Ronald Dworkin argues on the basis of a theory of well-being that critical paternalism is self-defeating. People must endorse their lives if they are to benefit. This is the endorsement constraint and this paper rejects it. For certain kinds of important mistakes that people can make in their lives, the endorsement constraint is either incredible or too narrow to rule out as much paternalism as Dworkin wants. The endorsement constraint cannot be interpreted to give sensible judgements when people change their (...) minds about the value of their lives. And the main argument for the endorsement constraint, which is based on the value of integrity, does not support Dworkin's anti-paternalism. (shrink)
Transplantation is a medically successful and cost-effective way to treat people whose organs have failed--but not enough organs are available to meet demand. T. M. Wilkinson explores the major ethical problems raised by policies for acquiring organs. Key topics include the rights of the dead, the role of the family, and the sale of organs.
_Bodies for Sale: Ethics and Exploitation in the Human Body Trade _explores the philosophical and practical issues raised by activities such as surrogacy and organ trafficking. Stephen Wilkinson asks what is it that makes some commercial uses of the body controversial, whether the arguments against commercial exploitation stand up, and whether legislation outlawing such practices is really justified. In Part One Wilkinson explains and analyses some of the notoriously slippery concepts used in the body commodification debate, including exploitation, (...) harm and consent. In Part Two he focuses on three controversial issues outlining contemporary regulation and investigating both the moral issues and the arguments for legal prohibition. (shrink)
To what extent should parents be allowed to use reproductive technologies to determine the characteristics of their future children? Is there something morally wrong with choosing what their sex will be, or with trying to 'screen out' as much disease and disability as possible before birth? Stephen Wilkinson offers answers to such questions.
Dr Dominic Wilkinson, Department of Neonatal Medicine, University of Adelaide, 72 King William Rd, North Adelaide, South Australia 5006, Australia; email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.orgIs it good for there to be both males and females of our species? This question seems highly fanciful, and a long way from the ethical questions that health professionals face on a daily basis. However, philosophical thought experiments like this sometimes help to clarify questions that are of much broader relevance. In this case, the prospect of (...) an all-female planet focuses our attention on what it means to be normal or abnormal, on the nature and implications of the different behaviour of men and women, on the political ramifications and resonances of bioethical debate, and on our obligations to future generations.The possibility of an all-female world has featured in recent debates about enhancement—the use of medical technologies to enhance the capacities and characteristics of humans beyond what is considered normal. Philosopher Rob Sparrow has provocatively suggested that since females have a longer lifespan and are able to bear children, supporters of enhancement should support the deliberate selection of only female …. (shrink)
James H. Wilkinson - Hegel and Aristotle - Journal of the History of Philosophy 40:4 Journal of the History of Philosophy 40.4 550-551 Book Review Hegel and Aristotle Alfredo Ferrarin. Hegel and Aristotle. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Pp. xxii + 442. Cloth, $64.95. This is an important book which should be read by anyone interested in either of the two philosophers. Ferrarin demonstrates that the structure and detail of Hegel's executed project owe more to Aristotle than to (...) Kant or any other philosopher. He also shows that Hegel's interpretation of Aristotle is profound and worth careful study, even if it is in some ways mistaken. With the exception of the Poetics and Aesthetics, Ferrarin discusses all the relevant primary texts, and he.. (shrink)
Wilkinson (1991a) developed arguments that the distributions of primitive character states may delimit clades, and proposed a method that exploited the evidence of primitive character state distributions for inferring clades. Whiting and Kelly (1995) presented a critique of these ideas, arguing that they are logically incoherent and that the method does not succeed in its aims. This critique severely misrepresents the original arguments and the method, and amounts to no more than an attack on a straw man.
Written with the beginner in mind, Robert Wilkinson carefully introduces the reader to the fundamental components of the philosophy of mind. Each chapter is then helpfully linked to a reading from key thinkers in the field such as Descartes and John R. Searle.
_Minds and Bodies_ is a clear introduction to the mind-body problem. It requires no prior philosophical knowledge and is ideally suited to newcomers to philosophy and philosophy of mind. Robert Wilkinson carefully introduces the fundamental components of the philosophy of mind: Descartes's dualist account of mind and body; monist views including eliminativism; computer science and artificial intelligence. Each chapter is linked to a reading from key thinkers in the field, from Descartes to Paul Churchland.
