Category Archives: In the News

Jailing for Dollars: The Federal Government Takes Steps to Eliminate a Moral Stain on Justice in the US

The United States has become the world’s leading jailer with 2.2 million people in jails and prisons across the country.  With a combination of government and privately run facilities, the nation faces the moral issues surrounding the prison-industrial complex.  As reflected in a recent New York Times article, the U.S. Justice Department has announced plans to phase out the use of privately run facilities, citing less safe conditions than their government run counterparts.

In the Obama administration’s continuing efforts to address inequities in the criminal justice system The U.S. Justice Department announced plans to phase out its use of privately operated prisons, calling them less safe and a poor substitute for government-run facilities.  According to Celia B. Fisher, Director of the Fordham Center for Ethics Education “this is a welcome step toward addressing the inequities produced by a public-private system that incentivizes high incarceration rates with devastating effects on poor and minority communities.

Fordham University Center for Ethics Education brought attention to this issue in a conference on “Jailing for Dollars: The Moral Cost of Privatizing Justice” featuring Cindy Chang, Los Angeles Times, Scott Cohn, NBC, Thomas Giovanni, Brennan Center for Justice, Judith Greene, Justice Strategies and Michael Jacobson, Vera Institute of Justice. Speakers explored pressing moral questions about the prison-industrial complex, including dangerous overcrowding, unsafe work and health conditions and its consequences on individuals, families and society at large.

To watch the video of this conference, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to play.

Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D. is the Fordham University Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethics Education. Fisher’s  Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologist, is now in its fourth edition from Sage Publications.

Psychologists who “Analyze” Trump are Violating the Public Trust

As the 2016 presidential election approaches, psychologists are gaining media attention by diagnosing candidates as having personality disorders, especially for the Republican nominee.  But the public should question whether or not offering these diagnoses is professionally ethical or in the service of political agendas.

As reflected in a recent New York Times article, the candidacy of Donald Trump has tempted some psychologists to abandon their unique training in mental health assessment and provide unprofessional diagnoses of Mr. Trump that, according to Celia B. Fisher, Director Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education, “distort the values of their profession and violate the public trust”.

“Trained mental health practitioners serve the public good by providing diagnoses of individuals based on scientifically and professionally established assessment techniques,” notes Fisher, who chaired the committee that wrote the current American Psychological Association’s (APA) Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct, “however the public and the profession are harmed when psychologists provide opinions based on unsubstantiated information drawn from media reports or other subjective observations.”

There have been claims suggesting that psychologists who offer diagnoses of Donald Trump are doing so for the purpose of national and public interest. According to Fisher, who is the author of the widely read Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologists“Psychologists who claim that ‘Trumpism’ is a threat to democracy that provides moral justification to offer public diagnoses in the absence of established assessment techniques are deluding themselves into thinking that these unprofessional opinions benefit society.” Fisher further explains that psychologists are actually in “clear violation of the APA Ethics Code and are inadvertently contributing to a political climate based on opinion rather than fact.”

Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D. is the Fordham University Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethics Education. In addition to chairing the 2002 revision of the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code, Fisher’s  Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologist, is now in its fourth edition from Sage Publications.

New WHO diagnostic labels perpetuate transgender stigma

trans girl light bulb

The movement of the World Health Organization (WHO) to declassify transgender identity as a mental disorder is simultaneously a step forward in affirming the personhood of gender minority individuals, and a step backward in diagnoses that adequately reflect their health needs. The solutions posited by the WHO reveal the systemic influence of health insurance policies in defining not only medical disorders, but also social categories.

Currently, in the United States and abroad, in order to qualify for health insurance coverage for gender affirming surgery or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), mentally healthy transgender individuals must receive a diagnosis indicating a gender-related mental disorder based on either the WHO classification or the “gender dysphoria” diagnostic category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In the hopes of fostering greater acceptance while still satisfying insurers, after 25 years, the WHO is considering a new diagnostic category: “Conditions related to sexual health.”

According to Dr. Celia B. Fisher, Director of the Center for Ethics Education and Professor of Psychology at Fordham University, the new terminology, while well-intentioned, “runs the risk of perpetuating stereotypes that conflate gender identity and sexual orientation and lead to continued misclassification of transgender personhood as a sexual problem.”

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Psychologists not immune from prohibition on diagnosing famous figures

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As consumers of the media, it is not uncommon to “diagnose” public figures with various mental disorders, depending on their representation in the press. But for psychologists and psychiatrists, is doing so unethical?

In an op-ed in The New York Times, Columbia University’s Dr. Robert Klitzman explained that for psychiatrists like himself, there is a prohibition from the American Psychiatric Association on providing professional opinions on individuals they have never met or evaluated before.

Troublingly, though, Klitzman mentions that “Psychologists (with Ph.D.s, as opposed to psychiatrists, with medical degrees) argue that this principle does not fully apply to them, and that offering diagnoses of public figures can be in the national interest.”

According to Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Director, and chair of the 2002 American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code Task Force Dr. Celia B. Fisher, that is not accurate.

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10 years after Vioxx scandal, pharmaceutical companies caught again misleading patients using false claims

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Pharmaceutical companies have once again used industry influence to conceal data and make false claims about a high-profile medication.

Today The New York Times reported that Johnson & Johnson and Bayer – the companies behind the anti-clotting drug Xarelto – are responsible for critical laboratory data being left out of a letter published in The New England Journal of Medicine discussing the safety of the medication. Lawyers representing patients suing the two major pharmaceutical companies claim that both corporations were complicit by remaining silent about the data concealed from the publication.

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The CDC Recommends Women of Childbearing Age Use Contraception if They Wish to Drink Alcohol

By Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a recommendation that women of childbearing age should abstain from alcohol consumption unless they are on some form of contraception.

This is ethically problematic for several reasons, the first being the blatant and outright paternalism and mistrust of women.

The CDC Vital Signs report estimates that “3.3 million women between the ages of 15 and 44 are at risk of exposing their developing baby to alcohol because they are drinking, sexually active, and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy.” While the CDC’s intentions are good – attempting to curb incidents of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders – advocating a policy that does not respect women’s autonomy when it comes to making decisions regarding  consumption of alcohol and use of contraception is troubling.

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Ethics & Society 2015 Year in Review

Starting with a national discussion on vaccinations, public health and autonomy, and ending with widespread reflection on yet another mass shooting, 2015 had no shortage of ethics-related news and events.

Here are a few highlights of the work of Fordham University Center for Ethics Education faculty, staff, and students from 2015:

Dr. Celia B. Fisher Contributes to National Discussion on Ethical Review & Oversight Issues in Standard of Care Research

Common clinical practices might lack a robust evidence base if there have not been empirical interventional research studies to compare an array of available routine or standard treatment options. Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Director Dr. Celia B. Fisher, an internationally renowned expert on empirical research on research ethics, recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in an Institute of Medicine (IOM) workshop aimed to inform practice and policy of regulated research studies involving standard of care interventions. Read more here.

 

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