Bioethics

Published by Wiley
Online ISSN: 1467-8519
Print ISSN: 0269-9702
Publications
In Life’s Dominion Dworkin aims at defusing the controversy about abortion and euthanasia by redefining its terms. Basically it is not a dispute about the right to life, but about its value. Liberals should grant that human life has not only a personal, but also an intrinsic value; conservatives should accept the principle of toleration which requires to let people decide for themselves about matters of intrinsic value. Dworkin fails, however, to distinguish between two kinds of personal value: (1) the value of something to a person, when he actually or dispositionally desires it, or finds it pleasant; and (2) the value of something to a person, when it ‘objectively’ contributes to his well-being, as defined by reference to his personal point of view, whether or not he ever perceives it as so contributing. He also fails to distinguish between two meanings of the concept of ‘intrinsic value’: (3) ultimate, i.e. non-instrumental personal value of kind (2); (4) the impersonal value of something which is not good-for-anybody, but simply good, i.e. not a constituent of someone’s well-being. Dworkin argues that the human fetus from conception onwards has a value, that it is not a personal value of kind (1), and therefore must be an intrinsic value. But the value of the life of the fetus is not a personal value of kind (2) either and therefore not an intrinsic value of kind (3): it is normally a constituent of the well-being of the pregnant woman, but that doesn’t constitute its value, and it is not good ‘for’ the fetus itself in the relevant sense, because it doesn’t have a personal point of view. If, however, the fetus’ life is allowed to have an intrinsic value of kind (4), the conservative cannot be refuted by appeal to the principle of toleration, for this only concerns intrinsic value of kind (3). The liberal, indeed, should recognize that the fetus’ life has a value, but it is neither a personal value (1) or (2), nor an impersonal value (4), but rather a relational value which gradually develops from some point substantially later than conception.
 
Bayer's approach is most effective when he uses it to describe the politicized nature of AIDS policy in the United States. He succeeds in showing the reader that public health authorities dealing with the spread of HIV/AIDS had a wide variety of competing interests to take into account in formulating AIDS social policy and that political interest groups, most notably gay community organizations, played a large role in fashioning AIDS policy. Those who might have doubted the significance of contextual factors such as these for health policy, and especially for AIDS policy, will be convinced of it after reading Bayer's book. But Bayer is not content to make only descriptive claims about AIDS health policy. He is also interested in advancing normative and prescriptive claims, the nature of which, I have argued, requires an approach other than the one that he has adopted.
 
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Ethical Considerations for Revisions to DHHS Regulations for Protection of Prisoners Involved in Research published its report in 2006. It was charged with developing an ethical framework for the conduct of research with prisoners and identifying the safeguards and conditions necessary to ensure that research with prisoners is conducted ethically. The recommendations contained in the IOM report differ from current European regulations in several ways, some being more restrictive and some less so. For example, the IOM report suggests limiting the percentage of prisoners that should be involved in a biomedical study to 50%, a limit that does not exist in Europe. However, the report does not specifically advise against research without a direct benefit to an individual prisoner: the European regulations are more restrictive than the IOM committee recommendations in this respect. The definition of minimal risk varies, as well as the proposed role of the minimal risk requirement and of the principle of subsidiarity (research that can only be done effectively in prisons). The IOM report proposes a number of thoughtful suggestions, which it would be beneficial to implement everywhere, such as registers of research on prisoners. The European regulations offer pragmatic solutions to several thorny issues. In summary, the IOM committee report represents an admirable effort to tackle the present inconsistencies and deficiencies of federal regulations in the US on research on prisoners (45 CFR 46 Subpart C). Nonetheless, before acting on the recommendations, US regulators might consider revisiting international guidelines such as those published by the Council for International Organizations of Medical Science (CIOMS) and the Declaration of Helsinki.
 
