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

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Jared and Ivanka are failing a basic moral test

Lev Golinkin
CNN.com
Originally published August 20, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

But the silence emanating from Jared and Ivanka was exponentially more powerful than any I'd heard before. To me, as a Jew, seeing nothing but two tweets from Ivanka brought the kind of pain I'm sure is echoed by African-Americans anytime Ben Carson defends the President, and Asian-Americans in the wake of Elaine Chao's and Nikki Haley's equivocations: condemning hate in general terms while carefully avoiding criticizing the very administration they're part of.

No press conference was forthcoming, no rejection of Donald Trump's words; there was no statement from Jared about the horror his grandparents had survived; nothing from Ivanka, who had spoken about standing up for mothers on the campaign trail, about defending today's Jewish children -- her children; indeed all children -- from intimidation and violence. There was nothing, but the sound of steady clicking on Ivanka's electronic device as she wrote two tweets.

It was like listening to the fabric of Judaism tear at itself.

Beneath Jewish rituals, customs and rules lies a simple and sacred idea: preserving the sanctity of life. It's why the ill are absolved from fasting on days of penance. It's why the no-electricity, no-work rules of Shabbat go out the window the moment a life-threatening emergency hits. In fact, it's considered a grave sin to put someone at risk by blindly keeping the Sabbath, for it places righteousness above humanity. This ethical focus on preserving life is the substrate of Judaism, first, last and always.

The opinion piece is here.

Informed-consent ruling may have “far-reaching, negative impact”

Andis Robeznieks
AMA Wire
Originally published August 8, 2017

Here are two excerpts:

A lawsuit alleging Dr. Toms had not obtained informed consent was initiated by Shinal and her husband on Dec. 17, 2009. The brief notes that Shinal “did not assert that the harm was the result of negligence” and that “there is no contention” that Dr. Toms’ staff provided inaccurate information during the informed consent process.

A jury found for Dr. Toms. Shinal appealed and the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the decision. The case was heard before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in November 2016. The case was decided June 20.

According to Wecht, a key issue is “whether the trial court misapplied the common law and the MCARE Act when it instructed the jury that it could consider information provided to Mrs. Shinal by Dr. Toms' ‘qualified staff’ in deciding whether Dr. Toms obtained Mrs. Shinal's informed consent to aggressive brain surgery.”

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PAMED General Counsel Angela Boateng also weighed in.

“It was not uncommon for other qualified staff to assist a physician in providing the requisite information or answering follow-up questions a patient may have had. The Medical Practice Act and other professional regulations permitted this level of assistance,” she commented. “The patient’s ability to follow up with the physician or his qualified staff was usually aimed at promoting a patient’s understanding of the treatment or procedure to be completed. The court’s decision, however, has put an end to this practice.”

The article is here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Burnout at Work Isn’t Just About Exhaustion. It’s Also About Loneliness

Emma Seppala and Marissa King
Harvard Business Review
First published June 29, 2017

More and more people are feeling tired and lonely at work. In analyzing the General Social Survey of 2016, we found that, compared with roughly 20 years ago, people are twice as likely to report that they are always exhausted. Close to 50% of people say they are often or always exhausted due to work. This is a shockingly high statistic — and it’s a 32% increase from two decades ago. What’s more, there is a significant correlation between feeling lonely and work exhaustion: The more people are exhausted, the lonelier they feel.

This loneliness is not a result of social isolation, as you might think, but rather is due to the emotional exhaustion of workplace burnout. In researching the book The Happiness Track, we found that 50% of people — across professions, from the nonprofit sector to the medical field — are burned out. This isn’t just a problem for busy, overworked executives (though the high rates of loneliness and burnout among this group are well known). Our work suggests that the problem is pervasive across professions and up and down corporate hierarchies.

Loneliness, whether it results from social isolation or exhaustion, has serious consequences for individuals. John Cacioppo, a leading expert on loneliness and coauthor of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, emphasizes its tremendous impact on psychological and physical health and longevity. Research by Sarah Pressman, of the University of California, Irvine, corroborates his work and demonstrates that while obesity reduces longevity by 20%, drinking by 30%, and smoking by 50%, loneliness reduces it by a whopping 70%. In fact, one study suggests that loneliness increases your chance of stroke or coronary heart disease — the leading cause of death in developed countries — by 30%. On the other hand, feelings of social connection can strengthen our immune system, lengthen our life, and lower rates of anxiety and depression.

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process: Publisher won’t retract two papers, despite university’s request

Alison McCook
Retraction Watch
Originally published August 4, 2017

Jens Förster, a high-profile social psychologist, has agreed to retract multiple papers following an institutional investigation — but has also fought to keep some papers intact. Recently, one publisher agreed with his appeal, and announced it would not retract two of his papers, despite the recommendation of his former employer.

Last month, the American Psychological Association (APA) announced it would not retract two papers co-authored by Förster, which the University of Amsterdam had recommended for retraction in May, 2015. The APA had followed the university’s advice last year and retracted two other papers, which Förster had agreed to as part of a settlement with the German Society for Psychology (DGPs). But after multiple appeals by Förster and his co-authors, the publisher has decided to retain the papers as part of the scientific record.

The information is here.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The ethics of creating GMO humans

The Editorial Board
The Los Angeles Times
Originally posted August 3, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

But there is also a great deal we still don’t know about how minor issues might become major ones as people pass on edited DNA to their offspring, and as people who have had some genes altered reproduce with people who have had other genes altered. We’ve seen how selectively breeding to produce one trait can unexpectedly produce other, less desirable outcomes. Remember how growers were able to create tomatoes that were more uniformly red, but in the process, they turned off the gene that gave tomatoes flavor?

