If you have difficulty viewing this email, click here
Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies

Greetings from Stephen Latham, Bioethics Center Director

Hard as it is to believe, we're only one week from Spring Break! We'll have another issue of this newsletter next week, and then come back after break ends on March 28. Meanwhile, please save the date: on that very Monday of our return from break (Monday, March 28), we will be hosting Dr. John Ioannidis (Medicine and Statistics, Stanford), a prominent critic of contemporary research standards in medicine and, indeed, in all of science. Dr. Ioannidis
is best known for his 2005 paper ,"Why Most Published Research Findings Are False," and for more recent work on the problem of irreproducability of research in science and social science. He is one of the most-cited scientists in clinical medicine and in social sciences. Dr. Ioannidis will be giving our Robert Levine Lecture at 5:30 pm in the Davies Auditorium of the Becton Center on Prospect Street. It's a large auditorium, in keeping with Dr. Ioannidis' large reputation. Save the date!

  Updates from the Summer Institute

Conferences & Off Campus Events

Grants, Fellowships & Jobs

Calls for Papers & Nominations



Click here to sign up for the Bioethics Newsletter



Updates from the Summer Institute

From Summer Institute Director Carol Pollard

When it comes to the treatment of animals, Jeremy Bentham captured the essentials more than two centuries ago: “The question is not ’can they reason?’ – ‘nor can they talk?’ –  ‘but can they suffer?’ ”

The New York Times ran an interesting graphic titled “Epidemics: Zika’s Expanding Range.” 

Christopher Doval will be in charge of Debate Week this summer.  He wanted me to share this message with all past students and instructors:

“This year's Sherwin B. Nuland Summer Institute in Bioethics is around the corner, and we are working diligently to prepare for the new class of 2016. To broaden the appeal and interest in our mid-program debates we are reaching out for suggestions for new debate topics. In the spirit of the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics we would appreciate suggestions for debate topics as fringe or mainstream as you can muster. When submitting a debate topic, don't feel pressured to write a dissertation. A couple sentences fleshing out your idea with an article or video will do just fine. Submit as many as you'd like and share on this form: http://goo.gl/forms/Hz0adLPELL!” (Thank you Christopher!  Everyone, please do your part!!)

The Forum on Religion and Ecology made this announcement in their Newsletter (Note from Carol: everybody should be reading this Newsletter!)

“We would like to draw your attention to a number of events that Mary Evelyn Tucker is participating in this month:
“Wangari Maathai Day Panel” (March 3 at Yale University in New Haven, CT); “Religion and Ecology Summit” (March 11 at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA); “After Paris: Climate and Religion” (March 15 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, CA); “Taking the Scholarship of Religion Public” (March 16 at the Flamingo Resort Hotel in Santa Rosa, CA); “Spiritual Ecology” (March 17 at San Domenico School in San Anselmo, CA); “Our Common Home” (March 24 at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York, NY). (Congratulations Mary Evelyn!)

The organization Compassion and Choices’ Medical Director, Dr. David Grubbe, is giving a presentation at the Yale Club of New York on the “Clinical Practice Guidelines for Medical Aid in Dying” recently published in the Journal for Palliative Medicine and on the unassailable history of that practice in Oregon and Washington as published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Medicine.  The presentation is on April 14th at 8 am. For more information, please contact Jared Hughes at jhughes@compassionandchoices.org

Claire Dennis, who is in Law School at University of Wisconsin, wrote: “I recently accepted a position for this summer at Wisconsin’s Center for Patient Partnerships. It’s a cool opportunity to work with students from the other professional schools and to branch out to other areas within health care. Madison in the Summer also sounds lovely and I’ll be able to sail and coach a lot. The clinic is run out of the Law School, so it will provide some nice continuity while taking a break from regular course work. Here is their website if you are interested: http://www.patientpartnerships.org/. I’m hoping that the work with the clinic will open up my horizons to more areas of health care that I may be interested in beyond drug regulation & research. Regardless though, the clinic does a lot of work with patients in drug trials so I am excited to become involved in the field that I think I want to go in to after graduation!” (Congratulations Claire! See you in New Haven mid-May!) 

Pascal Thibeault writes: “I just wanted to send you this link: ‘Canada Marches Toward Expansive Aid in Dying’ from The Hastings Center’s Bioethics Forum.  (Thanks Pascal!)

Kavot Zillen, past summer student and now Afternoon Seminar Leader, is defending her PhD thesis on March 4th. (Congratulations and Good Luck, Kavot!)

The American Journal of Ethics’s E-Journal for the month of March is now available on e-mail. The topic for this edition is “How Should Clinicians Treat Patients Who Might Be Undocumented?”  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this Journal, here is some information. It contains original articles and commentary on a theme, with a focus on medical ethics and medical ethics education. It examines questions that medical students and practicing physicians confront on a daily basis. The Journal is advertisement-free and open-access. (Check it out!)

Allison Whelan writes: “I am more than halfway through my first clerkship on the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and I am living in Portland, Maine. It has been an amazing learning experience.  I am amazed every day by how much I am taking in!  The clerkship is giving me tremendous exposure to areas of law I would otherwise not dive into. I found out in November that I passed the New York Bar exam, and I was officially sworn in on January 21!  It is such a relief to have that hurdle out of the way. I am looking forward to moving to New Haven for my second clerkship on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in late August and would love to know if any of my fellow Bioethics interns from my time at the center in Summer 2010 will be in the area! Hope you and all at the Center are well! (Congratulations Ally! Can’t wait to see you in New Haven! There will be other past students at the Center during the summer. Come in any time!)

