Blog Posts (16)
November 3, 2016
The diagnosis of infertility is an anomaly among medical conditions because it requires two people, whereas almost all other medical conditions require just one person. For instance, if I break my leg, my diagnosis and treatment does not include or depend upon anyone else within my web of relationships. In contrast, when physicians are assessing a patient for infertility, they inquire about the person’s presumed heterosexual partner. This is because the majority of medical definitions of infertility rely upon heterosexual activity as a prerequisite to determine if an individual is infertile. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines infertility as “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.”
One significant problem with this definition is that it cannot account for lesbian and gay couples and single heterosexual individuals. Lesbian and gay cisgender couples are not having sexual intercourse (i.e. vaginal penile sex), so they are automatically excluded from definitions of infertility. Single heterosexual individuals may be having intercourse, but it may not be “regular,” which we can presume to mean on a consistent basis, and they may not be having unprotected intercourse.
Yet, lesbian and gay couples and single individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, are all infertile in a sense because they are not able to sexually reproduce via intercourse. Some in the bioethics literature have used the term “social infertility” to refer to individuals who are unable to reproduce due to factors associated with their partner. This can include individuals in same-sex couples who are not able to engage in intercourse and individuals who do not have a partner and thus are not able to engage in intercourse.
In recognizing social infertility, the WHO recently changed their definition of infertility to include lesbian and gay couples and single individuals. Unfortunately, insurance companies in the United States do not tend to recognize social infertility. For example, a lesbian couple in New Jersey is suing their insurance company because it will not cover infertility treatment for them. Between the two women, they have had six miscarriages, which shows they are not just socially infertile, but there are also physiological components to their infertility. However, their insurance company is stating that they have not demonstrated that they are infertile because they have not been having heterosexual intercourse.
The idea of requiring lesbian and gay individuals to prove their infertility by engaging in vaginal penile intercourse is ridiculous, especially given that modern medicine has various ways of assessing an individual’s fertility (e.g. hormonal tests, ovarian reserve, sperm motility, etc.). We need a broader definition of infertility that does not depend upon an individual’s relationship, or lack thereof, with others. The new WHO definition is a step in the right direction to recognize social infertility as well as the fact that lesbian and gay couples and single individuals can experience physiological infertility on top of social infertility.
The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.
September 10, 2015
<p style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;"><span style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;">In my <a href="/BioethicsBlog/post.cfm/some-reflections-on-summer-vacation-reading">last blog</a> I wrote, what was in effect, a review of three books from my summer reading I did while on vacation. The first book covered the life of George Washington from the time of his resignation as General in the Continental Army, through his leadership in the Constitutional Convention in 1788, until his inauguration ceremony on 1789. The second book was a narrative history of the Great Migration of African Americans from the Jim Crow south to Northern and Western cities, and the hardships they endured throughout. And finally the third book was a contemporary description of what it is like to live in a black body today in the United States. I have been continuing my thoughts on the fate of blacks in America.</span></p>
<p style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;"><span style="font-size: 11.2px; line-height: 19.04px;">From the era of George Washington, we see the American political and social power structure becoming embedded into a political system filled, from the first moment with enormous hope but with equal, deeply troubling contradictions. There was eloquent language of the “many” no longer having to remain subservient to the “few” that seemed to reflect through reason the rights of human kind. Yet it was equally clear that Washington’s America was created to protect the financial interests of privileged white males as many human beings were excluded from participation in the new, fledgling nation, including women, native Americans who would be driven from the lands and basically exterminated, and African Americans, a few of whom were free but most enslaved as the property of white slave owners. </span></p>
<p><span style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.04px;"><strong>The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a</strong> </span><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.04px;">Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="color: #000099; text-decoration: underline;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
August 21, 2015
<p style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">I love to read novels and works of non-fiction in concentrated sittings so I can really lose myself in what I am reading. Because I am so busy during the course of my work-a-day professional life I rarely have such luxury. This is why vacation for me means a time when I can find a few really interesting books on my reading list and just devour them. Having recently returned from vacation and being overdue for my AMBI Blog, I thought I would share a few thoughts on my vacation reading, and even see if there is a lesson for bioethics.</p>
<p style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">This summer my reading was unusual in that it was all non-fiction, which included “The Return of George Washington” by Edward J. Larson, “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson, and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I really didn’t plan to be reading these books together. But as it turns out, after finishing all three, I found a theme of interesting, often disturbing, questions about the past and present treatment of African Americans in the United States—questions that challenge the moral foundation and integrity of American democracy from its origins to the present.</span></p>
