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Blog Posts (144)

November 10, 2017

Can we talk about gun violence in America?

A report in the New York Times shows the connection between the prevalence of guns in the United States and mass shootings. No country in the world can match the United States in the total number of guns owned by citizens. To put this in context, “Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns.” There are about 270 million guns in circulation in the United States and between 1966 to 2012 there were 90 mass shooters, no other country in the world has more than 48, million guns in circulation or 18 mass shooters. In short, the problem of mass shootings is basically an American problem because we have so many guns available for some people to use in very harmful ways.

Critics may cite other variables that could explain the inordinately high rate of mass shootings in the United States. Trump recently said of the recent mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas:

“Mental health is your problem here. This was a very, based on preliminary reports, this was a very deranged individual, a lot of problems over a long period of time. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries."

As is often the case with his statements, the facts do not support it. About 18% of the population have mental health problems and the vast majority are not violent and are not involved in mass shoots, though a few are. Other possible variables, such as time spent playing video games, the level of racial diversity, immigration, and even crime rate, also can be ruled out statistically as being a significant factor in mass shootings—there is no statistical evidence that any of these variables account for the high prevalence of mass shootings, as well as homicides, in the United States. For example, we learn that a New Yorker is as likely as a Londoner to be robbed, but a New Yorker is over 50 times likely to be killed in the process.

There simply are no other variables other than the number of guns in circulation that would account for the uniquely high frequency of these horrific mass shootings, with which we have become all too familiar. As the report from the New York Times states:

“More gun ownership corresponds with more gun murders across virtually every axis: among developed countries, among American states, among American towns and cities and when controlling for crime rates.”

If it is the case that is there is a correlation between the number of guns available to citizens in a society and the number of mass shootings that injure and kill innocent people every year, as a matter of common sense, it seems to follow that the solution would be to reduce the number of guns in circulation. In fact this common sense perspective has been borne out by empirical research as stated in the New York Times report:

…(G)un control legislation tends to reduce gun murders, according to a recent analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

 The facts seem relatively clear both about the root cause of the problem and how to ameliorate it. So why aren’t people—including citizen voters and politicians—paying attention and responding? This question gets us into a whole other topic, which I don’t want to explore in any depth now. But I will say it seems clear that since the 1980s a powerful gun culture in America cultivated primarily by the zealotry, funds, and organization, of the National Rifle Association (NRA). This culture has been successful in inspiring its followers to take an expansive view of the 2nd Amendment, to see the government as a potential threat to its fundamental right of gun ownership, and live in perpetual fear that politicians will take away their guns and their right to own them. Because of the intense advocacy that puts critical pressure on key politicians, in America the NRA gun culture representing a minority view can bully its way to keeping in place laws that ensure easy access to guns, including deadly assault weapons and large clip magazines.

The fact that most Americans, including many members of the NRA, are thwarted in their desire to see sensible solutions to gun regulation is what is most concerning. According to a Pew Research report, 89% of both gun and non-gun owners favor the mentally ill from purchasing guns—which makes Trump’s repeal of a rule that blocks gun sales to certain mentally ill people, especially in light of his recent statements, all the more troublesome. Moreover, even on issues like barring gun purchases for people on no-fly or watch lists, creating a federal data base to track gun sales, banning assault-style weapons and high capacity magazines, receive two-thirds support from the public. Sadly, in America currently majority views about this and other vitally important public policy issues don’t translate into change in policy.

What is the solution? It seems evident that the majority of people in America with sensible views that are not being heard must take to necessary measures to make themselves heard. Given the trajectory of violence from mass shootings and the urgency of protecting innocent lives, it’s time for new culture of resistance to the NRA and the politicians that support them to find reasonable ways to regulate guns in America.

 

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Ethics. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.  

 

 

 

 

November 10, 2017

Can we talk about gun violence in America?

A report in the New York Times shows the connection between the prevalence of guns in the United States and mass shootings. No country in the world can match the United States in the total number of guns owned by citizens. To put this in context, “Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns.” There are about 270 million guns in circulation in the United States and between 1966 to 2012 there were 90 mass shooters, no other country in the world has more than 48, million guns in circulation or 18 mass shooters. In short, the problem of mass shootings is basically an American problem because we have so many guns available for some people to use in very harmful ways.

Critics may cite other variables that could explain the inordinately high rate of mass shootings in the United States. Trump recently said of the recent mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas:

“Mental health is your problem here. This was a very, based on preliminary reports, this was a very deranged individual, a lot of problems over a long period of time. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries."

