Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies

Greetings from Stephen Latham, Bioethics Center Director

The semester is over and exams have begun, so this is our final Friday Newsletter of the semester. We’ll be back with regular Friday Newsletters at the start of the fall term. Meanwhile, we’ll be busy at the Bioethics Center with our Sherwin Nuland Summer Institute in Bioethics.

Some end-of-term events to flag:  Our Technology and Ethics group will host our last event on the season on Thursday, May 22 at 4:15 PM in ISPS. Robin Hanson (George Mason, Economics) will speak on “The Age of Em: Social Implications of Brain Emulations.” Also on May 22, our friends at the Medical School’s Program for Biomedical Ethics will hear from Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown, Philosophy) on “The Multivalence of the Concept of Autonomy.” Her talk, which is open to the Yale community, will be at 4:30 in the Cohen Auditorium. A light dinner will be served, so please RSVP to Karen.Kolb@Yale.edu.

Executive Committee Chair Robert Levine and I are pleased to welcome three new Yale faculty members to the Bioethics Center’s Executive Committee: Jennifer Herdt from the Divinity School, Lydia Dugdale from the Medical School, and Abbe Gluck from the Law School will help connect the Center to the rest of the university, and to their disciplines beyond Yale.  We are delighted to have them aboard! 

Congratulations to graduating senior Michelle Bayefsky, past president of Yale’s undergraduate Bioethics Society and founding Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Bioethics Journal (which came out with its second issue a few weeks ago). Michelle will begin a two-year post-baccalaureate fellowship at the NIH Department of Bioethics starting in the fall, and will, in the meantime, be working with UNESCO’s Bioethics Programme in Paris.  Congratulations, also, to Yale Junior and Summer Bioethics Institute alum Jessica Hahne, who received the Hastings Center’s Emily Murray Student Fellowship. The award will support Jessica’s research on her Senior Essay at the Hastings Center this August. Sometimes it seems as if our top-secret goal of having our students take over the bioethics world is within reach….

Don’t forget, during the summer season, to check the websites of the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, the ISPS, the medical school’s Program for Biomedical Ethics, and the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology for news and events!

See you in the Fall!
  Thursday, May 22 at 4:15 PM
Technology & Ethics group
Location: 77 Prospect St, rm A002
Speaker: Robin Hanson, Associate Professor of Economics, George Mason University
Topic: The Age of Em: Social Implications of Brain Emulations

  Updates from the Summer Institute

Campus Events



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Updates from the Summer Institute

From Associate Director Carol Pollard

*The Friday Newsletter will not be printed during the summer months; our next edition will be at the start of Yale’s Fall Semester.  Please continue to send me news and information, and I’ll compile it for our first Newsletter in the Fall. 

*I hope to see many of you at this year’s Banquet on Friday, July 25th, at 5:30 pm, in the Peabody Museum’s Dinosaur Room and/or our very first symposium for returning students and faculty on July 25th, 26th, and 27th.  Let me know if you will be attending one or both of these events, so we can have a proper headcount for food service.

*Laura Ballantyne-Brodie, past summer student and present seminar instructor, sent an interesting article about how art and philosophy were being integrated with business and economics at a handful of business schools.  The title of the article is “Why Some MBAs Are Reading Plato.  (Thank you Laura!) 

*Ramona Fernandez sent information about her new research appointment at Western University (London Ontario, Canada).  Her title is “Adjunct Assistant Professor (Counseling Psychology) and Project Coordinator, Department of Family Medicine”.    (Congratulations Ramona!)

*Congratulations to Alexandra Ulkus who is now a Research Analyst at the Health Research Institute PwC.  The Health Research Institute focuses on “large-scale issues, major developments and key trends in the health industries.”

*Shawna Benston, past summer student and present seminar instructor, has just finished a stint as a Legal Intern (Evelyn Frank Legal Resources Program) at the New York Legal Assistance Group.  (Congratulations Shawna!)

*Carrie Broughton is now the “proud Mom” to her baby girl Emily who was born April 5th.  (Congratulations Carrie!)

*Sundar Layalu writes: “I received a Green Game Changer Award yesterday from Clark University President Dr. David Angel.  This award is for my thesis and related work at Clark University.  Green Game Changer Awards recognize one student/student group and one staff or faculty member from each of the SynergE Worcester schools – Clark University, College of the Holy Cross, and WPI – who have made a substantial contribution to advancing sustainable practices or projects at their campus, either through the SynergE Worcester initiative or otherwise.”  (Congratulations Sundar!)