If a doctor is trying to decide whether or not to provide a medical treatment, does it matter ethically whether that treatment has already been started? Health professionals sometimes find it harder to stop a treatment than to refrain from starting the treatment. But does that feeling correspond to an ethical difference? In this article, we defend equivalence—the view that withholding and withdrawal of treatment are ethically equivalent when all other factors are equal. We argue that preference for withholding over (...) withdrawal could represent a form of cognitive bias—withdrawal aversion. Nevertheless, we consider whether there could be circumstances in which there is a moral difference. We identify four examples of conditional nonequivalence. Finally, we reflect on the moral significance of diverging intuitions and the implications for policy. We propose a set of practical strategies for helping to reduce bias in end-of-life decision making, including the equivalence test. (shrink)
Background Decisions about withdrawal of life support for infants have given rise to legal battles between physicians and parents creating intense media attention. It is unclear how we should evaluate when life is no longer worth living for an infant. Public attitudes towards treatment withdrawal and the role of parents in situations of disagreement have not previously been assessed. Methods An online survey was conducted with a sample of the UK public to assess public views about the benefit of life (...) in hypothetical cases similar to real cases heard by the UK courts. We then evaluated these public views in comparison with existing ethical frameworks for decision-making. Results One hundred and thirty participants completed the survey. The majority agreed that an infant’s life may have no benefit when well-being falls below a critical level. Decisions to withdraw treatment were positively associated with the importance of use of medical resources, the infant’s ability to have emotional relationships, and mental abilities. Up to 50% of participants in each case believed it was permissible to either continue or withdraw treatment. Conclusion Despite the controversy, our findings indicate that in the most severe cases, most people agree that life is not worth living for a profoundly disabled infant. Our survey found wide acceptance of at least the permissibility of withdrawal of treatment across a range of cases, though also a reluctance to overrule parents’ decisions. These findings may be useful when constructing guidelines for clinical practice. (shrink)
It may soon be possible to generate human organs inside of human-pig chimeras via a process called interspecies blastocyst complementation. This paper discusses what arguably the central ethical concern is raised by this potential source of transplantable organs: that farming human-pig chimeras for their organs risks perpetrating a serious moral wrong because the moral status of human-pig chimeras is uncertain, and potentially significant. Those who raise this concern usually take it to be unique to the creation of chimeric animals with (...) ‘humanised’ brains. In this paper, we show how that the same style of argument can be used to critique current uses of non-chimeric pigs in agriculture. This reveals an important tension between two common moral views: that farming human-pig chimeras for their organs is ethically concerning, and that farming non-chimeric pigs for food or research is ethically benign. At least one of these views stands in need of revision. (shrink)
Why do people in more unequal societies have worse health and shorter lives than those in less unequal ones? Why do more unequal societies tend to have more violence and weaker community life? This paper discusses the research evidence on the psychosocial pathways which suggest how and why we are affected by inequality.How big income differences are in any society seems to serve as an indicator of the scale of social differentiation and social distances within it. The evidence shows that (...) more hierarchical societies incur a wide range of social costs reflecting the corrosive effects of inequality. But why are we so sensitive to inequality? Epidemiological research on health inequalities and the social determinants of health has demonstrated that the quality of the social environment has powerful effects on health. Particularly important are social status, friendship and early childhood experience. The indications are that poor health may share causal pathways with many other social problems associated with relative deprivation - including violence.Summarizing my recent book, The Impact of Inequality , this paper provides an account of how inequality gets under the skin to affect both health and wellbeing. Rather than making comparisons with some impractical state of complete equality, all the evidence presented shows the importance of the differences in inequality between different states of the USA or between different developed market democracies: it shows that even small increases in equality matter. (shrink)
Mitochondrial replacement techniques have the potential to allow prospective parents who are at risk of passing on debilitating or even life-threatening mitochondrial disorders to have healthy children to whom they are genetically related. Ethical concerns have however been raised about these techniques. This article focuses on one aspect of the ethical debate, the question of whether there is any moral difference between the two types of MRT proposed: Pronuclear Transfer and Maternal Spindle Transfer. It examines how questions of identity impact (...) on the ethical evaluation of each technique and argues that there is an important difference between the two. PNT, it is argued, is a form of therapy based on embryo modification while MST is, instead, an instance of selective reproduction. The article's main ethical conclusion is that, in some circumstances, there is a stronger obligation to use PNT than MST. (shrink)