As is often the case with his statements, the facts do not support it. About 18% of the population have mental health problems and the vast majority are not violent and are not involved in mass shoots, though a few are. Other possible variables, such as time spent playing video games, the level of racial diversity, immigration, and even crime rate, also can be ruled out statistically as being a significant factor in mass shootings—there is no statistical evidence that any of these variables account for the high prevalence of mass shootings, as well as homicides, in the United States. For example, we learn that a New Yorker is as likely as a Londoner to be robbed, but a New Yorker is over 50 times likely to be killed in the process.

There simply are no other variables other than the number of guns in circulation that would account for the uniquely high frequency of these horrific mass shootings, with which we have become all too familiar. As the report from the New York Times states:

“More gun ownership corresponds with more gun murders across virtually every axis: among developed countries, among American states, among American towns and cities and when controlling for crime rates.”

If it is the case that is there is a correlation between the number of guns available to citizens in a society and the number of mass shootings that injure and kill innocent people every year, as a matter of common sense, it seems to follow that the solution would be to reduce the number of guns in circulation. In fact this common sense perspective has been borne out by empirical research as stated in the New York Times report:

…(G)un control legislation tends to reduce gun murders, according to a recent analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

 The facts seem relatively clear both about the root cause of the problem and how to ameliorate it. So why aren’t people—including citizen voters and politicians—paying attention and responding? This question gets us into a whole other topic, which I don’t want to explore in any depth now. But I will say it seems clear that since the 1980s a powerful gun culture in America cultivated primarily by the zealotry, funds, and organization, of the National Rifle Association (NRA). This culture has been successful in inspiring its followers to take an expansive view of the 2nd Amendment, to see the government as a potential threat to its fundamental right of gun ownership, and live in perpetual fear that politicians will take away their guns and their right to own them. Because of the intense advocacy that puts critical pressure on key politicians, in America the NRA gun culture representing a minority view can bully its way to keeping in place laws that ensure easy access to guns, including deadly assault weapons and large clip magazines.

The fact that most Americans, including many members of the NRA, are thwarted in their desire to see sensible solutions to gun regulation is what is most concerning. According to a Pew Research report, 89% of both gun and non-gun owners favor the mentally ill from purchasing guns—which makes Trump’s repeal of a rule that blocks gun sales to certain mentally ill people, especially in light of his recent statements, all the more troublesome. Moreover, even on issues like barring gun purchases for people on no-fly or watch lists, creating a federal data base to track gun sales, banning assault-style weapons and high capacity magazines, receive two-thirds support from the public. Sadly, in America currently majority views about this and other vitally important public policy issues don’t translate into change in policy.

What is the solution? It seems evident that the majority of people in America with sensible views that are not being heard must take to necessary measures to make themselves heard. Given the trajectory of violence from mass shootings and the urgency of protecting innocent lives, it’s time for new culture of resistance to the NRA and the politicians that support them to find reasonable ways to regulate guns in America.

 

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Ethics. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.  

 

 

 

 

November 9, 2017

To Whom Do Children Belong?

This post also appears in the November 2017 issue of the American Journal of Bioethics. 

by John Lantos, Ph.D.

In this issue of AJOB, Navin and Wasserman (2017) argue that parents should have more discretion in clinical decision making than they currently do.…

November 1, 2017

Rand Paul is About to Legislate Peer-Review: Scientists Need Not Apply

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Senator and former Presidential candidate Rand Paul introduced S. 1973, a bill that would change how scientific grant proposals are reviewed.…

October 12, 2017

The Rescinding of DACA: What Should Healthcare Professionals and Academics Do? (And Why?)

by Mark G. Kuczewski, Ph.D. Danish Zaidi, MTS, MBE

Imagine that the 14th Amendment is repealed. Suddenly, birthright citizenship is no longer the accepted law of the United States.…

October 6, 2017

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: October 6, 2017

B0ioethics/Medical Ethics Pope denounces technologies that help people change gender “Pope Francis denounce Thursday how new technologies are making it easier for people to change their genders, saying this ‘utopia of the neutral’ jeopardizes the creation of new life.” KAST calls for loosening up of law on bioethics“ The Korean Academy of Science and Technology … More Ethics & Society Newsfeed: October 6, 2017
September 28, 2017

Social Justice Trumps Fancy Tech In This Week’s Bioethics News

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Some weeks when I think about what my blog will be about, there are very few relevant items in the news.…

September 22, 2017

Another (Un)Health Care Bill Forced onto Us

tby Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Americans still tend to think of human rights violations as abridgments of free speech and religion, and extreme crimes against humanity, such as slavery, torture, and arbitrary detention.

