Category Archives: Bioethics

Ethics Quiz: Barbra’s Cloned Dogs

Singing legend Barbra Streisand said a lot of questionable things in a recent interview with Variety. Things like…

  • She says she felt she was miscast in Gene Kelly’s bomb of an adaptation of “Hello Dolly!” for the screen. (As everyone noticed, anyone but Carol Channing would have been miscast.) She says “she tried to get out of it,” thus absolving herself from responsibility from the film some believe  killed the big-budget movie musical.

Nobody put a gun to her head: stars say “no” to projects all the time.

  • “By the way, who was called the father of film?” she asks. “D.W. Griffith. He made his first film in 1908. But a secretary named Alice Guy in 1896 started making films because she worked for Gaumont studios. She made the first film, and she’s not given credit.”

Google is your friend, Babs. The first commercial films are generally credited to the Lumière brothers‘ who had their short films screened in Paris in 1895 . Nobody has ever claimed Griffith made the first film; some credit him with making the first film with any art to it. But Barbra likes narratives better than facts.

  • She thinks Hillary won.

“I really believe she won the election,” Streisand says. “I’ve talked to senators from Michigan and Wisconsin. I do believe, like I believed during Bush, they were playing with those voter machines.”

Yes, Barbra’s a politics-addled idiot these days.

  • She blames Trump for the Parkland shooting.

“I think even that shooter was affected because Trump brings out the violence in people. He says, ‘It’s OK — rally, lock her up.’”

None of these cretinous and irresponsible statements bothered anyone too much, though–Barbra has been taking like this most of her life. She also said that she was never sexually harassed in Hollywood. Amazing! This revelation, however, set off ethics alarms: Two of her three Coton de Tulear dogs were cloned from cells taken from the mouth and stomach of her beloved 14-year-old dog Samantha, who died in 2017. The third dog is a distant cousin. The two clones cost $50,000.

PETA immediately protested:

“We all want our beloved dogs to live forever, but while it may sound like a good idea, cloning doesn’t achieve that—instead, it creates a new and different dog who has only the physical characteristics of the original. Animals’ personalities, quirks, and very ‘essence’ simply cannot be replicated, and when you consider that millions of wonderful adoptable dogs are languishing in animal shelters every year or dying in terrifying ways when abandoned, you realize that cloning adds to the homeless-animal population crisis. And because cloning has a high failure rate, many dogs are caged and tormented for every birth that actually occurs—so that’s not fair to them, despite the best intentions. We feel Barbra’s grief at losing her beloved dog but would also love to have talked her out of cloning.”

Hey, as long as they don’t clone Barbra…but I digress.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz as the week runs out is this…

Is Streisand cloning her dogs unethical, or just stupid?

Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Love, Quizzes, Science & Technology

Ethics Quiz: Your Swedish Post-Mortem Avatar

Swedish scientists believe artificial intelligence can be used to make “fully conscious copies” of dead people, so a Swedish funeral home is currently looking for volunteers who are willing let the scientists use their dead relatives in their experiments. The scientists want to build robot replicas, and to try to approximate their personalities and knowledge base in their artificial “brains.”

For those of you who are fans of the Netflix series “Black Mirror,” there was an episode closely on point in which  grieving woman bought an AI -installed mechanical clone of her dead boyfriend. (This did not work out too well.)

I was about to discard objections to such “progress” as based on ick rather than ethics, when I wondered about the issues we already discussed in the posts here about zombie actors in movies and advertising. Is it ethical for someone else to program a virtual clone of me after I’m dead that will be close enough in resemblance to blur what I did in my life with what Jack 2.0 does using an approximation of my abilities, memories and personality?

I think I’m forced to vote “Unethical” on this one as a matter of consistency. Heck, I’ve written that it’s unethical for movies and novels to intentionally misrepresent the character of historical figures to such an extent that future generations can’t extract the fiction from the fact. (Other examples are here and here.) Respect for an individual has to extend to their reputation and how they wanted to present themselves when they were alive. Absent express consent, individuals should not have to worry that greedy or needy relatives, loved ones, artists or entrepreneurs will allow something that looks like, sounds like and sort of thinks like them to show up and do tricks after the eulogy.

I am not quite so certain about this branch of the issue, however, and am willing to be convinced otherwise. After all, pseudo Jack could stay inside, and only be programmed to do a nude Macarena while wearing a bikini for my wife, while no one else would be the wiser. Or nauseous. And after all, I’m dead. Why should I care? Well, the fact is I do care. For me, this is a Golden Rule issue.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Will the Swedes who elect to allow scientists to try to perfect Dad-in-a-Box for nostalgia, amusement, companionship  and to take out the garbage be unethical, betraying their departed loved ones’ dignity?

 

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Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Business & Commercial, Research and Scholarship, Rights, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day: “Proposition: An Illegal Immigrant Is Entitled To Receive A Life-Saving Organ Transplant That Otherwise Would Go To A U.S. Citizen In Similar Need”

I am backed up on Comments of the Day again, especially embarrassing after I announced that I would be posting one a day if possible. Getting one of the comments in the queue last night required trying to use my netbook while watching the Westminster Dog Show with my old Jack Russell feeling insecure and cuddling in my lap. The Update will be late today.