On 24 July 2017, the long-running, deeply tragic and emotionally fraught case of Charlie Gard reached its sad conclusion. Following further medical assessment of the infant, Charlie’s parents and doctors finally reached agreement that continuing medical treatment was not in Charlie’s best interests. Life support was subsequently withdrawn and Charlie died on 28 July 2017.Box 1 ### Case summary and timeline21–23 Charlie Gard was born at full term, apparently healthy, in August 2016. At a few weeks of age his parents (...) noticed early signs of muscle weakness. At 2 months of age, he was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital with poor feeding, failure to thrive and respiratory failure. He was admitted to intensive care, where investigations led to the diagnosis of a rare severe mitochondrial disorder – infantile onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. The specific genetic form of MDDS in Charlie Gard had previously been reported in approximately 15 infants, with typical clinical features including early onset, rapid progression and death in infancy.24 By that point, Charlie was paralysed and unable to breathe without respiratory support. He was found to have congenital deafness, and his heart, liver and kidneys were affected by the disorder. Doctors felt that Charlie’s prognosis was extremely poor. In early 2017, Charlie’s parents identified an experimental treatment, previously used in a different form of MDDS, which they hoped might benefit Charlie. In mouse models of a myopathic form of MDDS, early supplementation with deoxypryrimidine nucleosides apparently bypasses the genetic defect and leads to a reduction in the biochemical defect and in the severity of the clinical phenotype.25 26 Doctors at GOSH initially planned to use nucleoside treatment in Charlie, but in January he developed evidence of electrical seizures, and clinicians became convinced that treatment, both continued intensive care and the requested …. (shrink)
The sentence Irving was closer to me than he was to most of the others contains a quantifier, most of the other, in the scope a comparative. The first part of this paper explains the challenges presented by such cases to existing approaches to the semantics of the comparative. The second part presents a new analysis of comparatives based on intervals rather than points on a scale. This innovation is analogized to the move from moments to intervals in tense semantics. (...) The remainder of the paper is concerned with an interval-based semantics of degree in relation to issues other than the comparative proper. The paper begins with a discussion of the role negative polarity has played in studies on the semantics of comparatives. (shrink)
When is it permissible to allow a newborn infant to die on the basis of their future quality of life? The prevailing official view is that treatment may be withdrawn only if the burdens in an infant's future life outweigh the benefits. In this paper I outline and defend an alternative view. On the Threshold View, treatment may be withdrawn from infants if their future well-being is below a threshold that is close to, but above the zero-point of well-being. I (...) present four arguments in favor of the Threshold View, and identify and respond to several counterarguments. I conclude that it is justifiable in some circumstances for parents and doctors to decide to allow an infant to die even though the infant's life would be worth living. The Threshold View provides a justification for treatment decisions that is more consistent, more robust, and potentially more practical than the standard view. (shrink)
There are not enough solid organs available to meet the needs of patients with organ failure. Thousands of patients every year die on the waiting lists for transplantation. Yet there is one currently available, underutilized, potential source of organs. Many patients die in intensive care following withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment whose organs could be used to save the lives of others. At present the majority of these organs go to waste.In this paper we consider and evaluate a range of ways (...) to improve the number and quality of organs available from this group of patients. Changes to consent arrangements (for example conscription of organs after death) or changes to organ donation practice could dramatically increase the numbers of organs available, though they would conflict with currently accepted norms governing transplantation.We argue that one alternative, Organ Donation Euthanasia, would be a rational improvement over current practice regarding withdrawal of life support. It would give individuals the greatest chance of being able to help others with their organs after death. It would increase patient autonomy. It would reduce the chance of suffering during the dying process. We argue that patients should be given the choice of whether and how they would like to donate their organs in the event of withdrawal of life support in intensive care.Continuing current transplantation practice comes at the cost of death and prolonged organ failure. We should seriously consider all of the alternatives. (shrink)
