Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, philosophy and health care

Monday, September 25, 2017

Science debate: Should we embrace an enhanced future?

Alexander Lees
Originally posted September 9, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

Are we all enhanced?

Most humans are now enhanced to be resistant to many infectious diseases. Vaccination is human enhancement. Apart from "anti-vaxxers" - as those who lobby against childhood inoculations are often dubbed - most of us are content to participate. And society as a whole benefits from being free of those diseases.

So what if we took that a pharmaceutical step further. What if, as well as vaccines against polio, mumps, measles, rubella and TB, everyone also "upgraded" by taking drugs to modify their behaviour? Calming beta-blocker drugs could reduce aggression - perhaps even helping to diffuse racial tension. Or what if we were all prescribed the hormone oxytocin, a substance known to enhance social and family bonds - to just help us all just get along a little better.

Would society function better with these chemical tweaks? And might those who opt out become pariahs for not helping to build a better world - for not wanting to be "vaccinated" against anti-social behaviours?

And what if such chemical upgrades could not be made available to everyone, because of cost or scarcity? Should they be available to no one? An enhanced sense of smell might be useful for a career in wine tasting but not perhaps in rubbish disposal.

A case in point is military research - an arm of which is already an ongoing transhumanism experiment.

Many soldiers on the battlefield routinely take pharmaceuticals as cognitive enhancers to reduce the need to sleep and increase the ability to operate under stress. High tech exoskeletons, increasing strength and endurance, are no longer the realms of science fiction and could soon be in routine military use.

The article is here.

New class of drugs targets aging to help keep you healthy

Jacqueline Howard
Originally published September 5, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

"In the coming decades, I believe that health care will be transformed by this class of medicine and a whole set of diseases that your parents and grandparents have will be things you only see in movies or read in books, things like age-associated arthritis," said David, whose company was not involved in the new paper.

Yet he cautioned that, while many more studies may be on the horizon for senolytic drugs, some might not be successful.

"One thing that people tend to do is, they tend to overestimate things in the short run but then underestimate things in the long run, and I think that, like many fields, this suffers from that as well," David said.

"It will take a while," he said. "I think it's important to recognize that a drug discovery is among the most important of all human activities ... but it takes time, and there must be a recognition of that, and it takes patience."

The article is here.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Ethics experts say Trump administration far from normal

Rachael Seeley Flores
The Center for Public Integrity
Originally published September 23, 2017

President Donald Trump’s young administration has already sharply diverged from the ethical norms that typically govern the executive branch, exposing vulnerabilities in the system, a small group of ethics experts and former government officials agreed Saturday.

The consensus emerged at a panel titled “Trump, Ethics and the Law” at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas. The panel was moderated by Dave Levinthal, a senior reporter at the Center for Public Integrity.

“There have been untidy administrations in the past, but usually it takes a while to see these things develop,” said Ken Starr, a lawyer and judge who served as solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush and is best known for heading the investigation that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Ethics laws are based on the idea that norms will be followed, said Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE).

“When they’re not followed, we suddenly discover how completely vulnerable our system is,” Shaub said.

The article is here.

The Bush Torture Scandal Isn’t Over

Daniel Engber
Originally published September 5, 2017

In June, a little-known academic journal called Teaching of Psychology published an article about the American Psychological Association’s role in the U.S. government’s war on terror and the interrogation of military detainees. Mitchell Handelsman’s seven-page paper, called “A Teachable Ethics Scandal,” suggested that the seemingly cozy relationship between APA officials and the Department of Defense might be used to illustrate numerous psychological concepts for students including obedience, groupthink, terror management theory, group influence, and motivation.

By mid-July, Teaching of Psychology had taken steps to retract the paper. The thinking that went into that decision reveals a disturbing under-covered coda to a scandal that, for a time, was front-page news. In July 2015, then–APA President Nadine Kaslow apologized for the organization’s involvement in Bush-era enhanced interrogations. “This bleak chapter in our history,” she said, speaking for a group with more than 100,000 members and a nine-figure budget, “occurred over a period of years and will not be resolved in a matter of months.” Two years later, the APA’s attempt to turn the page has devolved into a vicious internecine battle in which former association presidents have taken aim at one another. At issue is the question of who (if anyone) should be blamed for giving the Bush administration what’s been called a “green light” to torture detainees—and when the APA will ever truly get past this scandal.

