It’s Not Science Fiction: Ethics of Artificial Wombs

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With the advent of 3-D printers and similar technology, modern science has come closer and closer to artificially solving medical issues and imitating parts of both the anatomy and physiology of the human body. However, when it comes to issues of reproduction and pregnancy, it’s an entirely different battle. Attempts to create an artificial womb for human gestation have proven to be be unsuccessful over the last two decades. However, researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia were able to create an artificial womb in which premature lambs were able to grow.

A recent article from The New York Times considers the ethical and legal implications of this new technology if it is applied to humans. One of the most likely situations that could arise would be using the artificial wombs for premature infants. An artificial womb could eliminate or address many of the issues and risks that face premature infants in incubators such as undeveloped lungs and neurodevelopmental challenges, and could be a life-saving technology for many. However, artificial wombs would not allow for contact or interaction between parents and infants that can be facilitated with incubators, which is something that is extremely beneficial for both the parents and the infant emotionally and physically.

“When I started my Ph.D. looking into the ethics of artificial wombs in 2009, several people told me that it was purely science fiction, and not anything that will happen anytime soon,” stated Dr. Elizabeth YukoHealth & Sex Editor for SheKnows MediaShe continued, “While the recent trials were conducted on lambs, not humans, the rapid evolution of reproductive technology means ethicists have to stay a few steps ahead of clinical practice.”

Dr. Yuko’s research interests include sexual health and reproductive ethics, human enhancement and research ethics.  She adds that she is “thankful to have had the opportunity to address some of these early ethical issues in The New York Times.”  

Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D. is a bioethicist and writer, the Health & Sex Editor for SheKnows Media and Adjunct Professor of Ethics at Fordham University. Elizabeth is the former Program Administrator for the HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute at Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education, as well as the founding editor of the Ethics and Society blog.

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: March 10, 2017

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Politics

White House Slammed by Federal Ethics Chief for Not Disciplining Kellyanne Conway
U.S. government’s official ethics watchdog blasted White House for not taking disciplinary action against senior counselor Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump’s products on TV

Trump’s Ethics Order Seen as Boost for Shadow Lobbying
President Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday explains executive order to ban lobbying for five years for officials who leave office – addresses the ethics of “draining the swamp”

George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer says Jeff Sessions’ denial of Russia talks ‘a good way to go to jail’
Alleged ethics violations Jeff Sessions may have made when he claimed under oath that he “did not have communications with the Russians”

ACLU lawyer files ethics complaint against Sessions over Russia testimony: report
An American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer, Christopher Anders, formally filed an ethics complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee denying any contact with Russian officials

Trump’s team nixed ethics course for White House staff
White House staff has received no ethics training under the Trump transition team and now presidency

Medical Ethics

House Republicans would let employers demand workers’ genetic test results
Bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars; employers see that genetic and other health information

Prisoners with serious mental health problems face urgent treatment delays
Prisoners in the UK are supposed to receive mental health services after being referred to such a unit within 14 days and new official numbers have indicated that regulations are not being followed

New pregnancy testing technique needs limits say ethics body
Press release from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics explores the ethics of Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) and explains why they are calling for a moratorium on the use of the new technology

Ethical Implications of User Perceptions of Wearable Devices
Wearable devices can save time at medical appointments and may even save lives – ethical implications of having large amounts of personal information stored in devices that are shared with third parties

When Evidence Says No, But Doctors Say Yes
Medical costs increasing and patient benefits are declining  – ethical conundrum of why medical professionals continue to prescribe unnecessary treatment, and calls for responsible regulation

States Wrestle With Legalizing Payments For Gestational Surrogates
Legislators proposed a bill that would regulate gestational surrogacy — potentially adding legal oversight to fertility clinics that facilitate these pregnancies

Environmental Ethics

EPA environmental justice leader resigns, amid White House plans to dismantle program
Key environmental justice leader at the Environmental Protection Agency has resigned, saying recent budget proposal to defund work would harm the people who most rely on the EPA

