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Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies

Greetings from Stephen Latham, Bioethics Center Director

Welcome to this unusually timely edition of the Friday Newsletter, which, this week, is coming out on an actual Friday. I am pleased and excited to share this edition of the Frimail, which features the second installment of our terrific new "Articles" section edited--though perhaps I should use the more fashionable "curated"--by Matt Leisinger, our newly-minted but already-indispensable Graduate Fellow in Applied Ethics. Please page down, click through, and enjoy.

This week our Technology and Ethics group is hosting Susan Schneider (UConn, Philosophy), giving a talk entitled, "The Mind is not the software of the Brain (even if the Brain is computational)." Join us for the talk on Wednesday evening; details at the link and in the calendar below.

Save the date: John Ioannidis (Stanford, Medicine and Health Research), the headline-grabbing critic of medical research methodology, will be our Robert Levine Lecturer this year, on the early evening of March 28, location TBA. Don't miss this chance to hear from one of the most important voices in the current debates on "the crisis in reproducability" in scientific research.

If you have an event or a milestone you'd like to see mentioned in this newsletter, send me an email at stephen.latham@yale.edu, with the word "Frimail" in your subject-line.
  Updates from the Summer Institute

Campus Events

Conferences & Off Campus Events

Grants, Fellowships & Jobs

Calls for Papers & Nominations



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Updates from the Summer Institute

From Summer Institute Director Carol Pollard

Happy Valentine’s Day (February 14th) for all those believers in LOVE!

The Yale Law School is offering the chance to be a 2016 Paid Summer Fellow through The Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization of Yale Law School (LSO) that provides legal services for poor and marginalized communities in Connecticut. Part-time or full-time work for a portion of the Fellowship period may also be possible. Click here for further information.  The application deadline is February 15th. Sorry about time crunch, but I just found out about this offering. What a great opportunity to work with Yale Law faculty and students!

Bruce Jennings writes: “The January 2016 issue of the journal I edit, Minding Nature, is now on line. In this issue are essays on genetic engineering, democracy, human rights, and climate change, and how the words we use affect not only what we think but also the emotions we can feel. Other articles and interviews also focus on human embodiment and our sensuous relationship to nature through dance, poetry, architectural design, and street theater. Multidisciplinary thinking is in full swing in this issue, which can be read and downloaded at www.humansandnature.org. (Please do yourself a favor and check it out!)

Adam Grant’s new book, Originals, is about people who champion new ideas to drive creativity and change in the world. Here’s a quote from the book: Originality dwells in everyone, but most of us don’t act on it….Geniuses don’t have better ideas than the rest of us. They just have more of them… More about Adam and the book here!

Shari Esquenazi writes: “I’m enclosing a great article on end-of-life care and some of the issues with the current (lack of) palliative care in the United States. Some of the related articles are also worth reading, but don’t do it in public. You might tear up. :’(

Amy Constable writes: “Life in Edinburgh is lovely. I live in a gorgeous area and am learning French. It’s great to be seeing progress. J” (With such a description I think you are about to get visitors!)

Anja Gleicher writes: “Since I left the Summer Institute last summer I started my senior year. I graduate March 18th, and my family is coming into Chicago for a celebratory dinner. I’m currently in two independent studies that cover both aspects of Bioethics that I find most interesting. The first is on the ethics behind bioethics, and the second is on law and bioethics. We’re reading Mill and Kant while also going over some of my favorite articles from this summer and just debating options vs outcomes. I’m also in a philosophy of the environment course that also plays into bioethics and is a lot of fun.  I’ve begun to study for the LSAT. This summer, because it’s my first summer off in I cannot remember how long, I’m hoping to be able to travel. I want to visit my family and friends in Israel and see my cousins in Vienna. I do want to come visit Yale for this summer’s Program for at least a weekend or so. I really loved my time with you all, and I would love to continue to be a part of it in any way possible.  I just want to come and soak up more knowledge!   Hope all is well with you!!!  (Anja, GOOD LUCK with your pursuits.  And come visit for as long as you want!  There are many students coming back to help with the Program this summer; you’d fit right in.)

Megan Hoberg writes: “I just heard back from Columbia University, and I was accepted into their Master’s in Bioethics Program! Very exciting! Also, If anyone is looking for some new reading material, here is a review from the New York Times on new books about end-of-life issues. I’m finishing up When Breath Becomes Air that simultaneously looks at the role reversal when a doctor becomes a patient. I would highly recommend this book. Also Sherwin Nuland is mentioned in the New York Times article about this book and five others dealing with end-of-life. (Congratulations Megan! And thanks for the book and article referral! The article is dynamite!)

Çağrı Zeybek Unsal writes: “I bought the book that Stephen Latham suggested titled "Bioethics: Health Care Law and Ethics” and started reading it…and I am working now on organizing my thesis about “Refugee’s Right to Health in Turkey.” (Good Luck with your work!)

Virginia Sheftall writes:Life is grand!  I'm still working in South Carolina as a prosecutor (they call us Solicitors here, but most places call us District Attorneys). I'm enjoying my work and feel like I'm making a positive difference in the world...most days anyway.  I'm getting married in April to a great guy who was in law school with me.   We're very excited! If there's ever an excuse (I mean, a reason) for me to come back up to Yale, you know I'll be on the first flight out! (Congratulations Virginia! Contact me in September and we’ll see if we can bring you back. How about as a presenter in one of our Symposia? Let me know!)

Sahdeea Sultana writes: “Here is an interesting documentary about a man who, after learning he has motor neuron disease, is contemplating ending his own life. (Thank you Sahdeea! Incoming student Sophie Arkette also sent this to me for the Friday Newsletter. Thank you Sophie!)

Unite for Sight has just announced their schedule for the Global Health & Innovation Conference at Yale on April 16-17, 2016.  Register by February 20th for a highly-reduced registration fee.  If you are interested in presenting, or to learn more about the GHIC experience, or to view a short video about the conference, please visit: jstaple@uniteforsight.org

FROM CAROL: IMPORTANT!! I recommend this video, titled “The Island of Tears,” about Arab and Israeli volunteer medical staff who together greet and give aid to immigrants washing up on the shores of the island of Lesbos.

If any of you are in New Haven during the next few months I recommend visiting the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, 333 Cedar Street, to see their newest exhibit “Deaf: Cultures and Communication, 1600 – Present.”  Here is some information about the exhibit:

What is deafness? From a medical perspective, deafness is an audiological condition that might be resolved through hearing aids or cochlear implants.  But from another perspective, to be Deaf (often spelled with a capital “D”) is to belong to a culture, with a shared language and identity.  This exhibit explores how people have understood deaf communication and Deaf culture since the seventeenth century, with displays on the history of education, medical interventions, sign languages, and popular culture.  This exhibit runs through Friday, April 1, 2016.

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History has a talk scheduled for Monday, February 15th titled “The Dragon Inside the Dove: Resurrecting the Dinosaur within a Bird and Other Works of Genetic Time Travel,” by Bhart-Anjan Bhullar, Geology & Geophysics, Yale University. Here is some information about that talk:

It has long been known that the history of life on Earth is entombed beneath us as the fossil record – an incomplete record to be sure, but one that speaks of vast, vanished diversity and of the gradual assembly of our modern world. Fossils bespeak the great transitions and transformations that ancestral living things underwent during the long march to the present. But there is another record of the past: a record contained in the genetic code within every tissue and every cell, accessible through the remarkable mutability of the early embryo.  Ancient, hidden potential to manifest long-vanished features can be realized in the laboratory by the resurrection of dormant molecular pathways. By reconstituting these pathways and thereby resurrecting ancestral features, we can learn about the fundamental genetic processes underlying evolutionary change and ultimately about the way in which life, in every age, simultaneously reinvents itself and bears the burden of its ancient past.  Bhart-Anjan Bhullar and his team bridge the ancient and the modern, during the summer searching fossil beds for the buried story of major evolutionary transitions and during the year working to understand the molecular mechanisms of these transitions. They were recently featured on NPR for experimentally resurrecting a dinosaur-like, non-beaklike upper jaw skeleton in birds. They continue to work on major transitions during the origin of birds and of mammals. 

Some uplifting and interesting music for you!  (Thanks Kathy Liontas!)

Also, please see the Articles Section I’ve collected for you!


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This Week on Campus

Wednesday, February 17

The Technology and Ethics Group of the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics presents:

Susan Schneider (UCONN, Philosophy), “The Mind Isn’t the Software of the Brain (Even if the Brain is Computational)”  Rosenkranz 005, 4:30 pm. Open to the public.

