This Week in Bioethics

by Matthew Eppinette, CBC Executive Director on July 8, 2016

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1. Priorities at the VA

The department of veterans affairs this week released the preliminary results of a new study on suicide among veterans. “In 2014, the latest year available, more than 7,400 veterans took their own lives, accounting for 18 percent of all suicides in America. Veterans make up less than 9 percent of the U.S. population.” This raises at least two bioethics-related issues. First, this number is far, far too high. More must be done to help veterans with the factors that are causing approximately 20 suicides per day. Second, there is currently a push among some members of Congress to expand existing coverage of assisted reproductive services to include in vitro fertilization (IVF) and related procedures for veterans. There are many reasons to oppose such an expansion based on problems with IVF itself. But this new data demonstrates that there are other, serious issues that need to be addressed well before we even think about using VA money for IVF.

2. No Institutional Right of Refusal

A Catholic nursing home in Belgium that refused to allow a woman to be euthanized has been ordered to pay the woman’s family €6,000. The court ruled that while a physician has the right to refuse to take part in euthanasia, institutions do not, even if the institution is religiously affiliated. One cannot help but wonder how long the individual right of refusal will last, or how long it will be until other countries and states where assisted suicide is now legal will slide into euthanasia and away from honoring rights of conscience. Make no mistake, assisted suicide and euthanasia corrupt medicine, undermine suicide prevention efforts, and threaten the lives and equal societal status of the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

3. 20 Years after Dolly

This week marked 20 years since the birth of the cloned sheep Dolly. Scientific American sums up the development since then succinctly: “Cloning has had a bigger impact on science, but a smaller one on human life, than many expected.” Indeed, while cloning and embryonic stem cell research have received a great deal of media attention and hype, we continue to see great benefit to patients through adult stem cell treatments, which do not involve cloning nor the destruction of embryos. Ethical science for the win!

4. The Very Idea Raises Numerous Concerns

A science page on Facebook recently posted the video below on the concept of an artificial womb. As I write, the video has been viewed nearly 18 million times. The video is very interesting, and is based on a number of research papers, to which the science page links. Near the end of the video a caption reads, “Once created, the device will raise several social and ethical concerns.” No, no, no. The idea of such a device already raises numerous social and ethical concerns. To wait until the device is created to raise and consider such concerns is foolish. These concerns range from whether it is appropriate to bring life-making into the lab in the first place, what are the appropriate practices of procreation, the nature of maternal-child bonding in utero, the relationship between parent and offspring, and more. These are enormous and weighty questions that cannot wait until the creation of a device like this in order to be examined.

5. Help Jennifer Lahl Attend the Aspen Ethical Leadership Program

Jennifer has been invited and accepted into The Aspen Ethical Leadership Program, a prestigious event that accepts only 100 people. It is a true honor to be one of a handful of people hearing from a list of leaders involved with healthcare and ethics. This is a non-budgeted expense, so we are turning to our friends. Please consider chipping in and helping cover the costs to attend. Help us #crowdfund this!

Langiappe (A Little Something Extra)

Facebook recently announced changes to the algorithm they use to decide what items to show us when we visit the site. For organizations like the CBC, this means that you may see fewer of our updates. To ensure that you are able to keep up with all the latest from us, be sure to like or comment on items that you do see so that Facebook knows that our content is interesting to you. And/or make a habit of regularly going to the CBC Facebook page (bookmark that link) to check and see what we’ve been posting (we post at least one thing almost every day). Thank you!

This Week in Bioethics Archive

Image by Immanuel Giel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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