<p style="font-size: 11.1999998092651px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><span style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;"><strong>The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a</strong> </span><strong style="color: #34405b; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 19.0400009155273px;">Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our <a style="color: #000099; text-decoration: underline;" href="http://www.amc.edu/Academic/bioethics/index.cfm">website</a>.</strong></p>
March 6, 2015
by Beatriz Lorena Hurtado, Bioethics Program Alumna (MSBioethics 2014) As a Latina working in healthcare I have always felt the responsibility to provide education about my culture, and to clarify cultural differences and misconceptions. It is always surprising to witness how eliminating misconceptions eventually translates into an increase in patient satisfaction, and less apprehension about […]
February 26, 2015
by Sean Philpott-Jones, Director of the Center for Bioethics and Clinical Leadership Most of you have probably never heard of Jami and Krista Contreras, a Michigan couple and the proud parents of a six-month-old girl named Bay. Shortly after Bay was born, the Contrerases began interviewing pediatricians, looking for one who practiced holistic medicine. After […]
January 15, 2015
by Sean Philpott-Jones, Director of the Center for Bioethics and Clinical Leadership I make it a tradition to watch televised awards shows like the Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys. This is not because I particularly care about the entertainment industry, but primarily because I enjoy providing a running commentary of snarky comments about the various nominee’s […]
December 4, 2014
by Sean Philpott-Jones, Director of the Center for Bioethics and Clinical Leadership Two nights ago, the Shenendehowa Board of Education voted 4 to 2 in favor of a new policy designed to protect the rights and safety of transgender students. High school students in the district will now be allowed to use bathrooms and locker […]
October 23, 2014
by Sean Philpott-Jones, Director of the Center for Bioethics and Clinical Leadership Two weeks ago, I wrote a commentary decrying the current hysteria in the US over Ebola. It was ironic, I argued, that so many people were demanding the federal government take immediate steps to address the perceived threat of Ebola while simultaneously ignoring […]
August 29, 2014
by Sean Philpott-Jones, Director of the Center for Bioethics and Clinical Leadership For over 30 years now, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned blood donations from gay and bisexual men. It is a lifetime ban. Currently, no man who has ever had sex with another man can donate blood in the US. […]
July 17, 2014
by Sean Philpott-Jones, Director of the Center for Bioethics and Clinical Leadership Actress Laverne Cox made history last week when she was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress for her role on the hit show “Orange is the New Black.” Ms. Cox is the first openly transgender actress to receive an Emmy nomination. While […]
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June 19, 2013 3:05 pm
Many workers are routinely fired or forced to take unpaid leave in the U.S. after asking for basic accommodations during their pregnancy.
July 2, 2012 3:32 pm
This is not science. It is a gender witchhunt, and it is foul play. This is why experts in sports, gender, and bioethics – and those battling discrimination against female and LGBT athletes – have been mobilizing against this policy ever since its basic shape was announced last year. What’s really driving these policies is suspicion of women perceived as gender “deviant”. We see this all too often in women’s sports when women athletes monitor and denigrate their peers who “play like men” or look too masculine.
June 18, 2012 6:51 pm
The Mental Health Policy Group from the London School of Economics said three-quarters of people with depression or anxiety got no treatment. The committee of senior academics and medical professionals described this as a “real scandal”. Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said mental health should be treated as seriously as physical health issues.
May 9, 2012 10:21 am
At least 20 deaths of football players with sickle cell trait have been reported since 1974. As part of a settlement with Lloyd’s family in 2009, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) agreed to screen all athletes for sickle cell trait. But does this policy make good medical sense, or does it discriminate against athletes with sickle cell trait and unnecessarily exclude them from sports? Lainie Friedman Ross, MD, PhD, the Carolyn and Matthew Bucksbaum Professor of Clinical Medical Ethics, recently surveyed pediatricians and sports medicine providers about the NCAA policy and found conflicting responses to these questions.
May 4, 2012 1:35 pm
To put it bluntly, should hospitals hire employees who are overweight? A hospital in Texas, Citizens Medical Center, has said that it is not going to hire anybody — doctors, health staff, nurses — who is overweight. For them, that means a body mass index of over 35 kg/m2; or in other words, for a 5’10” man, if you weigh more than about 250 lb, you wouldn’t get hired at this particular Texas facility.
April 30, 2012 2:19 pm
A majority of doctors in a United Kingdom survey supported measures to deny non-emergency medical services to smokers and the obese, The Observer newspaper reported Sunday. Although the survey by the networking website doctors.net.uk was a self-selecting poll, the site’s chief executive called the response “a tectonic shift” for the profession. The results feed into a British debate about “lifestyle rationing” by the National Health Service, the Observer reported.
April 30, 2012 10:31 am
During my surgical training, whenever the conversation turned to relationships, one of my colleagues would always joke about his inability to get a date, then abruptly change the subject. I thought he might be gay but never asked him outright, because it didn’t seem important. But one morning, while we working at the nurses’ station with several of the other doctors-in-training, I realized it was important, because at the hospital, he really couldn’t be himself.
April 24, 2012 10:45 am
After giving the gift of life, a New York mom received her worst nightmare in return. To help her boss move up the transplant waiting list, Debbie Stevens, 47, donated her kidney to a man in Missouri, enabling her employer to secure a perfect match from someone in San Francisco, the New York Post reported Monday in an exclusive story. Stevens told the New York Post that her boss, Jackie Brucia, 61, put the pressure on for her to return to work soon after the procedure even though she didn’t feel well enough.
April 10, 2012 11:06 pm
Citizens Medical Center is, by most measures, a respected and respectable hospital. A non-profit, their mission is to serve their community of South Texas. And in their mission, they’ve been mostly successful, appearing on Thomas Reuters’ list of top 100 American hospitals three times over the past decade.