September 22, 2017

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: September 22, 2017

Politics Donald Trump’s Lies and Obstruction Will End His Presidency, Ex-Ethics Chief Says “A former White House ethics chief says that Donald Trump would likely be impeached if it is proven he sought to obstruct justice by firing ex-FBI Director James Comey in hopes of ending his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.” Public … More Ethics & Society Newsfeed: September 22, 2017
September 22, 2017

Ethics As An Evolving Activity: The Need To Remain Vigilant

Working as an ethicist in a professional work environment, you quickly realize that any ethical advice worth giving to practitioners must always be relevant to real problematic, human situations. Ethics must make a difference. Elucidating one’s obligations in particular problematic situations enhances insight and confidence in working through troubling value-laden dilemmas both in individual circumstances, as in clinical ethics, and also with regard to larger social problems at the macro policy level. Most ethical solutions are provisional recommendations, i.e. always amenable to revision based on new data, based on ethical reasoning in light of the particularities of each case that may ameliorate an impasse and often helps decrease suffering: Ethics helps make the little corner of the world with which it deals a little better off.

Though I am laying out a pragmatic ethical framework, I want to be clear that ethical principles are essential to ethical problem solving. Following Kant but with a pragmatic twist, the foundation of ethics is the duty to treat each individual human being with respect and, as much as possible, to be fair to everyone. This duty reflects the two fundamental moral principles of respect for autonomy and justice. In the application of the principle of individual autonomy, respect is expressed toward human individuals in concrete situations. For the principle of justice, respect is expressed toward a community or society or connected individuals. Elucidating the pragmatic approach further, ethical principles are not viewed as absolute, quasi-religious truths that exist independent of human experience but rather grounded in human experience.

Ethical principles from this perspective are repositories of wisdom gained through reforms primarily in the democratic process of extending the moral community by recognizing more individuals as full moral agents and guaranteeing them the rights of full citizenship. Thus, the way one thinks about ethics today in contemporary America is deeply connected to, and in a real sense grows out of, the historical process of democratic politics. Just think of the bedrock principle of medical ethics, respect for autonomy and how this notion evolved historically within the legal process and the key court cases on informed consent for the past 100 years or more. Think of the political reform movements in civil, feminist, and consumer rights, etc. movements during the 1960’s. Think of the lessons learned from the abuses of human subjects research that came to light after WWII the Nuremberg Trials. Finally, think of the violations of human research described by Henry Beecher in 1966 in an article from the New England Journal of Medicine, which led to the creation of greater protection of human subjects in research. All of these and other historical events helped to give rise to a full-blown concept of individual autonomy as well as the rights of all patients and subjects to voluntary informed consent. To reiterate, ethical principles emerge historically from real human experience, not from out of the blue sky above, based on meaningful progress in the respectful and fair treatment of all human beings as full moral agents.

The larger point I am getting to is that the ethical and moral life of humans as individuals cannot be separated from the life of humans as they struggle together in community, in groups, pursuing their own interests within the political process over and against the interests of others within a legal and political process. The moral options available for individuals are always framed within the confines of a certain collective or institutional order. From this pragmatic perspective, it follows that the very integrity of ethics as an essential dimension of human life that is dependent on the integrity of the political order. Does it treat all people fairly or does it attempt to exclude and deny certain individuals their basic rights to participate in the democratic process? Think of the current commission on voter fraud investigating non-existent problems in the election process, which may result in tighter voting restrictions that will greatly impact populations not likely to vote for the current administration. Is there a commitment to truth (with a little “t”), as in empirical truth, the institution of scientific research as the principal arbiter of scientific claims, and in general to relate facts of ordinary experience? Think about the denial of the claims from climate science research or the claim made by a presidential candidate that he saw Muslims cheering at the dreadful site of 9/11. Is there commitment to treat each other with a basic respect in our interactions and dealings on the public stage? Think of all the name-calling, derogatory comments, and incitements to violence during the last presidential campaign, which has continued up to the present in the current administration. I could go on, but you hopefully get the point.

Those of us who work in areas of applied ethics must be deeply concerned about state and direction of our political process and collective life as a society. This way of thinking about ethics should cause us considerable pause as we witness the current pattern of political events in our country. Up to the present we should be grateful for the ethical framework that has emerged in the tradition that we have inherited. But there is no guarantee that we will remain so lucky. We cannot allow ourselves to reach the point, as past philosophical ethics has done, to think of ethics as an isolated, academic enterprise. It is not. It is a practical, living, and evolving, historically contingent institution of which we must be responsible stewards. That means it is important that ethicists and all concerned citizens vigilant of what is happening in politics and the larger society. 

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Ethics. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.  

