G. Owen Schaefer

G. Owen Schaefer
National University of Singapore | NUS · Centre for Biomedical Ethics

DPhil in Philosophy

About

66
Publications
28,336
Reads
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828
Citations
Introduction
G. Owen Schaefer currently works at the Centre for Biomedical Ethics, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. He works primarily on the ethics of developing novel biotechnologies. This includes research ethics, big data precision medicine, human enhancement and in vitro fertilization.
Additional affiliations
August 2015 - July 2017
National University of Singapore
Position
  • Research Associate
April 2014 - July 2015
University of Oxford
Position
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate (Neuroethics)
September 2008 - August 2010
National Institutes of Health, Clinical Center
Position
  • PhD Student
Education
October 2012 - June 2014
University of Oxford
Field of study
  • Philosophy
October 2010 - June 2012
University of Oxford
Field of study
  • Philosophy
September 2004 - June 2008
Princeton University
Field of study
  • Philosophy

Publications

Publications (66)
Article
Full-text available
High degrees of uncertainty and a lack of effective therapeutic treatments have characterized the COVID-19 pandemic and the provision of drug products outside research settings has been controversial. International guidelines for providing patients with experimental interventions to treat infectious diseases outside of clinical trials exist but it...
Article
The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) is a multistakeholder initiative quickly constructed in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic to respond to a catastrophic breakdown in global cooperation. ACT-A is now the largest international effort to achieve equitable access to COVID-19 health technologies, and its governance is a matter of...
Article
COVID-19 vaccines are likely to be scarce for years to come. Many countries, from India to the U.K., have demonstrated vaccine nationalism. What are the ethical limits to this vaccine nationalism? Neither extreme nationalism nor extreme cosmopolitanism is ethically justifiable. Instead, we propose the fair priority for residents (FPR) framework, in...
Article
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Background: Precision medicine (PM) programs typically use broad consent. This approach requires maintenance of the social license and public trust. The ultimate success of PM programs will thus likely be contingent upon understanding public expectations about data sharing and establishing appropriate governance structures. There is a lack of data...
Article
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With the development of practical means of human germline genome editing (HGGE) in recent years, there have been calls for stricter regulation and oversight over HGGE interventions with potential for heritable changes in the germline. An international moratorium has been advocated. We examine the practicality of such a proposal, as well as of a reg...
Article
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Much has been written about gene modifying technologies (GMTs), with a particularly strong focus on human germline genome editing (HGGE) sparked by its unprecedented clinical research application in 2018, shocking the scientific community. This paper applies political, ethical, and social lenses to aspects of HGGE to uncover previously underexplore...
Article
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Altering the human epigenome with gene-editing technology in attempt to treat a variety of diseases and conditions seems scientifically feasible. We explore some of the ethical and regulatory issues related to the clinical translation of human epigenetic editing arguing that such approaches should be considered akin to somatic therapies.
Article
Full-text available
In November 2018 the birth of the first genome-edited human beings was announced by Chinese scientist, He Jiankui. The ensuing ethical controversy, institutional investigations and legal proceedings led to the revision of standards, rules and procedures at many levels. Arguably, however, these developments have not fundamentally changed the conditi...
Article
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The success of digital COVID-19 contact tracing requires a strategy that successfully addresses the digital divide—inequitable access to technology such as smartphones. Lack of access both undermines the degree of social benefit achieved by the use of tracing apps, and exacerbates existing social and health inequities because those who lack access...
Article
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Background Biomedical research is overseen by numerous Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) in Singapore but there has been no research that examines how the research review process is perceived by the local research community nor is there any systematic data on perceptions regarding the review process or other research ethics processes and IRB chara...
Article
In their response to ‘Public interest in health data research: laying out the conceptual groundwork’, Grewal and Newson critique us for inattention to the law and putting forward an impracticably broad conceptual understanding of public interest. While we agree more work is needed to generate a workable framework for Institutional Review Boards/Res...
Article
Full-text available
Background We aimed to examine the ethical concerns Singaporeans have about sharing health-data for precision medicine (PM) and identify suggestions for governance strategies. Just as Asian genomes are under-represented in PM, the views of Asian populations about the risks and benefits of data sharing are under-represented in prior attitudinal rese...
Article
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Recent reporting found that a number of scientists internationally knew about the experiment resulting in the birth of the first gene-edited babies well before the news broke. Because scientists have a responsibility to reveal such activities, an international governance mechanism for reporting unethical gene editing experiments should be establish...
Article
Full-text available
In November 2018 the birth of the first genome-edited human beings was announced. The ensuing ethical controversy, institutional investigations and legal proceedings led to the revision of standards, rules and procedures at many levels. Arguably, however, these developments have not fundamentally changed the conditions or the culture that nourished...
Article
Full-text available
The Fair Priority Model offers a practical way to fulfill pledges to distribute vaccine fairly and equitably.
Article
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It has recently been argued that reproductive genetic manipulation technologies like mitochondrial replacement and germline CRISPR modifications cannot be said to save anyone’s life because, counterfactually, no one would suffer more or die sooner absent the intervention. The present article argues that, on the contrary, reproductive genetic manipu...
Article
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Regrettably, in the original version of this article the name of one of the authors was spelt incorrectly. "Li Yan Hsu" should be "Li Yang Hsu"
Article
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While a human challenge study holds the prospect of accelerating the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, it may be opposed due to risks of harm to participants and researchers. Given the increasing number of human deaths and severe disruption to lives worldwide, we argue that a SARS-CoV-2 challenge study is ethically justifiabl...
Article
The COVID-19 pandemic has both exposed and created deep rifts in society. It has thrust us into deep ethical thinking to help justify the difficult decisions many will be called upon to make and to protect from decisions that lack ethical underpinnings. This paper aims to highlight ethical issues in six different areas of life highlighting the enor...
Article
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The future of health research will be characterised by three continuing trends: rising demand for health data; increasing impracticability of obtaining specific consent for secondary research; and decreasing capacity to effectively anonymise data. In this context, governments, clinicians and the research community must demonstrate that they can be...
Article
