Bioethics

Human Engineering and Climate Change

Anthropogenic climate change is arguably one of the biggest problems that confront us today. There is ample evidence that climate change is likely to affect adversely many aspects of life for all people around the world, and that existing solutions such as geoengineering might be too risky and ordinary behavioural and market solutions might not be sufficient to mitigate climate change. In this paper, we consider a new kind of solution to climate change, what we call human engineering, which involves biomedical modifications of humans so that they can mitigate and/or adapt to climate change. We argue that human engineering is potentially less risky than geoengineering and that it could help behavioural and market solutions succeed in mitigating climate change. We also consider some possible ethical concerns regarding human engineering such as its safety, the implications of human engineering for our children and for the society, and we argue that these concerns can be addressed. Our upshot is that human engineering deserves further consideration in the debate about climate change. [Ethics, Policy and the Environment 15 (2) 2012: 206-221, with Anders Sandberg and Rebecca Roache] [pdf | html]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


Parental Love Pills: Some Ethical Considerations

It may soon be possible to develop pills that allow parents to induce in themselves more loving behavior, attitudes and emotions towards their children. In this paper, I consider whether pharmacologically-induced parental love can satisfy reasonable conditions of authenticity; why anyone would be interested in taking such parental love pills at all, and whether inducing parental love pharmacologically promotes narcissism or results in self-instrumentalization. I also examine how the availability of such pills may affect the duty to love a child. [Bioethics, forthcoming] [pdf | html]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


Is There A Duty to Share Genetic Information?

A number of prominent bioethicists such as Mike Parker, Anneke Lucassen, and Bartha Maria Knoppers have called for the adoption of a system in which by default, genetic information is shared among family members. In this paper, I suggest that a main reason given in support of this call to share genetic information among family members is the idea that genetic information is essentially familial in nature. Upon examining this ‘familial nature of genetics’ argument, I show that most genetic information are only shared in a weaker way among family members and do not necessarily lead to the actual manifestation of particular diseases. The upshot is that the idea that genetic information is familial in nature does not provide a sufficient ground for why we should move towards a system in which by default, genetic information is shared among family members. [Journal of Medical Ethics 35(5) 2009: 306-309] [pdf | html]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


The Duty to Disclose Adverse Clinical Trial Results

Participants in some clinical trials are at risk of being harmed and sometimes are seriously harmed as a result of not being provided with available, relevant risk information. We argue that this situation is unacceptable and that there is a moral duty to disclose all adverse clinical trial results to participants in clinical trials. This duty is grounded in the human right not to be placed at risk of harm without informed consent. We consider objections to disclosure grounded in considerations of commercial interest, and we argue that these concerns are insufficient to override the moral duty to disclose adverse clinical trial results. However, we also develop a proposal that enables commercial interests to be protected, while promoting the duty to disclose adverse clinical trial results. [The American Journal of Bioethics 9(8) 2009: 24-32, with Mark Sheehan and Steve Clarke] [pdf | html]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


Neuroethical Concerns about Moderating Traumatic Memories

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


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]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


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]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


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

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


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]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


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]

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail