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
Showing posts with label Legal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Legal. Show all posts

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Do Obligations Follow the Mind or Body?

Protzko, J., Tobia, K., Strohminger, N.,
& Schooler, J.  (2022, February 7). 
Retrieved from psyarxiv.com/m5a6g


Do you persist as the same person over time because you keep the same mind or because you keep the same body? Philosophers have long investigated this question of personal identity with thought experiments. Cognitive scientists have joined this tradition by assessing lay intuitions about those cases. Much of this work has focused on judgments of identity continuity. But identity also has practical significance: obligations are tagged to one’s identity over time. Understanding how someone persists as the same person over time could provide insight into how and why moral and legal obligations persist. In this paper, we investigate judgments of obligations in hypothetical cases where a person’s mind and body diverge (e.g., brain transplant cases). We find a striking pattern of results: In assigning obligations in these identity test cases, people are divided among three groups: “body-followers”, “mind-followers”, and “splitters”—people who say that the obligation is split between the mind and the body. Across studies, responses are predicted by a variety of factors, including mind/body dualism, essentialism, education, and professional training. When we give this task to professional lawyers, accountants, and bankers, we find they are more inclined to rely on bodily continuity in tracking obligations. These findings reveal not only the heterogeneity of intuitions about identity, but how these intuitions relate to the legal standing of an individual’s obligations.

From the General Discussion

Whether one is a mind-follower, body-follower, or splitter was predicted by several psychological traits, suggesting that participants’ decisions were not arbitrary. Furthermore, the use of comprehension checks did not moderate the results, so the variety of assigning obligations were not due to participants not understanding the scenarios. We found physical essentialism and mind/body dualism predict body-following; while the best educated participants are more likely mind-followers and the least educated are more likely splitters. The professional experts were more likely to be body-followers.

Essentialism predicted the belief that obligations track the body. This may seem mysterious, until we consider that much of essentialism has to do with tracking a physical (if invisible) properties. Here is a sample item from the Beliefs in Essentialism Scale: Trying on a sweater that Hitler wore, even if it was washed thoroughly beforehand, would make me very uncomfortable (Horne & Cimpian, 2019). If someone believes that essences are physically real in this way, it makes sense that they would also believe that obligations and identity go with the body. 

Consideration of specific items in the Mind/body Dualism Scale (Nadelhoffer et al., 2014) similarly offer insight into its relationship with the continuity of obligation in this study. Items like Human action can only be understood in terms of our souls and minds and not just in terms of our brains, indicate that for mind/body dualists, a person is not reducible to their brain. Accordingly, for mind/body dualists, though the brain may change, something else remains in the body that maintains both identity and obligations.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Biden Team Gets It Right on Inadmissibility of Torture Evidence

Tess Bridgeman
Originally posted 1 FEB 22

The Biden administration just took an important step to restore the rule of law in the Al-Nashiri case at the Guantanamo military commissions: it categorically rejected the use of statements obtained through torture at any stage in the proceedings and promised that the government will not seek to admit any statements the petitioner made while in CIA custody. This should be unremarkable, as it clearly reflects U.S. domestic and international legal obligations and Biden administration policy, but the position the Department of Justice (DOJ) took in its brief filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday is actually an about-face from the position prosecutors took before the military commission judge. The Al-Nashiri case has a long history, but this most recent controversy stems from prosecutors’ decision to seek to admit statements obtained through torture in pre-trial proceedings in the capital case of Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Al-Nashiri, the “alleged mastermind” of the U.S.S. Cole bombing. Although the prosecution eventually withdrew the particular statements at issue, it had essentially reserved the right to rely on torture-obtained evidence in future proceedings. 

In October of last year, Al-Nashiri filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that sought “to enjoin the government from offering, and the military commission judge from considering, torture-derived evidence.” The much-awaited U.S. government response — called a “moment of truth” for the Biden administration on torture — came yesterday. 


The government is taking the issue seriously in this case; but what about the other cases? 

The government brief states that it has “conducted a search of this case’s voluminous record, including the prosecution’s ex parte submissions” to determine whether there have been any “past orders predicated on evidence admitted in violation of” the Military Commissions Act’s prohibition of the admission of statements obtained through torture or CIDT. It found one, and has committed to “move promptly to correct” the error. This shows the administration is taking the issue seriously. 

