Ethics in the News: The Brains of Dead Pigs, Informational Overload and Informed Consent, Request for A Code of Tech Ethics, & More – May 3, 2019

Measles cases have been skyrocketing this year even though the disease was declared eliminated in 2000. However, a critical number of parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children, giving the preventable illness the chance to spread.


Guatemalan Teen Falls Ill, Dies After Transfer to U.S. Border Shelter
“The boy was the third migrant child to die in federal custody in the past five months, as a soaring number of Central American families and unaccompanied minors have been trying to enter the United States via the southern border. Advocates for immigrants called for an immediate investigation into the death, which was disclosed on the day that the White House sought emergency funding from Congress to address the border influx, including billions of dollars in humanitarian aid that could increase HHS shelter capacity from nearly 13,000 migrant youths to more than 23,600.”

Trump Sues Deutsche Bank and Capital One to Block Compliance With Subpoenas
“The House’s Intelligence and Financial Services Committees issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank, a longtime lender to Mr. Trump’s real estate company, and other financial institutions two weeks ago, seeking a long list of documents and other materials related to Deutsche Bank’s history of lending and providing accounts to Mr. Trump and his family. People with knowledge of the investigation said it related to possible money laundering by people in Russia and Eastern Europe.”

This Is Working for William Barr
This is how the system works for a man like Barr, who apparently can lie to a group of senators without consequence. (It makes one question his value as a witness.) He will likely report to his office in the morning without fear of censure, much less removal from office. The president — who reportedly loved Barr’s combativeness because this trait ranks highly on Trump’s metrics for loyalty and manliness — will probably tweet to his heart’s delight, painting the senators whose oversight Barr brushed off as traitors while they all ignore the signs of forthcoming foreign election interference.

Biomedical/Medical Ethics

Scientists Restore Some Function In The Brains Of Dead Pigs
“The Yale University research team is careful to say that none of the brains regained the kind of organized electrical activity associated with consciousness or awareness. Still, the experiment described Wednesday in the journal Nature showed that a surprising amount of cellular function was either preserved or restored. The implications of this study have staggered ethicists, as they contemplate how this research should move forward and how it fits into the current understanding of what separates the living from the dead.”

Parents of Babies Too Young to Vaccinate Feel Trapped by Measles Outbreak
“This is life during a measles outbreak for parents of babies: a maelstrom of fear, isolation, truncated plans and, not infrequently, unfiltered fury. Children typically do not receive their first dose of measles vaccine until after their first birthday. So parents of infants are trapped in a dangerous limbo. They want to protect their children from measles, an extremely contagious virus that killed 110,000 people around the world in 2017, most of them young children. Yet they have little choice but to chance exposing their yet-to-be-vaccinated babies any time they leave home.”

When Patients Get Overwhelmed, Informed Consent Needs Rethinking
Both emotional overwhelm and informational overload are phenomena commonly experienced by patients, and they can present serious challenges to physicians’ doctrine of informed consent. Medical ethicists suggest a categorical rethinking of this doctrine in specific clinical contexts and suggest several ways that physicians can achieve their higher calling—protecting patients—when informed consent is impossible to achieve.

Police Took a Cancer-Stricken Toddler from His Parents. Their Supporters Call it a ‘Medical Kidnapping.’
“Since then, the case has attracted national attention as Bland-Ball and McAdams insist they were trying to find their son alternative medical care, accusing the police and medical officials of stripping them of the right to choose their own treatment plan for their son. Their supporters call the state’s decision to take custody of Noah a ‘medical kidnapping’— a term that’s become common in communities skeptical of traditional medicine when authorities take drastic measures to provide medical care they see as essential to the child’s well-being.”

Technology Ethics

A Facebook request: Write a code of tech ethics
“Just like legal and medical practitioners, tech companies are knowledge specialists, so it makes sense to obligate them to develop standards of good ethical practice for gathering and using data about you. (They can begin by Googling medical and legal ethics codes!) An ethical code also doesn’t require legislation or regulation to be put into place; the companies could adopt it on their own.”

Computer Experts Discuss The Balancing Act Of Big Data & Ethics
“We are constantly trying to find that right balance between advancing our craft and getting insights from the data, and respecting the individuals that data represents. And that’s not an easy line to walk.”

How To Prevent AI Ethics Councils From Failing
“The ‘technology and monetization first approach’’ to AI needs to evolve to a ‘people and ethics first’ approach. Ethically aligned design is a set of societal and policy guidelines for the development of intelligent and autonomous systems to ensure such systems serve humanity’s values and ethical principles.”

Racial Justice

Democratic candidates address women of color, vow to fight for racial justice
Women of color are a key demographic for the Democratic party. Historically, black women have been the party’s most dedicated voters, and most candidates pointed to their records on a range of issues related to racial justice in response to the question.

He Wrote About Racial Resentment in the White Working Class. Then White Nationalists Proved His Point.
“Metzl, who directs Vanderbilt’s Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, was at the popular independent bookstore promoting his recently released Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland (Basic Books). Writing as a physician and social scientist, Metzl describes how, in his view, policies pitched to lower- and middle-class white people as ways to make their lives “great again” end up cutting their lives short. Resistance to health-care reform, cuts in school budgets and social services, and laxer gun laws are among the policies of the Trump era that put Americans at greater risk of sickness and death, he writes.”

Religious Ethics

Catholic services in Sri Lanka capital canceled for 2nd week
“Last week, Muslims were told to stay home for Friday prayers and all of Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches were closed. Instead of the usual Sunday Mass, Ranjith delivered a homily before clergy and national leaders at his residence that aired on television. The April 21 bombings at churches and luxury hotels killed 253 people and officials have warned that suspects linked to the bombings are still at large.”

Catholic University sex abuse series wraps with starkly different viewpoints
“Weigel, a biographer of Pope John Paul II and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., discussed the negative influence of Satan, the sexual revolution and mass media on the current crisis. Carr, the founder and director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University and former director of the Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development at the U.S. bishops’ conference, presented 10 lessons on dealing with clergy abuse he gained from personal experience as both a victim-survivor and in working with the bishops.”

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