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Posts Tagged ‘consent’

What Is the Body Worth? by Ari N. Schulman

In ethics, medicine, science on July 30, 2014 at 16:25

From: What Is the Body Worth? by Ari N. Schulman, The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com

In 1951, a thirty-year-old woman living in Baltimore was experiencing abnormal bleeding and felt a lump on her cervix. She checked herself into the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where four months earlier she had given birth to her fifth child. The doctor found a tumor the size of a nickel — which was surprising, as it had not been seen in the checkup following her recent delivery. A biopsy confirmed the presence of what turned out to be an unusually aggressive cancer.

The woman returned to begin treatment; with the patient under anesthetic, the doctors cut two tissue samples — one from the tumor, another from her healthy cervical tissue — before inserting pieces of radium in an attempt to shrink the tumor. The samples were passed along to a researcher who was continuing a decades-long, so-far unsuccessful scientific effort to keep human tissues alive in culture indefinitely. While the healthy cervical tissue failed to culture, the tumoral cells began dividing at a remarkable rate — doubling every 24 hours. It soon became clear that the culture was the first line of human cells that could potentially be kept alive forever. By the end of the year, the power of those cells had taken the life of the patient they were taken from.

Market considerations aside, it is rightly a point of wide agreement among bioethicists and patient advocates that informed consent procedures ought to be strengthened. But it is wrong to think of informed consent as a panacea for bioethical concerns of all sorts — a mistake derived in part from the presumed sufficiency of information in making good decisions. Before turning to the question of how much information is necessary for consent to be considered adequately informed, it is worth examining how difficult it can be to obtain information that is even reliable about complicated scientific subjects. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, for better or worse, provides an instructive case study — for considering that it is the product of years of research, and has effectively become the canonical public discussion of HeLa cells and the Lacks story, it turns out not to have been as carefully fact-checked as readers might suppose.

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Reposted with permission from: The New Atlantis

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Are You Smarter Than a Freshman? by Harvey C. Mansfield

In books, government, law, philosophy, political science, politics on November 17, 2012 at 18:22

From: Are You Smarter Than a Freshman? What political philosophy has to say about elections. by Harvey C. Mansfield, Defining Ideas, http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/

Aristotle’s Politics calls into question the assumption that elections are democratic. Democracy stands for living as you please, he says, which means as you choose. But choosing means taking better over worse, or a respectable life over doing menial tasks, the noble over the necessary. In choosing to have an election—the word for choice also means “election”—you give your support to someone or a party you admire or at any rate think better of. What is this preference but the choice of an aristocracy, literally, the rule of the best, or of the best in this situation?

Machiavelli believes that human beings are divided into the few who want to rule and the many who do not care to rule themselves but do not want to be ruled by others either. Then those who want to rule must conceal their rule from the many they rule if they wish to succeed. How can they do this? Machiavelli went about conceiving a “new mode of ruling,” a hidden government that puts the people “under a dominion they do not see.” Government is hidden when it appears not to be imposed on you from above but when it comes from you, when it is self-imposed.

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Reposted with permission from: Defining Ideas

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