But given al-Nashiri isn’t the only petitioner who was in the CIA’s black sites, and that the prosecution regularly makes ex parte submissions in commission proceedings, there may be instances in other cases pending before the military commissions where the same problem is lurking and could compromise the prosecution. If it isn’t doing so already, the government would be wise to undertake a thorough review of all commissions cases and withdraw any submissions it might find that contain information obtained from torture or CIDT.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Surprise: 56% of US Catholics Favor Legalized Abortion

Dalia Fahmy
Pew Research Center
Originally posted 20 Oct 20

Here are two excerpts:

1. More than half of U.S. Catholics (56%) said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while roughly four-in-ten (42%) said it should be illegal in all or most cases, according to the 2019 Pew Research Center survey. Although most Catholics generally approve of legalized abortion, the vast majority favor at least some restrictions. For example, while roughly one-third of Catholics (35%) said abortion should be legal in most cases, only around one-fifth (21%) said it should be legal in all cases. By the same token, 28% of Catholics said abortion should be illegal in most cases, while half as many (14%) said it should be illegal in all cases.

Compared with other Christian groups analyzed in the data, Catholics were about as likely as White Protestants who are not evangelical (60%) and Black Protestants (64%) to support legal abortion, and much more likely than White evangelical Protestants (20%) to do so. Among Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – those who say they are atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – the vast majority (83%) said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.


6. Even though most Catholics said abortion should generally be legal, a majority also said abortion is morally wrong. In fact, the share who said that abortion is morally wrong (57%), according to data from a 2017 survey, and the share who said it should be legal (56%) are almost identical. Among adults in other religious groups, there was a wide range of opinions on this question: Almost two-thirds of Protestants (64%) said abortion is morally wrong, including 77% of those who identify with evangelical Protestant denominations. Among the religiously unaffiliated, the vast majority said abortion is morally acceptable (34%) or not a moral issue (42%).

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Robot sex and consent: Is consent to sex between a robot and a human conceivable, possible, and desirable?

Frank, L., Nyholm, S. 
Artif Intell Law 25, 305–323 (2017).


The development of highly humanoid sex robots is on the technological horizon. If sex robots are integrated into the legal community as “electronic persons”, the issue of sexual consent arises, which is essential for legally and morally permissible sexual relations between human persons. This paper explores whether it is conceivable, possible, and desirable that humanoid robots should be designed such that they are capable of consenting to sex. We consider reasons for giving both “no” and “yes” answers to these three questions by examining the concept of consent in general, as well as critiques of its adequacy in the domain of sexual ethics; the relationship between consent and free will; and the relationship between consent and consciousness. Additionally we canvass the most influential existing literature on the ethics of sex with robots.

Here is an excerpt:

Here, we want to ask a similar question regarding how and whether sex robots should be brought into the legal community. Our overarching question is: is it conceivable, possible, and desirable to create autonomous and smart sex robots that are able to give (or withhold) consent to sex with a human person? For each of these three sub-questions (whether it is conceivable, possible, and desirable to create sex robots that can consent) we consider both “no” and “yes” answers. We are here mainly interested in exploring these questions in general terms and motivating further discussion. However, in discussing each of these sub-questions we will argue that, prima facie, the “yes” answers appear more convincing than the “no” answers—at least if the sex robots are of a highly sophisticated sort.Footnote4

The rest of our discussion divides into the following sections. We start by saying a little more about what we understand by a “sex robot”. We also say more about what consent is, and we review the small literature that is starting to emerge on our topic (Sect. 1). We then turn to the questions of whether it is conceivable, possible, and desirable to create sex robots capable of giving consent—and discuss “no” and “yes” answers to all of these questions. When we discuss the case for considering it desirable to require robotic consent to sex, we argue that there can be both non-instrumental and instrumental reasons in favor of such a requirement (Sects. 2–4). We conclude with a brief summary (Sect. 5).

Friday, April 4, 2014

Disgust and biological descriptions bias logical reasoning during legal decision-making

By Beatrice Capestany and Lasana T. Harris
Social Neuroscience
Originally posted February 27, 2014

Legal decisions often require logical reasoning about the mental states of people who perform gruesome behaviors. We use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine how brain regions implicated in logical reasoning are modulated by emotion and social cognition during legal decision-making. Participants read vignettes describing crimes that elicit strong or weak disgust matched on punishment severity using the US Federal Sentencing Guidelines. An extraneous sentence at the end of each vignette described the perpetrator’s personality using traits or biological language, mimicking the increased use of scientific evidence presented in courts. Behavioral results indicate that crimes weak in disgust receive significantly less punishment than the guidelines recommend. Neuroimaging results indicate that brain regions active during logical reasoning respond less to crimes weak in disgust and biological descriptions of personality, demonstrating the impact of emotion and social cognition on logical reasoning mechanisms necessary for legal decision-making.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Extraneous factors in judicial decisions

By Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav, and Liora Avnaim-Pesso
PNAS - Originally posted in 2011, and still relevant today
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1018033108


Are judicial rulings based solely on laws and facts? Legal formalism holds that judges apply legal reasons to the facts of a case in a rational, mechanical, and deliberative manner. In contrast, legal realists argue that the rational application of legal reasons does not sufficiently explain the decisions of judges and that psychological, political, and social factors influence judicial rulings. We test the common caricature of realism that justice is “what the judge ate for breakfast” in sequential parole decisions made by experienced judges. We record the judges’ two daily food breaks, which result in segmenting the deliberations of the day into three distinct “decision sessions.” We find that the percentage of favorable rulings drops gradually from ≈65% to nearly zero within each decision session and returns abruptly to ≈65% after a break. Our findings suggest that judicial rulings can be swayed by extraneous variables that should have no bearing on legal decisions.

The entire article is here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Supreme Court slates generic drug 'pay-for-delay' case

By Joe Carlson
Posted: December 8, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a "pay-for-delay" case that has the Federal Trade Commission accusing generic drugmakers of violating competition laws by agreeing to accept $42 million in annual payments in exchange for not selling generic versions of a more-expensive brand-name testosterone gel.

The FTC says (PDF) the companies—lead respondent Watson Pharmaceuticals, along with Paddock Laboratories, Par Pharmaceutical Cos. and Abbott Laboratories subsidiary Solvay Pharmaceuticals—conspired illegally to keep cheaper drugs off the market, to the detriment of consumers of the brand-name drug.

The companies, meanwhile, say their actions were legal and immune from FTC scrutiny (PDF). However, they did not oppose a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, because they said differing interpretations of federal law had led to split legal reasoning in various U.S. circuits on a controversy of national significance.

The entire story is here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

NY judge won't order Gitmo doc probe

By JENNIFER PELTZ, Associated Press

NEW YORK – A judge has declined to force an investigation into whether an Army psychologist developed abusive interrogation techniques for detainees at Guantanamo Bay and should be stripped of his license, halting what civil-rights advocates have called the first court case amid a push to shed light on psychologists' role in terror suspects' interrogations.

The person who brought the case — another psychologist — doesn't have legal standing to do so, Manhattan Civil Court Judge Saliann Scarpulla said in a ruling filed Thursday.

Rights activists and some psychologists have pressed regulators in several states — unsuccessfully so far — to explore whether psychologists violated professional rules by designing or observing abusive interrogations.

In New York, rights advocates focused on John F. Leso, saying he developed "psychologically and physically abusive" interrogation techniques for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The state Office of Professional Discipline, which oversees psychologists, declined last year to look into Leso. The agency said that his Army work is outside its purview and that the agency isn't in a position to address larger questions about the appropriateness of detainee interrogation methods.
The decision spurred the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, the New York Civil Liberties Union and psychologist Steven Reisner to sue the agency last fall and ask the judge to force a review of techniques developed by Leso, who holds a New York psychologists' license.

"The ruling is unfortunate, as Dr. Reisner's claims raise serious and fundamental questions that should have their day in court," Center for Justice and Accountability lawyer Kathy Roberts said in a statement.

She said the groups are considering an appeal but also keeping their eye on proposed state legislation that would require investigating any allegation that a health care professional has participated in torture or other improper treatment.

Representatives for the state professional discipline office and the state Attorney General's office didn't immediately return calls. No contact information was immediately available for Leso, who isn't named in the court case and never chose to weigh in with a filing of his own. An Army spokesman didn't immediately return a call about Leso.

The rest of the story can be read here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Canadian Psychology: Ethical and Legal Considerations of record keeping

An updated account of the ethical and legal considerations of record keeping.
Bemister, Taryn B.; Dobson, Keith S.


The Canadian literature is void of contemporary guidelines for clinical record keeping for psychologists, as the most recent article was published more than two decades ago (Eberlein, 1990). However, the techniques used in record keeping have greatly advanced, specifically with regard to the role of computers and the use of electronic documents. Furthermore, new legislation and guidelines have been developed in response to these technological advancements. The purpose of this article is to provide a concise, accessible, and up-to-date set of guidelines on record keeping in psychology. The professional and legal requirements of psychologists are discussed with regard to the use, content, access, ownership, and retention of records with special consideration given to electronic documents. Recommendations are made for Canadian psychologists that are consistent with the current legal and professional standards of the field.