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Conferences & Off Campus Events

The 2016 Conference on Medicine and Religion will take place in Houston, TX, on March 4-6. This year's theme is: "Approaching the Sacred: Science, Health and the Practices of Care." Conference details and registration information at the link!

The Initiative on Islam and Medicine at The University of Chicago will be holding a Conference on Islamic Theology, Law, and Biomedicine, Friday, April 15th - Sunday, April 17th. Details at the link!

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Grants, Fellowships, & Jobs

You can look for bioethics positions on the job sites of Bioethics.net, or of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, or of the Hastings Center or of the Institute of Medical Ethics. Canadians can look here; Brits here; philosophers here.

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Calls for Papers & Nominations

Northeast Ohio Medical University is hosting its fifth annual Bioethics and Medical Humanities conference in April. This year's title is "Being and Identity in Health and Disease." Conference details and a call for abstracts are at the link. Abstracts are due on March 1.

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Articles of Interest

To read the full text of an article, click on its link and it will open in a new window.  

Some sites may require free registration; others may require that you or your organization have a paid subscription.

In the News

Bioethics and the law

Ben Taub. “School Accused Of "Genetic Discrimination" After Excluding Student Because Of His DNA.” IFL Science. February 2, 2016.
A potentially landmark legal case is currently underway in the U.S., with a middle school in Palo Alto, California, having been accused of “genetic discrimination” against a student. Though a district court initially dismissed the lawsuit in 2013, an appeal has now been filed which, if successful, could set a new legal precedent regarding the ways in which people’s genetic information can be accessed and used. Continue reading…


Sara Reardon. “US panel greenlights creation of male 'three-person' embryos.” Nature. February 3, 2016.
The US National Academy of Medicine said that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should approve clinical trials to transfer DNA from healthy human eggs to diseased embryos. The controversial gene-therapy technique involves replacing an embryo’s energy-producing mitochondria with healthy mitochondria from the egg of a second woman. Continue reading…

Environmental management

Justine Hunter. “Final agreement reached to protect B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest.” The Globe and Mail. February 1, 2016.
The 20-year battle to protect the Great Bear Rainforest – the largest coastal temperate rainforest on the planet – is over, with the government of the province of British Columbia in Canada announcing on Monday of an agreement with environmentalists, forest companies and First Nations. Continue reading…

Matt McGrath. “Paris climate deal could 'displace millions of forest dwellers'” BBC. February 4, 2016.
The Paris climate agreement could make millions of forest dwellers homeless, according to a new analysis. Many developing countries will try to curb carbon emissions by setting aside forested areas as reserves. But experts are worried that creating national parks often involves removing the people who live in these areas. Continue reading…


Christian Jarrett. “Neuroscience and Free Will Are Rethinking Their Divorce.” New York Magazine. February 3, 2016.
In the 19080s, the American scientist Benjamin Libet recorded people’s brain waves as they made spontaneous finger movements while looking at a clock, with the participants telling researchers the time at which they decided to waggle their fingers. Libet’s revolutionary finding was that the timing of these conscious decisions was consistently preceded by several hundred milliseconds of background preparatory brain activity, suggesting that the decision to move was made nonconsciously and that free will as we know it is an illusion. Recent work in neuroscience, however, is providing evidence that points in the other direction, suggesting that we may have more control over certain processes than those initial experiments indicated. Continue reading…

Public health

Liz Szabo. “CDC: Young women should avoid alcohol unless using birth control.” USA Today. February 3, 2016.
The CDC issued a controversial report advising that women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception. Continue reading USA Today’s coverage, or take a look at the original report.

Daniel Victor. “C.D.C. Defends Advice to Women on Drinking and Pregnancy.” The New York Times. February 5, 2016.
The CDC’s report advising that women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception triggered a significant backlash, with many women saying they considered the suggestion insulting, severe and impractical. Jump to the “Opinion” section to find some of what has been written about the CDC’s report, or continue reading The New York Times’ coverage of how the CDC has responded to the backlash.