This article explores universal normative bases that could help to shape a workable legal construct that would facilitate a global use of advance directives. Although I believe that advance directives are of universal character, my primary aim in approaching this issue is to remain realistic. I will make three claims. First, I will argue that the principles of autonomy, dignity and informed consent, embodied in the Oviedo Convention and the UNESCO Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, could arguably be regarded as universal bases for the global use of advance directives. Second, I will demonstrate that, despite the apparent consensus of ethical authorities in support of their global use, it is unlikely, for the time being, that such consensus could lead to unqualified legal recognition of advance directives, because of different understandings of the nature of the international rules, meanings of autonomy and dignity which are context-specific and culture-specific, and existing imperfections that make advance directives either unworkable or hardly applicable in practice. The third claim suggests that the fact that the concept of the advance directive is not universally shared does not mean that it should not become so, but never as the only option in managing incompetent patients. A way to proceed is to prioritize work on developing higher standards in managing incompetent patients and on progressing towards the realization of universal human rights in the sphere of bioethics, by advocating a universal, legally binding international convention that would outlaw human rights violations in end-of-life decision-making.
 
The IAB Presidential Address was delivered by Alexander Capron to the internationally gathered audience at the Closing Ceremony of the 8th World Congress of Bioethics, Beijing on 9th August 2006.
 
This paper presents ethical dilemmas concerning the termination of pregnancy, the management of childbirth, and the withdrawal of life-support from infants in special care, for a small sample of British Pakistani Muslim parents of babies diagnosed with fatal abnormalities. Case studies illustrating these dilemmas are taken from a qualitative study of 66 families of Pakistani origin referred to a genetics clinic in Southern England. The paper shows how parents negotiated between the authoritative knowledge of their doctors, religious experts, and senior family members in response to the ethical dilemmas they faced. There was little knowledge or open discussion of the view that Islam permits the termination of pregnancy for serious or fatal abnormality within 120 days and there was considerable disquiet over the idea of ending a pregnancy. For some parents, whether their newborn baby would draw breath was a main worry, with implications for the baby's Muslim identity and for the recognition of loss the parents would receive from family and community. This concern sometimes conflicted with doctors' concerns to minimize risk to future pregnancies by not performing a Caesarean delivery if a baby is sure to die. The paper also identifies parents' concerns and feelings of wrong-doing regarding the withdrawal of artificial life-support from infants with multiple abnormalities. The conclusion considers some of the implications of these observations for the counselling and support of Muslim parents following the pre- or neo-natal diagnosis of fatal abnormalities in their children.
 
Developments in medical technology have increased the possibility of diagnosing severe structural abnormalties in the fetus. If these occur, a woman may request termination of her pregnancy. This raises serious ethical and legal questions, in particular if the anomalies are discovered in the third trimester when the fetus is considered viable. Should doctors be allowed to act upon a request for abortion in such a situation, and, if so, which safeguards should be in place? These questions are discussed with special reference to the Netherlands where a commission established by the government recently published a report on this matter.
 
KIE Social pressures and legal restrictions are proliferating against pregnant women. A dramatic infringement on women's rights is the court ordered cesarean section, as illustrated by the case of Angela C., a terminally ill cancer patient, 26 weeks pregnant, whose refusal of a cesarean section was overridden by a District of Columbia court. The premature infant and the mother died within two days. This case epitomizes a developing judicial pattern whose ethical reasoning the author criticizes. Within the context of the right to privacy and the concept of viability, which could legally override that right, Mahowald analyzes different situations where cesarean delivery is refused. After arguing that court ordered cesarean sections are inconsistent with court refusals to force persons to undergo less invasive procedures (e.g., bone marrow donation for the benefit of family members), she proposes alternatives to the present inconsistent practice.
 
This article considers the objection to abortion that a woman who voluntarily engages in sexual activity is responsible for her fetus and so cannot have an abortion. The conclusion argued for is that the conceptions of responsibility that can ground the objection that are considered do not necessitate a requirement on the part of a pregnant woman to carry her pregnancy to term. Thus, the iterations of the responsibility objection presented cannot be used to curtail reproductive choice.
 
Late-Term Abortion and Neonatal Treatment Strategies: Representative Policy in Four Nations 
Abortion, particularly late-term abortion, and neonaticide, selective non-treatment of newborns, are feasible management strategies for fetuses or newborns diagnosed with severe abnormalities. However, policy varies considerably among developed nations. This article examines abortion and neonatal policy in four nations: Israel, the US, the UK and Denmark. In Israel, late-term abortion is permitted while non-treatment of newborns is prohibited. In the US, on the other hand, late-term abortion is severely restricted, while treatment to newborns may be withdrawn. Policy in the UK and Denmark bridges some of these gaps with liberal abortion and neonatal policy.
 
KIE The U.S. Supreme Court's July 1989 decision in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, while not overturning Roe v. Wade, extended the power of state and local governments to regulate abortion. Warren situates the Webster decision in a larger context of 19th and 20th century American anti-abortion legislation, the Court's 1973 Roe decision and its predecessors, and the anti-abortion campaign that followed Roe. She then discusses Webster and its legal, practical, and political implications, concluding that the future of legal abortion in the United States is radically uncertain.
 
Don Marquis argues that abortion is morally wrong in most cases since it deprives the fetus of the value of its future. I criticize Marquis's argument for the modified conservative view by adopting an argumentative strategy in which I work within his basic account: if it is granted that his fundamental idea is sound, what follows about the morality of abortion? I conclude that Marquis is faced with a dilemma: either his position must shift towards the extreme conservative view on which abortion is never morally permissible, or he must abandon any recognizably conservative view. This dilemma suggests that Marquis's view is either deeply implausible or that he cannot use this argument to successfully support his preferred position.
 
This is a reply to Don Marquis' "Why Abortion is Immoral." Marquis, who asserts that abortion is morally wrong, bases his argument on the following premise: Killing a being is morally wrong if that being is the sort of being who has a valuable future. I argue that this premise is false. I then assert that if I am correct about this premise being false, Marquis is faced with a dilemma. If he does not alter the premise in a way that makes it true, his argument is unsound. However, if he does make such an alteration, he must also alter a second premise in his argument, and this second change opens him to the charge of question begging. In addition, I conclude that such an alteration requires Marquis to adopt a position much like that taken by Judith J. Thompson in "A Defense of Abortion," a position he initially states is indefensible.
 
An obstacle to abortion exists in the form of abortion 'counselling' that discourages women from terminating their pregnancies. This counselling involves providing information about the procedure that tends to create feelings of guilt, anxiety and strong emotional reactions to the recognizable form of a human fetus. Instances of such counselling that involve false or misleading information are clearly unethical and do not prompt much philosophical reflection, but the prospect of truthful abortion counselling draws attention to a delicate issue for healthcare professionals seeking to respect patient autonomy. This is the fact that even accurate information about abortion procedures can have intimidating effects on women seeking to terminate a pregnancy. Consequently, a dilemma arises regarding the information that one ought to provide to patients considering an abortion: on the one hand, the mere offering of certain types of information can lead to intimidation; on the other hand, withholding information that some patients would consider relevant to their decision-making is objectionably paternalistic on any standard account of the physician-patient relationship. This is an unsettling conclusion for the possibility of setting fixed professional guidelines regarding the counselling offered to women who are considering abortion. Thus, abortion ought to be viewed as an illuminating example of a procedure for which the process of securing informed consent ought to be highly context-sensitive and responsive to the needs of each individual patient. This result underscores the need for health care professionals to cultivate trusting relationships with patients and to develop finely tuned powers of practical judgment.
 
This article reports the results of a survey, by mailed questionnaire, of the attitudes among a sample of the Danish population towards abortion for social and genetic reasons. Of 1080 questionnaires sent to a random sample of persons between 18 and 45 years, 731 (68%) were completed and returned. A great majority of the respondents were liberal towards early abortion both for social reasons and in case of minor disease. In contrast, there was controversy about late abortions for social reasons and in the case of Down syndrome. Further there was strong reluctance to accept late abortion in case of minor disease. An analysis of the response patterns showed that most of the respondents had gradualist views on abortion, i.e. they would allow all early abortions, but only abortions for some reasons later in pregnancy. It was also found that the number who would find an early abortion acceptable in general was much higher than the number who would accept it in their own case. These findings suggest that a great part of the resistance towards abortion does not rest on a concern for the rights and interests for the fetus. Instead it may be explained on a view according to which fetal life is ascribed intrinsic moral value.
 
In Life's Dominion Dworkin argues that the debate about abortion is habitually misconstrued. Substantial areas of agreement are overlooked, while areas of disagreement are, mistakenly, seen as central. If we uncover a truer picture, then hope of a certain accord may no longer seem vain. I dispute many of these claims. Dworkin argues that both sides in the debate are united in believing that life is sacred, or intrinsically valuable. I disagree. I maintain that only in a very attenuated sense of intrinsic value will this be agreed upon. I consider how an account of such value might be further fleshed out, but suggest, if this is done on any plausible lines, agreement will fall away. Dworkin argues, also, that the issue of personhood, does not, contrary to widespread belief, keep the parties apart. Again I disagree. We need to distinguish the question of whether there is in fact dispute over this issue from that of whether there is, in truth, good reason for dispute. And I argue that, rightly or wrongly, the issue of personhood remains central. Dworkin suggests that the purported proximity between the two sides offers some hope of an eventual reconciliation. At least, they will agree to differ, accepting that in this area freedom of choice is paramount. I am sceptical. Even this measure of reconciliation depends upon conservatives giving up positions which, I argue, they will continue to maintain. There is a further point. Dworkin appears to be, in many ways, cautiously optimistic. I appear, in contrast, to be pessimistic. I argue, however, that only so long as we do disagree over matters of substance is there much hope that our differences might be resolved.
 
The most plausible pro-life argument claims that abortion is seriously wrong because it deprives the foetus of something valuable. This paper examines two recent versions of this argument. Don Marquis's version takes the valuable thing to be a 'future like ours', a future containing valuable experiences and activities. Jim Stone's version takes the valuable thing to be a future containing conscious goods, which it is the foetus's biological nature to make itself have. I give three grounds for rejecting these arguments. First, they lead to unacceptable inequalities in the wrongness of killing. Second, they lead to counterintuitive results in a range of imaginary cases. Third, they ignore the role of psychological connectedness in determining the magnitude or seriousness of deprivation-based harms: because the foetus is only weakly psychologically connected to its own future, it cannot be seriously harmed by being deprived of that future.
 
I argue that David Boonin has failed in his attempt to undermine Donald Marquis's future-like-ours argument against abortion. I show that the ethical principle advanced by Boonin in his critique to that argument is unable, contrary to what he claims, to account for the wrongness of infanticide. Then I argue that Boonin's critique misrepresents Marquis's argument. Although there is a way to restate his critique in order to avoid the misrepresentation, the success of such restatement is precluded by the wrongness of infanticide.
 
When one thinks about the ethics of abortion, one inevitably thinks about rights, since it is in terms of the concept of rights that much of the debate has been conducted. This is true of overtly feminist as well as non-feminist accounts. Indeed, some early feminist writers – Judith Jarvis Thomson and Mary Ann Warren, for example – employ a model of rights that is indistinguishable, or virtually indistinguishable, from that of their non-feminist counterparts. However, more recent feminist writers have developed a different understanding of ‘a woman's right to choose.’ In this paper, I will begin by outlining the non-feminist debate over the moral permissibility of abortion. I will suggest that this debate is irresolvable, since at its heart is an ‘essentially contested concept’, that of personhood. I will then consider the way in which some feminist writers have attempted to reconceive the terms of the abortion debate and suggest an expanded account of women's right to abortion, drawing on the work of Susan Sherwin. Finally, I will argue that there is a further element to a ‘woman's right to choose’ that expands on and provides a conceptual link between the feminist and non-feminist understanding of abortion.
 
The contention that abortion harms women constitutes a new strategy employed by the pro-life movement to supplement arguments about fetal rights. David C. Reardon is a prominent promoter of this strategy. Post-abortion syndrome purports to establish that abortion psychologically harms women and, indeed, can harm persons associated with women who have abortions. Thus, harms that abortion is alleged to produce are multiplied. Claims of repression are employed to complicate efforts to disprove the existence of psychological harm and causal antecedents of trauma are only selectively investigated. We argue that there is no such thing as post-abortion syndrome and that the psychological harms Reardon and others claim abortion inflicts on women can usually be ascribed to different causes. We question the evidence accumulated by Reardon and his analysis of data accumulated by others. Most importantly, we question whether the conclusions Reardon has drawn follow from the evidence he cites.
 