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Given the sordid history of injustices linking genetics to race and ethnicity, considerations of justice are central to ensuring the responsible development of precision medicine programmes around the world. While considerations of justice may be in tension with other areas of concern, such as scientific value or privacy, there are also tensions be...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: We aimed to examine the ethical concerns Singaporeans have about sharing health-data for precision medicine (PM) and identify suggestions for governance strategies. Just as Asian genomes are under-represented in PM, the views of Asian populations about the risks and benefits of data sharing are under-represented in prior attitudinal res...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background We aimed to examine the ethical concerns Singaporeans have about sharing health-data for precision medicine (PM) and identify suggestions for governance strategies. Just as Asian genomes are under-represented in PM, the views of Asian populations about the risks and benefits of data sharing are under-represented in prior attitudinal rese...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background We aimed to examine the ethical concerns Singaporeans have about sharing health-data for precision medicine (PM) and identify suggestions for governance strategies. Just as Asian genomes are under-represented in PM, the views of Asian populations about the risks and benefits of data sharing are under-represented in prior attitudinal rese...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Several jurisdictions, including Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and most recently Ireland, have a public interest or public good criterion for granting waivers of consent in biomedical research using secondary health data or tissue. However, the concept of the public interest is not well defined in this context, which creates diffic...
Chapter
Deciding how best to deal with unsought diagnostic or prognostic information provided by NGS techniques is one of the key issues for viable translation of genomics into clinical practice. The ACMG list of secondary findings is one strategy for resolving the issue of how to deal with “additional” genomic findings in adult care, but it is not the onl...
Article
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Ethical decision-making frameworks assist in identifying the issues at stake in a particular setting and thinking through, in a methodical manner, the ethical issues that require consideration as well as the values that need to be considered and promoted. Decisions made about the use, sharing, and re-use of big data are complex and laden with value...
Article
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As opposed to a ‘one size fits all’ approach, precision medicine uses relevant biological (including genetic), medical, behavioural and environmental information about a person to further personalize their healthcare. This could mean better prediction of someone’s disease risk and more effective diagnosis and treatment if they have a condition. Big...
Article
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Article
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While philosophers are often concerned with the conditions for moral knowledge or justification, in practice something arguably less demanding is just as, if not more, important – reliably making correct moral judgments. Judges and juries should hand down fair sentences, government officials should decide on just laws, members of ethics committees...
Article
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Mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) requires oocytes of women whose mitochondrial DNA will be transmitted to resultant children. These techniques are scientifically, ethically and socially controversial; it is likely that some women who donate their oocytes for general in vitro fertilisation usage would nevertheless oppose their genetic materia...
Article
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Individual health assessments (IHAs) for asymptomatic individuals provide a challenge to traditional distinctions between patient care and non-medical practice. They may involve undue radiation exposure, lead to false positives, and involve high out-of-pocket costs for recipients. A recent paper (Journal of the American College of Radiology 13(12):...
Article
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During the course of biomedical research, researchers sometimes obtain information on participants that is outside the aim of the study but may nonetheless be relevant to the participants. These incidental findings, as they are known, have been the focus of a substantial amount of discussion in the bioethics literature, and a consensus has begun to...
Article
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The predominant view is that a study using health data is observational research and should require individual consent unless it can be shown that gaining consent is impractical. But recent arguments have been made that citizens have an ethical obligation to share their health information for research purposes. In our view, this obligation is suffi...
Article
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With the recent report of a life birth after use of Mitochondrial replacement therapy, sometimes called ‘Three-parent IVF’, the clinical application of the technique is fast becoming a reality. While the United Kingdom allows the procedure under regulatory scrutiny, it remains effectively outlawed in many other countries. We argue that such prohibi...
Article
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Making more moral decisions—an uncontroversial goal, if ever there was one. But how are we to go about it? In this article, we offer a practical guide on ways to promote good judgment in our personal and professional lives. We do this not by outlining what the good life consists in or which values we should accept. We must all decide for ourselves...
Article
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It is generally unquestioned that human subjects research review boards should assess the ethical acceptability of protocols. It says so right on the tin, after all: they are explicitly called research ethics committees in the UK. But it is precisely those sorts of unchallenged assumptions that should, from time to time, be assessed and critiqued,...
Conference Paper
Multiple clinical, business and operational use cases from Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems has resulted in the availability of large quantities of longitudinal data. The secondary use of these data for research provides opportunities to generate insights that can help shape the design and delivery of health care services. Methods that allow...
Article
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Moral enhancement is an ostensibly laudable project. Who wouldn’t want people to become more moral? Still, the project’s approach is crucial. We can distinguish between two approaches for moral enhancement: direct and indirect. Direct moral enhancements aim at bringing about particular ideas, motives or behaviors. Indirect moral enhancements, by co...
Article
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What role should legislation or policy play in avoiding the complications of in-vitro fertilization? In this article, we focus on single versus double embryo transfer, and assess three arguments in favour of mandatory single embryo transfer: risks to the mother, risks to resultant children, and costs to society. We highlight significant ethical con...
Article
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Some have objected to human enhancement on the grounds that it violates the autonomy of the enhanced. These objections, however, overlook the interesting possibility that autonomy itself could be enhanced. How, exactly, to enhance autonomy is a difficult problem due to the numerous and diverse accounts of autonomy in the literature. Existing accoun...
Article
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The prospect of consumable meat produced in a laboratory setting without the need to raise and slaughter animals is both realistic and exciting. Not only could such in vitro meat become popular due to potential cost savings, but it also avoids many of the ethical and environmental problems with traditional meat productions. However, as with any new...
Article
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One of three commentaries on "Scholarly Discussion of Infanticide?" by Mirko D. Garasic, and "Reflections from a Troubled Stream: Giubilini and Minerva on 'After-Birth Abortion,'" by Michael Hauskeller, from the July-August 2012 issue.
Article
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To understand whether and to what extent U.S. IVF clinics inform egg donors that resultant embryos initially intended to be implanted for reproductive purposes may in fact be used for research instead. Four hundred seventy U.S. IVF clinics were asked to respond to a questionnaire and provide a copy of the egg donor consent form(s) used at the clini...
Article
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The right to withdraw from participation in research is recognized in virtually all national and international guidelines for research on human subjects. It is therefore surprising that there has been little justification for that right in the literature. We argue that the right to withdraw should protect research participants from information imba...
Article
In Reply: We agree with Ms Greene and colleagues that physicians may have obligations to participate in research and also to encourage patients to enter research even if doing so is somewhat burdensome. We appreciate this addition to our view.Dr Katz contends that the obligation to participate in research studies can vary depending on the clinical...
Article
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The current prevailing view is that participation in biomedical research is above and beyond the call of duty. While some commentators have offered reasons against this, we propose a novel public goods argument for an obligation to participate in biomedical research. Biomedical knowledge is a public good, available to any individual even if that in...

