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 Maleficence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maleficence. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Blots on a Field? (A modern story of unethical research related to Alzheimer's)

Charles Pillar
Science Magazine
Originally posted 21 JUL 22

Here is an excerpt:

A 6-month investigation by Science provided strong support for Schrag’s suspicions and raised questions about Lesné’s research. A leading independent image analyst and several top Alzheimer’s researchers—including George Perry of the University of Texas, San Antonio, and John Forsayeth of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)—reviewed most of Schrag’s findings at Science’s request. They concurred with his overall conclusions, which cast doubt on hundreds of images, including more than 70 in Lesné’s papers. Some look like “shockingly blatant” examples of image tampering, says Donna Wilcock, an Alzheimer’s expert at the University of Kentucky.

The authors “appeared to have composed figures by piecing together parts of photos from different experiments,” says Elisabeth Bik, a molecular biologist and well-known forensic image consultant. “The obtained experimental results might not have been the desired results, and that data might have been changed to … better fit a hypothesis.”

Early this year, Schrag raised his doubts with NIH and journals including Nature; two, including Nature last week, have published expressions of concern about papers by Lesné. Schrag’s work, done independently of Vanderbilt and its medical center, implies millions of federal dollars may have been misspent on the research—and much more on related efforts. Some Alzheimer’s experts now suspect Lesné’s studies have misdirected Alzheimer’s research for 16 years.

“The immediate, obvious damage is wasted NIH funding and wasted thinking in the field because people are using these results as a starting point for their own experiments,” says Stanford University neuroscientist Thomas Südhof, a Nobel laureate and expert on Alzheimer’s and related conditions.

Lesné did not respond to requests for comment. A UMN spokesperson says the university is reviewing complaints about his work.

To Schrag, the two disputed threads of Aβ research raise far-reaching questions about scientific integrity in the struggle to understand and cure Alzheimer’s. Some adherents of the amyloid hypothesis are too uncritical of work that seems to support it, he says. “Even if misconduct is rare, false ideas inserted into key nodes in our body of scientific knowledge can warp our understanding.”


The paper provided an “important boost” to the amyloid and toxic oligomer hypotheses when they faced rising doubts, Südhof says. “Proponents loved it, because it seemed to be an independent validation of what they have been proposing for a long time.”

“That was a really big finding that kind of turned the field on its head,” partly because of Ashe’s impeccable imprimatur, Wilcock says. “It drove a lot of other investigators to … go looking for these [heavier] oligomer species.”

As Ashe’s star burned more brightly, Lesné’s rose. He joined UMN with his own NIH-funded lab in 2009. Aβ*56 remained a primary research focus. Megan Larson, who worked as a junior scientist for Lesné and is now a product manager at Bio-Techne, a biosciences supply company, calls him passionate, hardworking, and charismatic. She and others in the lab often ran experiments and produced Western blots, Larson says, but in their papers together, Lesné prepared all the images for publication.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

New Texas rule lets social workers turn away clients who are LGBTQ or have a disability

Edgar Walters
Texas Tribune
Originally posted 14 Oct 2020

Texas social workers are criticizing a state regulatory board’s decision this week to remove protections for LGBTQ clients and clients with disabilities who seek social work services.

The Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners voted unanimously Monday to change a section of its code of conduct that establishes when a social worker may refuse to serve someone. The code will no longer prohibit social workers from turning away clients on the basis of disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s office recommended the change, board members said, because the code’s nondiscrimination protections went beyond protections laid out in the state law that governs how and when the state may discipline social workers.

“It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the Legislature,” said Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze. A state law passed last year gave the governor’s office more control over rules governing state-licensed professions.

The nondiscrimination policy change drew immediate criticism from a professional association. Will Francis, executive director of the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, called it “incredibly disheartening.”

He also criticized board members for removing the nondiscrimination protections without input from the social workers they license and oversee.

Note: All psychotherapy services are founded on the principle of beneficence: the desire to help others and do right by them.  This decision from the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners is terrifyingly unethical.  The unanimous decision demonstrates the highest levels of incompetence and bigotry.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Trump's separation of families constitutes torture, doctors find

David Xol-Cholom of Guatemala hugs his son Byron at Los Angeles international airport last month as they reunite after being separated about one and half years ago.Amanda Holpuch
Originally posted 25 Feb 20

Here is an excerpt:

Legal experts have argued family separation constituted torture, but this is the first time a medical group has reached the determination.

PHR volunteer psychiatrists evaluated 17 adults and nine children who had been separated between 30 to 90 days. Most met the criteria for at least one mental health condition, including post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder “consistent with, and likely linked to, the trauma of family separation”, according to the report.

Not only did the brutal family separation policy create trauma, it was intensified by the families’ previous exposure to violence on their journey to the US and in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

All but two of the adults evaluated by PHR said they had received death threats in their home countries and 14 out of the 17 adults said they were targeted by drug cartels. All were fearful their child would be harmed or killed if they remained at home.

Almost all the children had been drugged, kidnapped, poisoned or threatened by gangs before they left. One mother told investigators she moved her daughter to different schools in El Salvador several times so gang members couldn’t find her and kill her.

The info is here.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Samantha’s suffering: why sex machines should have rights too

Victoria Brooks
The Conversation
Originally posted April 5, 2018

Here is the conclusion:

Machines are indeed what we make them. This means we have an opportunity to avoid assumptions and prejudices brought about by the way we project human feelings and desires. But does this ethically entail that robots should be able to consent to or refuse sex, as human beings would?

The innovative philosophers and scientists Frank and Nyholm have found many legal reasons for answering both yes and no (a robot’s lack of human consciousness and legal personhood, and the “harm” principle, for example). Again, we find ourselves seeking to apply a very human law. But feelings of suffering outside of relationships, or identities accepted as the “norm”, are often illegitimised by law.

So a “legal” framework which has its origins in heteronormative desire does not necessarily construct the foundation of consent and sexual rights for robots. Rather, as the renowned post-human thinker Rosi Braidotti argues, we need an ethic, as opposed to a law, which helps us find a practical and sensitive way of deciding, taking into account emergences from cross-species relations. The kindness and empathy we feel toward Samantha may be a good place to begin.

The article is here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

AI Without Borders: How To Create Universally Moral Machines

Abinash Tripathy
Originally posted April 11, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Ultimately, developing moral machines will be a learning process. It’s not surprising that early versions of advanced machine learning have adopted undesirable human traits. It is promising, however, that immense thought and care are being put into these issues. Pioneers including DeepMind, researchers at Duke University, the German government, and the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence have invested research, experimentation and thought into determining the best way not to model machines after humans as they exist but after an ideal version of human intelligence.

Despite this care, there will always be those who use technological advancements with malicious intent. Organizations will need to prepare for the potential harm that can arise both from competitors and from internal AI developments. From bots to AI assistants, to AI lawyers, to simple automated technologies such as those used in manufacturing, we must decide what is right, what is wrong and what aspects of humanity we are truly willing to hand over to machines.

The information is here.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

VA knowingly hires doctors with past malpractice claims, discipline for poor care

Donovan Slack
USA Today
Originally published December 3, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

A VA hospital in Oklahoma knowingly hired a psychiatrist previously sanctioned for sexual misconduct who went on to sleep with a VA patient, according to internal documents. A Louisiana VA clinic hired a psychologist with felony convictions. The VA ended up firing him after they determined he was a “direct threat to others” and the VA’s mission.

As a result of USA TODAY’s investigation of Schneider, VA officials determined his hiring — and potentially that of an unknown number of other doctors — was illegal.

Federal law bars the agency from hiring physicians whose license has been revoked by a state board, even if they still hold an active license in another state. Schneider still has a license in Montana, even though his Wyoming license was revoked.

VA spokesman Curt Cashour said agency officials provided hospital officials in Iowa City with “incorrect guidance” green-lighting Schneider’s hire. The VA moved to fire Schneider last Wednesday. He resigned instead.

The article is here.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Car Crash And A Mistrial Cast Doubts On Court-Ordered Mental Health Exams

Steve Burger
Side Effect Media: Public Health/Personal Stories
Originally posted September 26, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

Investigating a lie

Fink was often hired by the courts in Indiana, and over the last ten years had performed dozens of these competency evaluations. His scene-of-the-crash confession called into question not only the Loving trial, but every one he ever worked on.

Courts rely on psychologists to assess the mental fitness of defendants, but Fink’s story raises serious questions about how courts determine mental competency in Indiana and what system of oversight is in place to ensure defendants get a valid examination.

The judge declared a mistrial in Caleb Loving’s case, but Fink’s confession prompted a massive months-long investigation in Vanderburgh County.

Hermann led the investigation, working to untangle a mess of nearly 70 cases for which Fink performed exams or testing, determined to discover the extent of the damage he had done.

“A lot of different agencies participated in that investigation,” Herman said. “It was a troubling case, in that someone who was literally hired by the court to come in and testify about something … [was] lying.”

The county auditor’s office provided payment histories of psychologists hired by the courts, and the Evansville Police Department spent hundreds of hours looking through records. The courts helped Hermann get access to the cases that Albert Fink had worked on.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

APA Applauds Release of Senate Intelligence Committee Report Summary

American Psychological Association
Press Release
December 9, 2014

Says transparency will help protect human rights in the future

WASHINGTON — The American Psychological Association welcomed the release today of the Executive Summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program during the George W. Bush administration. The document’s release recognizes American citizens’ right to know about the prior action of their government and is the best way to ensure that, going forward, the United States engages in national security programs that safeguard human rights and comply with international law.

The new details provided by the report regarding the extent and barbarity of torture techniques used by the CIA are sickening and morally reprehensible.

Two psychologists mentioned prominently in the report under pseudonyms, but identified in media reports as James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, are not members of the American Psychological Association. Jessen was never a member; Mitchell resigned in 2006. Therefore, they are outside the reach of the association’s ethics adjudication process. Regardless of their membership status with APA, if the descriptions of their actions are accurate, they should be held fully accountable for violations of human rights and U.S. and international law.

Last month, the APA announced an independent review of the allegation by New York Times reporter and author James Risen that the association colluded with the Bush administration to support enhanced interrogation techniques that constituted torture. The review is being conducted by attorney David Hoffman of the law office Sidley Austin. Hoffman will be reviewing the released Senate Intelligence Committee report as a part of his APA review. Anyone with relevant information they wish to share with Hoffman is encouraged to communicate with him directly by email or phone at (312) 456-8468.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 130,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Straight Path

A Conversation with Ronald A. Howard
Sam Harris Blog
Originally posted April 20, 2013

Here are some excerpts:

As I wrote in the introduction to Lying, Ronald A. Howard was one of my favorite professors in college, and his courses on ethics, social systems, and decision making did much to shape my views on these topics. Last week, he was kind enough to speak with me at length about the ethics of lying. The following post is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Ronald A. Howard directs teaching and research in the Decision Analysis Program of the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University.  He is also the Director of the Department’s Decisions and Ethics Center, which examines the efficacy and ethics of social arrangements.  He defined the profession of decision analysis in 1964 and has since supervised several doctoral theses in decision analysis every year.  His experience includes dozens of decision analysis projects that range over virtually all fields of application, from investment planning to research strategy, and from hurricane seeding to nuclear waste isolation.  He was a founding Director and Chairman of Strategic Decisions Group and is President of the Decision Education Foundation, an organization dedicated to bringing decision skills to youth.  He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of INFORMS and IEEE, and the 1986 Ramsey medalist of the Decision Analysis Society.  He is the author, with Clint Korver, of Ethics for the Real World: Creating a Personal Code to Guide Decisions in Work and Life.


Harris: Let’s return to the case in which you are in the presence of someone who seems likely to act unethically. Can you say more about honesty in those situations?

Howard: Well, I’d make a distinction between the maxim-breakers—in other words, a person who is harming others or stealing—and those who are merely lying or otherwise speaking unethically. Lying is not a crime unless it’s part of a fraud. If someone asks for directions to Wal-Mart, and you know the way but you send them walking in the opposite direction—it’s not a nice thing to do, but it’s not a crime. Imagine if they came back with a policeman and said, “That’s the man who misdirected me.” You could say, “Yeah, I did. It just so happens that I like to watch people wandering in the wrong direction.” That’s not a crime.  It’s not nice behavior. It might be reason for someone to boycott your business, or to exclude you from certain groups, but it’s not going to land you in jail.

I make a careful distinction between what I call “maxim violations”—interfering with peaceful, honest people—and everything else.

Harris: Yes, I see. It breaks ethics into two different categories—one of which gets promoted to the legal system to protect people from various harms.

Howard: In fact, there are also two categories in the domain of lying. The first is where people acknowledge the problem—people obviously get hurt by lies—and then the other cases where more or less everyone tends to lie and feels good about it, or sees no alternative to it. That’s why your book is so important—because people think it’s a good thing to tell so-called “white” lies. Saying “Oh, you look terrific in that dress,” even when you believe it is unattractive, is a “white” lie justified by not hurting the person’s feelings.

The example that came up in class yesterday was, do you want that mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-who’s-the-fairest-of-them-all device, or do you want a mirror that shows you what you really look like? Or imagine buying a car that came with a special option that gave you information that you might prefer to the truth: When you wanted to go fast, it would indicate that you were going even faster than you were. When you passed a gas station, it would tell you that you didn’t need any gas. Of course, nobody wants that. Well, then, why would you want it in your life in general?

The entire article is here.