*Sebastian Galbo writes: “I've recently published an article entitled "'’The Roving Ambassador': Bayard Rustin's Quaker Cosmopolitanism and the Civil Rights Movement."  This past weekend I presented my paper, "Millennial Journalism: Shakers and the Progressive Periodical (1871-1899)," at the Spring Shaker Forum, Enfield Shaker Museum, in New Hampshire.  I expect this article to be published in a religious studies journal sometime during the Fall of 2014, and will be sure to keep you posted.”  (Congratulations Sebastian!)

*Laure Honen, Alma Massaro, Susan Kopp (past and present summer seminar instructor) and I have been trading articles on animal ethics.  Thank you for including me in the loop!  If any of you are interested in seeing videos of all the talks at the “Personhood Beyond the Human” Conference, held December 6-8, 2013, at Yale, visit: http://nonhumanrights.net

*I hope you all have a great summer!  Let me hear from you!


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Upcoming on Campus

Wednesday, May 7

Yale Health Lecture
Time: 1 PM
Location: 120 High St, Sterling Library Lecture Hall
Speaker: Natasha Schvey, Department of Psychiatry, Department of Psychology, Yale University
Topic: Eating and Weight Disorders

Thursday, May 22

Program for Biomedical Ethics Lecture - YALE ONLY
Time: 4:30 PM
Location: 230 S Frontage Rd, Cohen Auditorium
Speaker: Rebecca Kukla, PhD, Professor; Senior Research Scholar, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Department of Philosophy, Georgetown University

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Articles of Interest

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In the News

Featured Article

Greenblatt, Alan. States struggle to find an execution method that works. NPR. 30 April 2014.
 States have always struggled to find humane ways to carry out the death penalty. For a generation, they have favored lethal injection, but that method has become increasingly problematic. It's coming under increased scrutiny following the death of Clayton Lockett, who died Tuesday of a heart attack after writhing visibly during an execution attempt in Oklahoma. The execution "fell short" of humane standards, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday. "This is a highly problematic method of execution," says Deborah Denno, an expert on lethal injections at Fordham Law School. "It's as problematic as any we've ever had." Continue reading...


Davenport, Coral. Justices back rule limiting coal pollution. The New York Times. 29 April 2014.
In a major victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the smog from coal plants that drifts across state lines from 28 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast. The 6-to-2 ruling bolsters the centerpiece of President Obama’s environmental agenda: a series of new regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants. Continue reading...

Health and Medicine

McNeil, Donald. Even a few pills can put a dent in the malaria rate. The New York Times. 28 April 2014.
A new way to prevent malaria in areas where it waxes and wanes with the weather appears to be working in West Africa, the medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders said last week. The tactic, seasonal malaria chemoprevention, involves giving children regular doses of malaria medicine during the rainy season when mosquitoes are everywhere. The doses are too small to cure malaria, but studies by the organization in Mali and Chad showed that they reduced both simple infections and severe malaria by more than 70 percent. Continue reading...

Antibiotic resistance threatens everyone, WHO warns. CBC News. 30 April 2014.
The threat posed by antibiotic resistant bacteria is a real and present one, the World Health Organization warns. Antibiotic resistance occurs when some bacteria change, rendering drugs that are meant to kill them useless or ineffective. Those bugs then survive and spread the resistance. Wednesday’s report from the United Nations health agency showed antibiotic resistance in microbes that cause common and serious diseases such as urinary tract infections and pneumonia in all regions of the world. Continue reading...

Kennedy, Kelly. House panel seeks improved Medicare fraud efforts. USA Today. 30 April 2014.
Improper Medicare payments cost about $50 billion last year, a Health and Human Services official told a House panel Wednesday, testimony that prompted a rare display of bipartisanship in a usually divided House. Continue reading...

Medical Ethics

Rau, Jordan. Doctors think the other guy often prescribes unnecessary care. NPR. 1 May 2014.
Three out of four physicians believe that fellow doctors prescribe an unnecessary test or procedure at least once a week, a survey released Thursday finds. The most frequent reasons that physicians order extraneous — and costly —medical care are fears of being sued, impulses to be extra careful and desires to reassure themselves about their assessments of patients, the survey said. Continue reading...