Ariana Eunjung Cha. “Johns Hopkins becomes first center in country to offer HIV-positive to HIV-positive organ transplants.” The Washington Post. February 9, 2016.
Johns Hopkins announced this week that it had received approval from the nation's organ-sharing authority to become the first hospital in the United States to conduct transplants involving HIV-positive donors and HIV-positive recipients. Continue reading…

Reproductive technology

Michael S. Schmidt. “Pentagon to Offer Plan to Store Eggs and Sperm to Retain Young Troops.” The New York Times. February 3, 2016.
As part of an initiative to make military service more appealing and family friendly, the US Department of Defense has created a pilot program that will pay for troops to have their reproductive cells preserved. The goal is to give those in uniform the peace of mind that, if they are hurt on the battlefield, they would still be able to have children. Continue reading…

Research ethics

Monya Baker. “Biotech giant publishes failures to confirm high-profile science.” Nature. February 4, 2016.
A biotechnology firm is releasing data on three failed efforts to confirm findings in high-profile scientific journals. The data are posted online at a newly launched channel dedicated to quickly publishing efforts to confirm scientific findings. Continue reading…

Zika virus

Erika Check Hayden. “Proving Zika link to birth defects poses huge challenge.” Nature. February 9, 2016
A Public-health authorities are investigating whether the Zika virus has caused an apparent surge in the number of infants born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, in at least seven countries. But conclusively determining whether the mosquito-borne virus is to blame could take months to years, researchers say. Continue reading…


Mark Landler. “Obama Asks Congress for $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika Virus.” The New York Times. February 8, 2016
President Obama requested more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to fight an outbreak of the Zika virus, which has spread to 26 countries and territories in Central and South America, though not yet to the United States. Continue reading…

In the Journals

Eric Plutzer, Mark McCaffrey, A. Lee Hannah, Joshua Rosenau, Minda Berbeco, Ann H. Reid. “Climate confusion among U.S. teachers.” Science Vol. 351, Issue 6274 (2016), 664-665. February 12, 2016.

The authors undertake the first nationally representative survey of public middle and high-school science teachers focused on climate change. They find that, whereas most U.S. science teachers include climate science in their courses, their insufficient grasp of the science may hinder effective teaching. Mirroring some actors in the societal debate over climate change, many teachers repeat scientifically unsupported claims in class. Continue reading…

David Blumenthal, Karen Davis, and Stuart Guterman. “Medicare at 50 — Moving Forward.” New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 372, Issue 7 (2016), 671-677. February 12, 2016.
As Medicare enters its 50th year, this popular federal program faces profound challenges to its effectiveness and sustainability in future decades. In this report, we review these problems, building on the issues raised in our earlier article.1 We also review several options to strengthen the program and enhance its viability. Continue reading…

Kim Naudts, Yiying Chen, Matthew J. McGrath, James Ryder, Aude Valade, Juliane Otto, and Sebastiaan Luyssaert. “Europe’s forest management did not mitigate climate warming.” Science Vol. 351, Issue 6273 (2016), pp. 597-600. February 5, 2016.

The authors argue that, for most of the past 250 years, Europe's managed forests have been a net source of carbon, contributing to climate warming rather than mitigating it. Read the original article, or look at Matt McGrath’s coverage for the BBC.

Tamara Kayali Browne. “Why parents should not be told the sex of their fetus.” Journal of Medical Ethics. February 4, 2016.
The author argues that, whereas prenatal tests can only inform parents of the sex of their fetus, most parents are actually concerned to learn the gender of their fetus, which is not information that a prenatal test can provide. The author concludes that, as the conflation of sex with gender is implicit in the disclosure of fetal sex, prenatal testing for the sex of the fetus can be misleading for parents and may promote sexism via gender essentialism. Continue reading…

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., George F. Koob, Ph.D., and A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D. “Neurobiologic Advances from the Brain Disease Model of Addiction.” The New England Journal of Medicine. Volume 374, Issue 4 (2016), 363-371. January 28, 2016.
In the past two decades, research has increasingly supported the view that addiction is a disease of the brain. Although the brain disease model of addiction has yielded effective preventive measures, treatment interventions, and public health policies to address substance-use disorders, the underlying concept of substance abuse as a brain disease continues to be questioned, perhaps because the aberrant, impulsive, and compulsive behaviors that are characteristic of addiction have not been clearly tied to neurobiology. Here we review recent advances in the neurobiology of addiction to clarify the link between addiction and brain function and to broaden the understanding of addiction as a brain disease. Continue reading…

Tarang Sharma, Louise Schow Guski, Nanna Freund, and Peter C Gøtzsche. “Suicidality and aggression during antidepressant treatment: systematic review and meta-analyses based on clinical study reports.” BMJ 2016, 352:i65. January 27, 2016.

