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

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Are You a Moral Grandstander?

Image result for moral superiorityScott Barry Kaufman
Scientific American
Originally published October 28, 2019

Here are two excerpts:

Do you strongly agree with the following statements?

  • When I share my moral/political beliefs, I do so to show people who disagree with me that I am better than them.
  • I share my moral/political beliefs to make people who disagree with me feel bad.
  • When I share my moral/political beliefs, I do so in the hopes that people different than me will feel ashamed of their beliefs.

If so, then you may be a card-carrying moral grandstander. Of course it's wonderful to have a social cause that you believe in genuinely, and which you want to share with the world to make it a better place. But moral grandstanding comes from a different place.


Nevertheless, since we are such a social species, the human need for social status is very pervasive, and often our attempts at sharing our moral and political beliefs on public social media platforms involve a mix of genuine motives with social status motives. As one team of psychologists put it, yes, you probably are "virtue signaling" (a closely related concept to moral grandstanding), but that doesn't mean that your outrage is necessarily inauthentic. It just means that we often have a subconscious desire to signal our virtue, which when not checked, can spiral out of control and cause us to denigrate or be mean to others in order to satisfy that desire. When the need for status predominates, we may even lose touch with what we truly believe, or even what is actually the truth.

The info is here.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Drivers are blamed more than their automated cars when both make mistakes

Image result for Drivers are blamed more than their automated cars when both make mistakesEdmond Awad and others
Nature Human Behaviour (2019)
Published: 28 October 2019


When an automated car harms someone, who is blamed by those who hear about it? Here we asked human participants to consider hypothetical cases in which a pedestrian was killed by a car operated under shared control of a primary and a secondary driver and to indicate how blame should be allocated. We find that when only one driver makes an error, that driver is blamed more regardless of whether that driver is a machine or a human. However, when both drivers make errors in cases of human–machine shared-control vehicles, the blame attributed to the machine is reduced. This finding portends a public under-reaction to the malfunctioning artificial intelligence components of automated cars and therefore has a direct policy implication: allowing the de facto standards for shared-control vehicles to be established in courts by the jury system could fail to properly regulate the safety of those vehicles; instead, a top-down scheme (through federal laws) may be called for.

The research is here.

This Researcher Exploited Prisoners, Children, and the Elderly. Why Does Penn Honor Him?

Image result for albert kligman
Albert Kligman
Alexander Kafka
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally published Nov 8, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

What the university sites don’t mention is how Retin-A and Renova, an anti-wrinkle variation of the retinoic acid compound, were derived from substances first experimentally applied by Kligman’s research team to the skin of inmates at Holmesburg Prison, then a large facility in Philadelphia.

From the 1950s into the 1970s, the prison served as Kligman’s “Kmart of human experimentation,” in the words of Allen M. Hornblum, an author who exhaustively documented the Penn researcher’s projects at Holmesburg in his books Acres of Skin (1998) and Sentenced to Science: One Black Man’s Story of Imprisonment in America (2007).

Colleges are questioning the morality of accepting research funds from Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of sexually molesting young girls, and the Sacklers, makers of OxyContin.

They are searching their souls over institutional ties to slavery and Jim Crow-era exploitation.

Hornblum and others have asked for decades whether Penn should be honoring Kligman, and Hornblum and Yusef Anthony, the former inmate whose story Hornblum tells in Sentenced to Science, will ask again in a lecture at Princeton next month. The current ethical climate amplifies their question.

The university’s president, Amy Gutmann, and a Penn colleague, the bioethicist Jonathan D. Moreno, recently published a book on bioethics and health care. “They are advising the world on all of these different issues,” Hornblum says, “but they don’t know what’s going on on their own campus? They don’t know it’s wrong?”

Penn says it “regrets the manner in which this research was conducted” and emphasizes the university’s commitment to research ethics. But it has given no indication that it plans to take any action regarding the lectureship or the university’s portrayal of Kligman.

Kligman, who died in 2010, defended his work by saying that experiments on prisoners were common at the time, and he was right. But, Hornblum says, the scale and duration of the Holmesburg experiments stood out even then.

