Ethics and Society

Ethical analysis and news from the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: October 6, 2017

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Bioethics/Medical Ethics

Pope denounces technologies that help people change gender
“Pope Francis denounce Thursday how new technologies are making it easier for people to change their genders, saying this ‘utopia of the neutral’ jeopardizes the creation of new life.”

KAST calls for loosening up of law on bioethics
“The Korean Academy of Science and Technology (KAST), a prominent society of top scientists, pushed for greater flexibility in the application of gene correction technology Friday.”

Videos during surgery? Some plastic surgeons go too far, Northwestern researchers say
In recent years, some plastic surgeons have started posting videos of their surgeries on social media in hopes of informing and attracting new patients. But in some cases, their antics seem designed more for entertainment than education, raising ethical questions, according to a new paper from Northwestern Medicine researchers published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.”

Nevada law says chief medical officer must advise on executions despite ethical clash
“Nevada’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. John DiMuro’s role in helping choose the lethal drugs for an upcoming execution could put him in an ethical quandary as an anesthesiologist committed to preserving life.”

Are radiologists getting enough medical ethics training?
“Radiologists spend a lot of years in medical school and in residency, but they still aren’t getting enough medical ethics training, according to a recent analysis published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.”

Politics

Editorial: SF’s Ethics Board fails to tackle money in politics
“The San Francisco Ethics Commission had the opportunity to pass a commonsense measure to curtail money in politics. It failed. The ordinance would have banned the practice of allowing political donors to contribute to the charitable causes of favored candidates when those donors have a contract up for approval or a pending land-use decision in front of city officials.”

How to Get Away With Murder, or at Least Corruption, in Brazil
“No less than 40 percent of Brazil’s 594 lawmakers face formal investigations before the Supreme Court, the tribunal’s figures show. Forty-seven deputies and eight senators are currently defendants in criminal trials. Just two have lost their jobs over corruption charges.”

Cyber Sedition: How the Alt-Right Is Challenging Free Speech on the Internet
“Though the alt-right’s internet presence poses unprecedented challenges to free speech, allowing private actors to become the gatekeepers of acceptable speech online places the fundamental idea of free expression at risk.”

Veterans Agency Seeks to Scrap Ethics Law on For-Profit Colleges
“The Department of Veterans Affairs is pushing to suspend a 50-year-old ethics law that prevents employees from receiving money or owning a stake in for-profit colleges that pocket hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition paid through the G.I. Bill of Rights.”

The Trump officials caught splurging on luxury travel
“Tom Price’s pricey private flights unleashed a number of stories about other Trump administration officials flying charter, military or private on taxpayers’ dime.”

Menendez trial: Prosecutors tie political donations to Menendez meeting
“U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez requested a meeting with a high-ranking State Department official to talk about port security issues in the Dominican Republic on the same day that Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen agreed to donate $60,000 to help Menendez’s re-election and to fight a recall effort against him, prosecutors said Thursday. Melgen owned a 50 percent stake in a company, ICSSI, that was urging the Dominican government to honor a port security screening contract that could potentially be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to prosecutors.”

Business Ethics

Why values and ethics are good for business
“It is a privilege to be a trusted and integral part of a person’s recovery from addiction. So, I am deeply troubled when I see facilities cutting corners and bending the rules to increase revenue or profit. These actions are not only short-sighted from a business standpoint, but also highly unethical and potentially dangerous to those who have entrusted us to help them recover.

Middle managers may turn to unethical behavior to face unrealistic expectations
“While unethical behavior in organizations is often portrayed as flowing down from top management, or creeping up from low-level positions, a team of researchers suggest that middle management also can play a key role in promoting wide-spread unethical behavior among their subordinates.”

The Morality of Charles Koch
“For those who regard capitalism and Christianity as mortal enemies, few villains loom as large as Charles Koch, whose name in some quarters has become a synonym for a system based on greed and exploitation. By his own admission, the libertarian-leaning billionaire is not religious. So why would such a man choose the Catholic University of America for a $10 million gift to help relaunch its business school?”

Educational/Academic Ethics

Harvard Business School earns an incomplete in ethics
“Some argue that you can’t teach ethics to a bunch of 26-year-olds. But you can certainly lead by example. Alas, the recent example set by the leadership of HBS shows a blatant disregard for even the simplest of ethical considerations.”

