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.
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.
“Human dignity” has been enshrined in international agreements and national constitutions as a fundamental human right. The World Medical Association calls on physicians to respect human dignity and to discharge their duties with dignity. And yet human dignity is a term--like love, hope, and justice--that is intuitively grasped but never clearly defined. Some ethicists and bioethicists dismiss it; other thinkers point to its use in the service of particular ideologies.
Bioethics emerged in the 1960s from a conviction that physicians and researchers needed the guidance of philosophers in handling the issues raised by technological advances in medicine. It blossomed as a response to the perceived doctor-knows-best paternalism of the traditional medical ethic and today plays a critical role in health policies and treatment decisions. Bioethics claimed to offer a set of generally applicable, universally accepted guidelines that would simplify complex situations.
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.
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.
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.
Legal texts have been with us since the dawn of human history. Beginning in 1953, life too became textual. The discovery of the structure of DNA made it possible to represent the basic matter of life with permutations and combinations of four letters of the alphabet, A, T, C, and G. Since then, the biological and legal conceptions of life have been in constant, mutually constitutive interplay--the former focusing on life’s definition, the latter on life’s entitlements.
One in six people worldwide will experience depression over the course of a lifetime. Many who seek relief through the healthcare system are treated with antidepressant medication; in the United States, nearly 170 million prescriptions for antidepressants were written in 2005, resulting in more than $12 billion in sales. And yet despite the dominance of antidepressants in the marketplace and the consulting room, another treatment for depression has proven equally effective: psychotherapy--in particular, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).
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.