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

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

Monday, May 20, 2019

How Drug Companies Helped Shape a Shifting Biological View of Mental Ilness

Terry Gross
NPR Health Shots
Originally posted May 2, 2019

Here are two excerpts:

On why the antidepressant market is now at a standstill

The huge developments that happen in the story of depression and the antidepressants happens in the late '90s, when a range of different studies increasingly seemed to suggest that these antidepressants — although they're helping a lot of people — when compared to placebo versions of themselves, don't seem to do much better. And that is not because they are not helping people, but because the placebos are also helping people. Simply thinking you're taking Prozac, I guess, can have a powerful effect on your state of depression. In order, though, for a drug to get on the market, it's got to beat the placebo. If it can't beat the placebo, the drug fails.

(cut)

On why pharmaceutical companies are leaving the psychiatric field

Because there have been no new good ideas as to where to look for new, novel biomarkers or targets since the 1960s. The only possible exception is there is now some excitement about ketamine, which targets a different set of biochemical systems. But R&D is very expensive. These drugs are now, mostly, off-patent. ... [The pharmaceutical companies'] efforts to bring on new drugs in that sort of tried-and-true and tested way — with a tinker here and a tinker there — has been running up against mostly unexplained but indubitable problems with the placebo effect.

The info is here.

Ethics board fines former Pa. judge for texts, sex with defendant's girlfriend

Mark Scolforo
The Associated Press
Originally published April 26, 2019

Pennsylvania's judicial ethics board fined a since-retired district judge $5,000 this week for having sex with the girlfriend of a defendant, sending her salacious texts and letting his own lawyer practice before him without telling the other parties.

The Court of Judicial Discipline fined former Bradford County District Judge Michael G. Shaw and issued a severe reprimand, saying he had appeared to be genuinely contrite.

Shaw spent 24 years as district judge in Sayre, but did not run for re-election in 2017, as he was being investigated.

The court says Shaw, who was not charged criminally, appeared to be genuinely remorseful for his conduct. His lawyer in the proceedings, William Hebe, did not return a phone message Friday.

Shaw is a former police officer and is not a lawyer. Pennsylvania magisterial district judges, who are elected, do not have to be licensed lawyers. District judges set bail and conduct preliminary hearings for serious crimes, and handle minor offenses and lower-level civil matters.

Court findings say Shaw was supervising treatment court in 2014 when a repeat DUI defendant he knew enrolled in the court program. Shaw had worked for the man's father years before.

The man's girlfriend subsequently told Shaw on Facebook that she was breaking up with the man, leading to a series of messages that became sexual in nature.

The info is here.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

House Democrats seek details of Trump ethics waivers

Kate Ackley
www.rollcall.com
Originally posted May 17, 2019

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, wants a status update on the state of the swamp in the Trump administration.

The Maryland Democrat launched an investigation late this week into the administration’s use of ethics waivers, which allow former lobbyists to work on matters they handled in their previous private sector jobs. Cummings sent letters to the White House and 24 agencies and Cabinet departments requesting copies of their ethics pledges and details of any waivers that could expose “potential conflicts of interest.”

“Although the White House committed to providing information on ethics waivers on its website, the White House has failed to disclose comprehensive information about the waivers,” Cummings wrote in a May 16 letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

A White House official declined comment on the investigation, and a committee aide said the administration had not yet responded to the requests. A spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight panel, did not immediately provide a comment.

After President Donald Trump ran on a “drain the swamp” message, the Trump administration ushered in a tough-sounding ethics pledge through an executive order in January 2017 requiring officials to recuse themselves from participating in matters they had lobbied on in the previous two years. But the waivers allow appointees to circumvent those restrictions.

The info is here.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Neuroscience of Moral Judgment

Joanna Demaree-Cotton & Guy Kahane
Published in The Routledge Handbook of Moral Epistemology, eds. Karen Jones, Mark Timmons, and Aaron Zimmerman (Routledge, 2018).

Abstract:

This chapter examines the relevance of the cognitive science of morality to moral epistemology, with special focus on the issue of the reliability of moral judgments. It argues that the kind of empirical evidence of most importance to moral epistemology is at the psychological rather than neural level. The main theories and debates that have dominated the cognitive science of morality are reviewed with an eye to their epistemic significance.

1. Introduction

We routinely make moral judgments about the rightness of acts, the badness of outcomes, or people’s characters. When we form such judgments, our attention is usually fixed on the relevant situation, actual or hypothetical, not on our own minds. But our moral judgments are obviously the result of mental processes, and we often enough turn our attention to aspects of this process—to the role, for example, of our intuitions or emotions in shaping our moral views, or to the consistency of a judgment about a case with more general moral beliefs.

Philosophers have long reflected on the way our minds engage with moral questions—on the conceptual and epistemic links that hold between our moral intuitions, judgments, emotions, and motivations. This form of armchair moral psychology is still alive and well, but it’s increasingly hard to pursue it in complete isolation from the growing body of research in the cognitive science of morality (CSM). This research is not only uncovering the psychological structures that underlie moral judgment but, increasingly, also their neural underpinning—utilizing, in this connection, advances in functional neuroimaging, brain lesion studies, psychopharmacology, and even direct stimulation of the brain. Evidence from such research has been used not only to develop grand theories about moral psychology, but also to support ambitious normative arguments.

Friday, May 17, 2019

More than 300 overworked NHS nurses have died by suicide in just seven years

Lucy, a Liverpool student nurse, took her own life took years agoAlan Selby
The Mirror
Originally posted April 27, 2019

More than 300 nurses have taken their own lives in just seven years, shocking new figures reveal.