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Published Articles (27)

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 11 - Nov 2017

The Rescinding of DACA: What Should Healthcare Professionals and Academics Do? (and Why?) Mark G. Kuczewski & Danish Zaidi

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 10 - Oct 2017

Saving Life, Limb, and Eyesight: Assessing the Medical Rules of Eligibility During Armed Conflict Michael L. Gross

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 7 - Jul 2017

Rethinking the Belmont Report? Phoebe Friesen, Lisa Kearns, Barbara Redman & Arthur L. Caplan

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 7 - Jul 2017

A Proposed Process for Reliably Updating the Common Rule Benjamin E. Berkman, David Wendler, Haley K. Sullivan & Christine Grady

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 7 - Jul 2017

At Last! Aye, and There's the Rub Alexander M. Capron

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 7 - Jul 2017

Modernizing Research Regulations Is Not Enough: It's Time to Think Outside the Regulatory Box Suzanne M. Rivera, Kyle B. Brothers, R. Jean Cadigan, Heather L. Harrell, Mark A. Rothstein, Richard R. Sharp & Aaron J. Goldenberg

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 5 - May 2017

Ethics, Refugees, and the President's Executive Order Nancy E. Kass

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 17 Issue 5 - May 2017

Genetic Fingerprints and National Security Beau P. Sperry, Megan Allyse & Richard R. Sharp

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 15 Issue 6 - Jun 2015

U.S. Complicity and Japan's Wartime Medical Atrocities: Time for a Response Katrien Devolder

American Journal of Bioethics: Volume 15 Issue 2 - Feb 2015

Ritual Male Infant Circumcision and Human Rights Allan J. Jacobs & Kavita Shah Arora

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News (483)

November 10, 2017 9:00 am

Former GSK boss to lead new UK accelerated drug access scheme (Reuters)

Former GlaxoSmithKline boss Andrew Witty is to lead a new British scheme to accelerate access to ground-breaking medicines for conditions such as cancer, dementia and diabetes from April 2018.

November 8, 2017 9:00 am

White House opioid commission calls for wide-ranging changes to anti-drug policies (Washington Post)

President Trump’s commission on the opioid crisis called Wednesday for a nationwide system of drug courts and easier access to alternatives to opioids for people in pain, part of a wide-ranging menu of improvements it said are needed to curb the opioid epidemic.

October 24, 2017 9:00 am

‘Let us do our job’: Anger erupts over EPA’s apparent muzzling of scientists (Washington Post)

The Trump administration’s decision to prevent government scientists from presenting climate change-related research at a conference in Rhode Island on Monday gave the event a suddenly high profile, with protesters outside, media inside and angry lawmakers and academics criticizing the move.

October 23, 2017 9:00 am

Rand Paul takes a poke at U.S. peer-review panels (Science)

New legislation introduced this week by Senator Rand Paul (R–KY) would fundamentally alter how grant proposals are reviewed at every federal agency by adding public members with no expertise in the research being vetted.

October 17, 2017 9:00 am

Trump’s UNESCO exit draws critics, but will have little immediate impact (Science)

To the dismay of many researchers, the U.S. government announced last week that it would formally withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) based in Paris.

October 12, 2017 9:00 am

Birth control: Trump expands opt-out for workplace insurance (Washington Post)

President Donald Trump is allowing more employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious or moral objections, issuing new rules Friday that take another step in rolling back the Obama health care law.

September 21, 2017 9:00 am

As Federal Government Cuts Obamacare Ads, Private Insurer Steps Up (NPR)

Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act insurance doesn’t start for another six weeks. But the quirky insurance startup Oscar Health is launching an ad campaign Monday aimed at getting young people to enroll.

September 8, 2017 9:00 am

Trump finally nominates new leader for NASA (Nature)

James Bridenstine, a Republican member of the US Congress from Oklahoma, has been tapped to be the next head of NASA. Bridenstine is a strong supporter of lunar exploration and commercial space flight.

September 6, 2017 9:00 am

United States to give Ethiopia $91 million in drought aid for food and medicine (Washington Post)

According to USAID spokesman Clayton McCleskey, Green told Desalegn he was concerned that conditions were deteriorating for people affected by the drought and encouraged the government to “show greater leadership and invest more resources to combat a worsening humanitarian crisis.”

September 4, 2017 9:00 am

Young immigrant scientists anxiously await Trump’s DACA decision (Science)

Biomedical researcher Yuriana Aguilar, a postdoctoral fellow at Rush University in Chicago, Illinois, is feverishly working to compete in the cut-throat race for a tenure-track faculty position. To catch the eye of prospective employers, she’s been trying to do the best science she can. But Aguilar might soon have to prove she has another qualification: a legal right to work in the United States. That’s because the 27-year-old is one of an untold number of scientists and engineers who are undocumented immigrants, and have been able to get jobs and degrees thanks to a federal initiative that President Donald Trump has threatened to end.

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