All entries by this author

Neuroethical Concerns about Moderating Traumatic Memories

[American Journal of Bioethics 7(9) 2007: 38–40, with David Wasserman]

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The Ashley Treatment: Best Interests, Convenience, and Parental Decision-making

Ashley was born with a condition called static encephalopathy, a severe brain impairment that leaves her unable to walk, talk, eat, sit up or roll over. In 2004, she was given the ‘Ashley Treatment,’ which included high-dose estrogen therapy to stunt her growth; the removal of her uterus via hysterectomy to prevent menstrual discomfort; and the removal of her breast buds to limit the growth of her breasts. Ashley’s parents argue that the Ashley Treatment was intended “to improve our daughter’s quality of life and not to convenience her caregivers.” In this paper, we argue for four conclusions. First, body modification of the Ashley Treatment type may, in the case of Ashley, be in her best interests. Secondly, it is not necessarily wrong though to act out of the motive to convenience caregivers, that is, the interests of parents or other caregivers. Thirdly, even if stunting Ashley’s growth may be ethically justifiable, the removal of her uterus and her breast buds are more questionable. Finally, Ashley’s case calls to attention the fact that every able person in our society may have a duty to provide support and assistance to those who are giving care, not just to the likes of Ashley, but also to normal children, the elderly and others in care. [The Hastings Center Report 37 (2) 2007: 16-20, with Julian Savulescu and Mark Sheehan] [pdf | html]

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Rescuing Embryonic Stem Cell Research: The Blastocyst Transfer Method

Despite the therapeutic potential of human embryonic stem (HES) cells, many people believe that HES cell research should be banned. The reason is that the present method of extracting HES cells involves the destruction of the embryo, which for many is the beginning of a person. This paper examines a number of compromise solutions such as parthenogenesis, the use of defective embryos, genetically creating a “pseudo embryo” that can never form a placenta, and determining embryo death, and argues that none of these proposals are likely to satisfy embryoists, that is, those who regard the embryo as a person. This paper then proposes a method of extracting HES cells, what might be called the Blastocyst Transfer Method, that meets the ethical requirements of embryoists, and it considers some possible concerns regarding this method. It concludes by encouraging future HES cell research to investigate this method. [The American Journal of Bioethics, 5 (6) 2005: 8-16] [pdf | html]

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Response to Commentators on “Rescuing Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research: The Blastocyst Transfer Method”

[The American Journal of Bioethics, 5 (6) 2005: W10-13]

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The Ethics of Using Genetic Engineering for Sex Selection

It is quite probable that one will soon be able to use genetic engineering to select the gender of one’s child by directly manipulating the sex of an embryo. Some might think that this method would be a more ethical method of sex selection than present technologies such as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), since, unlike PGD, it does not need to create and destroy “wrong-gendered” embryos. This paper argues that those who object to present technologies on the ground that the embryo is a person are unlikely to be persuaded by this proposal, though for different reasons. [Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (2005): 116-118] [pdf | html]

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Ethical and Policy Issues Related to Progenitor Cell-based Strategies for Prevention of Atherosclerosis

Experiments have suggested that umbilical cord blood stem cells can be used to prevent diseases such as atherosclerosis. This paper discusses ethical issues surrounding such usage such as the uncertainty that individuals at risk of a disease will actually get the disease; issues related to research with children; safety issues; from where these stem cells would be obtained; and whether these usages should be considered as therapies or as physical enhancements. [Journal of Medical Ethics 33 2007:643-646, with Pascal Goldschmidt and Jeremy Sugarman]

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Who Is Afraid of Numbers?

In recent years, many nonconsequentialists such as Frances Kamm and Thomas Scanlon have been puzzling over what has come to be known as the Number Problem, which is how to show that the greater number in a rescue situation should be saved without aggregating the claims of the many, a typical kind of consequentialist move that seems to violate the separateness of persons. In this paper, I argue that these nonconsequentialists may be making the task more difficult than necessary, because allowing aggregation does not prevent one from being a nonconsequentialist. I shall explain how a nonconsequentialist can still respect the separateness of persons while allowing for aggregation. [Utilitas 20(4) 2008: 447-461] [pdf | html]

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The Right of Children to Be Loved

A number of international organizations have claimed that children have a right to be loved, but there is a worry that this claim may just be an empty rhetoric. In this paper, I seek to show that there could be such a right by providing a justification for this right in terms of human rights, by demonstrating that love can be an appropriate object of a duty, and by proposing that biological parents should normally be made the primary bearers of this duty, while all other able persons in appropriate circumstances have the associate duties to help biological parents discharge their duties. I also consider some policy implications of this right. [The Journal of Political Philosophy 14(4) 2006: 420-440] [pdf | html] [ Related Link ]

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Time-Relative Interests and Abortion

The concept of a time-relative interest is introduced by Jeff McMahan to solve certain puzzles about the badness of death. Some people (e.g. McMahan and David DeGrazia) believe that this concept can also be used to show that abortion is permissible. I first argue that if the Time-Relative Interest Account permits abortion, then it would also permit infanticide. I next reject the suggestion that the Time-Relative Interest Account can at least explain the permissibility of early abortion, even if it cannot explain the permissibility of late abortion. Given this, early and late abortions have to be justified on other grounds. [The Journal of Moral Philosophy 4(2) 2007: 242-256] [pdf | html]

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Are ‘Ex Ante’ Enhancements Always Permissible?

Frances Kamm distinguishes between changes or enhancements that are made before a child exists (ex ante changes) and those that are made once a child exists (ex post changes), and she argues that ex ante changes do not show disrespect or, as Michael Sandel would put it, lack of love, for a person, since the person does not yet exist. In this paper, I argue that it is important to distinguish between ex ante enhancements that are morally neutral and those that are morally dubious, and that the latter ones are morally objectionable even if the persons do not yet exist. [The American Journal of Bioethics 5(3) 2005: 23-25] [pdf | html]

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