The ancient practice of metzitzah b'peh, direct oral suction, is still practiced by ultra-Orthodox Jews as part of the religious rite of male newborn circumcision. Between 2000 and 2011, 11 children have died in New York and New Jersey, following infection by herpes simplex virus, presumably from infected practitioners. The City responded by requiring signed parental consent before oral suction, with parents being warned of the dangers of the practice. This essay argues that informed consent is not an appropriate response (...) to this problem. An outright ban would a better response to a practice that is dangerous to children, but might prove unconstitutional under New York State law. (shrink)
: Because I reject the notion that physical characteristics constitute cultural membership, I argue that, even if the claim were persuasive that deafness is a culture rather than a disability, there is no reason to fault hearing parents who choose cochlear implants for their deaf children.
Advances in genetic research and technology can have a profound impact on identity and family dynamics when genetic findings disrupt deeply held assumptions about the nuclear family. Ancestry tracing and paternity testing present parallel risks and opportunities. As these latter uses are now available over the internet directly to the consumer, bypassing the genetic counselor, consumers need adequate warning when making use of these new modalities.
There is strong sentiment for a policy which would exclude foreigners from access to organs from American cadaver donors. One common argument is that foreigners are free riders; since they are not members of the community whichgives organs, it would be unfair to allow them toreceive such a scarce resource.This essay examines the philosophical basis for the free rider argument, and compares that with the empirical data about organ donation in the U.S. The free rider argument ought not to be (...) used to exclude foreign nationals because it is based on fallacious assumptions about group membership, and how the giving community is defined. Polls show that even among the seventy-five per cent of Americans who support organ donation, only seventeen per cent had taken the small step of filling out donor cards. Therefore, it goes against logic to define the giving community as coextensive with American residency, while excluding foreigners who might well have become donors had they lived in countries which provided that option. (shrink)
This paper probes the implications of a genetic basis for sexual orientation for traditional branches of Judaism, which are struggling with how accepting to be of noncelibate gays and lesbians in their communities. The paper looks at the current attitudes toward homosexuality across the different branches of Judaism; social and cultural factors that work against acceptance; attitudes toward science in Jewish culture; and the likelihood that scientific evidence that sexual orientation is at least partly genetically determined will influence Jewish scholars' (...) and leaders' thinking on this issue. (shrink)
: It is possible and necessary to compare stretches of human life with other goods, such as the good of conserving resources for others. A minute of human life is not of infinite value; all else being equal, a minute of life is less valuable than 10 years of the same life. Nevertheless, this ability to evaluate human life does not necessarily lead to total commodification of human life.
The question of whether to allow children with AIDS to attend public school generates explosive emotions and has wide-reaching consequences. This paper focuses on the perspective of parents of well children who may be asked to attend school with children who have AIDS. These parents are poised at the heart of the dilemma: they are the ethical “bottom line,” and an argument that fails to satisfy them ought not to satisfy anyone.The conflicting commitments these parents face are first to the (...) parentchild covenant which requires them to act in their child's best interests, and second, to the principles of beneficence and justice, which require them not to further burden a sick child with ostracism and isolation.Almost exact parallels exist between this issue and that of proxy consent by parents for children's participation in low-risk, non-therapeutic research. The lengthy and important debate between Paul Ramsey and Richard McCormick on this question is analyzed, concluding that McCormick's position in favor of thoughtful proxy consent is the more compelling. Returning to the question of allowing children with AIDS to attend school, the essay shows why the parallels are persuasive. On the ethical level, the apparent conflict of obligations is almost exactly the same; on the pragmatic level, the essay shows why sharing a classroom with a child who has AIDS is comparable to the “low-risk” category that the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects found acceptable in its 1978 guidelines. The essay concludes that parents of healthy childrenmay and ought to accept the presence of children with AIDS in the public school. (shrink)