

Campus Events

Conferences & Off Campus Events

Grants, Fellowships & Jobs

Calls for Papers & Nominations

Other Items



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Updates from the Summer Institute

From Associate Director Carol Pollard

*Congratulations to Jennifer Guyton who is now an analyst at Raymond James & Associates, Inc., a diversified financial services company.

*Congratulations to Adrien Donneaud who just got accepted to the University of Copenhagen’s Summer School in Global Health Challenges.

*Congratulations to Fouzia Kazim who just got accepted to the Bioethics Summer Course at Strasbourg University.

*Congratulations to Mohini Banerjee, a member of our summer 2013 student class, who has just been accepted as a research assistant at The Hastings Center starting this September.

*Congratulations to past morning lecturer Jennifer Miller, presently a research scholar at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, who recently gave a talk there on “Bioethics and the Pharmaceutical Industry.”   The talk included information about a project she is developing at that Center.

*Tsion Tesfaye writes “I wanted to let you know that Donna Hanrahan and I will be participating in the Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law (Arizona State University) First Annual Conference on Governance of Emerging Technologies: Law, Policy & Ethics, to be held May 20-21, in Arizona. We both submitted abstracts, and they were both chosen.  We will be writing and presenting together on "The Emerging Enterprise of Mobile Health Technology: Ethical Considerations in the Age of the Smartphone.”   Donna will also author another paper, "The Role of Informal Data Aggregated from Social Media Platforms in Disease Surveillance and Epidemiological Research.”  The conference is shaping up to be a great event, and we'll be in good company.   Hope all is well in New Haven.” (Congratulations Tsion and Donna!)

*Congratulations to past (and present) summer lecturer Sally Satel on publication of her latest article in Slate Magazine titled “Prisoners Want to Donate Organs.  We Should Let Them.”  Here’s the article. Sally writes “last month, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee made life a little better for people awaiting an organ transplant.  It passed the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, legislation designed to end the federal ban on research in bioengineering work being done in this area.”  Sally sent the link for stories on this topic.


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This Week on Campus

Monday, April 22

East Asian Studies Lecture
Time: 4:30 PM
Location: 34 Hillhouse Ave, room 203
Speaker: Vera Mackie, Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Professor of Asian Studies, Institute for Social Transformation Research, University of Wollongong
Topic: Madonnas and Witches: New Reproductive Technologies in Contemporary Japanese Popular Culture

Tuesday, April 23

CIRA Lecture
Time: 12 PM
Location: 135 College St, room LL15
Speaker: Scott Cunningham
Topic: Does Decriminalization of Indoor Prostitution Reduce Sexually Transmitted Infections? Evidence from the Rhode Island Experiment

Business & Environment Webinar
Time: 12 PM
Location: online
Speaker: Chris Calwell, Senior Research Fellow, Ecova
Topic: New Approaches to Saving Energy in an Era of Climate Constraints

Ethics, Politics, & Economics Castle Lecture
Time: 4 PM
Location: 120 High St, Lecture Hall
Speaker: Peter Singer, Princeton University
Topic: What is Effective Altruism?

Wednesday, April 24

School of Forestry Panel Discussion
Time: 2:30 PM
Location: 195 Prospect St, Burke Auditorium
Panelists: Dr. Dan Kahan, Professor of Law and Psychology at Yale Law School
                 Sander van der Linden, Visiting scholar from the London School of Economics with the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication
                 Dr. Daylian Cain, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management
Topic: Climate: Mind and Behavior: Shifting Towards Greener Building and Behavior

Ethics, Politics, & Economics Castle Lecture
Time: 4 PM
Location: 120 High St, Lecture Hall
Speaker: Peter Singer, Princeton University
Topic: Altruism

Thursday, April 25

Wilbur Downs Spring Symposium
Time: 4 PM
Location: 60 College St, room 103
Speaker: Dr. James Lavery, Research Scientist, St. Michael’s Hospital Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Joint Centre of Bioethics, University of Toronto
Topic: Community Engagement: Paying attention to the human infrastructure in global health research