A new meta-analysis of clinical studies of the use of selective serotonin and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants) shows that the true risk for serious harms is still uncertain. In particular, the study shows that the risk of suicidality and aggression doubled in children and adolescents. The authors suggest minimal use of antidepressants in children, adolescents, and young adults, and recommends that alternative treatments be considered, such as exercise or psychotherapy. Reading the original study, or look at Diana Kwon’s summary for Scentific American, which includes helpful background.


Bioethics Forum (The Hastings Center)

Elizabeth Dietz. “The CDC’s Graphic on Women and Alcohol is Flawed: Why That Matters.” Bioethics Forum. February 8, 2016.
The CDC released an infographic outlining the risks that drinking can pose for women, and advising that they avoid alcohol when not on birth control. On its face, this is a benign – intuitive, even – framework. But the CDC’s graphic is not about fetal health: it highlights the risks of excessive drinking for women. The logical train that gets you from “alcohol is bad for fetuses” to “sexually active women not on birth control should not drink” is more of a logical rollercoaster, but it’s worth the ride. Continue reading…

Nancy Berlinger. “‘This is the first time I’ve been asked that question.’ Hillary Clinton on PAD.” Bioethics Forum. February 5, 2016.
A recent CNN Democratic Town Hall in New Hampshire featured Hillary Clinton’s response to a question about physician-assisted dying. Clinton acknowledged that she’d never been asked this question before, at least not in a public forum, although it seems clear that she recognized that the question was about physician-assisted dying. Continue reading…


Tara Haelle. “Backlash Over CDC Paternalism Overshadows Real Risks Of Drinking In Pregnancy.” Forbes. February 5, 2016.
Feminists–including myself–have been in an uproar this week over the tone-deaf and paternalistic decree from the CDC that women of childbearing age shouldn’t drink alcohol if they’re not on birth control. But as angry as I am that my national public health agency devalues my existence as an autonomous human being, I’m actually angrier about what their failure to effectively communicate has wrought with its (deserved) backlash. Because the CDC completely bungled their messaging, people are disregarding the actually important information the agency was trying to convey about alcohol and pregnancy. Continue reading…

The New York Times

Mark Urban and Linda Deegan. “T-Shirt Weather in the Arctic.” The New York Times. February 5, 2016.
The authors discuss the need to understand the complex ways in which rising global temperatures will affect ecosystems. Continue reading…

Andrew C. Revkin. “What’s Missing at the U.N. Climate Panel’s Meeting on Climate Change Communication.” The New York Times. February 8, 2016.
Despite substantial introspection and external analysis since 2007, the United Nations climate panel has seemed persistently locked in an antiquated view of how to improve its communication efforts, largely oblivious to the “new communication climate” out there. Thankfully, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the climate panel is holding its first “expert meeting” on climate communication, in Oslo. Continue reading…

David B. Agus. “Give Up Your Data to Cure Disease.” The New York Times. February 6, 2016.
Recent innovations in electronic health record systems have not been entirely well-received, with doctors complaining about the time it takes to update digital records and patients worrying about confidentiality. The author argues, however, that doctors and patients need to accept electronic health record systems, which offer an incredible opportunity to examine trends that will fundamentally change how doctors treat patients. Continue reading…

Practical Ethics

Dominic Wilkinson. “Should we prevent Zika microcephaly using birth control?” Practical Ethics. February 1, 2016.
The author argues that, while birth control will not solve the problem of Zika microcephaly, it has the potential to prevent a significant number of cases. It is safe, accessible, and well-tested, and investment in birth control would also have a number of important benefits for women’s health and well-being. Continue reading…

Public Discourse

Grattan Brown. “‘Medical Futility’: Help or Hobgoblin in End-of-Life Discussions?” Public Discourse. February 4, 2016.
Because it is often used imprecisely, the term “futile” can cause confusion and exacerbate conflict in disagreements about end-of-life care. It is more helpful for patients, families, and physicians to discuss the benefits and burdens of medical procedures. Continue reading…

Please visit our website at bioethics.yale.edu.

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