Skip navigation

Bioethics

  • Page 2 of 10
Beyond the Bad-Apple Approach

Federal regulations that govern research misconduct in biomedicine have not been able to prevent an ongoing series of high-profile cases of fabricating, falsifying, or plagiarizing scientific research. In this book, Barbara Redman looks critically at current research misconduct policy and proposes a new approach that emphasizes institutional context and improved oversight.

Current policy attempts to control risk at the individual level. But Redman argues that a fair and effective policy must reflect the context in which the behavior in question is embedded. As journalists who covered many research misconduct cases observed, the roots of fraud “lie in the barrel, not in the bad apples that occasionally roll into view.” Drawing on literature in related fields—including moral psychology, the policy sciences, the organizational sciences, and law—as well as analyses of misconduct cases, Redman considers research misconduct from various perspectives. She also examines in detail a series of clinical research cases in which repeated misconduct went undetected and finds laxity of oversight, little attention to harm done, and inadequate correction of the scientific record. Study questions enhance the book’s value for graduate and professional courses in research ethics.

Redman argues that the goals of any research misconduct policy should be to protect scientific capital (knowledge, scientists, institutions, norms of science), support fair competition, contain harms to end users and to the public trust, and enable science to meet its societal obligations.

Downloadable instructor resources available for this title: answers to study

An Interdisciplinary Reader

This book discusses some of the most critical ethical issues in mental health care today, including the moral dimensions of addiction, patient autonomy and compulsory treatment, privacy and confidentiality, and the definition of mental illness itself. Although debates over these issues are ongoing, there are few comprehensive resources for addressing such dilemmas in the practice of psychology, psychiatry, social work, and other behavioral and mental health care professions. This book meets that need, providing foundational background for undergraduate, graduate, and professional courses.

Topics include central questions such as evolving views of the morality and pathology of deviant behavior; patient competence and the decision to refuse treatment; recognizing and treating people who have suffered trauma; addiction as illness; the therapist’s responsibility to report dangerousness despite patient confidentiality; and boundaries for the therapist’s interaction with patients outside of therapy, whether in the form of tennis games, gift-giving, or social media contact. For the most part the selections address contemporary issues in contemporary terms, but the book also offers a few historic or classic essays, including Thomas S. Szasz’s controversial 1971 article “The Ethics of Addiction.” Contributors include Laura Weiss Roberts, Frederic G. Reamer, Charles P. O’Brien, and Thomas McLellan.

The Ethical Debate

In contemporary Western society, people are more often called upon to justify the choice not to have children than they are to supply reasons for having them. In this book, Christine Overall maintains that the burden of proof should be reversed: that the choice to have children calls for more careful justification and reasoning than the choice not to. Arguing that the choice to have children is not just a prudential or pragmatic decision but one with ethical repercussions, Overall offers a wide-ranging exploration of how we might think systematically and deeply about this fundamental aspect of human life. Writing from a feminist perspective, she also acknowledges the inevitably gendered nature of the decision; the choice has different meanings, implications, and risks for women than it has for men.

After considering a series of ethical approaches to procreation, and finding them inadequate or incomplete, Overall offers instead a novel argument. Exploring the nature of the biological parent-child relationship—which is not only genetic but also psychological, physical, intellectual, and moral—she argues that the formation of that relationship is the best possible reason for choosing to have a child.

Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement

Proposals to make us smarter than the greatest geniuses or to add thousands of years to our life spans seem fit only for the spam folder or trash can. And yet this is what contemporary advocates of radical enhancement offer in all seriousness. They present a variety of technologies and therapies that will expand our capacities far beyond what is currently possible for human beings. In Humanity’s End, Nicholas Agar argues against radical enhancement, describing its destructive consequences.

Agar examines the proposals of four prominent radical enhancers: Ray Kurzweil, who argues that technology will enable our escape from human biology; Aubrey de Grey, who calls for anti-aging therapies that will achieve “longevity escape velocity”; Nick Bostrom, who defends the morality and rationality of enhancement; and James Hughes, who envisions a harmonious democracy of the enhanced and the unenhanced. Agar argues that the outcomes of radical enhancement could be darker than the rosy futures described by these thinkers. The most dramatic means of enhancing our cognitive powers could in fact kill us; the radical extension of our life span could eliminate experiences of great value from our lives; and a situation in which some humans are radically enhanced and others are not could lead to tyranny of posthumans over humans.

Artificial Life and the Bounds of Nature

Synthetic biology, which aims to design and build organisms that serve human needs, has potential applications that range from producing biofuels to programming human behavior. The emergence of this new form of biotechnology, however, raises a variety of ethical questions—first and foremost, whether synthetic biology is intrinsically troubling in moral terms. Is it an egregious example of scientists “playing God”? Synthetic Biology and Morality takes on this threshold ethical question, as well as others that follow, offering a range of philosophical and political perspectives on the power of synthetic biology.

The contributors consider the basic question of the ethics of making new organisms, with essays that lay out the conceptual terrain and offer opposing views of the intrinsic moral concerns; discuss the possibility that synthetic organisms are inherently valuable; and address whether, and how, moral objections to synthetic biology could be relevant to policy making and political discourse. Variations of these questions have been raised before, in debates over other biotechnologies, but, as this book shows, they take on novel and illuminating form when considered in the context of synthetic biology.

