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Author Archive: Blog Editor


Genetic Fingerprints and National Security

by Beau P. Sperry, Megan Allyse & Richard R. Sharp

Biometric surveillance is rapidly becoming an integral component of national security policy and practice. Biometric surveillance can include fingerprinting, facial and voice recognition, and iris scans. In 2002, in response to the September 11th attacks, the United States passed the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, which requires visa applicants to submit ten fingerprints to a national security database. Japan has been collecting fingerprints from its visitors since 2007 and many European nations are following suit, including the United Kingdom. Singapore began fingerprinting visitors in 2016, while the United Arab Emirates has gone a step further and now collects iris scans.…

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This entry was posted in Featured Posts, Genetics, Privacy and tagged , , . Posted by Blog Editor. Bookmark the permalink.


Psychiatric Genetics in a Risk Society

by Nicole Martinez-Martin

Kong and colleagues raise substantive areas of ethical concern regarding the translation of psychiatric genetic research into clinical and public health contexts. They recognize that psychiatric genomic research itself does not support essentialist claims, but point out that, nonetheless, the translation of genetic research to these new contexts may reinforce essentialist views of mental illness. Underlying Kong and colleagues’ analysis is recognition of the ways in which certain epistemological orientations, embedded within culture and institutional practices, may shape the translation of genetic research. For example, they discuss the ways that the cultural paradigm of the “responsible self” could influence individuals who have a mental illness to feel a responsibility to manage their own genetic risk, thus increasing the experience of stigma and burden.…

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This entry was posted in Featured Posts, Genetics, Psychiatric Ethics, Public Health. Posted by Blog Editor. Bookmark the permalink.


Studying “Friends”: The Ethics of Using Social Media as Research Platforms

by Sandra Soo-Jin Lee, Ph.D.

Social media is increasingly creating the contours of many Americans’ daily lives as a medium that is simultaneously intimate and powerfully public. Beyond providing tools to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues, social media platforms have become critical sources of news around the world and a significant medium for self-expression. The ability to amplify one’s joy, fear, anger and hope to hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of “friends” with a click of a button has altered how we think about the distribution of information and social networks. In this age of mounting expectation over the possibilities of ‘big data,” social media sites are focal points for accessing large amounts of detailed, personal information cheaply and quickly.…

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This entry was posted in Featured Posts, Informed Consent, Media, Privacy, Research Ethics and tagged , , . Posted by Blog Editor. Bookmark the permalink.


Ethics, refugees, and the President’s Executive Order

by Nancy Kass, ScD
There are different political philosophies about the responsibilities of states regarding whether to accept refugees. While there is a political philosophy that might be called Nationalist in perspective that says, essentially, “Not my Problem,” the predominant philosophy globally is different. That philosophy says that the refugee crisis is a global problem, people are in need, and we have the capacity to help. The reasoning behind this latter view recognizes that the benefit to others in accepting refugees is a matter of life and death, and the sacrifice to countries who accept them is, in the long run, minimal.…

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The National Academy of Sciences Expands its Approval for Gene Editing

by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

This week the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report giving their support for altering heritable genes when previously the NAS only supported altering uninheritable genes. Although it gave very special conditions in which altering human eggs, sperm, and embryos would be acceptable, giving their seal of approval to any alteration of the human germline is a revolutionary move for the current and future status of genetic engineering for a few reasons:

  1. Expanding Clinical Research

Genetic engineering is already practiced for non-heritable genes. Genes that are known to cause chronic and debilitating diseases are the subject of clinical trials all across the world.…

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Modern Pregnancies and (Im)Perfect Babies

by Stephanie A. Kraft, JD

The modern experience of pregnancy is distinctly “not your mother’s pregnancy”. Ever-expanding options for carrier, prenatal, and newborn screening offer today’s pregnant women countless choices when it comes to genetic testing—choices that were unheard of, even unfathomable, just a generation ago.

Prenatal screening and diagnosis have long challenged the tension between individual reproductive autonomy and society-wide respect for persons with disabilities. New genetic and genomic technologies have the potential to either heighten or relieve this tension, depending (in part) on how they are implemented. Shakespeare argues that the advent of prenatal whole genome sequencing can remind us that “everyone is potentially disabled” due to one genetic mutation or another, but at the same time he cautions that the widespread use of this technology may lead parents to focus on individual genetic imperfections rather than accepting their children as the “flawed, vulnerable, limited and mortal” people that they are.…

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BioethicsTV (November 2016) Continued: Further commentary on Informed Consent

by Abhimanyu Amarnani

Chicago Med (Season 2, Episode 8, 11/10/16).

A December 1st BIOETHICSTV blog post briefly mentioned, Season 2, Episode 8 of Chicago Med. The post notes that the episode dealt with the issues of informed consent in brief. I felt that a more in-depth discussion of these issues was warranted. Consider the storylines in the episode: A young girl with a developmental disorder needs cardiac surgery. Her condition forces her mother to question whether the girl can make decisions for surgery. Second, Nurse April was coughing at the end of episode 7, and viewers learned that she is diagnosed with multidrug resistant tuberculosis (TB).…

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This entry was posted in Featured Posts, HIV/AIDS, Organ Transplant & Donation, Public Health and tagged . Posted by Blog Editor. Bookmark the permalink.


Moral Distress in Clinical Ethics: Expanding the Concept

by Alyssa M. Burgart & Katherine E. Kruse

As physician ethicists, we often receive consultations where there is no clear ethical question, but rather, discomfort around value judgments. We have struggled to articulate the meaning of colleagues’ morally uncomfortable experiences. The traditional definition of moral distress is quite restrictive and offers no vocabulary for our observations. Clinicians know something is wrong and that it might be of a moral nature. However, they don’t know the “right” thing to do, and the institution isn’t preventing them from acting. In our practice, most ethics consults do not have “right” answers, but they almost universally have people struggling with moral unease.…

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This entry was posted in Clinical Ethics, Featured Posts. Posted by Blog Editor. Bookmark the permalink.


Bioethics faces a rocky but navigable road

by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.

Academic bioethics has never been popular with Republicans.  Libertarians dislike academic bioethics because it seems too elitist and anti-free market.  Religious thinkers worry it is technocratic, soulless and crassly utilitarian.  Now with Trumpism add a populist disdain for expertise, experts and the scientific method and you have a stew that means few of you reading this will find a rapt audience in Washington for many years to come.

Trump needs to appease the paleocons and religious righ to get things done.  This makes it likely that bioethics will be swept back into the culture wars of the Bush era — Abortion.…

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Autonomy by Default

by Cass R. Sunstein, JD

Default rules, taken as such, do not intrude on autonomy, even if they influence people without persuading them. If default rules give people certain rights automatically (such as the right to free speech), they promote autonomy for just that reason. And to the extent that default rules give people the freedom to focus on their most pressing concerns, and thus eliminate a kind of “bandwidth tax,” they increase autonomy as well. When default rules compromise autonomy, it is not because they are default rules; it is because they invade, or take, certain rights or interests without people’s explicit consent.…

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