The post about the Oregon hospital being bullied by the local ACLU into placing an illegal immigrant on its transplant list simultaneously raised medical ethics issues and illegal immigration ethics issues, so I am grateful that Zoltar Speaks! resuscitates the topic with his comment. I am particularly greateful for his raising the question, “Is the perception of an action what makes the action ethical, or is it the motives behind the action that makes the action ethical, or does it take both?”

My answer, which I think I have made clear over 80,000 posts, is that it is what an action does or can reasonably be expected to do, within the intention and goal of the actor, that makes conduct ethical or not. Unanticipated and unanticipatable results don’t count, and neither does pollution by non-ethical and unethical motives mixed in with the ethical motives, unless they warp the conduct and the decision to engage in it.

There are exceptions, of course.

Here is Zoltar Speaks’ Comment of the Day on the post, Proposition: An Illegal Immigrant Is Entitled To Receive A Life-Saving Organ Transplant That Otherwise Would Go To A U.S. Citizen In Similar Need:

On one hand there is the Hippocratic Oath that directly implies that medical need trumps things like legal status, so in that regard the policy change is a direct reflection of the core of the Hippocratic Oath and it can be said that they changed their policy to reflect the ethical core of the Hippocratic Oath and present that argument to the public and their actions on the surface can be regarded as ethical. (Yes it’s a run-on sentence)

On the other hand there is the fact that illegal immigrants are literally taking advantage of a near “border-less” country and existing systems in place across the United States that ignore their legal status will allow them to do whatever they want regardless of the fact that they are in the United States illegally and some existing systems in place that actually help them do anything they want because they’re illegal immigrants. The United States has been, and still is, enabling illegal immigrants and this policy change is another system changed that enables illegal immigration.

This leads me directly to a topic that we’ve talked about on Ethics Alarms in the past: is the perception of an action what makes the action ethical, or is it the motives behind the action that makes the action ethical, or does it take both? If I remember correctly, I think the general consensus was that it’s the perception of the action that makes it ethical.

The perception of this action is two fold; first ethically complying with the intent of the Hippocratic Oath and second it’s another policy change enabling illegal immigration. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Comment Of The Day: “Proposition: An Illegal Immigrant Is Entitled To Receive A Life-Saving Organ Transplant That Otherwise Would Go To A U.S. Citizen In Similar Need”

“Hello, is this the Oregon hospital? Yes, I live in Mexico, and I need a liver right away. When can I schedule a time to come to the US and get a transplant? That sounds perfect! See you soon!”

The post about an Oregon hospital being publicly shamed into accepting an illegal immigrant for a potential liver transplant attracted the varies and thoughtful response here I hoped for. I have an unusual gut reaction to it, for me at least: I am sure that my position that the hospital is wrong (and that the ACLU is very wrong to bully the hospital into changing its policy) is ethically correct, but I feel badly about it anyway.

Here is what I told myself to make me feel better: Would anyone argue that the same woman would have any right or claim to an organ transplant from an Oregon clinic if she lived in Mexico?  Would the ACLU dare argue that she had a right to be placed on a waiting list? Would even an Oregon hospital think twice before rejecting such a request? Would the ACLU be able to create a public outcry against her rejection? Let’s see: No, no, no, and “you’ve got to be kidding.”

Yet logically and ethically, I see that alternate universe version of Silvia Lesama-Santos being more deserving of a transplant, and receiving a lifesaving organ that a citizen in similar need would receive otherwise, than the actual Silvia. The actual Silvia, unlike my theoretical one, broke our laws. The actual Silvia has already benefited unjustly from doing so. My compassion for the theoretical Silvia is not reduced by my objection to her conduct and disrespect for our immigration laws; given the choice between whether to give a liver to her or the real Silvia, I would choose her, and it wouldn’t be a hard choice. She is more deserving than the real Silvia, unless one reasons that breaking out laws and continuing to avoid accountability for doing so over 30 years is a positive accomplishment. And yet the alternate Silvia has no right to a liver at all.

There. I feel better now.

Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post,,Proposition: An Illegal Immigrant Is Entitled To Receive A Life-Saving Organ Transplant That Otherwise Would Go To A U.S. Citizen In Similar Need: Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Proposition: An Illegal Immigrant Is Entitled To Receive A Life-Saving Organ Transplant That Otherwise Would Go To A U.S. Citizen In Similar Need

There must be something wrong with me, for I don’t think this proposition is ethically obvious at all. In fact, I think it’s probably dead wrong.

Here is the story:

Silvia Lesama-Santos, 46, is a mother of four who has lived illegally here for at least 30 years. The transplant program at the Oregon Health and Science University denied her request to receive a new liver, telling her that she did  “not have documentation of lawful presence or immigration documentation,” which was required for her to be eligible for a transplant.