The info is here.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The unbearable wrongness of William Barr: Secularism doesn't destroy society or moral order

Phil Zuckerman
Originally posted November 9, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

When lots of people in a given society stop being religious of their own accord, such organic secularization does not result in the evaporation of morality in society, nor national decay. For instance, the most secular countries in the world today fare much better on nearly every measure of peace, prosperity, and societal well-being — including infant mortality, life expectancy, educational attainment, economic prosperity, freedom, levels of corruption, and so forth — than the most religious countries. In fact, those countries with the highest murder rates — such as Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, and Brazil — are extremely religious, while those countries with the lowest murder rates — such as Iceland, Canada, Slovenia, Norway, and the Netherlands — are among the most secular nations in the world. Heck, Singapore and the Czech Republic are among the least religious nations on earth, while Brazil and the Philippines are among the most God-worshipping, yet the latter’s murder rates are over ten times higher than the former’s, and the crime rate of never-been-Christian, strongly secular Japan is 80 times lower than El Salvador’s, a Catholic nation neck-deep in worship of Barr’s “Supreme Transcendent Being.”

Similar correlations hold within our own country: on almost every measure of societal well-being — from poverty rates to STD rates to DUIs — the most secular states tend to fare the best, while the most religious tend to fare the worst. For example, among the states with the highest gun violence and murder rates, many are among the most religious — e.g., Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Arkansas — while among those with the lowest gun violence and murder rates, many are among the least religious states, such as New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York, Washington, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.

Of course, such correlations don’t prove that secularism causes these more positive outcomes experienced by less religious societies. But they do knock the knees out of Barr’s thesis that secularism is a destructive force. For if secularism resulted in moral deterioration, then highly secular societies would be decaying bastions of crime and misery, while the strongly religious would be shining beacons of liberty and harmony. But we find just the opposite reality: the nations with the best overall quality of life are among the most secular countries in the world. And while numerous factors account for the differing degrees of societal well-being — factors that have nothing to do with religion or secularism — that’s exactly the point. Societies thrive or fail because of their social policies, laws, economic opportunities, civil institutions, and government regulations — not because of their faith in God, or lack thereof.

The info is here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Moral Injury of Pardoning War Crimes

The Editorial Board
The New York Times
Originally posted 22 Nov 19

Here is an excerpt:

That Mr. Trump would pardon men accused or convicted of war crimes should come as little surprise, given that he campaigned on promises to torture the nation’s enemies and kill their families. Mr. Trump in May became the first modern president to pardon a person convicted of war crimes, when he pardoned Michael Behenna, a former Army lieutenant, who had been convicted of killing a prisoner in Iraq.

The president may think he’s supporting men and women in uniform. “When our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight,” he said in a statement issued by the White House. “We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!” he said on Twitter last month.

Whatever the reason, absolving people who commit war crimes does great harm to society in general, and the men and women who served honorably — as far more than “killing machines” — in the wars since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in particular.

A nation has to know that military action being taken in its name follows morally defensible rules — that soldiers do not, for instance, kill unarmed civilians or prisoners.

To excuse men who have so flagrantly violated those rules — to treat them as heroes, even — is to cast the idea of just war to the winds. It puts the nation and veterans at risk of moral injury, the shattering of a moral compass.

One of the loudest groups pushing for Mr. Trump’s pardons was United American Patriots, a nonprofit organization that supports numerous soldiers accused of crimes, including Mr. Lorance, Mr. Behenna and Major Golsteyn. Last month, Chief Gallagher sued two of his former lawyers and United American Patriots, alleging that his lawyers tried to delay the case to increase fund-raising for the organization.

Supporters of the pardoned men say the military justice system comes down too hard and too often on honorable soldiers fighting through the fog of war. That wouldn’t explain why United American Patriots has made a cause célèbre of Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty to slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians in their homes during a one-man nighttime rampage in 2012.

The info is here.

