Category Archives: Bioethics

Comment of the Day: “From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade”

How to construct public policy regarding trans individuals is an increasingly varied and controversial ethics controversy (with another Ethics Alarms post on the topic in progress). This another whiplash ethics area where events and attitudes are moving and evolving too fast for some reasonable people to process. I remember as a child reading a vintage Readers Digest article about Christine Jorgensen and having my father answer my questions about her by saying, “He’s a freak.” The dialogue on the related issues here at Ethics Alarms is always  enlightening, in part because we have the benefit of some very well-informed authorities on the topic.

Pennagain added this impressive post to the latest round in the debate, in response to another commenter’s opinion. Here is Pennagain’s Comment of the Day on the post, “From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade”:

As far as I could find, the conclusion of Scientific American’s January 2016 article, “Is There Something Unique About the Transgender Brain,” speaks to the results of the all the legitimate studies that have been done to date: . . . given the variety of transgender people and the variation in the brains of men and women generally, it will be a long time, if ever, before a doctor can do a brain scan on a child and say, “Yes, this child is trans.”

So far,  so good. Nothing is proven either way as far as brain differentiation is concerned. But your personal observations are not at that level of science; they are your unsupported (and insupportable) opinions. The problem with that kind of observation is that it can easily be turned on its head, as with “Direct observations by my family, from many teachers and administrators: kids who want attention (for various reasons) tend to come out as trans.”

It’s rather: “Kids who are trans or gay tend to stand out and naturally attract attention.” What’s more, those who observe with knowledge can tell the difference easily.

What’s happening here is a common confusion between sexual orientation and gender identity. As simply as I can put it:

“Gay,” “Lesbian” and “Bisexual” refer to sexual orientation, in other words – who you are attracted to, namely, people of the same gender.

“Transgender” is a gender Identity: how you identify yourself in terms of maleness or femaleness. For a transgender person, the gender identity is one that is different from your biological sex. It can, in fact, have nothing whatsoever to do with whom you are attracted to.

Part of the confusion is that being queer (the word being back in vogue, stuck onto the LGBT as Q) designates one whose gender is known as fluid. In other words, the “stand outs” on the playground and even throughout their lives are those whose behavior is often that of the “opposite” gender. This occurs for two reasons: one is to be born with characteristics of another norm, the other is acquired as a copycat of society in general. What you don’t see,are those boys and girls, men and women, who are identical — naturally, biologically — with “straight” males or females… who can and do “pass”, as it were. Whether they look to you to be butch or femme, they are at home with their penis or vagina.

To get back to the question ‘What is the Difference between Gay and Transgender?’ – one has to do with sexual orientation (who you are attracted to sexually) and the other has to do with gender identity (who you feel yourself to be). Got it?

You are correct in thinking that transgender people, especially when in the (often difficult and painful) process of what is called coming out, used to identify as “gay,” because it was as close as they could come. But they had and have that one differentiation: the conviction and discomfort of being in the wrong gendered body. When a transgender person completes transition, he or she may turn out to have a straight orientation. Or not.

As far as your after finding that society no longer views them as special, have settled back into traditional sexuality goes, you display once again a conventional imagination in an attempt to dismiss both the reality of sexual orientation or gender identity and the complexity and difficulty of coming out against a society — a society that includes your own loved and needed ones — that hates, despises and rejects you. If you really believe this is an attention-getting pose, you are … ill-informed and unable to identify much less re-form your prejudices.

In short ‘What is the Difference between Gay and Transgender?”: One has to do with sexual orientation (who you are attracted to sexually) and the other has to do with gender identity (who you feel yourself to be). Continue reading

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

Comment Of The Day (2): “Observations On Britain’s Charlie Gard Ethics Fiasco”

This is the second outstanding comment on the Charlie Gard post, and it boldly ventures into the ethics jungle of euthanasia. The discussion must go there, for if society has limited resources, and we have more limited resources than Paul Krugman and Bernie Sanders admit, then when people use up their allotted portion, they either have to die or someone else has to pick up the bill. The recent surge in popularity for single-payer health care is due in part to the old saw about how soldiers think when going into battle. It’s everyone else who’s at risk, not you. Or as my dad liked to put it, “Gee, I’m going to miss those other guys!”

Increasingly, as I get older and think about how different my family’s life would be if both Mom and Dad hadn’t contrived to pop off quickly after relatively short illnesses and minimal hospitalization, I see the same consideration in planning for my loved ones. I don’t want to waste my son’s inheritance to pay for the last and worst years of my life; indeed, I think it would be unconscionable to do so. However, that needs to be my choice, not the Death Panel’s.

Here is Mrs Q’s Comment Of The Day on the post,  “Observations On Britain’s Charlie Gard Ethics Fiasco”:

When medical care is socialized, nihilism & scientism combine to control those who can be useful to the state & those who need to be eliminated from it.

Dutch lawmakers are looking at a Completed Life Bill that would allow those 75+ in age to choose medical euthanasia. The lawmaker pushing the bill, Alexander Pechtold, said it would allow the Netherlands to…

“take the next step for our civilization.”

And what step is that exactly?

The Gard case highlights the dark workings of Marxism for what it is by defining life in terms of how much of a burden it supposedly is to others. That the “greater good” is better served when certain people s lives are considered “complete.”

Baby Gard, as Jack noted, cannot continue to be a financial burden in the context of socialized medicine because in such a paradigm, there are not enough resources to support all of those represented by it. Remember socialism ALWAYS promises more than it can ever deliver and always spends more than it has.

I love it when people tell me how great the health care in France is, while many there complain the immigrants are a drain on the system because they have not put their money into it for years. Or Canada, where our friends cannot afford private insurance and go without certain medications & treatments because they’re not covered by state. Or Europe, where rates of Downs Syndrome are jarringly low because doctors have advocated so severely for abortion of these unborn, that in some countries it has literally been years since such a child has been born. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, U.S. Society

Observations On Britain’s Charlie Gard Ethics Fiasco

A recipient of Great Britain’s national health care, infant Charlie Gard was born with  a rare genetic condition resulting in what is probably irreversable brain damage.  He cannot move his arms or legs, eat or even breathe without a ventilator.

After 10 months of being kept alive, Charlie’s caretakers, the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, announced that it was time for Charlie to die. Chris Gard and Connie Yates, Charlie’s parents, wanted to take him to the United States to try an experimental treatment available here. The doctors at the hospital refused to allow them to take the child, and vetoed their decision, even though the parents had received sufficient funds from donations to pay for the effort.  In  the resulting lawsuit, British courts sided with the hospital. The parents then brought the case  to the European Court of Human Rights, which declined to hear the case last week. The previous court rulings that it was in Charlie’s best interest to withdraw life support and that the state, not the parents, got to make this life and death decision stood.

The  parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, appeared on a video this week,, sobbing and saying their son would be removed from life support at the hospital. “He’d fight to the very end, but we’re not allowed to fight for him anymore,” Gard said in the video statement. “We can’t even take our own son home to die.”

Initially, the hospital would not delay the fatal  disconnection of the child from life support so family members could gather and say goodbye. It has since relented.

Observations: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not Discrimination.’”

The health care/ACA/AHCA commentary from readers continues to be uniformly excellent. (It was originally spurred by the post, No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not “Discrimination.”Spartan’s Comment of the Day on the topic has itself sparked its own Comment Of The Day, this one authored by Charles Green.

By fortune’s smiles, I was able to finally meet Charlie last week face to face, as he kindly alerted me that he would be passing through my neighborhood. Finally having personal contact with an Ethics Alarms reader is always a revealing and enjoyable experience, and this time especially so. I think you would all enjoy Charlie; I certainly did. Maybe I need to hold an Ethics Alarms convention.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not ‘Discrimination’.”

…The claim that “a free market system” and “freedom of choice” is the solution to all that ails us is a mindless mantra that is only occasionally true, but not always.

It’s important to be clear about when free market solutions are good, and when they are not. It’s not all that hard to sort out. Basically:

Free market solutions ought to be the presumptive default. Unless there is good reason to the contrary, they ought to be the rule.

1. Exception Number 1: Natural monopolies. It makes no sense to have competition for municipal water supplies; airports; multiple-gauge railroads; fishing grounds; groundwater; or police departments. The basic reason is the putative economic benefit is either simply not there, or is absurdly overwhelmed by the social confusion engendered by multiple suppliers.
In these cases, a form of regulated monopoly is desirable. (By the way, the airline industry at a national level is precisely this kind of market; we do not have too little competition there, but too little regulation).

2. Exception Number 2a: Wallet-driven market power monopolies. It’s strategy 101 in business schools that the way to be successful is to be #1 or #2, and the best way to do that is to get more market share than your competition, so you can drive them out of business. The one guaranteed way to do that is to cut prices so low that no one else can compete. Think Walmart. Think Amazon. Think Japanese in the 60s and 70s in any industry.
The reason we have anti-monopoly laws is to reset the playing field when a competitor dominates the market too strongly.

3. Exception Number 2b: Product-driven market power monopolies. Where the product is so obscure, expensive, infinitely variable, and difficult to understand that the producers are de facto in control, because it is too confusing and too dangerous to challenge them.
Drug prescriptions are an interesting example. The ‘free market solution’ to high drug prices was (partly) to let drug companies advertise, and to loosen up the definition of what constituted a ‘new’ drug. What did we get? New diseases like RLS, new definitions of ‘new’ (moving ‘off label’ to ‘on label’) and even higher drug company profits. Because who’s still going to argue with your doc? Especially when he or she gets side benefits from giving in to the latest DTC ads on network news programs?