Contributors
John Basl, Mark A. Bedau, Joachim Boldt, John H. Evans, Bruce Jennings, Gregory E. Kaebnick, Ben Larson, Andrew Lustig, Jon Mandle, Thomas H. Murray, Christopher J. Preston, Ronald Sandler

Politics, Policy, and Ethics

New findings in neuroscience have given us unprecedented knowledge about the workings of the brain. Innovative research—much of it based on neuroimaging results—suggests not only treatments for neural disorders but also the possibility of increasingly precise and effective ways to predict, modify, and control behavior. In this book, Robert Blank examines the complex ethical and policy issues raised by our new capabilities of intervention in the brain.

After surveying current knowledge about the brain and describing a wide range of experimental and clinical interventions—from behavior-modifying drugs to neural implants to virtual reality—Blank discusses the political and philosophical implications of these scientific advances. If human individuality is simply a product of a network of manipulable nerve cell connections, and if aggressive behavior is a treatable biochemical condition, what happens to our conceptions of individual responsibility, autonomy, and free will? In light of new neuroscientific possibilities, Blank considers such topics as informed consent, addiction, criminal justice, racism, commercial and military applications of neuroscience research, new ways to define death, and political ideology and partisanship.

Our political and social institutions have not kept pace with the rapid advances in neuroscience. This book shows why the political issues surrounding the application of this new research should be debated before interventions in the brain become routine.

Envisioning Health Care 2020

Contrary to popular opinion, one of the main problems in providing uniformly excellent health care is not lack of money but lack of knowledge—on the part of both doctors and patients. The studies in this book show that many doctors and most patients do not understand the available medical evidence. Both patients and doctors are “risk illiterate”—frequently unable to tell the difference between actual risk and relative risk. Further, unwarranted disparity in treatment decisions is the rule rather than the exception in the United States and Europe. All of this contributes to much wasted spending in health care.

The contributors to Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions investigate the roots of the problem, from the emphasis in medical research on technology and blockbuster drugs to the lack of education for both doctors and patients. They call for a new, more enlightened health care, with better medical education, journals that report study outcomes completely and transparently, and patients in control of their personal medical records, not afraid of statistics but able to use them to make informed decisions about their treatments.

A Life in Bioethics

Daniel Callahan helped invent the field of bioethics more than forty years ago when he decided to use his training in philosophy to grapple with ethical problems in biology and medicine. Disenchanted with academic philosophy because of its analytical bent and distance from the concerns of real life, Callahan found the ethical issues raised by the rapid medical advances of the 1960s--which included the birth control pill, heart transplants, and new capacities to keep very sick people alive--to be philosophical questions with immediate real-world relevance. In this memoir, Callahan describes his part in the founding of bioethics and traces his thinking on critical issues including embryonic stem cell research, market-driven health care, and medical rationing. He identifies the major challenges facing bioethics today and ruminates on its future.

Callahan writes about founding the Hastings Center--the first bioethics research institution--with the author and psychiatrist Willard Gaylin in 1969, and recounts the challenges of running a think tank while keeping up a prolific flow of influential books and articles. Editor of the famous liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal in the 1960s, Callahan describes his now-secular approach to issues of illness and mortality. He questions the idea of endless medical “progress” and interventionist end-of-life care that seems to blur the boundary between living and dying. It is the role of bioethics, he argues, to be a loyal dissenter in the onward march of medical progress. The most important challenge for bioethics now is to help rethink the very goals of medicine.

Parents routinely turn to prenatal testing to screen for genetic or chromosomal disorders or to learn their child’s sex. What if they could use similar prenatal interventions to learn (or change) their child’s sexual orientation? Bioethicists have debated the moral implications of this still-hypothetical possibility for several decades. Some commentators fear that any scientific efforts to understand the origins of homosexuality could mean the end of gay and lesbian people, if parents shy away from having homosexual children. Others defend parents’ rights to choose the traits of their children in general and see no reason to treat sexual orientation differently. In this book, Timothy Murphy traces the controversy over prenatal selection of sexual orientation, offering a critical review of the literature and presenting his own argument in favor of parents’ reproductive liberty.

Arguing against commentators who want to restrict the scientific study of sexual orientation or technologies that emerge from that study, Murphy proposes a defense of parents’ right to choose. This, he argues, is the only view that helps protect children from hurtful family environments, that is consistent with the increasing powers of prenatal interventions, and that respects human futures as something other than accidents of the genetic lottery.

Exploring the Controversy

An estimated 100 million nonhuman vertebrates worldwide--including primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds, rats, and mice--are bred, captured, or otherwise acquired every year for research purposes. Much of this research is seriously detrimental to the welfare of these animals, causing pain, distress, injury, or death. This book explores the ethical controversies that have arisen over animal research, examining closely the complex scientific, philosophical, moral, and legal issues involved.

Defenders of animal research face a twofold challenge: they must make a compelling case for the unique benefits offered by animal research; and they must provide a rationale for why these benefits justify treating animal subjects in ways that would be unacceptable for human subjects. This challenge is at the heart of the book. Some contributors argue that it can be met fairly easily; others argue that it can never be met; still others argue that it can sometimes be met, although not necessarily easily. Their essays consider how moral theory can be brought to bear on the practical ethical questions raised by animal research, examine the new challenges raised by the emerging possibilities of biotechnology, and consider how to achieve a more productive dialogue on this polarizing subject. The book’s careful blending of theoretical and practical considerations and its balanced arguments make it valuable for instructors as well as for scholars and practitioners.

  • Page 2 of 10