Ethics, Politics, & Economics Castle Lecture
Time: 4 PM
Location: 120 High St, Lecture Hall
Speaker: Peter Singer, Princeton University
Topic: Effectiveness

Human Rights Workshop
Time: 4:15 PM
Location: 127 Wall St, Faculty Lounge
Speaker: Sara Shneiderman, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Yale University
Topic: Debating Transitional Justice in "Post-Conflict" Nepal

Humanities in Medicine's Dillard Lecture
Time: 5 PM
Location: 300 Cedar St, Anlyan Auditorium
Speaker: Kathleen White, MD, Physician/Environmentalist, Yale University; Site Director, ASRI Klinik, Sukadana, West Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia
Topic:Saving Lives While Saving the Planet: A Replicative Model of Sustainability in Health Care in Developing Nations

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Conferences & Off Campus Events

The Trinity College Conference on Health Care Policy (Friday, April 26) is only one week away! If you or your colleagues have not yet registered for the conference, now is the time! In addition, please bring this opportunity to the attention of any students who might be interested. Those who plan to join us for lunch should register by Friday, April 19. (The registration fee is waived for Trinity College faculty and students.) Join us for Dr. Ted Marmor’s keynote address, "The Affordable Care Act: Separating Fact from Fiction," during the morning session in the Washington Room, beginning at 10:00 a.m. Breakout discussions during the afternoon will include the following topics: Health Information Technology (HIT): Implications for Clinical Practice and Efficiency, Achieving Health Equity in Health Care Reform, Small Business and Health Care Reform, The Connecticut Health Exchange: Benefits and Challenges. Questions? Call the Graduate Studies Office at (860) 297-2151.

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Annual Meeting of the American Teilhard Association, Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 12 PM, Union Theological Seminary Refectory, 3041 Broadway at 121st St., New York City, NY
Mary Evelyn Tucker will be speaking on "The Teilhardian Roots of Journey of the Universe". Beyond world wars and the cold war, there beckons the sense of a larger planetary whole - an emerging, multiform, planetary civilization. It is in participating in this transition moment that we will fulfill our role as humans on behalf of future generations. It requires a profound change of consciousness and values - both an expanded worldview of the universe story and a comprehensive global ethics that embraces the Earth community. Journey of the Universe offers an expansive context for this great transition. We can be inspired by this scientific story of nested interdependence - from galaxies and stars to planets and ecosystems - so that we sense how personally we are woven into the fabric of life. We are part of this ongoing journey. Teilhard understood the immense challenges of activating human energy in the modern period. His thought is a major inspiration for the Journey of the Universe project with Brian Swimme, who is also a vice president of the American Teilhard Association. The Journey film and book arose from our shared appreciation for Teilhard's understanding of evolution as a single unfolding energy event that gave rise to an immense diversity of life. Seeing the human as a biocultural being within these evolutionary processes gives us a new sense of our vital role and responsibility for the continuity of these processes. Mary Evelyn Tucker is the Vice President of the American Teilhard Association, co-director of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, and one of the writers and executive producers of the Emmy award winning film Journey of the Universe. To see the flyer, visit:  The cost is $25 for the Luncheon and Talk,$10 for the Talk only (at 1:30 PM).  Register for the 2013 Annual Meeting online through Paypal at:  Or send in the registration form by mail:  All are welcome to attend this meeting. You do not have to be a member of the American Teilhard Association to join us.

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Educating Scientists in Research Ethics for the 21st Century June 3-6, 2013, Governor Calvert Inn, Annapolis, Maryland. This trainer-of-trainers conference is designed to prepare faculty and administrators to establish or improve instruction in research ethics. Co-sponsors: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Assist, and the University of Pittsburgh. Funding: The National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Speakers include Elaine Englehardt, PhD (Utah Valley University), Beth Fischer, PhD (Assist Consulting), Mark Frankel, PhD (AAAS), C.K. Gunsalus, JD (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign), Elizabeth Heitman, PhD (Vanderbilt University), Jeannette Hoit, PhD (Arizona State University), Jeffrey Kahn, PhD (Johns Hopkins University), Allison Lerner, PhD (NSF), Richard McGee (Northwestern University), Debra Parrish, JD (Parrish Law Offices), Michael Pritchard, PhD (Western Michigan University), Joseph Whittaker, PhD (Morgan State University), Michael Zigmond, PhD (University of Pittsburgh), Dorit Zuk, PhD (NIH). Details on the conference, as well as an application form, are available on our website at Financial support is available to those who would otherwise be unable to attend the event. Conference participants will receive extensive curricular resources including syllabi, PowerPoint presentations, handouts for students, in-class exercises, and cases for discussion. Attendance is limited to 40 persons and applications are considered on a rolling basis. For additional information, contact Beth Fischer, PhD,

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Grants, Fellowships, & Jobs

Bioethicist, West Bay Region-Program in Medicine & Human Values
Deadline: Saturday, June 1st, 2013. Location: Sutter West Bay Hospitals, San Francisco, CA, United States. Contact: Linda J Hummel, PhD, 415 600 1645, PRIMARY PURPOSE: The Bioethicist West Bay Region (“WBR”), under the supervision of the Director PMHV, the Senior Ethics Scholar and CPMC Bioethicist, will be the key provider of ethics expertise to Sutter West Bay Hospitals.  This position will support the Ethics Committees of Sutter West Bay Hospitals by receiving and coordinating all requests for ethics consultations, executing consultations and following up with cases after referral. The Bioethicist WBR will be responsible for educating and training the hospital ethics committees of Sutter West Bay Hospitals using materials developed by the PMHV on the basis of the consultation case model used at CPMC. Additionally, the Bioethicist WBR will develop with PMHV faculty ethics committee education and training materials.  The Bioethicist WBR will participate in regular ethics rounds in Sutter West Bay Hospitals and lecture at appropriate Sutter West Bay educational events. This position requires extensive travel between the Sutter West Bay Hospitals. Education: For non-physicians, an advanced degree in bioethics or a related field; Ph.D preferred. For physicians or other health professionals, a Fellowship of at least one year, at a recognized bioethics program. Knowledge: Must possess knowledge of principles, concepts and methods of health care ethics consultation, ethics program development and bioethics education. Should have knowledge of biomedical ethics terms, the bioethics literature, professional standards, methods of case analysis, JCAHO guidelines, and basic understanding of medical terminology. Experience: Documented experience with clinical ethics consultation as individual consultant, experience with bioethics education and interdisciplinary collaboration. Experience in a health care setting with patient care, ethics education and ethics committee education/ethics committee operations. Please apply online: Job Number: 1305055

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Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Genetics
The Center for Research on Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic and Behavioral Genetics at Columbia University anticipates the availability of post-doctoral fellowship positions to begin September 2013. The goal of the fellowship is to train researchers whose work is focused on the ethical, legal and social implications of advances in genetics, with a special focus on psychiatric, neurologic, and behavioral genetics. Training programs, which will generally last 2 years, include course work, mentored research activities, guidance in seeking research funding, and participation in the activities of the Center.  All activities are designed to accommodate the skills and interests of the fellows. Candidates should have a doctorate (e.g., PhD, JD, MD) in the social and behavioral sciences, genetics or other basic sciences, epidemiology, nursing, medicine, law, or one of the humanities, and substantial empirical research skills. For further information about the program and application materials, please contact the fellowship director, Sharon Schwartz, PhD:

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Calls for Papers & Nominations

Call for Abstracts for Third Annual Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference, September 26-27, 2013; Kalamazoo, Michigan. Proponents of medical humanities contend that the humanistic dimensions of medicine and health are a critical component of those disciplines; not only do these dimensions help us to understand the very nature of medicine and health, their apprehension allows caregivers to relate to their patients, to treat those patients with respect and dignity, and to provide more holistic and empathetic care. The Third Annual Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference aims to explore a range of themes within the medical humanities. A primary focus will be on emergent technologies in health care and humanities, and how these affect patient care, the patient experience, and the effectiveness of the practice of health care, though proposals in any area of medical humanities are welcome.  The conference is meant to be highly interdisciplinary, drawing participants from a wide range of backgrounds, including those from both academic and medical communities. Submissions are welcome on topics that engage some facet of the medical humanities, including their importance and conceptual scope. Furthermore, we welcome submissions that engage any of the following: Medical ethics, the history of medicine and health care, religious and/or spiritual perspectives on medicine and health, health care communication, medical anthropology, sociology of medicine and health, cross‐cultural approaches to medicine and health, health and health care in literature and/or poetry, musical therapy, and sickness and health as represented in the visual arts. Submission Guidelines: Submissions should include name, departmental/institutional affiliation, project title, and an abstract not to exceed 500 words. Proposals should be submitted electronically by July 15—in either .doc/.docx or .pdf format—to Acceptances will be announced by August 1, and further details will appear on as they are available. About Us: Under the direction of Dr. Fritz Allhoff and David Charlton, the Medical Humanities Workgroup is a developing initiative on the campus of Western Michigan University, coordinating individuals from the university and broader Kalamazoo community with interests in the humanistic dimensions of medicine and health. For more information, please see, or send an email to the address above.

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Other Items of Interest

2013 Application for Community-based Participatory Research Training
The Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI) and the Yale Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program (RWJFCSP) offer post-doctoral training in community partnered research for Yale investigators affiliated with the Schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing. Send your responses along with a CV to by April 26.

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Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics Intensive Summer Courses in Bioethics , June 17-21 & 24-28, 2013. Join the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics this summer for introductory and advanced courses in Bioethics, offered through the Berman Institute Bioethics Intensives (BI2) program. BI2 provides an engaging bioethics educational opportunity for current students; medical, legal, and policy professionals; researchers; scholars and others. Download a program flyer.  For More information & To Register Visit:, Email: , Phone: 410-614-5550.

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COLUMBIA’S NEW ON-LINE CERTIFICATE AND COURSES IN BIOETHICS: INFORMATIONAL WEBINAR, May 1, 6-7 pm. To learn more and/or register, please visit: 

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Articles of Interest

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In the News

Drugs & Pharmaceuticals

Shute, Nancy. Seniors in the South are More Apt to be Prescribed Risky Drugs. NPR.  11 April 2013.
Health care types have spent years trying to make the point that seniors are being prescribed medications that are unnecessary and dangerous. But the message hasn't really sunk in. More than 20 percent of people with Medicare Advantage coverage are taking at least one high-risk medication, a new study finds .Continue reading…

Health Care

Shute, Nancy. Quality Conundrum: Complications Boost Hospital Profits. NPR. 16 April 2013. Hospitals can make much more money when surgery goes wrong than in cases that go without a hitch. And that presents a problem for patients. The financial incentives don't favor better care. "The magnitude of the numbers was eye-popping," says Atul Gawande, a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, and an author of the study, which was just published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. "It was much larger than we expected."Continue reading…

Law and Bioethics 

Kolata, Gina. DNA Project Aims to Make Public a Company’s Data on Cancer Genes. New York Times. 12 April 2013.
Anyone in the United States who wants to know if she has mutations in two breast cancer genes has little choice of where to be tested. One company alone has patents on the genes, and that company pretty much controls the market. On Monday, the Supreme Court will take up the issue of whether companies can own patents on genes. But there is another issue, often overlooked, that might make the patent question beside the point. No matter which way the patent decision goes, the company, Myriad Genetics, will still own the largest database that tells patients what various mutations mean. Continue reading…

Medical Ethics

Sifferlin, Alexandra. Doctors Go Shopping: Price Comparisons Lead MDs to Lower Testing Costs. Time. 16 April 2013.
It’s a basic tenet of smart shopping — compare prices so you can find the best deal. Doctors, however, are often in the dark about what medical tests cost. Now, a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers published in the journal, JAMA Internal Medicine shows that alerting doctors to the costs of the tests they’re ordering can lead to cheaper choices and hefty savings. Continue reading…

Hubert, Cynthia. Nevada Buses Hundreds of Mentally Ill Patients to Cities Around Country. Sacramento Bee. 14 April 2013.
Over the past five years, Nevada's primary state psychiatric hospital has put hundreds of mentally ill patients on Greyhound buses and sent them to cities and towns across America. Since July 2008, Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas has transported more than 1,500 patients to other cities via Greyhound bus, sending at least one person to every state in the continental United States, according to a Bee review of bus receipts kept by Nevada's mental health division. Continue reading…

Public Health 

Rochman, Bonnien. How Social Networks Influence Parents’ Decision to Vaccinate. Time. 15 April 2013.
With so much confusing and even misleading information about vaccine safety available on the Internet, it’s no surprise that parents are influenced by their friends’ attitudes when it comes to immunizing their kids. Continue reading…

Rosenberg, Robin S. Abnormal is the New Normal? Slate. 12 April 2013.
Beware the DSM-5, the soon-to-be-released fifth edition of the “psychiatric bible,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The odds will probably be greater than 50 percent, according to the new manual, that you’ll have a mental disorder in your lifetime. Almost 50 percent of Americans (46.4 percent to be exact) will have a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetimes, based on the previous edition, the DSM-IV. And the new manual will likely make it even "easier" to get a diagnosis. Continue reading…

Malaria Hotspots ‘Need New Approach.’ BBC News. 14 April 2013.
Novel measures are needed to tackle malaria hotspots in countries with low levels of the disease, scientists say. Countries such as Malaysia and Bhutan have seen malaria levels fall - but pockets of infection remain, mainly among men living or working outdoors. Continue reading…

Koch, Wendy. Ten Retailers Urged to Pull Potentially Toxic Products. USA Today. 10 April 2013.
Health and environmental groups will launch a national campaign Thursday to prod 10 major retailers — including Walmart, Target and Costco — to clear store shelves of products containing hazardous chemicals. Advocates say these companies have done some "retail regulation" but argue more needs to be done and the U.S. government isn't stepping up. They list 100-plus chemicals used in hundreds, possibly thousands, of products including wrinkle-free clothes, vinyl flooring, shampoos, sofa cushions and food packaging. Continue reading…


Gallagher, James. Scientists make ‘laboratory-grown’ kidney. BBC. 14 April 2013. A kidney "grown" in the laboratory has been transplanted into animals where it started to produce urine, US scientists say. Similar techniques to make simple body parts have already been used in patients, but the kidney is one of the most complicated organs made so far. Continue reading…

Duffy, Lizzy. Deciding the Fate of Your Digital Stuff After You’re Gone. NPR. 12 April 2013.
Google seems to think of everything for everyone, and the dead are no exception. On Thursday, the company debuted the Inactive Account Manager: "You can tell us what to do with your Gmail messages and data from several other Google services if your account becomes inactive for any reason," Google explains on its public policy blog. Those services can include YouTube, Google Plus, Google Voice, Blogger and Picasa Web Albums. Continue reading…

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In the Journals

Biegler, Paul. Ban the Sunset? Nonpropositional Content and Regulation of Pharmaceutical Advertising. American Journal of Bioethics. April 2013.
The risk that direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription pharmaceuticals (DTCA) may increase inappropriate medicine use is well recognized. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration addresses this concern by subjecting DTCA content to strict scrutiny. Its strictures are, however, heavily focused on the explicit claims made in commercials, what we term their “propositional content.” Yet research in social psychology suggests advertising employs techniques to influence viewers via nonpropositional content, for example, images and music. We argue that one such technique, evaluative conditioning, is operative in DTCA. We further argue that evaluative conditioning fosters unjustified beliefs about drug safety and efficacy, antagonising the autonomy of viewers’ choices about advertised medicines. We conclude that current guidelines are deficient in failing to account for evaluative conditioning, and that more research and debate are needed to determine the permissibility of this and other forms of nonpropositional persuasion. Continue reading...

Mandava, Amulya. Manipulation in the Enrollment of Research Participants.  Hastings Center Report. March-April 2013.
Recruitment is a challenge for many biomedical research studies with human participants. Strategies to increase the speed and ease of recruitment are therefore valuable. One way to improve these strategies is to design them so as to make use of other factors that play a role in potential participants’ decisions. In this paper, we analyze the noncoercive ways in which researchers can use knowledge about the decision-making tendencies of potential participants in order to motivate them to consent to research enrollment. We identify which modes of influence preserve respect for participants’ autonomy and which disrespect autonomy, applying the umbrella term “manipulation” to the latter. We then apply our analysis to a series of cases adapted from the experiences of clinical researchers in order to develop a framework for thinking through the ethics of manipulating people into research participation. All manipulation disrespects autonomy and is therefore pro tanto wrong. However, only deceptive manipulation invalidates the consent that results from it. Use of the other forms of manipulation can be permissible, but only if the outcome of using manipulation is sufficiently good, and the research cannot be carried out using ethically preferable means to obtain consent. Continue reading...

Ravelinglen, An. The Right to Know Your Genetic Parents: From Open Identity Gamete Donation to Routine Paternity Testing. American Journal of Bioethics. April 2013.
Over the years a number of countries have abolished anonymous gamete donation and shifted toward open-identity policies. Donor-conceived children are said to have a fundamental “right to know” the identity of their donor. In this article, we trace the arguments that underlie this claim and question its implications. We argue that, given the status attributed to the right to know one's gamete donor, it would be discriminatory not to extend this right to naturally conceived children with misattributed paternity. One way to facilitate this would be through routine paternity testing at birth. While this proposal is likely to raise concerns about the conflicting interests and rights of other people involved, we show that similar concerns apply to the context of open-identity gamete donation. Unless one can identify a rational basis for treating the two groups differently, one's stance toward both cases should be the same. Continue reading...

Resnik, David B. H5N1 Avian Flu Research and the Ethics of Knowledge. Hastings Center Report. March-April 2013.
Scientists and policy-makers have long understood that the products of research can often be used for good or evil. Nuclear fission research can be used to generate electricity or create a powerful bomb. Studies on the genetics of human populations can be used to understand relationships between different groups or to perpetuate racist ideologies. While the notion that scientific research often has beneficial and harmful uses has been discussed before, the threat of bioterrorism—a concern that has only grown since 2001—has led to increased awareness about the need to prevent the misuse of biomedical research, particularly when it involves dangerous pathogens or toxins. In 2012, the concern was ratcheted up another notch by two papers reporting the results of research on genetically engineered strains of the H5N1 avian influenza virus. Although the H5N1 papers have potential scientific and social value, some scientists and policy-makers opposed their publication because they feared that terrorists (or others with nefarious motives) could use the research to create a bioweapon that could trigger a global pandemic. The H5N1 papers raise difficult questions concerning the ethics of knowledge. Should scientific research with dangerous applications be published? Should some types of research be kept secret or not be conducted at all? What type of government oversight of dangerous research is appropriate? In this essay, I will develop a framework for thinking about the ethics of knowledge and apply it to the H5N1 controversy, focusing on issues related to publication. I will argue that redacted publication would have been a reasonable response to the dilemmas posed by the H5N1 papers if not for practical and legal problems with this option. Given these problems, full publication seems appropriate. Continue reading...