Corruption Is Contagious: Dishonesty begets dishonesty, rapidly spreading unethical behavior through a society

Dan Ariely & Ximena Garcia-Rada
Scientific American
September 2019

Here is an excerpt:

This is because social norms—the patterns of behavior that are accepted as normal—impact how people will behave in many situations, including those involving ethical dilemmas. In 1991 psychologists Robert B. Cialdini, Carl A. Kallgren and Raymond R. Reno drew the important distinction between descriptive norms—the perception of what most people do—and injunctive norms—the perception of what most people approve or disapprove of. We argue that both types of norms influence bribery.

Simply put, knowing that others are paying bribes to obtain preferential treatment (a descriptive norm) makes people feel that it is more acceptable to pay a bribe themselves.

Similarly, thinking that others believe that paying a bribe is acceptable (an injunctive norm) will make people feel more comfortable when accepting a bribe request. Bribery becomes normative, affecting people's moral character.

In 2009 Ariely, with behavioral researchers Francesca Gino and Shahar Ayal, published a study showing how powerful social norms can be in shaping dishonest behavior. In two lab studies, they assessed the circumstances in which exposure to others' unethical behavior would change someone's ethical decision-making. Group membership turned out to have a significant effect: When individuals observed an in-group member behaving dishonestly (a student with a T-shirt suggesting he or she was from the same school cheating in a test), they, too, behaved dishonestly. In contrast, when the person behaving dishonestly was an out-group member (a student with a T-shirt from the rival school), observers acted more honestly.

But social norms also vary from culture to culture: What is acceptable in one culture might not be acceptable in another. For example, in some societies giving gifts to clients or public officials demonstrates respect for a business relationship, whereas in other cultures it is considered bribery. Similarly, gifts for individuals in business relationships can be regarded either as lubricants of business negotiations, in the words of behavioral economists Michel André Maréchal and Christian Thöni, or as questionable business practices. And these expectations and rules about what is accepted are learned and reinforced by observation of others in the same group. Thus, in countries where individuals regularly learn that others are paying bribes to obtain preferential treatment, they determine that paying bribes is socially acceptable. Over time the line between ethical and unethical behavior becomes blurry, and dishonesty becomes the “way of doing business.”

The info is here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Engineers need a required course in ethics

Kush Saxena
Originally posted November 8, 2019

Here is an except:

Typically, engineers are trained to be laser-focused on solving problems in the most effective and efficient way. And those solutions often have ripple effects in society, and create externalities that must be carefully considered.

Given the pace with which we can deploy technology at scale, the decisions of just a few people can have deep and far-reaching impact.

But in spite of the fact that they build potentially society-altering technologies—such as artificial intelligence—engineers often have no training or exposure to ethics. Many don’t even consider it part of their remit.

But it is. In a world where a few lines of code can impact whether a woman lands a job in tech, or how a criminal is sentenced in court, everyone who touches technology must be qualified to make ethical decisions, however insignificant they may seem at the time.

Engineers need to understand that their work may be used in ways that they never intended and consider the broader impact it can have on the world.

How can tech leaders not only create strong ethical frameworks, but also ensure their employees act with “decency” and abide by the ideals and values they’ve set out? And how can leaders in business, government, and education better equip the tech workforce to consider the broader ethical implications of what they build?

The info is here.

Nurses Wrestling With the Moral Uncertainties of MAiD

mano pierna dedo comida Produce cuidado horneando brazo participación de cerca cuerpo humano ayuda piel envejecimiento mayor enfermera mano a mano apoyo cuidando Envejecido hospicio personas de edad avanzada enfermería sentido Mano amiga Manos cariñosas Cuidado de ancianos mano viejaBarbara Pesut and Sally Thorne
Impact Ethics
Originally posted October 23, 2019

Have you tried to imagine what it is like to be the healthcare provider who provides medical assistance in dying (MAiD)? What would it feel like to go into a strange home, to greet a patient and family, to start an intravenous line, to deliver the medications that rapidly cause death, and then to bring some sort of closure before leaving? Although there has been a great deal of attention paid to the regulation of MAiD, and its accessibility to the Canadian population, we have heard relatively little about the moral experiences of the healthcare providers at the forefront of providing this service. That is surprising in light of the fact that all but 6 of the 6,749 MAiD deaths in Canada that occurred between December 10, 2015 and October 31, 2018 were administered by physicians or nurse practitioners.

In a recent study we interviewed 59 nurses from across Canada, who had diverse experiences with participating in, or choosing not to participate in, the MAiD process. Canada is the first country to allow nurse practitioners to act as both MAiD assessors and providers. Canadian registered nurses also play a key role in providing care to patients and families considering, planning for, or receiving MAiD. We learned a lot about the experiences of being involved in MAiD and about the type of wrestling with moral uncertainty that the involvement can entail. Nurses worked hard to make sense of this radical new end-of-life option. Making sense required some soul searching, some important conversations, and in some cases, encounters with the procedure itself.

Encounters with MAiD were inevitably deeply impactful. Some participants described an emotional overload that was unanticipated and didn’t necessarily fade over time. Others described a deep sense of compassion and purpose—a sense of beauty. Still others described an accumulating sense of distress, a rising tide that they didn’t necessarily know how to deal with. This was particularly true for those nurses who worked alone on multiple cases because they were the sole person willing to provide MAiD. Even those who had experienced MAiD only as observers described an emotional climate within the care environment that was far-reaching.

The info is here.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The MAD Model of Moral Contagion: The role of motivation, attention and design in the spread of moralized content online

William Brady, Molly Crockett, and Jay Van Bavel
Originally posted March 11, 2019


With over 3 billion users, online social networks represent an important venue for moral and political discourse and have been used to organize political revolutions, influence elections, and raise awareness of social issues. These examples rely on a common process in order to be effective: the ability to engage users and spread moralized content through online networks. Here, we review evidence that expressions of moral emotion play an important role in the spread of moralized content (a phenomenon we call ‘moral contagion’). Next, we propose a psychological model to explain moral contagion. The ‘MAD’ model of moral contagion argues that people have group identity-based motivations to share moral-emotional content; that such content is especially likely to capture our attention; and that the design of social media platforms amplifies our natural motivational and cognitive tendencies to spread such content. We review each component of the model (as well as interactions between components) and raise several novel, testable hypotheses that can spark progress on the scientific investigation of civic engagement and activism, political polarization, propaganda and disinformation, and other moralized behaviors in the digital age.

The research is here.

Racial bias in a medical algorithm favors white patients over sicker black patients

Carolyn Johnson
Scientists discovered racial bias in a widely used medical algorithm that predicts which patients will have complex health needs.  (iStock)The Washington Post
Originally posted October 24, 2019

A widely used algorithm that predicts which patients will benefit from extra medical care dramatically underestimates the health needs of the sickest black patients, amplifying long-standing racial disparities in medicine, researchers have found.

The problem was caught in an algorithm sold by a leading health services company, called Optum, to guide care decision-making for millions of people. But the same issue almost certainly exists in other tools used by other private companies, nonprofit health systems and government agencies to manage the health care of about 200 million people in the United States each year, the scientists reported in the journal Science.

Correcting the bias would more than double the number of black patients flagged as at risk of complicated medical needs within the health system the researchers studied, and they are already working with Optum on a fix. When the company replicated the analysis on a national data set of 3.7 million patients, they found that black patients who were ranked by the algorithm as equally as in need of extra care as white patients were much sicker: They collectively suffered from 48,772 additional chronic diseases.

The info is here.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Is biohacking ethical? It’s complicated. A new Netflix series explains why.

A baby’s hand sporting a UPC barcode on its wrist holds onto an adult’s finger.Sigal Samuel
Originally posted October 22, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

Biohacking raises a lot of questions with huge ethical implications. Should biohacking yourself be a human right or should your control over your own body be curtailed — possibly even criminalized — if it’s risky to you or others? (Many biohacking pursuits exist in a legal gray zone but are not yet outright illegal, or not enforced as such. Some new gene therapies profiled in Unnatural Selection, like Jackson Kennedy’s, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.) Will biohacking enhance life for all of us equally or will it widen the gap between haves and have-nots?

Perhaps we’d do best to strictly limit the use of new technologies like CRISPR. But then again, given that people are dying and these technologies might help, can we morally afford to not use them?

