Ethics & Society Newsfeed: September 30, 2016

Technology and Ethics

Tech Giants Team Up To Tackle The Ethics Of Artificial Intelligence
The Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, consisting of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and IBM (with Apple in talks to join), weighs in on the missing ethics standards in artificial intelligence.

Fourth Industrial Revolution: With robots, is a life without work one we’d want to live?
“Being gainfully employed is about more than money. We need to consider what will give our lives purpose and connection in the age of automation.”

Should we bring extinct species back from the dead?
New advances in genetic engineering have researchers thinking seriously about de-extinction and which animals we might be able to bring back.

Bioethics and Public Health

Birth of Baby with Three Parents’ DNA Marks Success for Banned Technique
Experts discuss the first successful mitochondrial donation procedure and why the term “three-parent baby” is misleading.

Human Chimera Research’s Huge (and Thorny) Potential
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reversed policy barring funding from research involving human chimeras (mixtures of human cells with animal embryos) which can yield major human development discoveries.

Ethics review identifies top two challenges for genome editing
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics reports a need for urgent ethical scrutiny on new genome editing techniques.

Bioethics in the Election: Where the Candidates Stand
The major presidential candidates’ positions on bioethics-related issues in The Hastings Center’s interactive chart.

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First Baby Born Via ‘3-Parent IVF’ Raises Ethical Questions

On Tuesday it was reported that the first live birth resulting from mitochondrial donation was born in New York to a Jordanian couple. According to The New York Times, the fertility procedure – also referred to as “3-parent IVF” – was performed at a Mexican clinic and the baby is a healthy boy.

The purpose of a donor for this couple was to “overcome flaws in a parent’s mitochondria that can cause grave illnesses in babies.” Thus, the DNA from the egg of the healthy mother who has the mutation, is placed in the egg of a healthy donor after her nuclear DNA is removed. It is important to understand that the mitochondria of a cell are completely separate entities from DNA that determines inheritance.

The Jordanian couple took their chances with the procedure as they had lost two other children to the disease, one at age 6 and the other at 8 months. Dr. John Zhang performed the procedure at the New Hope Fertility Center’s clinic in Mexico as it is “effectively banned” in the United States, though it has been legal in the United Kingdom since last year.

The child is now 5 months old and healthy with normal mitochondria, as was first reported by New Scientist magazine.

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Welcome Fall 2016 Master’s Students!

The Ethics and Society blog is delighted to welcome the following candidates to Fordham University’s Master of Arts in Ethics and Society:

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Kelly Collins

Kelly Collins graduated in 2011 with a BS in Philosophy and Political Science from Florida State University.  After moving to New York City shortly after graduation, she began working as a legal assistant in a well-known international law firm.  While pursuing her MA in Ethics and Society, Kelly hopes to utilize real-world skills to analyze and reflect upon today’s moral dilemmas.

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Tim Colvin

Tim Colvin is currently a senior at Fordham University from Kings Park, New York. He is a dual major in Political Science and Classical Civilization with a minor in Philosophy. Tim is interested in attending law school and hopes to apply a background in ethics in practice after completing the MA in Ethics and Society.

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Fordham’s Dr. Elizabeth Yuko Address Ethics of Web Self-Diagnoses

Millions of people use websites like WebMD every day to gain insight on a range of medical issues from cancer to mental health. This practice, or “cyberchondria,” is a new digital phenomenon that has resulted from online databases of free, medical information.

With about 74 million users each month, the information on WebMD provides some with clarity for our most intimate and confusing health concerns, but for others, it could be a source of anxiety. In a recent article published in GOOD Magazine, Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Bioethicist Dr. Elizabeth Yuko addressed the “ethical gray area” of web diagnosis and online symptom checkers.

“Websites and algorithms are not held to the Hippocratic Oath. Because WebMD is a media organization, rather than an individual medical professional, it is not held to the same legal and ethical accountability as individual practitioners,” notes Dr. Yuko. Unlike WebMD, other online communities and health professionals must operate under ethics codes and guidelines designed by organizations such as American Medical Association and American Psychological Association.

As far as legal liability is concerned, Dr. Yuko explained that because WebMD’s Terms and Conditions state “This Site Does Not Provide Medical Advice,” the website is not “legally obligated to provide a worst-case scenario” while most health professionals, at least in the United States, are held accountable if they do not provide patients with complete information regarding their health conditions.

Dr. Yuko, however, is most concerned with the use of health care sites as a substitute for obtaining diagnoses because people “can’t afford in-person care.” She stated, “This in itself is an ethics issue, but one from a societal, distributive justice perspective, highlighting the fact that not everyone has access to effective, affordable health care.”

Read the full article at GOOD.

Medical Training for Transgender Patients Needs to Include Sensitivity to Social Stigmas for both Gender and Sexual Orientation

The recently published article on doctor’s lack of expertise in treating transgender patients in The Guardian is an important step forward in highlighting current disparities in healthcare services for this population.  The study, based on interviews with sample of 23 physicians and psychologists who chose to work with transgender patients, focused on current challenges in providing gender affirming care for individuals who are seeking medically supported transitioning treatments, such as hormonal replacement therapies (HRT).

A recently completed study by Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D. and her colleagues, funded by the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) confirms the need for greater medical training, based on the reports of 228 transgender males, females and gender non-conforming youth ages 14 – 21.  “Fear of stigmatization is a significant barrier to healthcare among these youth,” notes Fisher, Director of Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education, “and in our study, 51% reported they did not discuss their transgender identity with their primary health care providers out of fear that the provider would not be accepting.”

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Fordham RETI Fellow Addresses Stigma for HIV-Positive Gay and Bisexual Men

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Dr. Jonathon Rendina, Hunter College, CUNY

The minority stress theory suggests that health disparities experienced by gay and bisexual men (GBM) and other sexual minorities can be explained in terms of stigma-related stressors such as discrimination at work, school, religious institutions, communities and families. The unique stressors of an HIV-positive status experienced by GBM, however, has been overlooked within research on minority stress.

Fordham University Center for Ethics Education HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI) Fellow Dr. Jon Rendina, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Faculty Investigator and Director of Quantitative Methods at The Center for HIV Educational Studies & Training (CHEST) of Hunter College, CUNY, recently addressed this issue within a paper published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Rendina has been conducting HIV research with GBM for more than ten years. He explained the need to thoroughly test “the role of internalized stigma about sexual orientation, or internalized homophobia, and internalized HIV stigma within a unified model to see whether one or both have an impact on HIV-positive gay or bisexual men.” Although it is already established that GBM are negatively impacted by internalized sexual minority stigma, the purpose of this study was to further explore the impact of HIV-related stressors on the health of GBM.

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Is Happiness the Greatest Good?

STUDENT VOICES

By Christopher S. Kovel, M.A.

One of the primary goals for studying ethics (or creating ethical systems) is to find normative ways to live one’s life that would bring about greatest amount of the good. The “good,” dating back at least to Plato, has been consistently talked about in terms of maximizing “happiness” (or subjective well-being).

The creation of large scale social orders is often viewed as one of the most important ethical developments in history. After farming emancipated our ancestors from the living in the state of nature, sedentary social life swept through the world. The advent of agriculture combined with more cohesive social institutions allowed large groups of people to live and work together and created the modern world.

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