Beginning of the article:

The Canadian literature is void of contemporary guidelines for clinical record keeping.

Although books that contain information regarding record keeping have been published more recently (e.g., Evans, 2004 and Truscott & Crook, 2004), the most recent article dates back to 1990 (Eberlein, 1990).
Eberlein's article was written largely in response to the establishment of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (Canadian Psychological Association [CPA], 1988; herein referred to as the Code of Ethics).

However, two revisions of the Code of Ethics have been published (1999 and 2001), and the techniques used in record keeping have advanced, specifically with regard to the role of computers and the use of electronic documents.

Beyond the above developments, the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) was introduced in 2000, and it has modified the statutes relevant to records.

Similarly, a draft of guidelines for psychologists who provide psychological services via electronic media was developed (CPA, 2006; to be finalized).

A second exerpt:

The purpose of this article is to provide a concise and accessible resource on record keeping that is up-to-date with the advances that have occurred since 1990.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the issues related to record keeping and provides recommendations for Canadian psychologists.

More specifically, the professional and legal requirements of psychologists are discussed with regard to the use, content, access, ownership, and retention of records with special consideration given to electronic documents.

The implications of technological advances on client confidentiality and privacy are also considered.
The suggestions made in this paper are consistent with the Code of Ethics, as well as legislative and provincial laws and regulations, including the Code of Conduct (or its equivalent) of each province and territory.

The author note provides the following contact information: Taryn B. Bemister, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada. E-mail: tbbemist@ucalgary.ca.

Thanks to Ken Pope for the information.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Distance Therapy Comes of Age: Article Review

John D. Gavazzi, PsyD ABPP
Ethics Chair

A friend recommended that I read Distance Therapy Comes of Age by Robert Epstein in the magazine Scientific American Mind.  While the title seemed appealing, the article treats telehealth and e-therapy quite superficially.  There is little in the way of empirical support for conclusions made in the article.

The article indicates that there is an "avalanche of evidence" supporting the efficacy of e-therapy.  I reviewed one of the sources for this article, "Current Directions in Videoconferencing Tele-Mental Health Research" by Richardson and others.  Here is one important quote from the article that undermines the overall conclusion of the article:

"Compared to symptom reduction and cost effectiveness, satisfaction is a simple variable to measure, and it is perceived to be a necessary first step for the development of good therapist-client relationships (Rees & Haythornthwaite, 2004). However a common weakness of tele-mental health research, particularly in small studies and novel demonstrations, has been to overemphasize patient satisfaction as being the same as clinical effectiveness. Furthermore, the majority of studies examining satisfaction with tele-mental health have typically used study-specific measures of this outcome, and the psychometric properties of these instruments are largely unknown. Finally, we do not know whether patient satisfaction with tele-mental health would remain as high in the presence of alternative mental health services, or if ratings of high satisfaction are a by-product of simply being pleased to receive any service at all."
Additionally, one of the "Fast Facts" in the article states "brief therapeutic communiques using mobile phones can help combat eating disorder, alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking and anxiety, among other problems."  The author cites research from Kristin Heron and Joshua Smyth to support the point; however, there is no reference given as to who published this research or where to find it.

There were some positive components to the article.  The first is a quote from Gerry Koocher, which states "the important thing is that you're practicing competently, no matter how you are delivering the therapy."  Koocher also made the important points that e-therapy may not be appropriate for everyone as well as the potential for fraud exists.

Psychologists need more definitive information and guidelines about telepsychology and e-therapy to practice at the highest level.

Fortunately, there is positive movement for psychologists interested in telehealth, e-therapy, and telepsychology.  The Committee for the Advancement of Psychology recently announced the formation of a new Task Force on Telepsychology.

We are pleased to announce the members of the newly formed Task Force on Telepsychology.  The Task Force members represent the American Psychological Association (APA), the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), and the American Psychological Association Insurance Trust (APAIT).  The purpose of the Task Force will be to develop telepsychology guidelines that will provide direction to psychologists as they navigate the numerous ethical, regulatory, legal and practice issues that arise in their use of technology in the delivery of psychological services.  We want to acknowledge and thank these new members for their leadership and commitment to participate in this multi-organizational Task Force.
Psychologists will need to rely on credible sources of information before embarking in e-therapy and telepsychology.  Some interesting issues include informed consent, practicing across state lines, and the overall efficacy of telepsychology. 

This blog will update our readers on recent research about the effectiveness of telepsychology as well as any outcomes from the Task Force on Telepsychology.  Psychologists need to be informed on the ethical, legal, and competent practice of telepsychology.