Latest Research

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]

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The Basis of Human Moral Status

When philosophers consider what moral status human beings have, they tend to find themselves either supporting the idea that not all human beings are rightholders or adopting what Peter Singer calls a ‘speciesist’ position, where speciesism is defined as morally favoring a particular species – in this case, human beings – over others without sufficient justification. In this paper, I develop what I call the ‘genetic basis for moral agency’ account of rightholding, and I propose that this account can allow all human beings to be rightholders without being speciesist. While my aim is to set out this account clearly rather than to defend it, I explain how this account is different from a potentiality account and I argue that it is preferable to an actual moral agency account of human moral status. [Journal of Moral Philosophy 7(2) 2010: 159-179] [pdf | html]

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Selecting Children: The Ethics of Reproductive Genetic Engineering

Advances in reproductive genetic engineering have the potential to transform human lives. Not only do they promise to allow us to select children free of diseases, they can also enable us to select children with desirable traits. In this paper, I consider two clusters of arguments for the moral permissibility of reproductive genetic engineering, what I call the Perfectionist View and the Libertarian View; and two clusters of arguments against reproductive genetic engineering, what I call the Human Nature View and the Motivation View. I argue that an adequate theory of the ethics of reproductive genetic engineering should take into account insights gained from these views. [Philosophy Compass 3 2008: 1-19] [pdf | html]

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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]

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The Normativity of Memory Modification

The prospect of using memory modifying technologies raises interesting and important normative concerns. We first point out that those developing desirable memory modifying technologies should keep in mind certain technical and user-limitation issues. We next discuss certain normative issues that the use of these technologies can raise such as truthfulness, appropriate moral reaction, self-knowledge, agency, and moral obligations. Finally, we propose that as long as individuals using these technologies do not harm others and themselves in certain ways, and as long as there is no prima facie duty to retain particular memories, it is up to individuals to determine the permissibility of particular uses of these technologies. [Neuroethics 1(2) 2008: 85-99, with Anders Sandberg] [pdf | html]

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Issues in the Pharmacological Induction of Emotions

In this paper, David Wasserman and I examine issues raised by the possibility of regulating emotions through pharmacological means. We argue that emotions induced through these means can be authentic phenomenologically, and that the manner of inducing them need not make them any less our own than emotions arising “naturally.” We recognize that in taking drugs to induce emotions, one may lose opportunities for self-knowledge; act narcissistically; or treat oneself as a mere means. But we propose that there are circumstances in which none of these concerns arise. Finally, we consider how the possibility of drug-regulation might affect duties to feel emotions. [Journal of Applied Philosophy 25(3) 2008: 178-192] [pdf | html]

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Neuroethical Concerns about Moderating Traumatic Memories

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

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