Technology Ethics

DeepMind announces ethics group to focus on problems of AI
“Deepmind, Google’s London-based AI research sibling, has opened a new unit focused on the ethical and societal questions raised by artificial intelligence.”

Who should die when a driverless car crashes? Q&A ponders the future
“Should a driverless car swerve to miss a child, knowing it will kill its passenger? Or should it maintain its path and end a younger life? It’s deeply troubling ethical dilemmas like these that Sandra Peter believes will hinder the mass uptake of driverless cars, possibly beyond our lifetimes.”

Ethics of Internet research trigger scrutiny
A research paper that used publicly available data about people’s addresses and likely movements to unmask the anonymous graffiti artist Banksy “highlights growing concerns about the potential hazards of research that uses public data.”

Digital Technology May Start a New Scientific revolution in Social Research
“The collection of “big data” and the ability to do experiments using the internet, may be the start of a scientific revolution in social research. But there are important ethical considerations that also need to be factored in.”

Software engineers must think deeply about ethics
“I believe technology is immensely constructive and, like any power, if wielded correctly, can in fact make the world a better place. I still believe most jobs will be automated, and, in the long run, humanity will be better off from it. But great power must be accompanied by great responsibility, which remains largely absent in Silicon Valley.”

 

 

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: September 22, 2017

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Politics

Donald Trump’s Lies and Obstruction Will End His Presidency, Ex-Ethics Chief Says
“A former White House ethics chief says that Donald Trump would likely be impeached if it is proven he sought to obstruct justice by firing ex-FBI Director James Comey in hopes of ending his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”

Public servants hiring spouses, mothers, brothers, lovers: Is it ethical?
“Mississippi’s public servants frequently seek advice from the state Ethics Commission.”

Illegal Strikes and Political Obligation – What Reasons Do We Have To Obey The Law?
“I do not intend to address the moral and economic considerations involved in the question of the amount that a fair society should pay to its public sector workers. Rather, I shall be interested in the nature of the reasons that we may have to obey laws we disagree with, and the implications that our answer to this question may have for whether we should support illegal strikes of this sort.”

To Wipe Out Corruption, Look to Philadelphia
“The city went almost a decade without a single corruption scandal. What’s its secret?”

Bioethics/Medical Ethics and Research Ethics

Take stock of research ethics in human genome editing
“Progress in the use of CRISPR–Cas9 for human germline editing highlights some pressing ethical considerations for research on embryos.”

An Experiment Gives Cash Aid To The Poor. Is That Ethical?
“Is it moral for experimenters to bestow a benefit on one group of people and not another? And what are the risks of unintended negative consequences — creating lasting income inequalities between villages, for instance, or even fueling tensions between the residents?”

Artificial Human Embryos Are Coming, and No One Knows How to Handle Them
“Stem cells can be coaxed to self-assemble into structures resembling human embryos.”

Bioethics expert says ‘de-valuing’ human beings is 21st century malady
“Dr. John Haas, President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, says that beneath specific conundrums that arise in the field of bioethics these days lies a deeper challenge that the Catholic Church is uniquely equipped to address: A ‘de-valuing’ of human beings, which turns the weak and vulnerable into commodities to be exploited by the wealthy and powerful.”

How Much is Your Health Worth to You?
“Exorbitant drug pricing and bad experimental medicine result from putting health care up for sale.”

Business Ethics

We Shouldn’t Always Need a “Business Case” to Do the Right Thing
Corporations should continue to increase and advocate for ethical initiatives. However, the reasoning for supporting these projects should not focus solely on business benefits.

How Much Do A Company’s Ethics Matter In The Modern Professional Climate?
“A company’s ethics and corporate social responsibility matter more today than they did a few decades ago. Workers place a higher emphasis on the values of their employers, and have access to more information than ever before. If you want your company to remain competitive in the hunt for the best candidates in your field, spend some time defining, perfecting, and promoting your company’s ethical behavior.”

Business ethics: moving beyond just compliance
“Financial professionals have become used to compliance requirements placed upon them by regulators including aspects such as treating customers fairly, anti-money laundering, data protection and anti-bribery policies, to name a few. Professional bodies also have member codes of conduct. However, following historical financial scandals, trust in the financial profession remains low.”

The ethics of advertising hate speech
“ASU marketing professor shares insights on Facebook, Google advertising practices.”

Technology and Ethics

AI Research Is In Desperate Need Of An Ethical Watchdog
An updated set of guidelines and regulations is needed to keep pace with the advancement of artificial intelligence and prevent good-intentioned researchers from causing more social ills than they fix.

What Germany’s Document on Autonomous Driving Says about the Ethics of Automotive Tech
“A new document put together by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure aims to preemptively address many of the practical and ethical concerns that autonomous driving will present.”

The Analytics Challenge: Timing, Talent, Value and Ethics
“Healthcare analytics is evolving to a greater focus on analyzing data using prescriptive analytics and providing proactive solutions.”

What Happens When Lyft Redesigns A Street
“Ride sharing is here to stay, and autonomous vehicles are imminent. But the implications for cities are less than clear… How should our aging infrastructure adapt to these changes–and who should be shaping (and funding) it?”

Educational/Academic Ethics

Academic Ethics: Is ‘Diversity’ the Best Reason for Affirmative Action?
“Does racial and ethnic diversity really enhance the educational experience?”

The ethics of free speech in the Trump era
“Universities, as influential institutions, should be allowed to make a moral distinction as to when free speech devolves into hate speech and when pro-Trump political stances may bear negative consequences in the lives of their campus community members.”

Miscellaneous Ethics and Society

Yes, Ethics Still Matter in an Emergency
“Storm victims aren’t breaking the law by “looting” needed food. But they should try to pay later.”

Why museums need their own ethics departments
“While museums may have codes of ethics that aim (with varying degrees of success) to regulate professional conduct, they lack internal institutional support for sustained research into these pressing and fundamental issues. Adopting the ethics of art as a core area of research should be embraced as part of the museum mission.”

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: August 18, 2017

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Politics

Neil Gorsuch Speech at Trump Hotel Raises Ethical Questions
“Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, is scheduled to address a conservative group at the Trump International Hotel in Washington next month, less than two weeks before the court is set to hear arguments on Mr. Trump’s travel ban.”

Trump’s Washington DC hotel turns $2m profit amid ethics concerns
“Donald Trump’s company is said to have taken home nearly $2m in profits this year at its extravagant hotel in Washington, DC – amid ethics concerns stemming from the President’s refusal to fully divest from his businesses while he is in office.”

3 representatives want to officially censure Trump after Charlottesville
“In response to Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, three Democrats want to censure the president.”

Does Trump’s Slippery Slope Argument About Confederate Statues Have Merit?
“NPR’s Robert Siegal talks with Ilya Somin, a professor of George Mason University, about President Trump’s warning that pulling down Confederate statues may lead to a slippery slope in which monuments to the Founding Fathers are torn down.”

Bioethics/Medical Ethics and Research Ethics

Vaccination: Costly clash between autonomy, public health
Bioethical principles in conflict with medical exemptions to vaccinations

CRISPR and the Ethics of Human Embryo Research
“Although scientists in China and the United Kingdom have already used gene editing on human embryos, the announcement that the research is now being done in the United States makes a U.S. policy response all the more urgent.”

Exclusive: Inside The Lab Where Scientists Are Editing DNA In Human Embryos
“[Critics] fear editing DNA in human embryos is unsafe, unnecessary and could open the door to “designer babies” and possibly someday to genetically enhanced people who are considered superior by society.”

The Ethics Issue Blocking Organ Transplant Research
“The ethics of so-called donor-intervention research are incredibly fraught. How do you get informed consent and from whom? The dead donor? The live recipient—or possibly dozens of live recipients getting tissues or organs from a single donor, fanned out across the country at different hospitals each with their own ethics review boards? All this would unfold against intense time pressure. Every minute of delay is a minute in which the organ is deteriorating.”

NSF reiterates policy on teaching good research habits despite its limitations
“The National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia, has decided to double down on its implementation of a congressionally mandated policy aimed at reducing research misconduct among NSF-funded scientists, despite a new report that notes problems with the agency’s approach.”

What do revised U.S. rules mean for human research?
“Following a contentious 5½-year process, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) released a revised “Common Rule,” which governs federally funded research involving human subjects (1). The updated rule includes a number of welcome changes for U.S. institutions and researchers, and their scientific collaborators abroad.”