Questions

Questions (2)
Question
This came up in a Facebook comment thread, and it'd be helpful to get wider input:
Malicious hackers have released data from around 32 million users of the Ashley Madison site (a dating site for married people).  This includes names, addresses, profile information, and purchase from Ashley Madison. Getting reliable info on adultery is notoriously difficult, so researchers may want to analyze the data and publish findings on causes/correlates of adultery.  But would using the data for research without consent be (A) Legal, (B) institutionally permissible (i.e., would IRB/RECs approve), and/or (C) morally permissible?
The big wrinkle for A and B (which may vary by country/ institution) is that the data is publicly available, thereby appearing to be exempt from many research regulations, including consent.   But the law and morality often come apart.  FWIW, journalists seem to have no qualms in publishing quick-and-dirty analyses of the data - but journalists are hardly the arbiters of morality.
If there's an existing lit on this (use of stolen publicly available data in research) links would be useful.  If not, we research ethicists should get cracking!
Question
Steven Pinker recently wrote an op-ed arguing bioethicists should 'get out of the way' of biomedical progress. (https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/07/31/the-moral-imperative-for-bioethics/JmEkoyzlTAu9oQV76JrK9N/story.html)  He seems to be worried that the research ethics pendulum has swung too far in the 'protectionism' direction, delaying the development of numerous life-saving and life-improving interventions.  But is he right?  Pinker is light on the details, but are there topics or subfields where his criticisms are particularly apt?

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Projects

Projects (4)
Project
One of my main areas of work today is in Research Ethics, and I have written a variety of articles on the topic over the years. At present, I am working on incidental findings and the sharing of data (particularly genetic) for research purposes. I have completed a focus group on those topics that will serve as the basis for policy recommendations, and will conduct a local survey soon.
Archived project
My doctoral thesis and a series of articles from my time at Oxford looked at various aspects of human enhancement, particularly moral enhancement. I generally favor a more procedural approach to improving capacities. This project is marked 'completed' because I currently do not have specific papers in the pipeline, but I may revisit this topic later on.