The philosophical literature would have us believe that the conservative view on abortion is based on the claim that the fetus is a person from the time of conception. Given the widespread acceptance of this analysis, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that it conflicts with a number of major arguments offered in support of the conservative view. I argue, in the present paper, that a careful examination of these inconsistencies establishes that the personhood analysis is mistaken: the conservative view is based on the natural process of fetal development, not the personhood of the fetus.
 
Mary Anne Warren provides a well-known defense of the liberal position in the abortion debate, yet her argument is subject to the objection that it implies that infanticide is morally permissible. In a postscript to her original article, Warren argues that her position does not commit her to the moral acceptability of infanticide. I argue that the reasoning Warren presents in her postscript on infanticide undermines her original main argument in support of the liberal view: she cannot use this argument to both defend the liberal view on abortion and establish that infanticide is morally wrong.
 
Although a preference for sons is reportedly a universal phenomenon, in some Asian societies daughters are considered financial and cultural liabilities. Increasing availability of ultrasonography and amniocentesis has led to widespread gender screening and selective abortion of normal female foetuses in many countries, including India. Feminists have taken widely divergent positions on the morality of this practice. Feminists from India have strongly opposed it, considering it as a further disenfranchisement of females in their patriarchal society, and have agitated successfully for legislative prohibitions. Libertarian feminists on the other hand, primarily from the United States, have argued that any prohibition of the use of this technology is a curtailment of a woman's reproductive choices and a violation of her right to make autonomous decisions regarding procreation. Using India as an illustrative case, this paper argues that in the context of what prevails in some societies, an ethical argument that hinges on the principle of autonomy as understood in the West can be problematic. Furthermore, a liberal theoretical assumption that it is always better to have more rather than fewer choices may not hold up well against the realities of life for such women. Although feminists have little disagreement concerning substantive matters, it is in the area of strategy that differences of opinion have arisen, their moral reasoning and responses shaped by the culture, ethnicity, class and race to which they belong. A view that a single ‘orthodox’ feminism of any variety can embody the aspiration of all women reverts to the problematic issues in the evolution of the rationalistic, individualistic, ‘male’ ethics against which women have consistently raised objections.
 
In this paper we argue that sex-selective abortion (SSA) cannot be morally justified and that it should be prohibited. We present two main arguments against SSA. First, we present reasons why the decision for a woman to seek SSA in cultures with strong son-preference cannot be regarded as autonomous on either a narrow or a broad account of autonomy. Second, we identify serious harms associated with SSA including perpetuation of discrimination against women, disruption to social and familial networks, and increased violence against women. For these reasons, SSA should be prohibited by law, and such laws should be enforced. Finally, we describe additional strategies for decreasing son-preference. Some of these strategies rely upon highlighting the disadvantages of women becoming scarce, such as lack of brides and daughters-in-law to care for elderly parents. We should, however, be cautious not to perpetuate the view that the purpose of women is to be the consorts for, and carers of, men, and the providers of children. Arguments against SSA should be located within a concerted effort to ensure greater, deeper social and cultural equality between the sexes.
 
KIE In his 1970 book, The Morality of Abortion: Legal and Historical Perspectives (Harvard University Press), John T. Noonan argued that abortion is impermissible because of the great likelihood that fetuses will become moral agents that can feel and reason. He also implied that certain forms of contraception are morally permissible because of the small likelihood that spermatozoa will develop into thinking, feeling moral agents. Strasser contends that Noonan's reasoning is faulty in the case of abortion because he confuses the probability of killing a being that certainly has rights with the certainty of killing a being that will probably have rights and, in the case of contraception, because he argues as if the aim is to kill a single spermatozoan rather than all of the spermatozoa in an ejaculate.
 
By concentrating on abortion, the culture wars have avoided facing a crisis about the end of life. This paper explores four themes: (1) the technological transformation of birth and death into matters of decision, not matters of fact; (2) abortion as the nexus of Eros (sex) with Thanatos (death); (3) the real crisis, conveniently masked by our obsession with sex, looming at the end of life, not at its beginning; (4) the surplus-repression that protects us from assuming responsibility for choosing between life and death.
 