The article is here.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Why Buddhism is True with Robert Wright

Scott Barry Kaufman
The Psychology Podcast
August 13, 2017

This week we’re excited to have Robert Wright on The Psychology Podcast. Robert is the New York Times best-selling author of Nonzero, The Moral Animal, The Evolution of God, and most recently Why Buddhism is True. He has also written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Time, Slate, and The New Republic, and has taught at The University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, where he also created the online course Buddhism and Modern Psychology. Robert draws on his wide-ranging knowledge of science, religion, psychology, history and politics to figure out what makes humanity tick.

Note from John: If you are a psychologist and cannot read Why Buddhism is True, then this is your next best option.  This book is really good and I highly recommend it.

Tom Price Flies Blind on Ethics

Bloomberg View
Originally published September 21, 2017

Under the lax ethical standards President Donald Trump brought to the White House, rampant conflicts of interest are treated with casual indifference. This disregard has sent a message to his entire administration that blurring lines -- between public and private, right and wrong -- will be not just tolerated but defended. At least one cabinet member appears to have taken the message to heart.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took five chartered flights last week, including one to a conference at a resort in Maine. Two of the flights -- round-trip from Washington to Philadelphia -- probably cost about $25,000, or roughly $24,750 more than the cost of an Amtrak ticket, for a trip that would have taken roughly the same amount of time. Total costs for the five flights are estimated to be at least $60,000.

The department has yet to reveal how many times Price has flown by charter since being sworn into office. There would be no problem were he picking up the tab himself, as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reportedly does. But cabinet secretaries -- other than for the Defense and State departments, who often ride in military planes -- typically fly commercial. Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for charters except in emergency situations.

The article is here.

Friday, September 22, 2017

I Lie? We Lie! Why? Experimental Evidence on a Dishonesty Shift in Groups

Kocher, Martin G. and Schudy, Simeon and Spantig, Lisa
CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6008.


Unethical behavior such as dishonesty, cheating and corruption occurs frequently in organizations or groups. Recent experimental evidence suggests that there is a stronger inclination to behave immorally in groups than individually. We ask if this is the case, and if so, why. Using a parsimonious laboratory setup, we study how individual behavior changes when deciding as a group member. We observe a strong dishonesty shift. This shift is mainly driven by communication within groups and turns out to be independent of whether group members face payoff commonality or not (i.e., whether other group members benefit from one’s lie). Group members come up with and exchange more arguments for being dishonest than for complying with the norm of honesty. Thereby, group membership shifts the perception of the validity of the honesty norm and of its distribution in the population.

The article is here.

3D bioprint me: a socioethical view of bioprinting human organs and tissues

Vermeulen N, Haddow G, Seymour T, et al
Journal of Medical Ethics 2017;43:618-624.


In this article, we review the extant social science and ethical literature on three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting. 3D bioprinting has the potential to be a ‘game-changer’, printing human organs on demand, no longer necessitating the need for living or deceased human donation or animal transplantation. Although the technology is not yet at the level required to bioprint an entire organ, 3D bioprinting may have a variety of other mid-term and short-term benefits that also have positive ethical consequences, for example, creating alternatives to animal testing, filling a therapeutic need for minors and avoiding species boundary crossing. Despite a lack of current socioethical engagement with the consequences of the technology, we outline what we see as some preliminary practical, ethical and regulatory issues that need tackling. These relate to managing public expectations and the continuing reliance on technoscientific solutions to diseases that affect high-income countries. Avoiding prescribing a course of action for the way forward in terms of research agendas, we do briefly outline one possible ethical framework ‘Responsible Research Innovation’ as an oversight model should 3D bioprinting promises are ever realised. 3D bioprinting has a lot to offer in the course of time should it move beyond a conceptual therapy, but is an area that requires ethical oversight and regulation and debate, in the here and now. The purpose of this article is to begin that discussion.

The article is here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017