Why Won’t American Business Push for Action on Climate?
Fortune 500 companies who tout themselves as “green companies” have not stepped up to the plate when it comes to lobbying for climate change regulation

WCC participates in UN panel discussion on climate ethics
World Council of Churches (WCC) explains their involvement on UN’s panel discussion on climate ethics and why a human rights framework should be considered when taking action on climate change

Technology

Why we must teach morality to robots
Ethical input with robots needs to come before, not after, developing other skills

Ethics And Hacking: What You Need To Know
Forbes Technology Council members weigh in on ethics and hacking

Yes, what you do or say in an Uber may be recorded
Uber users to watch what you say and do in the back of those vehicles, as it just may be recorded

 

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: February 17, 2017

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Politics

Trump Ethics Monitor: Has The President Kept His Promises?
To track Trump’s ethics-related promises, NPR checked debate transcripts, campaign speeches and press conferences

Trump’s South Florida estate raises ethics questions
Ethics questions and possible conflicts surrounding President Donald Trump’s frequent trips to his sprawling Mar-a-Lago property, especially in regards to the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, over the weekend; a trip Trump pledged to pay for.

Should Jeff Sessions Recuse Himself From the Russia Inquiries?
Bruce Green, director of the Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham University, comments on whether Attorney General, Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from investigations involving former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn and Russian hacking.

Trickle-Down Ethics at the Trump White House
Federal ethics guidelines forbid White House officials from using public position and power for their own private gain or to promote the private business interests of others. Trump Administration actions to be reviewed by the White House counsel and by the Office of Government Ethics.

Government Watchdog Presses Jason Chaffetz To Investigate Kellyanne Conway Himself
Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, requested that The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) investigate Kellyanne Conway’s possible breach of federal ethics rules, indicating that the Chairman may be trying to take pressure off his own committee, which has the most authority to investigate the matter.

Ethics Watchdog Denounces Conway’s Endorsement of Ivanka Trump Products
Federal government’s chief ethics watchdog calls for White House adviser, Kellyanne Conway, to be disciplined after publically endorsing Ivanka Trump’s product line.

Bioethics/Medical Ethics

Scientists ponder future of gene editing to fight disease
Ethical issues surrounding breakthroughs gene editing to fight genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and cancer.

Continue reading “Ethics & Society Newsfeed: February 17, 2017”

Stoking the Flames of Competitiveness on an Overheating Planet

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STUDENT VOICES

By: Michael Aprea

This essay is in response to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs video “Climate Protectionism and Competitiveness.”  

Steam put the world in motion. It lit up the night, and tightened humanity’s grasp on the forces of nature. Nature, however, has eluded the human race and has forced civilization to reconsider its power in the most fundamental sense. Scientist, politicians, and citizens now face the heat as they scramble to address a cycle of global warming spawned by the progress of the industrial revolution that threatens to unhinge the fragile balance of Earth’s ecosystems. Reducing carbon emissions has been the answer to the problem. This standard that has taken hold in developed nations has morphed into a global economic crusade against carbon emissions through regulation, taxation and sanctions seeking to curb the emissions of the developing world. Although consumer responsibility and global collaboration in an endeavor to reverse global warming trends are laudable, it is important to recognize the risks these steps pose on global trade, the citizens of developing countries, and the debt developed nations have as beneficiaries of the first fruits of fossil fuels.

The United States owes its status as an economic superpower to the progress of the industrial revolution; a revolution fueled by carbon emitting fossil fuels. The rapid growth of nations such as Unites States reliant on fossil fuels came at price–rising global temperatures. Carbon doesn’t only heat up cold economies, it also has the ability to raise average global temperatures as it gets trapped in the atmosphere and captures solar radiation. These shifts in temperature have precipitated evident changes in the environment. Recent glacial melting, super storms, and inflated and more rapid extinction rates can all be traced to these rising temperatures. In response, the United States and other developed nations have sought alternative fuels to reduce carbon emissions. These measures entail large investments of capital, and higher costs of production–a reality that makes production in underdeveloped nations more cost effective and foreign products cheaper. This reality, coupled with policies and regulations that seek to reduce carbon emissions through taxation and sanctions on developing nations still very dependent on fossil fuels, raises a host of ethical questions–particularly regarding the right and motive a developed nation has in enforcing such measures.

