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

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

Friday, February 22, 2019

Choices

Christy Shake
Calvin's Story Blog
Originally published February 13, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

If Michael and I had known early on of Calvin's malformed brain, and had we known the dreadful extent to which it might impact his well-being and quality of life, his development, cognition, coordination, communication, vision, ability to move about and function independently, and his increased odds of having unstoppable seizures, or of being abused by caregivers, would we have chosen to terminate my pregnancy? I really can't say. But one thing I do know with certainty: it is torturous to see Calvin suffer on a daily basis, to see him seize repeatedly, sometimes for several consecutive days, bite his cheek so bad it bleeds, see terror in his eyes and malaise on his face, be a veritable guinea pig for neurologists and me, endure the miseries of antiepileptic drugs and their heinous side effects, to see him hurt so needlessly.

Especially during rough stints, it's hard not to imagine how life might have been—perhaps easier, calmer, happier, less restricted, less anxious, less heartbreaking—if Calvin had never come into this world. One moment I lament his existence and the next I wonder what I would do without him. And though Calvin brings me immense joy at times, and though he is as precious to me as any mother's child could be, our lives have been profoundly strained by his existence. All three of us suffer, but none more than our sweet Calvin. Life with him, worrying about and watching him endure his maladies—despite, or perhaps owing to, the fact I love him immeasurably—is such a painful and burdensome endeavor that at times I regret ever deciding to have a child.

The blog post is here.

Facebook Backs University AI Ethics Institute With $7.5 Million

Sam Shead
Forbes.com
Originally posted January 20, 2019

Facebook is backing an AI ethics institute at the Technical University of Munich with $7.5 million.

The TUM Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence, which was announced on Sunday, will aim to explore fundamental issues affecting the use and impact of AI, Facebook said.

AI is poised to have a profound impact on areas like climate change and healthcare but it has its risks.

"We will explore the ethical issues of AI and develop ethical guidelines for the responsible use of the technology in society and the economy. Our evidence-based research will address issues that lie at the interface of technology and human values," said TUM Professor Dr. Christoph Lütge, who will lead the institute.

"Core questions arise around trust, privacy, fairness or inclusion, for example, when people leave data traces on the internet or receive certain information by way of algorithms. We will also deal with transparency and accountability, for example in medical treatment scenarios, or with rights and autonomy in human decision-making in situations of human-AI interaction."

The info is here.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Federal ethics agency refuses to certify financial disclosure from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

Wilbur RossJeff Daniels
CNBC.com
Originally published February 19, 2019

The government's top ethics watchdog disclosed Tuesday that it had refused to certify a financial disclosure report from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

In a filing, the Office of Government Ethics said it wouldn't certify the 2018 annual filing by Ross because he didn't divest stock in a bank despite stating otherwise. The move could have legal ramifications for Ross and add to pressure for a federal probe.

"The report is not certified," OGE Director Emory Rounds said in a filing, explaining that a previous document the watchdog received from Ross indicated he "no longer held BankUnited stock." However, Rounds said an Oct. 31 document "demonstrates that he did" still hold the shares and as a result, "the filer was therefore not in compliance with his ethics agreement at the time of the report."

A federal ethics agreement required that Ross divest stock worth between $1,000 and $15,000 in BankUnited by the end of May 2017, or within 90 days of the Senate confirming him to the Commerce post. He previously reported selling the stock twice, first in May 2017 and again in August 2018 as part of an annual disclosure required by OGE.

The info is here.

Court awards $1.5 million to Anniston couple who lost custody of child

Tim Lockette
The Anniston Star
Originally posted December 13, 2018

A Calhoun County jury ordered a psychologist to pay $1.5 million in damages to a couple who lost custody of their child following the psychologist’s evaluation of them.

John and Farrah Lynn were Anniston residents in 2014, when the Department of Human Resources placed their infant son Oliver in foster care. Oliver Lynn, who had been born with a birth defect, died a little more than a month later.

“Everybody, even DHR, said there was nothing wrong with this family,” said the couple’s lawyer, George Monk. “Only the psychologist objected.”

According to court documents, Oliver Lynn’s birth defect required surgery at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. The hospital contacted DHR before the infant was released back to the Lynns, setting up an in-home visit to determine whether the Lynns were able to care for the child while he was recovering from surgery.

Social workers found no problem at the Lynns’ Anniston home, Monk said, but did request a psychological assessment of both parents. Dennis Sizelove, a clinical psychologist and owner of Faith-Based Psychological Associates in Sheffield, examined both John and Farrah Lynn.

Sizelove recommended removing the child from the home, citing “occupational, social, and emotional functioning” that put the infant at risk of harm. Sizelove also noted a “self-reported inability to read” on behalf of both the parents.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Precision medicine’s rosy predictions haven’t come true. We need fewer promises and more debate

Michael Joyner and Nigel Paneth
STATnews.com
Originally published February 7, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

While we are occasionally told that we are Luddites or nihilists (generally without much debate of the merits of our position), the most frequent communications we receive have been along the lines of “I agree with you, but can’t speak up publicly for fear of losing my grants, alienating powerful people, or upsetting my dean.” This atmosphere cannot be good for the culture of science.

