: The chronic shortage of transplantable organs has reached critical proportions. In the wake of this crisis, some bioethicists have argued there is sufficient public support to expand organ recovery through use of neocortical criteria of death or even pre-mortem organ retrieval. I present a typology of ways in which data gathered from the public can be misread or selectively used by bioethicists in service of an ideological or policy agenda, resulting in bad policy and bad ethics. Such risks should (...) lead us to look at alternatives for increasing organ supplies short of expanding or abandoning the dead donor rule. The chronic problem of organ scarcity should prompt bioethicists to engage in constructive dialogue about the relation of the social sciences and bioethics, to examine the social malleability of the definition of death, and to revisit the question of the priority of organ transplants in the overall package of healthcare benefits provided to most, but not all, citizens. (shrink)
A substantial portion of the developed world's population is increasingly dependent on machines to make their way in the everyday world. For certain privileged groups, computers, cell phones, PDAs, Blackberries, and IPODs, all permitting the faster processing of information, are commonplace. In these populations, even exercise can be automated as persons try to achieve good physical fitness by riding stationary bikes, running on treadmills, and working out on cross-trainers that send information about performance and heart rate.
It is a commonplace in the scientific and corporate discourse advocating biotechnology that the public is largely uneducated or scientifically illiterate when it comes to understanding the research methods and goals of biotechnology. Public dissent from biotechnology is, in this understanding, based exclusively in irrational fears. The way to dispel these public fears is for scientists in the research community and among corporate culture to engage in education of the public. At one level, it is argued that public educational forums (...) will provide the information the public needs to make an informed choice about the scientific, ethical, and social implications of biotechnology or will provide guidance on such practical questions as whether to consume genetically modified food. However, the educational agenda is not quite that innocent of normative intent: rather, the assumption is that information the public is provided about biotechnology will persuade them of its benefits, its minimal risks, and its ultimate prospects for reshaping our world for the good of all. Objections to biotechnology will then largely dissipate, perhaps voiced occasionally by extremists who will represent the inevitable Luddite resistance to all things technological. (shrink)
Mechanical devices implanted in the body present implications for broad themes in religious thought and experience, including the nature and destiny of the human person, the significance of a person's embodied experience, including the experiences of pain and suffering, the person's relationship to ultimate reality, the divine or the sacred, and the vocation of medicine. Community-constituting convictions and narratives inform the method and content of reasoning about such conceptual questions as whether a moral line should be drawn between therapeutic or (...) enhancement interventions and/or between somatic and neural/cognitive interventions. By attending to these broader community-forming concepts, it is possible to identify three general orienting themes in religious perspectives on incorporated mechanical devices, which we shall designate as perspectives of “appropriation,” “ambivalence,” and “resistance.”. (shrink)
Recent developments in Washington State and Montana have revived interest in death with dignity legislation. Oregon has a decade of experience with this professional experiment in the ethics of end-of-life care that is relevant for subsequent citizen referenda or legislation. This essay discusses the professional, regulatory and ethical issues displayed by the implementation of death with dignity in Oregon. My analysis generates conclusions that while the Oregon statute and its implementation has advanced patient choice andempowered professionals, it has failed a (...) critical test of public transparency and has diffused philosophical meanings of the concept of "dignity.". (shrink)
The moral and professional anguish experienced by the medical student in response to the request is a fundamental sentiment that needs to be retained within the ethos of the medical community. Especially as laws on professional assistance in dying undergo increasing liberalization, society should not want its physicians (or its prospective physicians) to either be so callous, so lacking in compassion that they would dismiss such a patient request out-of-hand, or to be so cavalierly accustomed to acquiescing in such requests (...) that it simply becomes a routine pattern. Either approach on its own betrays the moral integrity of medicine. We instead want those professionals who are present to us in our dying to express both care and respect, to display both compassion and dignity for the dying person, even when, as in this circumstance, these core values come into conflict. In such a situation, moral anguish protects both the professional and the patient, not to mention society, from callous paternalism and/or callous indifference. (shrink)