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Ars Technica

Lee, Timothy. Will the Supreme Court end human gene patents after three decades? April 14, 2013.
Since the 1980s, patent lawyers have been claiming pieces of humanity's genetic code. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted thousands of gene patents. The Federal Circuit, the court that hears all patent appeals, has consistently ruled such patents are legal. But the judicial winds have been shifting. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the legality of gene patents. And recently, the Supreme Court has grown increasingly skeptical of the Federal Circuit's patent-friendly jurisprudence. Continue reading…

Chicago Tribune 

Editorial. Medical pot for Illinois patients. April 16, 2013.
In 1976, the idea that marijuana could be a medicine was generally taken as laughable. Then a glaucoma patient named Robert Randall won a court ruling that he needed the drug to keep from going blind. His case started a movement that could finally make headway here. The Illinois House is set to vote this week on a bill to allow the therapeutic use of cannabis. Continue reading…

Los Angeles Times 

Editorial. California’s prison system is still overcrowded. April 16, 2013.
It may come as a disappointment to Gov. Jerry Brown — but it certainly should not come as a surprise — that a panel of federal judges rejected his request that they return control of California's still-overcrowded prison system to the state. The network of 33 state prisons continues to hold more than 9,000 inmates beyond the court's mandated cap, and Brown's administration has not presented a realistic plan to eliminate that excess, even though the court has extended the deadline for compliance from June 30 to the end of the year. Continue reading…

New York Times

Editorial. An Ethical Breakdown. April 15, 2013.
Despite reforms to protect patients from being harmed by medical research in recent decades, 23 academic institutions authorized a research project that failed to meet the most basic standard: providing an informed consent document to parents that accurately described the risks and benefits of the research to be conducted on extremely premature babies. Continue reading…

Editorial. A Wrenching Adoption Case. April 15, 2013.
The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 to prevent state and local welfare offices from separating Indian children from their parents, many without good reason, and placing them in non-Indian homes. Continue reading…

Editorial. Indisputable Torture. April 16, 2013.
A dozen years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an independent, nonpartisan panel’s examination of the interrogation and detention programs carried out in their aftermath by the Bush administration may seem to be musty old business. But the sweeping report issued on Tuesday by an 11-member task force convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, provides a valuable, even necessary reckoning. Continue reading…

Editorial. Another Bird Flu Outbreak. April 16, 2013.
Just as the world was breathing easier about a deadly bird flu virus that killed 371 people over the past decade before dropping out of sight, a different form of bird flu has emerged in China that is causing concern among health experts. Continue reading…

Editorial. A Giant Setback for Human Rights. April 17, 2013.
The Supreme Court’s conservatives dealt a major blow Wednesday to the ability of American federal courts to hold violators of international human rights accountable. The court declared that a 1789 law called the Alien Tort Statute does not allow foreigners to sue in American courts to seek redress “for violations of the law of nations occurring outside the United States.” Continue reading…


Brown, Kate. Life in a Real Nuclear Wasteland. April 18, 2013.
In pop culture, irradiated wastelands are fascinating. If a person can’t afford a packaged tour of the Chernobyl Zone, he or she can buy an avatar on S.T.A.L.K.E.R., a popular online game where players in a virtual Chernobyl Zone battle zombies, druids, and invisible plumes of contaminants. Part of the fantasy is surviving alone in an abandoned place no longer fit for the living, but the sad fact is that there are irradiated zones that are fully inhabited, and have been since the first years of the nuclear arms race. Despite a media culture enthralled with nuclear accidents, the cameras generally turn off after the first clouds of radioactive vapors dissipate. Continue reading…

Satel, Sally. A Kidney for a Kidney. April 15, 2013.
Last month, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee made life a little better for people awaiting an organ transplant. It passed the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, legislation designed to end the federal ban on research into organ donations from deceased HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients. It would permit the Secretary of Health and Human Services to sanction such transplant operations if the research establishes their safety. Continue reading…

Washington Post

Editorial. Patents on human DNA need Congress’s input. April 14, 2013.
A patent on DNA? Really? As strange as it sounds, the question of whether companies can patent DNA extracted from human cells is a live debate — one that will reach the Supreme Court on Monday. Continue reading…

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