During the worst year, one was dying by suicide EVERY WEEK as Tory cuts began to bite deep into the NHS.

Today victims’ families call for vital early mental health training and support for young nurses – and an end to a “bullying and toxic culture” in the health service which leaves them afraid to ask for help in their darkest moments.

One mum – whose trainee nurse daughter Lucy de Oliveira killed herself while juggling other jobs to make ends meet – told us: “They’re working all hours God sends doing a really important job. Most of them would be better off working in McDonald’s. That can’t be right.”

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has called for a government inquiry into the “alarming” figures – 23 per cent higher than the national average – from 2011 to 2017, the latest year on record.

“Every life lost is a desperate tragedy,” he said. “The health and wellbeing of NHS staff must never be compromised.”

The info is here.

Scientific Misconduct in Psychology: A Systematic Review of Prevalence Estimates and New Empirical Data

Johannes Stricker & Armin Günther
Zeitschrift fur Psychologie
Published online: March 29, 2019

Abstract

Spectacular cases of scientific misconduct have contributed to concerns about the validity of published results in psychology. In our systematic review, we identified 16 studies reporting prevalence estimates of scientific misconduct and questionable research practices (QRPs) in psychological research. Estimates from these studies varied due to differences in methods and scope. Unlike other disciplines, there was no reliable lower bound prevalence estimate of scientific misconduct based on identified cases available for psychology. Thus, we conducted an additional empirical investigation on the basis of retractions in the database PsycINFO. Our analyses showed that 0.82 per 10,000 journal articles in psychology were retracted due to scientific misconduct. Between the late 1990s and 2012, there was a steep increase. Articles retracted due to scientific misconduct were identified in 20 out of 22 PsycINFO subfields. These results show that measures aiming to reduce scientific misconduct should be promoted equally across all psychological subfields.

The research is here.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

It’s Our ‘Moral Responsibility’ to Give The FBI Access to Your DNA

Jennings Brown
www.gizmodo.com
Originally published April 3, 2019

A popular DNA-testing company seems to be targeting true crime fans with a new pitch to let them share their genetic information with law enforcement so cops can catch violent criminals.

Two months ago, FamilyTreeDNA raised privacy concerns after BuzzFeed revealed the company had partnered with the FBI and given the agency access to the genealogy database. Law enforcement’s use of DNA databases has been widely known since last April when California officials revealed genealogy website information was instrumental in determining the identity of the Golden State Killer. But in that case, detectives used publicly shared raw genetic data on GEDmatch. The recent news about FamilyTreeDNA marked the first known time a home DNA test company had willingly shared private genetic information with law enforcement.

Several weeks later, FamilyTreeDNA changed their rules to allow customers to block the FBI from accessing their information. “Users now have the ability to opt out of matching with DNA relatives whose accounts are flagged as being created to identify the remains of a deceased individual or a perpetrator of a homicide or sexual assault,” the company said in a statement at the time.

But now the company seems to be embracing this partnership with law enforcement with their new campaign called, “Families Want Answers.”

The info is here.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Leaders Violated Conflict-of-Interest Rules, Report Finds

Charles Ornstein and Katie Thomas
ProPublica.org
Originally posted April 4, 2019

Top officials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center repeatedly violated policies on financial conflicts of interest, fostering a culture in which profits appeared to take precedence over research and patient care, according to details released on Thursday from an outside review.

The findings followed months of turmoil over executives’ ties to drug and health care companies at one of the nation’s leading cancer centers. The review, conducted by the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, was outlined at a staff meeting on Thursday morning. It concluded that officials frequently violated or skirted their own policies; that hospital leaders’ ties to companies were likely considered on an ad hoc basis rather than through rigorous vetting; and that researchers were often unaware that some senior executives had financial stakes in the outcomes of their studies.

In acknowledging flaws in its oversight of conflicts of interest, the cancer center announced on Thursday an extensive overhaul of policies governing employees’ relationships with outside companies and financial arrangements — including public disclosure of doctors’ ties to corporations and limits on outside work.

The info is here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Moral self-judgment is stronger for future than past actions

Sjåstad, H. & Baumeister, R.F.
Motiv Emot (2019).
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-019-09768-8

Abstract

When, if ever, would a person want to be held responsible for his or her choices? Across four studies (N = 915), people favored more extreme rewards and punishments for their future than their past actions. This included thinking that they should receive more blame and punishment for future misdeeds than for past ones, and more credit and reward for future good deeds than for past ones. The tendency to moralize the future more than the past was mediated by anticipating (one’s own) emotional reactions and concern about one’s reputation, which was stronger in the future as well. The findings fit the pragmatic view that people moralize the future partly to guide their choices and actions, such as by increasing their motivation to restrain selfish impulses and build long-term cooperative relationships with others. People typically believe that the future is open and changeable, while the past is not. We conclude that the psychology of moral accountability has a strong future component.

Here is a snip from Concluding Remarks

A recent article by Uhlmann, Pizarro, and Diermeier (2015) proposed an important shift in the foundation of moral psychology. Whereas most research has focused on how people judge moral actions, Uhlmann et al. proposed that the primary, focal purpose is to judge persons. They suggested that this has a prospective dimension: Ultimately, the pragmatic goal is to know whom one can cooperate with, rely on, and otherwise trust in the future. Judging past actions is a means toward predicting the future, with the focus on individual persons.

The present findings fit well with and even extend that analysis. The orientation toward the future is not limited to judging and predicting the moral character of others but also extends to oneself. If one functional purpose of morality is to promote group cohesion and cooperation in the future, people apparently think that part of that involves raising expectations and standards for their own future behavior as well.

The pre-print can be found here.