We are calling for an open debate, in all centers of biomedical research, about the best way forward, and about whether precision medicine is really the most promising avenue for progress. It is time for precision medicine supporters to engage in debate — to go beyond asserting the truism that all individuals are unique, and that the increase in the volume of health data and measurements combined with the decline in the cost of studying the genome constitute sufficient argument for the adoption of the precision medicine program.

Enthusiasts of precision medicine must stop evading the tough questions we raise. The two of us have learned enormously from the free and open exchange of ideas among our small band of dissenters, and we look forward to a vigorous debate engaging an ever-larger fraction of the scientific community.

The info is here.

Why Won’t John Roberts Accept an Ethics Code for Supreme Court Justices?

Steven Lubet
Slate.com
Originally posted January 16, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

Chief Justice John Roberts addressed the anomaly of the missing ethics code in his 2011 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, acknowledging that the lower courts’ code is a good “starting point” for ethics inquiries. Nonetheless, he asserted that there is “no reason” to adopt a SCOTUS code because members of his court consult a wide variety of other sources for guidance. In addition, Roberts noted that current iterations of the judicial code do “not adequately answer some of the ethical considerations unique to the Supreme Court,” and that “no compilation of ethical rules can guarantee integrity.”

The chief justice’s observations are all reasonable, but they do not begin to justify the absence of a Supreme Court code. Nearly all of his explanations apply with equal force to every other court in the U.S., and yet those courts have, without exception, adopted written codes. It is true, of course, that no “compilation” of rules can guarantee compliance, but the same could be said for all other codes, ranging from the Bill of Rights to the Ten Commandments. He is right that existing judicial codes do not address issues “unique to the Supreme Court,” but that is why the proposed legislation allows “provisions that are applicable only” to SCOTUS justices.

The info is here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Even psychological placebos have an effect

University of Basel Press Release
Published February 5, 2019

Psychotherapy and placebos are both psychological interventions that not only have comparable effects, but that are also based on very similar mechanisms. Both forms of treatment are heavily influenced by the relationship between patients and those treating them, as well as by the expectations of recovery. Whereas placebo research mostly focuses on a biomedical model – an inert pill is provided with a medical rationale, which produces a corresponding effect – little is known about the effect of placebos provided with a psychological rationale.

“Green is calming”

Placebos can also have effects when specific psychological effects are attributed to them. This is the conclusion that researchers from the Division of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at the University of Basel reached in three independent experiments with 421 healthy participants. The accompanying explanation – the narrative – played a key role when dispensing the placebos, as did the relationship between the researchers and the participants.

The researchers used the color green as the placebo in the video experiments, examining it both with and without a psychological narrative (“green is calming because it activates early conditioned emotional schemata”), as well as in the context of a neutral or a friendly relationship.

After viewing the videos, the participants assessed their subjective condition with questionnaires over several days. The results showed that the placebo had a positive effect on the participants’ well-being when it was prescribed together with a psychological narrative and in the context of a friendly relationship. The observed effect was strongest after administering the placebo but remained evident for up to one week.

Ethical implications

“The observed effects were comparable with those of psychotherapeutic interventions in the same populations,” says principal investigator Professor Jens Gaab. The fact that psychological placebos can have significant effects is not only important for understanding psychological interventions: “It challenges both research and clinical practice to address these mechanisms and effects, as well as their ethical implications.”

The pressor is here

How Our Attitude Influences Our Sense Of Morality

Konrad Bocian
Science Trend
Originally posted January 18, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

People think that their moral judgment is as rational and objective as scientific statements, but science does not confirm that belief. Within the two last decades, scholars interested in moral psychology discovered that people produce moral judgments based on fast and automatic intuitions than rational and controlled reasoning. For example, moral cognition research showed that moral judgments arise in approximately 250 milliseconds, and even then we are not able to explain them. Developmental psychologists proved that at already the age of 3 months, babies who do not have any lingual skills can distinguish a good protagonist (a helping one) from a bad one (a hindering one). But this does not mean that peoples’ moral judgments are based solely on intuitions. We can use deliberative processes when conditions are favorable – when we are both motivated to engage in and capable of conscious responding.

When we imagine how we would morally judge other people in a specific situation, we refer to actual rules and norms. If the laws are violated, the act itself is immoral. But we forget that intuitive reasoning also plays a role in forming a moral judgment. It is easy to condemn the librarian when our interest is involved on paper, but the whole picture changes when real money is on the table. We have known that rule for a very long time, but we still forget to use it when we predict our moral judgments.

Based on previous research on the intuitive nature of moral judgment, we decided to test how far our attitudes can impact our perception of morality. In our daily life, we meet a lot of people who are to some degree familiar, and we either have a positive or negative attitude toward these people.

The info is here.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Trump lawyers may have given false info about Cohen payments

Tal Axelrod
thehill.com
Originally posted February 15, 2019

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said Friday the panel believes two attorneys for President Trump may have given false information to government ethics officials.

Cummings said the panel has reviewed newly uncovered documents from the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) suggesting Trump's personal lawyer Sheri Dillon and former White House lawyer Stefan Passantino gave false info about hush-money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

“It now appears that President Trump’s other attorneys — at the White House and in private practice — may have provided false information about these payments to federal officials,” Cummings wrote in a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.

Cummings said Dillon “repeatedly stated to federal officials at OGE that President Trump never owed any money to Mr. Cohen in 2016 and 2017” and Passantino falsely told officials that Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen had a “retainer agreement.”

The info is here.