In ‘An Almost Absolute Value in History’ John T. Noonan criticizes several attempts to provide a criterion for when an entity deserves rights. These criteria, he argues are either arbitrary or lead to absurd consequence. Noonan proposes human conception as the criterion of rights, and justifies it by appeal to the sharp shift in probability, at conception, of becoming a being possessed of human reason. Conception, then, is when abortion becomes immoral. The article has an historical and a philosophical goal. The historical goal is to carefully present the probability argument in a charitable manner. The philosophical goal is to offer a unique criticism of Noonan's probability argument against abortion. I argue that, even on a very charitable reading of Noonan's argument for the conception criterion, this criterion is also susceptible to charges of arbitrariness and absurdity. Noonan's claim that probability shifts have anything to do with the moral rights of fetuses cannot be made coherent. I also show that there are problems with Noonan's assumptions about moral rights and the potential to become a being possessed of human reason.
 
Sex selection in India and China is fostered by a limiting social structure that disallows women from performing the roles that men perform, and relegates women to a lower status level. Individual parents and individual families benefit concretely from having a son born into the family, while society, and girls and women as a group, are harmed by the widespread practice of sex selection. Sex selection reinforces oppression of women and girls. Sex selection is best addressed by ameliorating the situations of women and girls, increasing their autonomy, and elevating their status in society. One might argue that restricting or prohibiting abortion, prohibiting sex selection, and prohibiting sex determination would eliminate sex selective abortion. But this decreases women's autonomy rather than increases it. Such practices will turn underground. Sex selective infanticide, and slower death by long term neglect, could increase. If abortion is restricted, the burden is placed on women seeking abortions to show that they have a legally acceptable or legitimate reason for a desired abortion, and this seriously limits women's autonomy. Instead of restricting abortion, banning sex selection, and sex determination, it is better to address the practice of sex selection by elevating the status of women and empowering women so that giving birth to a girl is a real and positive option, instead of a detriment to the parents and family as it is currently. But, if a ban on sex selective abortion or a ban on sex determination is indeed instituted, then wider social change promoting women's status in society should be instituted simultaneously.
 
Philosophical debate about the ethics of abortion has reached stalemate on two key issues. First, the claim that foetuses have moral standing that entitles them to protections for their lives has been neither convincingly established nor refuted. Second, the question of a pregnant woman's obligation to allow the gestating foetus the use of her body has not been resolved. Both issues are deadlocked because philosophers addressing them invariably rely on intuitions and analogies, and such arguments have weaknesses that make them unfit for resolving the abortion issue. Analogical arguments work by building a kind of consensus, and such a consensus is virtually unimaginable because (1) intuitions are revisable, and in the abortion debate there is great motive to revise them, (2) one's position on abortion influences judgments about other issues, making it difficult to leverage intuitions about other ethical questions into changing peoples' minds about abortion, and (3) the extent of shared values in the abortion debate is overstated. Arguments by analogy rely on an assumption of the commensurability of moral worldviews. But the abortion debate is currently unfolding in a context of genuinely incommensurable moral worldviews. The article ends by arguing that the default position must be to permit abortion as a consequence of the freedom of conscience protected in liberal societies.
 
Absolute needs (as against instrumental needs) are independent of the ends, goals and purposes of personal agents. Against the view that the only needs are instrumental needs, David Wiggins and Garrett Thomson have defended absolute needs on the grounds that the verb 'need' has instrumental and absolute senses. While remaining neutral about it, this article does not adopt that approach. Instead, it suggests that there are absolute biological needs. The absolute nature of these needs is defended by appeal to: their objectivity (as against mind-dependence); the universality of the phenomenon of needing across the plant and animal kingdoms; the impossibility that biological needs depend wholly upon the exercise of the abilities characteristic of personal agency; the contention that the possession of biological needs is prior to the possession of the abilities characteristic of personal agency. Finally, three philosophical usages of 'normative' are distinguished. On two of these, to describe a phenomenon or claim as 'normative' is to describe it as value-dependent. A description of a phenomenon or claim as 'normative' in the third sense does not entail such value-dependency, though it leaves open the possibility that value depends upon the phenomenon or upon the truth of the claim. It is argued that while survival needs (or claims about them) may well be normative in this third sense, they are normative in neither of the first two. Thus, the idea of absolute need is not inherently normative in either of the first two senses.
 