Ethical objections to biohacking

While some people who engage with biohacking view themselves as part of the scientific establishment and often voice ethical concerns about technologies like CRISPR, others have a strong anti-establishment streak.

Unnatural Selection assigns uneven weight to different camps — proponents of the new technologies get more airtime than their critics, perhaps because it’s more visually interesting to watch people inject themselves with new DNA than it is to watch finger-wagging bioethicists warn about risks.

The info is here.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Is this “one of the worst scientific scandals of all time”?

Hans Eysenck
Stephen Fleischfresser
Originally posted 21 October 2019

Here is an excerpt:

Another study on the efficacy of psychotherapy in preventing cancer showed 100% of treated subjects did not die of cancer in the following 13 years, compared to 32% of an untreated control group.

Perhaps most alarming results were connected to Eysenck and Grossath-Maticek’s notion of ‘bibliotherapy’ which consisted of, as Eysenck put it, “a written pamphlet outlining the principles of behaviour therapy as applied to better, more autonomous living, and avoidance of stress.”

This was coupled with five hours of discussion, aimed both at reorienting a patient’s personality away from the cancer-prone and toward a healthier disposition. The results of this study, according to Pelosi, were that “128 of the 600 (21%) controls died of cancer over 13 years compared with 27 of 600 (4.5%) treated subjects.

"Such results are otherwise unheard of in the entire history of medical science.” There were similarly spectacular results concerning various forms of heart disease too.

These decidedly improbable findings led to a blizzard of critical scrutiny through the 90s: Eysenck and Grossath-Maticek’s work was attacked for its methodology, statistical treatment and ethics.

One researcher who attempted a sympathetic review of the work, in cooperation with the pair, found, says Pelosi, “unequivocal evidence of manipulation of data sheets,” from the Heidelberg cohort, as well as numerous patient questionnaires with identical responses.

An attempt at replicating some of their results concerning heart disease provided cold comfort, indicating that the personality type association with coronary illness was non-existent for all but one of the types.

A slightly modified replication of Eysenck and Grossath-Maticek’s research on personality and cancer faired no better, with the author, Manfred Amelang, writing “I know of no other area of research in which the change from an interview to a carefully constructed questionnaire measuring the same construct leads to a change from near-perfect prediction to near-zero prediction.”

The info is here.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Artificial Intelligence as a Socratic Assistant for Moral Enhancement

Lara, F. & Deckers, J.
Neuroethics (2019).


The moral enhancement of human beings is a constant theme in the history of humanity. Today, faced with the threats of a new, globalised world, concern over this matter is more pressing. For this reason, the use of biotechnology to make human beings more moral has been considered. However, this approach is dangerous and very controversial. The purpose of this article is to argue that the use of another new technology, AI, would be preferable to achieve this goal. Whilst several proposals have been made on how to use AI for moral enhancement, we present an alternative that we argue to be superior to other proposals that have been developed.


Here is a portion of the Conclusion

Given our incomplete current knowledge of the biological determinants of moral behaviour and of the use of biotechnology to safely influence such determinants, it is reckless to defend moral bioenhancement, even if it were voluntary. However, the age-old human desire to be morally better must be taken very seriously in a globalised world where local decisions can have far-reaching consequences and where moral corruption threatens the survival of us all. This situation forces us to seek the satisfaction of that desire by means of other technologies. AI could, in principle, be a good option. Since it does not intervene directly in our biology, it can, in principle, be less dangerous and controversial.

However, we argued that it also carries risks. For the exhaustive project, these include the capitulation of human decision-making to machines that we may not understand and the negation of what makes us ethical human beings. We argued also that even some auxiliary projects that do not promote the surrendering of human decision-making, for example systems that foster decision-making on the basis of moral agents’ own values, may jeopardise the development of our moral capacities if they focus too much on outcomes, thus providing insufficient opportunities for individuals to be critical of their values and of the processes by which outcomes are produced, which are essential factors for personal moral progress and for rapprochement between different individuals’ positions.

What School Shooters Have in Common

Jillian Peterson & James Densley
Originally posted October 8, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

However, school shooters are almost always a student at the school, and they typically have four things in common:

They suffered early-childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. They were angry or despondent over a recent event, resulting in feelings of suicidality. They studied other school shootings, notably Columbine, often online, and found inspiration. And they possessed the means to carry out an attack.

By understanding the traits that school shooters share, schools can do more than just upgrade security or have students rehearse for their near-deaths. They can instead plan to prevent the violence.

To mitigate childhood trauma, for example, school-based mental-health services such as counselors and social workers are needed. Schools can also adopt curriculum focused on teaching positive coping skills, resilience, and social-emotional learning, especially to young boys (According to our data, 98 percent of mass shooters are men.)

A crisis is a moment, an inflection point, when things will either become very bad or begin to get better. In 80 percent of cases, school shooters communicated to others that they were in crisis, whether through a marked change in behavior, an expression of suicidal thoughts or plans, or specific threats of violence. For this reason, all adults in schools, from the principal to the custodian, need high-quality training in crisis intervention and suicide prevention and the time and space to connect with a student. At the same time, schools need formal systems in place for students and staff to (anonymously) report a student in crisis.

The info is here.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Memphis psychiatrist who used riding crop on patients now faces new charges

Brett Kelman
Nashville Tennessean
Originally published October 27, 2019

Here are two excerpts:

A Memphis-area psychiatrist whose license was suspended last year for using a riding crop on patients could now lose her license again due to an ongoing dispute with state health licensing officials.

Dr. Valerie Augustus, who runs Christian Psychiatric Services in the suburb of Germantown, was forced to close her clinic last June after a medical discipline trial proved to the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners that she had used a riding crop or a whip on at least 10 patients. The clinic was permitted to re-open six months later after Augustus agreed to professional probation, but she continued to fight the case in court.


Augustus, 57, ran her clinic for 17 years without any discipline issues before her license was suspended last year. A board order states that, in addition to using the whip and riding crop on patients, Augustus kept the items “displayed in her office” and “compared her patients to mules.”

The government’s attorney, Paetria Morgan, argued at the medical discipline trial that Augustus hit her patients if they did not lose weight or exercise. In addition to the whip and riding crop, Morgan alleged Augustus hit patients with a “four-foot stick of bamboo.”

“Her defense is that she hit them in jest,” Morgan said. “When did hitting become funny? Hitting isn’t hilarious. Hitting isn’t helpful. Hitting isn’t healing.”

The info is here.

A Sober Second Thought? A Pre-Registered Experiment on the Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Political Tolerance

Michael Bang Petersen & Panagiotis Mitkidis
Originally posted October 20, 2019


Mindfulness meditation is increasingly promoted as a tool to foster more inclusive and tolerant societies and, accordingly, meditation practice has been adopted in a number of public institutions including schools and legislatures. Here, we provide the first empirical test of the effects of mindfulness meditation on political and societal attitudes by examining whether completion in a 15-minute mindfulness meditation increases tolerance towards disliked groups relative to relevant control conditions. Analyses of data from a pilot experiment (N = 54) and a pre-registered experiment (N = 171) provides no evidence that mindfulness meditation increases political tolerance. Furthermore, exploratory analyses show that individual differences in trait mindfulness is not associated with differences in tolerance. These results suggest that there is reason to pause recommending mindfulness meditation as a way to achieve democratically desirable outcomes or, at least, that short-term meditation is not sufficient to generate these.

The research is here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The ‘cancer growing in cancer medicine’: pharma money paid to doctors

Money and medicineVinay Prasad
Originally posted October 30, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

The fundamental problem is that, as a profession, cancer physicians are not interested in addressing conflict of interest. Too many people in prominent positions benefit from the current lax policies. Disclosure is not the solution —ending these payments is.

I want to be clear: I’m all for doctors interacting with and working with the pharmaceutical and device industries. I have lectured at major pharmaceutical companies, but without accepting money, travel expenses, or meals. Researchers should be free to work with pharmaceutical companies on trials, but there is no legitimate reason why a well-paid physician needs to take personal payments, gifts, meals, or travel expenses from the pharmaceutical industry. That practice must end.