Reproductive Health

Seligson, Hannah. Data murky on fertility rates. The New York Times. 28 April 2014.
Here’s the question on the minds of people who spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments: What are my chances of having a healthy baby? As it turns out, it’s not always easy to tell. Since 1992, clinics have been required to report their success rates, defined as the number of live births per in vitro fertilization cycle, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are also supposed to report how many cycles they perform and whether the cycles involve the woman’s own eggs or donor eggs, among other factors. But there is little regulatory enforcement of these requirements by either the C.D.C. or the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies, the association that forwards this data to the agency. Roughly 10 percent of clinics do not report at all. Continue reading...


Sun, Albert. From volunteers, a DNA database. The New York Times. 28 April 2014.
The Personal Genome Project is gradually working its way toward 100,000 volunteers who are willing to have their genetic data in the public domain. Continue reading...

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In the Journals

Ahmad, Ayesha. Cultural explanations and clinical ethics: Active euthanasia in neonatology. Journal of Medical Ethics: Journal of the Institute of Medical Ethics. March 2014. Kamble et al. explore the views in non-Western cultures about ending the lives of newborns with genetic defects. Kamble et al. shift the focus from clinical explanations of the causation and prognosis of the genetic defects and enter a dialogue with cultural narratives. Consequently, their argument is, broadly, a reassessment of medical practice as a contextualisation of a particular culture/s rather than indifferent or independent from cultural forces or influences. This is a radical claim. While it may be said that almost universally societies attach various meanings to the newborn child, because neonatology is a relatively new field, the context of such meanings in a clinical setting has been underexplored. Ethical frameworks must continue to work to accommodate the changing nature of these clinical decisions; and the challenge for contemporary biomedical ethics in analysing cultural explanations in order to integrate parent's wishes into both, the ethical and clinical treatment of their child, is currently needing development. While the original article points out that multiple scenarios-representing different religious viewpoints, or different conceptions of the neonate-will offer more complex opinions, the pluralism is necessary to counteract the tension in providing a uniform neonatal body. Continue reading…

Ducournau, Pascal. Direct-to-consumer health genetic testing services: What commercial strategies for which socio-ethical issues? Health Sociology Review. 2013.
Online availability of direct-to-consumer health genetic testing services for various diseases and behavioural traits appears to have created a business dynamic since its beginning around the turn of the millennium. What are the marketing strategies implemented by the companies commercialising these tests and the social expectations they feed on? From a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the websites offering such tests for health, it appears that these companies have based their expansion on a triple-branch market: 'healthism', contemporary claims revolving around the individuation of 'biopolitics', and biosocial bonding. Each of these three marketing strategies raises a number of socio-ethical issues that require careful consideration in the face of an unprecedented surge of the genetic testing market. Continue reading…

Dworkin, Gerald. Organ sales and paternalism. Journal of Medical Ethics: Journal of the Institute of Medical Ethics. March 2014.
Simon Rippon believes that a certain argument is not sound. I agree. I do not agree with the role he assigns the argument in the debate about organ sales. Nor do I agree with the much stronger argument he puts forward that organ sales should be forbidden. The argument he believes unsound, which I shall use his terminology to refer to as the Laissez-Choisir or LC argument, has three premises. The one be believes false says, "If we take away what some regard as their best option, we thereby make them worse off, at least from their own perspective". I agree with Rippon that LC is not valid, that introducing markets can have costs. But those costs are uncertain compared to the known benefits, saving lives is more significant than avoiding harmful pressures, and many sellers will in fact be better off having the option even including its costs. Continue reading…

Radcliffe-Richards, Janet. Commentary by Janet Radcliffe-Richards on Simon Rippon's 'Imposing options on people in poverty: The harm of a live donor organ market'. 2014.
The article by Rippon is excellent, probably the best there is in defence of prohibiting the sale of organs, and it deserves a much fuller discussion of detail than there is space for here. My concerns, however, are with generalities rather than detail. Although some such argument might justify prohibition of organ selling in particular places and at particular times, it is difficult to see how it could support the kind of general, universal policy currently accepted by most advocates of prohibition. An argument of this form needs to specify its conclusion with care before it can be assessed. A conclusion of general scope is certainly not easy to defend without a direct judgement of moral wrongness, and some such intuition still seems, in practice, to be the driving force of this debate. Continue reading…

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