Another major issue is the ethics of adjusting humans genetically to fit a favored outcome. Today it’s heritable disease, but what might be seen as undesirable traits in the future that people might want to eliminate? Short stature? Introverted personality? Klutziness?

To be sure, it’s not as though everyone is likely to line up for gene-edited offspring rather than just having babies, at least for the foreseeable future. The procedure can be performed only on in vitro embryos and requires precision timing.

The article is here.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The role of empathy in experiencing vicarious anxiety

Shu, J., Hassell, S., Weber, J., Ochsner, K. N., & Mobbs, D. (2017).
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146(8), 1164-1188.

Abstract

With depictions of others facing threats common in the media, the experience of vicarious anxiety may be prevalent in the general population. However, the phenomenon of vicarious anxiety—the experience of anxiety in response to observing others expressing anxiety—and the interpersonal mechanisms underlying it have not been fully investigated in prior research. In 4 studies, we investigate the role of empathy in experiencing vicarious anxiety, using film clips depicting target victims facing threats. In Studies 1 and 2, trait emotional empathy was associated with greater self-reported anxiety when observing target victims, and with perceiving greater anxiety to be experienced by the targets. Study 3 extended these findings by demonstrating that trait empathic concern—the tendency to feel concern and compassion for others—was associated with experiencing vicarious anxiety, whereas trait personal distress—the tendency to experience distress in stressful situations—was not. Study 4 manipulated state empathy to establish a causal relationship between empathy and experience of vicarious anxiety. Participants who took an empathic perspective when observing target victims, as compared to those who took an objective perspective using reappraisal-based strategies, reported experiencing greater anxiety, risk-aversion, and sleep disruption the following night. These results highlight the impact of one’s social environment on experiencing anxiety, particularly for those who are highly empathic. In addition, these findings have implications for extending basic models of anxiety to incorporate interpersonal processes, understanding the role of empathy in social learning, and potential applications for therapeutic contexts.

The article is here.

CIA Psychologists Settle Torture Case Acknowledging Abuses

Peter Blumberg and Pamela Maclean
Bloomberg News
Originally published August 17, 2017

Two U.S. psychologists who helped design an overseas CIA interrogation program agreed to settle claims they were responsible for the torture of terrorism suspects, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case.

The ACLU called the accord “historic” because it’s the first CIA-linked torture case of its kind that wasn’t dismissed, but said in a statement the terms of the settlement are confidential.

The case, which was set for a U.S. trial starting Sept. 5, focused on alleged abuses in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at secret “black-site” facilities that operated under President George W. Bush. The lawsuit followed the 2014 release of a congressional report on Central Intelligence Agency interrogation techniques.

The claims against the psychologists, who worked as government contractors, were filed on behalf of two suspected enemy combatants who were later released and a third who died in custody as a result of hypothermia during his captivity. All three men were interrogated at a site in Afghanistan, according to the ACLU.

ACLU lawyer Dror Ladin has said the case was a novel attempt to use the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act to fix blame on U.S. citizens for human-rights violations committed abroad, unlike previous cases brought against foreigners.

The article is here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Psychologists surveyed hundreds of alt-right supporters. The results are unsettling.

Brian Resnick
Vox.com
Originally posted August 15, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

The alt-right scores high on dehumanization measures

One of the starkest, darkest findings in the survey comes from a simple question: How evolved do you think other people are?

Kteily, the co-author on this paper, pioneered this new and disturbing way to measure dehumanization — the tendency to see others as being less than human. He simply shows study participants the following (scientifically inaccurate) image of a human ancestor slowly learning how to stand on two legs and become fully human.

Participants are asked to rate where certain groups fall on this scale from 0 to 100. Zero is not human at all; 100 is fully human.

On average, alt-righters saw other groups as hunched-over proto-humans.

On average, they rated Muslims at a 55.4 (again, out of 100), Democrats at 60.4, black people at 64.7, Mexicans at 67.7, journalists at 58.6, Jews at 73, and feminists at 57. These groups appear as subhumans to those taking the survey. And what about white people? They were scored at a noble 91.8. (You can look through all the data here.)

The article is here.

Trump fails morality test on Charlottesville

John Kass
Chicago Tribune
Originally posted on August 16, 2017

After the deadly violence of Charlottesville, Va., the amoral man in the White House failed his morality test. And in doing so, he gave the left a powerful weapon.

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So President Trump was faced with a question of morality.

All he had to do was be unequivocal in his condemnation of the alt-right mob.

His brand as an alpha in a sea of political beta males promised he wouldn't be equivocal about anything.

But he failed, miserably, his mouth and tongue transformed into a dollop of lukewarm tapioca, talking in equivocal terms, about the violence on "many sides."

He then he offered another statement, ostensibly to clarify and condemn the mob. But that was followed, predictably, by even more comments, as he desperately tried to publicly litigate his earlier failures.

In doing so, he gave the alt-right all they could dream of.

He said some attending the rally were "fine people."

Fine people don't go to white supremacist rallies to spew hate. Fine people don't remotely associate with the KKK. Fine people at a protest see men in white hoods and leave.

Fine people don't get in a car and in a murderous rage, run others down, including Heather Heyer, who in her death has become a saint of the left.

The article is here.