Obtaining informed consent is a cornerstone of biomedical research, yet participants comprehension of presented information is often low. The most effective interventions to improve understanding rates have not been identified.
In ‘Parental Virtues: A New Way of Thinking about the Morality of Reproductive Actions’ Rosalind McDougall proposes a virtue-based framework to assess the morality of child selection. Applying the virtue-based account to the selection of children with impairments does not lead, according to McDougall, to an unequivocal answer to the morality of selecting impaired children. In ‘Impairment, Flourishing, and the Moral Nature of Parenthood,’ she also applies the virtue-based account to the discussion of child selection, and claims that couples (...) with an impairment are morally justified in selecting a child with the same impairment. This claim, she maintains, reveals that the flourishing of a child should be understood as requiring environment-specific characteristics. I argue that McDougall's argument begs the question. More importantly, it does not do justice to virtue ethics. I also question to what extent a virtue ethics framework can be successfully applied to discussions about the moral permissibility of reproductive actions. (shrink)
We present an annotated bibliography of peer reviewed scientific research highlighting the human health, animal welfare, and environmental risks associated with genetic modification. Risks associated with the expression of the transgenic material include concerns over resistance and non-target effects of crops expressing Bt toxins, consequences of herbicide use associated with genetically modified herbicide-tolerant plants, and transfer of gene expression from genetically modified crops through vertical and horizontal gene transfer. These risks are not connected to the technique of genetic modification (...) as such, but would be present for any conventionally produced crops with the same heritable traits. In contrast, other risks are a direct consequence of the method used in gene manipulation. These come about because of the unstable nature of the transgene and vectors used to insert it, and because of unpredictable interactions between the transgene and the host genome. The debate over the release of genetically modified organisms is not merely a scientific one; it encompasses economics, law, ethics, and policy. Any discussion on these levels does, however, need to be informed by sound science. We hope that the scientific references provided here will provide a useful starting point for further debate. (shrink)
Scientific journals can promote ethical publication practices through policies on conflicts of interest. However, the prevalence of conflict of interest policies and the definition of conflict of interest appear to vary across scientific disciplines. This survey of high-impact, peer-reviewed journals in 12 different scientific disciplines was conducted to assess these variations. The survey identified published conflict of interest policies in 28 of 84 journals (33%). However, when representatives of 49 of the 84 journals (58%) completed a Web-based survey about (...) journal conflict of interest policies, 39 (80%) reported having such a policy. Frequency of policies (including those not published) varied by discipline, from 100% among general medical journals to none among physics journals. Financial interests were most frequently addressed with relation to authors; policies for reviewers most often addressed non-financial conflicts. Twenty-two of the 39 journals with policies (56%) had policies about editors’ conflicts. The highest impact journals in each category were most likely to have a published policy, and the frequency of policies fell linearly with rank; for example, policies were published by 58% of journals ranked 1 in their category, 42% of journals ranked third, and 8% of journals ranked seventh (test for trend, p = 0.003). Having a conflict of interest policy was also associated with a self-reported history of problems with conflict of interest. The prevalence of published conflict of interest policies was higher than that reported in a 1997 study, an increase that might be attributable to heightened awareness of conflict of interest issues. However, many of the journals with policies do not make them readily available and many of those policies that were available lacked clear definitions of conflict of interest or details about how disclosures would be managed during peer review and publication. (shrink)