Conflict of interest is the cancer growing in cancer medicine. It poisons the field. It leads us to celebrate marginal drugs as if they were game-changers. It leads experts to ignore or downplay flaws and deficits in cancer clinical trials. It keeps doctors silent about the crushing price of cancer medicines. It is rampant in guidelines that lead to off-label prescribing and that mandate payment. It is surely a calculated maneuver by the industry to increase their profits.

The info is here.

Super-precise new CRISPR tool could tackle a plethora of genetic diseases

CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing complex, illustration.Heidi Ledford
Originally posted October 21, 2019

For all the ease with which the wildly popular CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing tool alters genomes, it’s still somewhat clunky and prone to errors and unintended effects. Now, a recently developed alternative offers greater control over genome edits — an advance that could be particularly important for developing gene therapies.

The alternative method, called prime editing, improves the chances that researchers will end up with only the edits they want, instead of a mix of changes that they can’t predict. The tool, described in a study published on 21 October in Nature1, also reduces the ‘off-target’ effects that are a key challenge for some applications of the standard CRISPR–Cas9 system. That could make prime-editing-based gene therapies safer for use in people.

The tool also seems capable of making a wider variety of edits, which might one day allow it to be used to treat the many genetic diseases that have so far stymied gene-editors. David Liu, a chemical biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts and lead study author, estimates that prime editing might help researchers tackle nearly 90% of the more than 75,000 disease-associated DNA variants listed in ClinVar, a public database developed by the US National Institutes of Health.

The specificity of the changes that this latest tool is capable of could also make it easier for researchers to develop models of disease in the laboratory, or to study the function of specific genes, says Liu.

The info is here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Medical board declines to act against fertility doctor who inseminated woman with his own sperm

Image result for dr. mcmorries texas
Dr. McMorries
Marie Saavedra and Mark Smith
Originally posted Oct 28, 2019

The Texas Medical Board has declined to act against a fertility doctor who inseminated a woman with his own sperm rather than from a donor the mother selected.

Though Texas lawmakers have now made such an act illegal, the Texas Medical Board found the actions did not “fall below the acceptable standard of care,” and declined further review, according to a response to a complaint obtained by WFAA.

In a follow-up email, a spokesperson told WFAA the board was hamstrung because it can't review complaints for instances that happened seven years or more past the medical treatment. 

The complaint was filed on behalf of 32-year-old Eve Wiley, of Dallas, who only recently learned her biological father wasn't the sperm donor selected by her mother. Instead, Wiley discovered her biological father was her mother’s fertility doctor in Nacogdoches.

Now 65, Wiley's mother, Margo Williams, had sought help from Dr. Kim McMorries because her husband was infertile.

The info is here.

Moral Responsibility

Talbert, Matthew
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 
(Winter 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

Making judgments about whether a person is morally responsible for her behavior, and holding others and ourselves responsible for actions and the consequences of actions, is a fundamental and familiar part of our moral practices and our interpersonal relationships.

The judgment that a person is morally responsible for her behavior involves—at least to a first approximation—attributing certain powers and capacities to that person, and viewing her behavior as arising (in the right way) from the fact that the person has, and has exercised, these powers and capacities. Whatever the correct account of the powers and capacities at issue (and canvassing different accounts is the task of this entry), their possession qualifies an agent as morally responsible in a general sense: that is, as one who may be morally responsible for particular exercises of agency. Normal adult human beings may possess the powers and capacities in question, and non-human animals, very young children, and those suffering from severe developmental disabilities or dementia (to give a few examples) are generally taken to lack them.

To hold someone responsible involves—again, to a first approximation—responding to that person in ways that are made appropriate by the judgment that she is morally responsible. These responses often constitute instances of moral praise or moral blame (though there may be reason to allow for morally responsible behavior that is neither praiseworthy nor blameworthy: see McKenna 2012: 16–17 and M. Zimmerman 1988: 61–62). Blame is a response that may follow on the judgment that a person is morally responsible for behavior that is wrong or bad, and praise is a response that may follow on the judgment that a person is morally responsible for behavior that is right or good.

The information is here.