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Bioethics, Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Finance, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Research and Scholarship

Ethics Quiz On A Story I’m Betting Is A Hoax: The “Identical Twins” Married Couple

I have now read three accounts in borderline news sources about a Mississippi married couple who went to a fertility clinic and discovered to their horror that they were “identical twins.” I’m assuming it is a fake news story, perhaps planted through collusion with the Trump campaign by Russian government operatives, and not just because identical twins cannot be different sexes. (Hey! Maybe one of them had  gender reassignment surgery! Now that would be a story!)

I suppose it’s possible; Robert Ripley found odder coincidences for decades, but never mind: let’s assume for the sake of ethics problem-solving practice that the story is true. (I’ll be stunned if it is.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

What is the couple’s most ethical course now that they know they are siblings, or is there one?

Key question: Is this ick rather than ethics?

Trap: I’m not asking what’s moral.

It’s all yours…

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Filed under Bioethics, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes

Remember That Old 1963 Song By The Angels, “My Boyfriend’s Dead And I Want To Have His Baby (Hey-la, Hey-la, My Boyfriend’s Dead)”?

Neither do I.

This goes in the “How in the world does someone get the idea that this is ethical?” file.

Coloradan Kate Criswell’s boyfriend Tom Alexander died over the weekend after having heart problems while the two of them were hiking. Then she had a great idea: why not have the hospital harvest his sperm, so she could be artificially inseminated and have his baby! Unfortunately, sperm viability only lasts 24-48 hours after death, the hospital didn’t have the equipment necessary to extract and preserve Alexander’s sperm, nor was there any legal documentation of his consent for such a procedure.

Criswell doesn’t understand why taking his sperm should be such a big deal. After all, she says, he’s an organ donor. Isn’t that the same thing as being a “give my sperm to any woman who asks for it” donor?

“Tom was amazing,” says his ex-girl friend. “He was always so generous and loved me so much and always made sure that I knew that. He took such good care of me.”

Yes, I would imagine that she needs a lot of taking care of, since she is an idiot. Criswell said she will take up the fight with state lawmakers, so this doesn’t happen to anyone else, “this” meaning ” a couple doesn’t get married, he dies, and the law stops her from unilaterally using his sperm to have his baby without his consent, thus gaining claim to his estate, and maybe even part of his family’s estate.” And what if he had more girl friends? What empowers her to be the only one to with a claim to his genetic material? How many of his babies can she have? Does she want the legislature to declare any dead man’s sperm to be a public resource? What constitutes being a “girl friend”? If he had wanted to have a baby with Kate, why didn’t Tom get her pregnant before he died? Since he didn’t, isn’t there a rebuttable presumption that he didn’t want to start a family with her? If you wanted a baby so much, Kate, why didn’t you two love birds get married? Or are you thinking of Tom’s baby as more of a souvenir?

Based on the fact that this woman thinks “organ donor” applies to sperm, there may also be a public policy argument against this pregnancy based on eugenics.

____________________

Pointer: Tim Levier

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Filed under Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Romance and Relationships

In A Photo Finish Race For Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month, Ohio State Wes Retherford (R) Edges Texas State Rep. Jessica Farrar (D)

Both are embarrassments to their parties, their states, and the voters who elected them, however.

First the winner: Ohio State Representative Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, who was discovered over the weekend passed out drunk in his car with a loaded firearm at a McDonald’s drive-thru . Wes was arrested by Butler County sheriff’s deputies, and faces charges of operating a vehicle under the influence and improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, because there is no current criminal law covering unbelievably stupid conduct by an elected official.

Retherford was easily re-elected in November in the heavily Republican district, even though voters had to know he was a drunk. He had to defeat a challenger in the GOP primary after another candidate gained the party’s endorsement because Retherford had been criticized for “partying.” “Partying” is a euphemism, in this case, for “has a serious drinking problem and is likely to end up  passed out drunk in his car at a McDonald’s drive-thru with a loaded firearm. The Ohio House Speaker even had to order a drinks cart removed from Retherford’s office because it violated House rules. People voted for him anyway. They must be so proud.

Our runner-up is a different brand of fool, but a fool nonetheless: Texas State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat, offered what she termed a “satirical bill”  that would fine men for masturbating, allow doctors to refuse to prescribe Viagra and require men to undergo a medically unnecessary rectal exam before any elective vasectomy. Farrar says that she knows her bill will never pass, but says she hopes it will start a conversation about abortion restrictions. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights