Category Archives: Bioethics

Ice Bucket Challenge Ethics

Ice Bucket Challenge

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” is a silly, brilliant fund-raising device that has simultaneously increased public awareness of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, brought over 14 million more dollars of donated funds into the ALS Association than last year for research, and provided some priceless YouTube fare, ranging from celebrity drenchings to this…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4qADFNsDxE

Entertainment! Celebrities! Medical research! Charity! Public Education! How could there be anything unethical about such a phenomenon? Well, ethics often throw cold water on all manner of activities human beings crave, so it should not be too great a surprise that the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has generated quite a few ethics-based objections. Let’s examine the potential, alleged and actual ethical flaws of the current fad, and rate them on an Ethics Foul Scale from zero (No ethical concerns at all) to ten ( Very Unethical).

1. It’s dangerous.

Anything can be dangerous if you are not sufficiently careful, and the Ice Bucket Challenge had its consequentialist moment when four firefighters were injured, one very seriously, trying to help the marching band at Campbellsville University get dumped with ice water this week. Two firefighters were in the bucket of their truck’s ladder preparing to douse the students using a firehose when a surge of electricity jumped from nearby power lines and electrucuted them and two colleagues. This was just a freak accident, however. Unlike the so-called Facebook Fire Challenge, the ALS fundraisng stunt shouldn’t be perilous to anyone, as long as practitioners don’t get too grandiose or creative.

Ethics Foul Score:

0

2. It wastes water.

Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Charity, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Philanthropy, Popular Culture, Public Service, Research and Scholarship, The Internet, Uncategorized

The Unethical Opposition To Tennessee’s Fetal Drug Abuse Protection Law

200439961-001Tennessee is one of the most activist states that it comes to protecting children; for example, it has the among most stringent laws in the nation regarding the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse. It also has a new law that just went into effect this month that allows officials to arrest mothers for assault who illegally use narcotics while they are pregnant if the child is born with symptoms indicating that the drug use impaired the child’s condition.

Predictable and tiresomely, the media and “war on women” scolds are attacking this is yet another incursion on the rights of women to have dominion over their own bodies. Think Progress, dishonestly, calls it a “pregnancy criminalization law.”  This is intentional misrepresentation, a TP specialty. The law doesn’t criminalize pregnancy in any way, by even the most distorted interpretation.  The knee-jerk opposition to the law highlights the problems of consistency and integrity that the women’s rights and pro-abortion forces have in all the areas relating to childbirth. Essentially, their position is that if conduct is related to child birth—or preventing it—in any way, anything they say, want or do must be accepted, and asserting otherwise, no matter what the justification, makes the government an oppressor of women. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Childhood and children, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Update: “The Kidneys of Orlac”

He will die, not with his boots on, but with his kidneys in...

He will die, not with his boots on, but with his kidneys in…

One of the best threads Ethics Alarms has ever hosted occurred in response to the November 2013 post, “The Kidneys of Orlac,” which discussed the strange case of the Ohio death row resident who wanted to donate his organs to ill relatives. The issue generated an Ethics Quiz, a follow-up poll (“The Amityville Kidney”) involving the related issue of whether the recipient of a murderer’s organs had a right to know their creepy origin, and a terrific Comment of the Day, which was just one of the COTD-worthy submissions.

I had forgotten about the story until Mark Draughn raised it again at Windy Pundit in the context of criticizing bioethicists, one of whom had what Mark considered a particularly misbegotten argument against the transplants (I agree with Mark about that argument, but I also oppose giving condemned prisoners the privilege of donating organs to loved ones, or anyone at all.) This led me to review original post, which led me to re-read the comments.

I also discovered the resolution of the dilemma, which occurred at the end of last month. Ronald Phillips will not be allowed to donate his organs, because he wouldn’t have enough time to recover from the operation before his execution.  Ah, yes, the old “You have to be in tip-top shape before we can kill you, or it isn’t really punishment”  Catch 22! Ethics, you see, had nothing to do with the bureaucratic resolution here, just the letter of the law, rules, and bureacrats refusing to look for the best solution in an anomalous situation, rather than the one they could reach on auto-pilot. As a result, nobody made a reasoned determination about what is right, or what capital punishment really signifies, or apparently even tried. That is how so many government decisions are made, and that, my friends, is far scarier than having the kidneys of a killer.

 

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Filed under Bioethics, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes

Autonomy: The Ethics Alarm That Obamacare Should Be Setting Off, But Isn’t

fire_alarm

Autonomy. This is the ethical value, a sub-set of the “respect” section of the Josephson Institute’s Six Pillars of Character, that is suddenly absent from the value set of the New American Left. This is cause for concern to say the least, because autonomy is the very value that was the impetus for the nation’s founding, and that is at the core of the Bill of Rights as well as the “inalienable rights” that introduce Mr. Jefferson’s mission statement for our strange experiment in self-governance. Beginning back in Bill Clinton’s administration, advocates of a nationalized health care system, including President Clinton himself, began floating the historical and logical nonsense that Jefferson and the Founders would have enthusiastically supported national health care. This is, of course, a cynical lie if one is educated (as it was in Clinton’s case) or proof positive of complete unfamiliarity with, oh, everything about the Founders, their political philosophy, and political philosophy generally. Whatever the value of a national health care program, the idea that the government would presume to dictate how one managed something so personal and intimate as one’s own health would have horrified  every signer of the Declaration, from its author to Button Gwinett.

That Mr. Jefferson’s supposed followers—he is the Original Democrat, by most lights, would reach the point of maintaining that the public’s beliefs, opinions and attitudes must be bent to their will is a development that threatens the existence of United States society and culture as we know it. The recent flare in this emergency arrived via the mugging of Brandon Eich, ex-CEO of Mozilla, who was deemed by the liberal elite as unworthy of keeping his job (though Mozilla is an internet company and he is an innovator in the field) because he was not convinced of the rightness of same-sex marriage by the elite’s newly determined, and well past,  deadline—a deadline that such progressive icons as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton also missed, but never mind. Conformity to Progressive Truth has become the order of the day, and woe be to any good citizen who dares to oppose it. Does this sound like freedom to you? “Choice,” to use a popular rallying cry in the protest against the “War against Women?” It doesn’t sound like freedom to me. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Blindness: The Pro-Abortion Ethical Disconnect

To anyone who is capable of compassion and objectivity, the abortion controversy represents a classic ethics conflict: two ethically defensible positions based upon undeniable ethical principles that are in opposition. Both factions have their absolutist wings which would deny the other side’s interests, holding that either the life of the unborn ( abortion opponents) or a woman’s autonomy (abortion advocates)  is such a societal priority  that nothing should be permitted to compromise its primacy in any way. Yet the best solution to most ethics conflicts, if possible, is balancing, resulting in acceptance of a  reasonable middle position that acknowledges the validity of both interests.

Recent comments from prominent pro-abortion advocates are ethically troubling, because they suggest a complete denial that any valid interests on the other side exist at all. This signals a retreat from reason and fairness into zealotry and fanaticism, and it makes balancing not merely more difficult, but unimaginable.
In an interview on the cable station Fusion, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards had this revealing exchange (video above): Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy, Science & Technology

The Science Guy, Debating Faith, and the Ethical Duty Not To Engage

creationism

Thanks for nothing, Science Guy.

You know, back when I was in college (stop me if I’ve told this story here before), a call-in show on one of the local TV talk shows (called “Cracker Barrel”)  staged a debate on the existence of God. On the “God exists” side was a religious fanatic named Mrs. Warren who had achieved Boston notoriety by picketing local banks for some reason; my father, in fact, had a confrontation with her in his capacity as a savings bank executive. On the atheist side was none other than Madeline Murray O’Hair, she of the Supreme Court case knocking down school prayer.

The “debate” was idiotic, unfair from the start since Mrs. Warren was a prattling dolt who also spoke in what sounded like a fake Italian accent, like Chico Marx, making it even harder to take her seriously. Mostly it was idiotic, though, because such debates can’t be anything but idiotic—the adversaries are not using the same assumptions, definitions, or modes of analysis. O’Hair would mention a scientific study, and Mrs. Warren would quote the Bible, which had to be true because God dictated it. As will always happen when one is debating a fool, O’Hair was dragged into the depths of stupid argument—and whatever she was, she was not stupid—by recounting that she realized that there was no God when her son was lost on a jungle expedition, and though she prayed for his return, he never came back. After being barely restrained by my roommates from calling into the show and shouting “MOM! I’m back! It’s a miracle!” (for some reason they thought it would be in bad taste), I got a toilet paper roll, put it up to the receiver and called into the show’s call-screener as “Jehovah,”from “Beyond.”

To my amazement, they put me through, and I heard the host cheerily utter the words, “Our next caller is Jehovah. Welcome to Cracker Barrel, Jehovah!” Echoing into my cardboard megaphone in my best Burning Bush voice, I told Madeline that I was the Lord God, and that I appreciated her testing the faith of the righteous with her blasphemy, and that despite the consensus among my archangel advisors in Heaven, I would not turn her into a pillar of salt.” Then the host said, “Thank you for your call, God!” and I was done. O’Hare was laughing.

The much-hyped debate over evolution between Bill Nye, a kids show performer with a legitimate science background, and Ken Ham, an extreme creationist whose views are ridiculous even by creationist standards, was just as foolish as the Cracker Barrel fiasco but far more harmful. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Education, Religion and Philosophy, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce (Again): Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen

No danger of an innocent being unjustly executed here...

No danger of an innocent being unjustly executed here, Richard…Now what?

Most Ethics Dunces named on Ethics Alarms are being chided for one, possibly anomalous, instance of ethics cluelessness, but not Richard Cohen. He is a lifetime, career-long ethics dunce. It is noteworthy when he writes something that doesn’t reek of ethics confusion.

Today he is blogging about the death penalty. There are coherent, powerful arguments that have been and can be made against the death penalty, but Cohen doesn’t bother with any of them, which, as a reflex old-school liberal, he should at least know by heart. No, he attacks the decision of Eric Holder to approve his Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s request to seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bomber as “political cowardice using one invalid argument after another, and by the way, curse you, Richard Cohen, for forcing me to defend Attorney General Holder.

Here are Cohen’s “arguments”:

  • The death penalty is a horrible crime on par with Tsarnaev and his brother intentionally killing and maiming innocent spectators of the Boston Marathon. Such an absurd statement carries a high burden of proof, which Cohen doesn’t even attempt to meet.
  • “[The death penalty] is the sine qua non of lack of thought, a medieval tick of the political right, a murder in the name of murder that does absolutely no good, unless it is to validate the killers’ belief in killing.” Ironically, Cohen’s post is the sine qua non of lack of thought. Since the death penalty has been around continuously since well before Medieval times, calling it a medieval tick is about as fair and accurate as calling religion, warfare, and property laws  medieval tics. Of course it does good: the fact that a vicious anti-social murderer is permanently removed from society and no longer uses up resources, space and oxygen that can be better employed in the furtherance of humanity is an absolute good, and that those contemplating similarly heinous acts are on notice that the same fate awaits them is also good. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society