Predictive genetic testing may confront those affected with difficult life situations that they have not experienced before. These life situations may be interpreted as 'absurd'. In this paper we present a case study of a predictive test situation, showing the perspective of a woman going through the process of deciding for or against taking the test, and struggling with feelings of alienation. To interpret her experiences, we refer to the concept of absurdity, developed by the French Philosopher Albert Camus. Camus' writings on absurdity appear to resonate with patients' stories when they talk about their body and experiences of illness. In this paper we draw on Camus' philosophical essay 'The Myth of Sisyphus' (1942), and compare the absurd experiences of Sisyphus with the interviewee's story. This comparison opens up a field of ethical reflection. We demonstrate that Camus' concept of absurdity offers a new and promising approach to understanding the fragility of patients' situations, especially in the field of predictive testing. We show that people affected might find new meaning through narratives that help them to reconstruct the absurd without totally overcoming it. In conclusion, we will draw out some normative consequences of our narrative approach.
 
Defining a nonpaternalistic yet achievable form of trust in medicine in an era of simultaneous patient empowerment and institutional control has been and remains an important task of bioethics. The 'crisis of trust' in medicine has been viewed mainly as the problem of getting patients to trust their health care providers, especially physicians. However, since paradigmatic cases of trust are mutual, bioethicists must pay more attention to physician trust in patients. A physician's view of the reasonableness of trust in a particular patient is affected not just by his or her relationship with that patient, but also by what is going on institutionally, professionally, legally and politically with regard to a given treatment or intervention. Since general moral principles are insufficient in determining the moral value and reasonableness of trust in particular instances, I discuss in detail the role of trust and distrust in the specific case of treating patients with medications implicated in drug abuse. I conclude that it is important to become aware, first, of the clinical significance of physician trust and distrust in patients, and second, of the many factors which inform both of these moral attitudes. These two claims together suggest that a central, but overlooked, virtue of medical practice is reflective, context-responsive trust in patients.
 
In my commentary on Francesca Minerva's article 'New Threats to Academic Freedom', I agree with her contention that the existence of the Internet has given rise to new and very serious threats to academic freedom. I think that it is crucial that we confront those threats, and find ways to eliminate them, which I believe can be done. The threats in question involve both authors and editors. In the case of authors, I argue that the best solution is not anonymous publication, but publication using pseudonyms, and I describe how that would work. In the case of editors, my proposal is a website that a number of journals would have access to, where papers that editors judge to be clearly worthy of publication, but whose publication seems likely to set off a firestorm of public and media protest, could be published without any indication of the journal that had accepted the paper for publication.
 
Academic freedom is an important good, but it comes with several responsibilities. In this commentary we seek to do two things. First, we argue against Francesca Minerva's view of academic freedom as presented in her article 'New threats to academic freedom' on a number of grounds. We reject the nature of the absolutist moral claim to free speech for academics implicit in the article; we reject the elitist role for academics as truth-seekers explicit in her view; and we reject a possible more moderate re-construction of her view based on the harm/offence distinction. Second, we identify some of the responsibilities of applied ethicists, and illustrate how they recommend against allowing for anonymous publication of research. Such a proposal points to the wider perils of a public discourse which eschews the calm and careful discussion of ideas.
 
KIE The author describes the events surrounding his attempts to lecture on the subject of euthanasia in West Germany in June 1989. Singer, who defends the view that active euthanasia for some newborns with handicaps may be ethically permissible, had been invited to speak to professional and academic groups. Strong public protests against Singer and his topic led to the cancellation of some of his engagements, disruptions during others, and harrassment of the German academics who had invited him to speak. These incidents and the subject of euthanasia became matters of intense national debate in West Germany, but there was little public or academic support for Singer's right to be heard. Singer argues that bioethics and bioethicists must have the freedom to challenge conventional moral beliefs, and that the events in West Germany illustrate the grave danger to that freedom from religious and political intolerance.
 