The ACLU of Oregon took on Lesama-Santos as a cause, and publicized her plight. The Oregon ACLU’s  head, Mat dos Santos, called the hospital’s policy “cruel and inhumane.”

The bad publicity, in turn, quickly forced the hospital to change its policy. “It was brought to our attention this evening that an archaic transplant policy was preventing an undocumented individual from being evaluated at OHSU,” the school said in a statement this week. “Upon learning of the policy, OHSU leaders acted immediately and terminated the policy. We deeply regret the pain this has caused the family. OHSU is committed to serving our entire community — all are welcome at OHSU, and this policy does not reflect our values.”

Flushed with success, the ACLU is planning  “to ask other hospitals to change similar policies,” ask, in this case, meaning “coerce.” Continue reading

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Kangaroo-People Abortion Ethics

Yes, it’s true: in the alternate universe, that little thing on the left grew up to be vocal feminist, writer and abortion advocate, Kangaroo-Person Lena Dunham!

I have been reading about marsupials and kangaroos. Don’t ask why. But it got me thinking…

Imagine, if you will, a parallel universe where the human race evolved, due to the vicissitudes of chaos, from marsupials rather than primates. In every respect, the  Kangaroo-People have developed as we have. Same nations, same traditions, same institutions, same ethical standards, life expectancy, gender distinctions, laws, culture and politics. The only difference is that in this universe, the Kangaroo-People give birth like kangaroos, as females have the same reproductive equipment as their kangaroos ancestors  To look at them, you’d never know. Kangaroo Person Kate Upton looks exactly like ours;  Kangaroo Person Hillary Clinton could walk up to our Bill and he’d never know the difference. (She does have a safe place to keep her Blackberries, though.)

After a few weeks of gestation, baby Kangaroo-People are born at about the size and shape of a jellybean, with about as much personality. The Kangaroo-People mother guides her offspring by licking a path from her cloaca ( which leads into three vaginas, just like regular kangaroos in this universe) to her pouch. The baby is essentially still a fetus at this point, with incompletely developed  eyes, ears, organs and central nervous system. It does have claws, so it can crawl,  and an olfactory bulb, the section of its brain devoted to the sense of smell. This allows the baby to follow the scent of mom’s saliva into the pouch. There it latches on to a teat, and holds on as involuntary contractions of muscles in the mother’s  stomach wall force milk out of her mammary glands to the growing fetus/baby. 235 days or more later, the baby, now fully developed, emerges from the pouch. Before that, the baby Kangaroo-Person gets strong enough to periodically let go of the teat, and crawl around the pouch.

Kangaroo People celebrate their birthdays based on when they were born, of course. They also are named by Mom and Dad, and have their birth certificates filed. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Childhood and children, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/15/18: Icons, Shitholes And Chianti

Good Morning, and Happy Martin Luther King Day.

1 Priorities, priorities…Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) has made his career out of the fact that he was an associate of Dr. King during the civil rights movement.  On Sunday’s”This Week” on ABC’, Lewis said on he would not vote for legislation that prevents a government shutdown if it did not first resolve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “I, for one, will not vote on government funding until we get a deal for DACA,” the alleged icon said.

That’s right: Lewis, and presumably many of his colleagues, would waste millions of dollars and interfere with life and daily needs of American citizens to obtain a path to citizenship for 800,000 currently illegal residents, and create a permanent incentive for foreign citizens to break our laws so they can get their kids an entitlement.  It’s more important to give illegal residents what they have no right to have, then to ensure legal citizens what their taxes pay for. This is the unethical result when ideology takes precedence over common sense.

2. Fake news also takes precedence, apparently. “Trump’s Words Eclipsing Deal For Dreamers” reads the above-the-fold headline on today’s New York Times. There are many other similar headlines on display. If, in fact, it is true that the President’s (alleged, disputed, reported initially via hearsay, denied by the speaker, and intentionally misrepresented by critics even if the alleged version is accepted) words have a decisive impact on a DACA deal, then the DACA adherents were posturing all along. What difference does it make to DACA what the President says off-the cuff in a private meeting? Apparently it is more important to Democrats and the “resistance” to denigrate the President than to accomplish substantive policy goals. Good to know.

UPDATE: I just read the opinion of conservative blogger Liz Shield after I wrote this. She said,

My position on sh!ithole-gate is this: It’s not appropriate for the President of the United States use this kind of language. Now, this was a private meeting and perhaps Trump did not think the Democrats would sabotage the DACA negotiations and, in this regard, Trump is terribly naive. There will be no good faith discussions on any policy because the policy of the Democrats is that Trump must FAIL, even at the expense of the Democrat constituencies they claim to be fighting so hard for. That is their position and I hope the president gets hip to this soon. Instead, the conversation we are having is not about policy but rather that Trump is a RACIST. Which is, coincidentally, the sole platform held by his political enemies.

Pretty much. The last sentence is unfair, though: their platform is that the President is a racist, senile, crazy, stupid, a Nazi, a traitor, a liar, a sexual predator and not really President. Continue reading

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