Ethical analyses, professional guidelines and legal decisions support the equivalence thesis for life-sustaining treatment: if it is ethical to withhold treatment, it would be ethical to withdraw the same treatment. In this paper we explore reasons why the majority of medical professionals disagree with the conclusions of ethical analysis. Resource allocation is considered by clinicians to be a legitimate reason to withhold but not to withdraw intensive care treatment. We analyse five arguments in favour of non-equivalence, and find only relatively (...) weak reasons to restrict rationing to withholding treatment. On the contrary, resource allocation provides a strong argument in favour of equivalence: non-equivalence causes preventable death in critically ill patients. We outline two proposals for increasing equivalence in practice: (1) reduction of the mortality threshold for treatment withdrawal, (2) time-limited trials of intensive care. These strategies would help to move practice towards more rational treatment limitation decisions. (shrink)
Current models of auditory verbal hallucinations tend to focus on the mechanisms underlying their occurrence, but often fail to address the content of the auditory experience. In other words, they tend to ask why there are AVHs at all, instead of asking why, given that there are AVHs, they have the properties that they have. One such property, which has been largely overlooked and which we will focus on here, is why the voices are often experienced as coming from agents, (...) and often specific, individualised agents. In this article, we argue not only that the representation of agents is important in accurately describing many cases of AVH, but also that deeper reflection on what is involved in the representation of agents has potentially vital consequences for our aetiological understanding of AVH, namely, for understanding how and why AVHs come about. (shrink)
The four thoughtful commentaries on our feature article draw out interesting empirical and normative questions. The aim of our study was to examine the views of a sample of the general public about a set of cases of disputed treatment for severely impaired infants.1 We compared those views with legal determinations that treatment was or was not in the infants’ best interests, and with some published ethical frameworks for decisions. We deliberately did not draw explicit ethical conclusions from our survey (...) findings, both because of the acknowledged limitations of survey methodology, and because survey conclusions cannot, in themselves, yield answers about what the right threshold should be for providing or withholding treatment.2 In this brief response, we are going to address head-on the important ethical question raised within our survey – when life is worth living for an infant. We follow-up on the suggestion of two commentators that the presence or absence of “relational potential” might be ethically important to report in studies of the outcome of severely impaired infants,3 and to whether parental requests for treatment should be supported.4 The notion of “relational potential” was introduced by John Arras in a 1984 commentary.5 Arras was responding to the Baby Doe Regulations and a …. (shrink)
. This paper explores the relationship between gift giving, guanxi and corruption through a study of the relationships between UK manufacturing companies in China and their local component suppliers. The analysis is based on interviews in the China-based operations of 49 UK companies. Interviews were carried out both with senior (often expatriate) staff and with local line managers who were responsible for everyday purchasing decisions and for managing relationships with suppliers. The results suggest that gift giving is perceived to be (...) a significant problem in UK-owned companies in China. However the relationship between these payments and established understanding of gift giving within guanxi-networks appears to be weak. Gift giving appears to be associated with illicit payments, corruption and the pursuit of self-interest. Firms seek to reduce the incidence of illicit transactions by changing staff roles, instituting joint responsibilities, which include the separation of different aspects of sourcing/purchasing, ineasing the involvement of senior staff in the process and through the education of employee and suppliers. (shrink)
End-of-life decision-making is controversial. There are different views about when it is appropriate to limit life-sustaining treatment, and about what palliative options are permissible. One approach to decisions of this nature sees consensus as crucial. Decisions to limit treatment are made only if all or a majority of caregivers agree. We argue, however, that it is a mistake to require professional consensus in end-of-life decisions. In the first part of the article we explore practical, ethical, and legal factors that support (...) agreement. We analyse subjective and objective accounts of moral reasoning: accord is neither necessary nor sufficient for decisions. We propose an alternative norm for decisions – that of ‘professional dissensus’. In the final part of the article we address the role of agreement in end-of-life policy. Such guidelines can ethically be based on dissensus rather than consensus. Disagreement is not always a bad thing. (shrink)
Recent studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging of patients in a vegetative state have raised the possibility that such patients retain some degree of consciousness. In this paper, the ethical implications of such findings are outlined, in particular in relation to decisions about withdrawing life-sustaining treatment. It is sometimes assumed that if there is evidence of consciousness, treatment should not be withdrawn. But, paradoxically, the discovery of consciousness in very severely brain-damaged patients may provide more reason to let them die. (...) Although functional neuroimaging is likely to play an increasing role in the assessment of patients in a vegetative state, caution is needed in the interpretation of neuroimaging findings. (shrink)
Obesity is often considered a public health crisis in rich countries that might be alleviated by preventive regulations such as a sugar tax or limiting the density of fast food outlets. This paper evaluates these regulations from the point of view of equity. Obesity is in many countries correlated with socioeconomic status and some believe that preventive regulations would reduce inequity. The puzzle is this: how could policies that reduce the options of the badly off be more equitable? Suppose we (...) distinguish: the badly off have poor options from the badly off are poor at choosing between their options. If obesity is due to a poverty of options, it would be perverse to reduce them further. Some people in public health say that preventive regulations do not reduce options but, I shall argue, they are largely wrong. So the equity case for regulations depends on the worst off having a choosing problem. It also depends on their having a choosing problem that makes their choices against their interests. Perhaps they do. I ask, briefly, what the evidence has to say about whether the badly off choose against their interests. The evidence is thin but implies that introducing preventive regulations for the sake of equity would be at least premature. (shrink)
When we applied for the editorship of the JME 7 years ago, we said that we considered the JME to be the most important journal in medicine. The most profound questions that health professionals face are not scientific or technical, but ethical. Our enormous scientific and medical progress already outstrips our capability to provide treatment. Life can be prolonged at enormous cost, sometimes far beyond the point that the individual appears to be gaining a net benefit from that life. Science (...) can tell us how to achieve something, but it cannot tell us whether we should achieve that end—whether it is good. For that, we need ethics. Ethics grows in importance as our technology creates new possibilities. Where there are no options, there are no ethical questions. However, once there are options, there arise pressing questions about whether to pursue them. We require values and principles to decide how to use medicine and science. During the last 7 years, issues like the creation of brain organoids, human non-human chimeras, mitochondrial transfer, gene editing of embryos and in vitro gametogenesis have grown in prominence. These raise deep questions about moral status and how it should be determined, the limits of modification of humans, and what is good in life. As editors of the JME, we are proud of our small contribution to thinking about these challenges. We are grateful to the hard work of our associate editors and administrative staff, but there is still much more to do. During our term as editors, we have published papers from diverse perspectives, on a wide range of topics. We have seen vigorous debate within the pages of the journal and have often sought to deliberately encourage that debate …. (shrink)
Two challenges that face popular self-monitoring theories (SMTs) of auditory verbal hallucination (AVH) are that they cannot account for the auditory phenomenology of AVHs and that they cannot account for their variety. In this paper I show that both challenges can be met by adopting a predictive processing framework (PPF), and by viewing AVHs as arising from abnormalities in predictive processing. I show how, within the PPF, both the auditory phenomenology of AVHs, and three subtypes of AVH, can be accounted (...) for. (shrink)
It is argued that there are good reasons for believing that commercial surrogacy is often exploitative. However, even if we accept this, the exploitation argument for prohibiting (or otherwise legislatively discouraging) commercial surrogacy remains quite weak. One reason for this is that prohibition may well 'backfire' and lead to potential surrogates having to do other things that are more exploitative and/or more harmful than paid surrogacy. It is concluded, therefore, that those who oppose exploitation should concentrate on: (a) improving the (...) conditions under which paid surrogates 'work'; and (b) changing the background conditions (in particular, the unequal distribution of power and wealth) which generate exploitative relationships. (edited). (shrink)
One of the most contentious ethical issues in the neonatal intensive care unit is the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from infants who may otherwise survive. In practice, one of the most important factors influencing this decision is the prediction that the infant will be severely intellectually disabled. Most professional guidelines suggest that decisions should be made on the basis of the best interests of the infant. It is, however, not clear how intellectual disability affects those interests. Why should intellectual disability (...) be more important than physical disability to the future interests of an infant? Is it discriminatory to base decisions on this? This paper will try to unravel the above questions. It seems that if intellectual disability does affect the best interests of the child it must do so in one of three ways. These possibilities will be discussed as well as the major challenges to the notion that intellectual disability should have a role in such decisions. The best interests of the child can be affected by severe or profound intellectual disability. It is, though, not as clear-cut as some might expect. (shrink)
We welcome Cho and Wu’s suggestion that the study of auditory verbal hallucinations could be improved by contrasting and testing more explanatory models. However, we have some worries both about their criticisms of inner speech-based self-monitoring models and whether their proposed spontaneous activation model is explanatory.
Background Doctors sometimes encounter parents who object to prescribed treatment for their children, and request suboptimal substitutes be administered instead. Previous studies have focused on parental refusal of treatment and when this should be permitted, but the ethics of requests for suboptimal treatment has not been explored. Methods The paper consists of two parts: an empirical analysis and an ethical analysis. We performed an online survey with a sample of the general public to assess respondents’ thresholds for acceptable harm and (...) expense resulting from parental choice, and the role that religion played in their judgement. We also identified and applied existing ethical frameworks to the case described in the survey to compare theoretical and empirical results. Results Two hundred and forty-two Mechanical Turk workers took our survey and there were 178 valid responses. Respondents’ agreement to provide treatment decreased as the risk or cost of the requested substitute increased. More than 50% of participants were prepared to provide treatment that would involve a small absolute increased risk of death for the child and a cost increase of US$<500, respectively. Religiously motivated requests were significantly more likely to be allowed. Existing ethical frameworks largely yielded ambiguous results for the case. There were clear inconsistencies between the theoretical and empirical results. Conclusion Drawing on both survey results and ethical analysis, we propose a potential model and thresholds for deciding about the permissibility of suboptimal treatment requests. (shrink)
Many critics have suggested that international paid surrogacy is exploitative. Taking such concerns as its starting point, this article asks: how defensible is the claim that international paid surrogacy is exploitative and what could be done to make it less exploitative? In the light of the answer to, how strong is the case for prohibiting it? Exploitation could in principle be dealt with by improving surrogates' pay and conditions. However, doing so may exacerbate problems with consent. Foremost amongst these is (...) the argument that surrogates from economically disadvantaged countries cannot validly consent because their background circumstances are coercive. Several versions of this argument are examined and I conclude that at least one has some merit. The article's overall conclusion is that while ethically there is something to be concerned about, paid surrogacy is in no worse a position than many other exploitative commercial transactions which take place against a backdrop of global inequality and constrained options, such as poorly-paid and dangerous construction work. Hence, there is little reason to single surrogacy out for special condemnation. On a policy level, the case for prohibiting international commercial surrogacy is weak, despite legitimate concerns about consent and background poverty. (shrink)
One widely held view of prenatal screening is that its foremost aim is, or should be, to enable reproductive choice; this is the Pure Choice view. The article critiques this position by comparing it with an alternative: Public Health Pluralism. It is argued that there are good reasons to prefer the latter, including the following. Public Health Pluralism does not, as is often supposed, render PNS more vulnerable to eugenics-objections. The Pure Choice view, if followed through to its logical conclusions, (...) may have unpalatable implications, such as extending choice well beyond health screening. Any sensible version of Public Health Pluralism will be capable of taking on board the moral seriousness of abortion and will advocate, where practicable, alternative means of reducing the prevalence of disease and disability. Public Health Pluralism is at least as well-equipped as the Pure Choice model to deal with autonomy and consent issues. (shrink)
Predictions of poor prognosis for critically ill patients may become self-fulfilling if life-sustaining treatment or resuscitation is subsequently withheld on the basis of that prediction. This paper outlines the epistemic and normative problems raised by self-fulfilling prophecies (SFPs) in intensive care. Where predictions affect outcome, it can be extremely difficult to ascertain the mortality rate for patients if all treatment were provided. SFPs may lead to an increase in mortality for cohorts of patients predicted to have poor prognosis, they may (...) lead doctors to feel causally responsible for the deaths of their patients, and they may compromise honest communication with patients and families about prognosis. However, I argue that the self-fulfilling prophecy is inevitable when life-sustaining treatment is withheld or withdrawn in the face of uncertainty. SFPs do not necessarily make treatment limitation decisions problematic. To minimize the effects of SFPs, it is essential to carefully collect and appraise evidence about prognosis. Doctors need to be honest with themselves and with patients and their families about uncertainty and the limits of knowledge. (shrink)