Academic freedom can be defined as immunity against adverse reactions from the general public, designed to keep scholars unintimidated and productive even after they have published controversial ideas. Francesca Minerva claims that this notion of strict instrumental academic freedom is supported by Ronald Dworkin, and that anonymity would effectively defend the sphere of immunity implied by it. Against this, I argue that the idea defended by Minerva finds no support in the work by Dworkin referred to; that anonymity would not in most cases effectively protect the kind of immunity sought after; and that in some cases it would not even be desirable to protect scholars from public reactions to their controversial claims.
 
This article by one of the Editors of Bioethics, published in the 25th anniversary issue of the journal, describes some of the revolutionary changes academic publishing has undergone during the last decades. Many humanities journals went from typically small print-runs, counting by the hundreds, to on-line availability in thousands of university libraries worldwide. Article up-take by our subscribers can be measured efficiently. The implications of this and other changes to academic publishing are discussed. Important ethical challenges need to be addressed in areas such as the enforcement of plagiarism-related policies, the so-called 'impact factor' and its impact on academic integrity, and the question of whether on-line only publishing can currently guarantee the integrity of academic publishing histories.
 
An educated guess about the future of academic bioethics can only be made on the basis of the historical conditions of its success. According to its official history, which attributes its success primarily to the service it has done for the patient, it should be safe at least as long as the patient still needs its service. Like many other academic disciplines, it might suffer under the present economic downturn. However, in the plausible assumption that its social role has not been exhausted yet, it should recover as soon as the economy does. But if, as this paper tries to argue, the success of academic bioethics should be attributed first and foremost to the service it has done for the neoliberal agenda, then its future would have to depend on the fate of the latter. The exact implications of the downturn for the neoliberal agenda are obviously impossible to predict. Among the various options, however, the one of going back to ‘normal’ seems to be the least likely. The other options suggest that the future of academic bioethics, as we have known it, is bleak.
 
Using a specific case as an example, the article argues that the Internet allows dissemination of academic ideas to the general public in ways that can sometimes pose a threat to academic freedom. Since academic freedom is a fundamental element of academia and since it benefits society at large, it is important to safeguard it. Among measures that can be taken in order to achieve this goal, the publication of anonymous research seems to be a good option.
 
Several speculations on the reasoning for the lack of performance of organ transplants from brain-dead donors in Japan for the last 8 months since the official acceptance of the recent Final Report will be presented. Such obstinate reluctance shown by the Japanese population against organ transplantation from brain-dead donors is certainly an unusual situation. There must be definitely some serious reasons underlying it. No one seems, however, to be able to pinpoint them, although there have been several speculations. The main purpose of my paper today concerns "Why many Japanese do not accept 'brain death' as a definition of death of a person".
 
Background: Some members of the general public feel that patients who cause their own organ failure through smoking, alcohol use, or drug use should not receive equal priority for scarce transplantable organs. This may reflect a belief that these patients (1) cause their own illness, (2) have poor transplant prognoses or, (3) are simply unworthy. We explore the role that social acceptability, personal responsibility, and prognosis play in people's judgments about transplant allocation.Methods: By random allocation, we presented 283 prospective jurors in Philadelphia county with one of five questionnaire versions. In all questionnaires, subjects were asked to distribute transplantable hearts between patients with and without a history of three controversial behaviors (eating high fat diets against doctors’ advice, cigarette smoking, or intravenous drug use). Across the five questionnaire versions, we varied the relative prognosis of the transplant candidates and whether their behavior caused their primary organ Results: Subjects were significantly less willing to distribute organs to intravenous drug users than to cigarette smokers or people eating high fat diets (p le; 0.0005), even when intravenous drug users had better transplant outcomes than other patients. Subjects’ allocation decisions were influenced by transplant prognosis, but not by whether the behavior in question was causally responsible for the patients’ organ failure.Conclusion: People's unwillingness to give scarce transplantable organs to patients with controversial behaviors cannot be explained totally on the basis of those behaviors either causing their primary organ failure or making them have worse transplant prognoses. Instead, many people believe that such patients are simply less worthy of scarce transplantable organs.
 
Top-cited authors
Julian Savulescu
  • University of Oxford
John Harris
  • The University of Manchester
Samia A Hurst
  • University of Geneva
Bert Molewijk
  • Amsterdam University Medical Center
Guy A M Widdershoven
  • Amsterdam University Medical Center