Technology and Ethics

The Ethics of Doxing Nazis on Social Media
“The important question is: does any of this help?”

The importance of building ethics into artificial intelligence
“Understand ethical AI and its role in the future of work, recruit talent that understands AI – and its power to address workplace challenges, develop AI that runs on data reflecting the diversity of its users…”

The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence
“Establish an ethics committee, pursue innovation safely, create a solid foundation, choose autonomy, not regulation…”

“We have made more progress in artificial intelligence (AI) in the last three years than in the preceding three decades. AI is transforming from handy little applications that make our lives easier (from Alexa and Siri to Uber and Netflix) to something more powerful…”


Philosophy and Business Ethics

Are corporations becoming the new arbiters of public morality?
“After Charlottesville, CEOs have become our public conscience. Here’s what that says about capitalism in America.”

How to be Ethical in the Workplace, According to 3 Philosophers
“Whether you’re a journalist, banker, salesman, chef—whatever your career path may be—you’re obviously going to want to be a good professional. A key factor in being “good” in any profession is to be ethical…”

Fordham University’s Dr. Celia Fisher on Reversal of the Goldwater Rule

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The American Psychoanalytic Association announced earlier this month that members of the association no longer need to abide by the long-established “Goldwater Rule” named after 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. The rule, which can be found in Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Ethics Code, cautions against most psychiatrists and other mental health professionals offering opinions about an individual publicly – including the President of the United States.

According to Dr. Celia Fisher, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education, this decision “elevated political and economic considerations above ethical principles.”

In an interview with Fordham News, Dr. Fisher stated, “Revising ethical standards to address a particularly problematic political figure or to condone the publication of a book does not reflect well on the association.  The public should be aware that the American Psychoanalytic Association organization does not represent the field of psychiatry per se, but a group of professionals who practice a particular therapeutic orientation within the mental health profession known as psychoanalysis.”

“Responsible diagnosis in psychoanalysis, as in other mental health fields, relies on assessment techniques that are characterized by interactions with and analysis of patient responses to specific established questions. A professionally and ethically responsible diagnosis cannot be determined in the absence of such interactions or assessments. For example, although the American Psychological Association has not adopted a “Goldwater Rule,” the importance of appropriate assessments are intrinsic in its ethics code, which forbids psychologists from providing opinions of the psychological characteristics of individuals if they have not “conducted an examination of the individuals adequate to support their statements or conclusions”. To be sure, the mental health profession can and should share their knowledge with the public, but irresponsible “diagnosis” diminishes the profession and does not serve the public it seeks to inform.”

The American Psychoanalytic Association’s Statement on “Goldwater Rule” can be found on their website.

For more from Dr. Fisher on this topic, stream the Fordham News February interview here and read our January post “Diagnosis at a Distance Continues to Undermine Public’s Ability to Evaluate Trump Policies.”

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 Psychologists, is now in its fourth edition from Sage Publications.

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

 

Diagnosis at a Distance Continues to Undermine Public’s Ability to Evaluate Trump Policies

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President Donald Trump’s first week in office was spent signing executive orders regarding the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, visa and refugee programs and a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, all which sparked nationwide demonstrations and protests. Since the beginning of Trump’s campaign and more frequently over the past week, media outlets and select “experts”  have been gaining attention by diagnosing Trump with various mental or personality disorders. However, is it ethical for experts in psychology and psychiatry to offer professionals diagnoses of Trump and what are the political implications?

A recent article published in U.S. News & World Report titled, “Temperament Tantrum,” featured a professional assessment of the 45h President from John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist who previously taught psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University. Gartner told U.S. News & World Report that Trump has “malignant narcissism,” an incurable narcissistic personality disorder. Despite the Goldwater Rule, in Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Ethics Code, which cautions against offering a professional opinion about an individual in the public eye who has not been formally evaluated, Gartner argues that in the case of Trump, he can “make this diagnosis indisputably” and the breaking of the [Goldwater Rule within the] ethics code is warranted.

According to Dr. Celia Fisher, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education, however, such misleading statements by mental health professionals “helps the Trump administration hide their strategic intent to undermine traditional democratic principles under the guise of a President whose impulses often get the better of him.”