Continue reading “Stoking the Flames of Competitiveness on an Overheating Planet”

The Ethics of Climate Change Activism: Fear vs. Reality

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STUDENT VOICES

By: Chelsea Zantay

This essay is in response to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs video clip “Global Ethics Forum: Ethics Matter: A Conversation with Bill McKibben.”  

Often when a problem is too big or too scary we throw up our hands and announce that “there is nothing we can do” to solve it.  Admittedly, climate change feels like one of those problems.  It seems like a quagmire of depressing facts and statistics.  It is now scientific fact that the polar ice caps are melting, our oceans are rising and becoming more acidic, and if we do not curb our consumption of fossil fuels, our planet will be rendered unlivable.  The plethora of disturbing information on climate change is enough to cause anyone to have a sleepless night or make them wish they had never heard the truth about our warming planet.  However, ostriches with their heads buried in the sand do not get much done, and once you know some truth, you cannot un-know it.  And so the question at hand is not “is climate change happening?” for that question has been answered in the affirmative (although climate change deniers would like to see this issue removed from our national political discourse).  The question right now is “what are we going to do about it, if anything?”

Bill McKibben, environmental scientist and founder of 350.org, has spent his career writing about climate change and mobilizing communities as an activist for the cause.  The mission of his website reads: “We believe in a safe climate and a better future – a just, prosperous, and equitable world built with the power of ordinary people.”  This statement is in no way frightening beyond the scope of comprehension.  In fact, it is probably what most people want out of the future.  Unfortunately, the direction we are headed in is not conducive to this safe and equal future.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  If we continue with our current rate of fossil fuel burning, we could be left with a planet that is ungovernable, uninhabitable and unrecognizable.  This is a terrifying thought, but should climate change activists refrain from telling the truth about our planet’s situation? 

At one point during the Carnegie Council’s featured video Global Ethics Forum: Ethics Matter: A Conversation with Bill McKibben, McKibben was asked about instilling fear in the general public so much so that the sheer magnitude of the problem may compel them not to act.  To this, McKibben replied, “reality is what it is, and we should describe it.”  In fact, it could be said that experts on ecology, such as environmentalists like McKibben and climate change scientists, have a duty to make this knowledge available to the public. 

Presently, we have seen enough “100-year” storms and floods to be convinced of the boundless power and undeniable truth of climate change.  Activists and scientists cannot be charged with attempting to use unwarranted scare tactics.  However, if they have been guilty of scaring the public into action in the past, is that such a bad thing? 

Continue reading “The Ethics of Climate Change Activism: Fear vs. Reality”

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: September 30, 2016

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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.

Continue reading “Ethics & Society Newsfeed: September 30, 2016”

Why Science Denial is Immoral

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By Christopher S. Kovel, M.A.

Today’s society is built and shaped by technology and scientific discovery but, surprisingly, pervading scientific denial lingers. Irrational skepticism and flat-out denial of uncontroversial theories is not just a rebuke of the facts of science and an insult to toiling scientists in their respective fields, but should also be seen as a moral dereliction, capable of great harm if not remedied.

According to recent Gallup polls, two scientific theories in particular – evolution and anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change – struggle to gain widespread national acceptance. In 2014, 42% of Americans said they believe that God created humans in their present form (i.e. evolution never occurred). In the same poll, another 31% said they accept that humans evolved, but under God’s supervision and direction (commonly referred to as intelligent design). Only 19% said they believe the current scientific explanation of the origins of humans—that we evolved like every other organism on earth, through a natural process following biological principles.

Continue reading “Why Science Denial is Immoral”