Evie Lindemann writes: “The Assisi Institute is presenting a conference titled “Seeing Red,” October 6-9, 2016, in Stonington, Connecticut, which explores “a new way of seeing and being seen, a reality that is able to hold the polarities of all that is feminine as uniquely distinct and inherently valued…the Conference is designed to bring together leaders in depth psychology and the arts to focus their individual and collective creativity and scholarship on illuminating the unconscious forces behind feminine oppression and suggest new ways of seeing and being seen as women in the world.”  Proposals for this conference are now being considered. Please see: www.seeingredconference.com for more details. (Thanks for forwarding this information, Evie!)

Rachel Teo writes: “Rebecca (Oliver) was here in Singapore over the weekend. It’s been really great reconnecting and catching up since meeting at The Summer Institute in 2013. Today we explored Indian Town (Little India) and did lots of walking around and eating (HA! HA!) We wanted to share some photos of our adventures with you! (Thanks so much Rachel and Rebecca! Wish I could have done some of this “exploring” with you!)

Ellen Matloff writes: “Please register for the Bioscience Career Forum II: Women in the Bioscience! The need for a second event was abundantly clear based upon your feedback. On behalf of the Health and Life Sciences Career Initiative and Genomics Workforce Consortium we are pleased to announce that the ‘Biosciences Careers Forum II: Women in the Biosciences’ will be held at The Jackson Laboratory (Farmington, Connecticut), March 11th from 1:00PM - 4:00PM. We cordially invite you to be part of this exciting event. Topics will include: recruitment and retention of women in the biosciences; how to interview for a job in biosciences; what concrete skills are needed in today’s bioscience sector; what do employers look for in a resume; how to network to further your professional career. We hope that you can join us for what is sure to be an exciting opportunity for those entertaining a career in the biosciences.  Please be sure to RSVP at www.jax.org/futurejobs. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact nakia.washington@jax.org

Invitation to Apply: Newcastle University (UK) is offering a number of scholarships (including living expenses) across the Arts & Humanities. “We have expertise across medical/health/bio law and bioethics here at the Law School. Students joining us would have the opportunity to be part of the new Law, Innovation, and Society Research Group. Anyone interested in applying for a PhD with us (including the scholarships) can contact Muireann Quigley (muireann.quigley@newcastle.ac.uk). There is also another law school specific scholarship (again with living expenses) with a closing date of May 9th; information is here.

Call for Applications. The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy in the UN is taking place in New York City, May 26th – 30th, 2016.  It aims to develop initiatives to promote cultural understanding, global human rights, and world peace. For further information, click here.

Please check out the Articles Section!


Back to top

Conferences & Off Campus Events

The Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ will be presenting a summer medical ethics seminar for medical students, featuring faculty Farr Curlin and Chris Tollefsen. The seminar will cover subjects including doctor-patient relationship; the limits of medicine; autonomy; conscience; proportionality; human dignity; sexuality and reproduction; the beginning of life; disability; end-of-life care; and death. If you know of any medical students who would benefit from it, please encourage them to apply and share this link with them: http://winst.org/centers/ceu/summer-seminars/medical-ethics/

Back to top

Grants, Fellowships, & Jobs

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundatrion is seeking to learn from promising approaches from abroad that can contribute to building a Culture of Health in the United States. We are looking for projects, programs, and models that promote health equity and are aligned with our Culture of Health Action Framework, particularly those approaches that have demonstrated impact but have not been widely tested or implemented in the U.S. We will support grants from $50,000 up to $250,000 (USD), for up to 18 months. Strong preference will be given to applicants who are not current RWJF grantees. Application deadline: May 31, 2016. Learn more here.

Back to top

Calls for Papers & Nominations

The Journal of Legal Medicine is currently accepting manuscript submissions. The journal encourages the submission of articles on topics of interest in legal medicine, health law, public health law and policy, professional liability, health care institutional law, food and drug law, medical-legal education research, the history of legal medicine, and a broad range of other related topics.

Back to top

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


Erica Goode. “Invasive Species Aren’t Always Unwanted.” The New York Times. February 29, 2016.

A growing number of scientists are challenging the view that invasive species are always destructive; some, they contend, are even beneficial. The assumption that what hails from elsewhere is inherently bad, these researchers say, rests more on xenophobia than on science. Continue reading…

Howard Mustoe. “Shell being sued in two claims over oil spills in Nigeria.” BBC. March 1, 2016.

Oil giant Shell is being sued in London for the second time in five years over spills in the Niger Delta. Two communities are claiming compensation and want Shell to clean up their land. Continue reading…


Tonda MacCharles. “Key Canadian panel endorses medical assistance to die.” The Toronto Star. February 25, 2016.

A Canadian committee examining how to put the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2015 ruling into effect recommends medical assistance to die should be available to eligible Canadians in hospitals or at home as long as two doctors approve the request, a patient gives “informed” written consent witnessed by two independent witnesses, and a certain waiting period is observed before the act. Continue reading…

Kathleen Harris. “Mature minors, mentally ill should have right to doctor-assisted death, report advises.” CBC News. February 25, 2016.

Mature minors and mentally ill people should not be excluded from the right to doctor-assisted death, according to a special committee of MPs and senators. Continue reading…


Gardiner Harris. “Waste in Cancer Drugs Costs $3 Billion a Year, a Study Says.” The New York Times. March 1, 2016.

The federal Medicare program and private health insurers waste nearly $3 billion every year buying cancer medicines that are thrown out because many drug makers distribute the drugs only in vials that hold too much for most patients, a group of cancer researchers has found. Continue reading…

Reproductive rights

Esme E Deprez. “Abortion Clinics Are Closing at a Record Pace.” Bloomberg. February 24, 2016.

Abortion access in the U.S. has been vanishing at the fastest annual pace on record, propelled by Republican state lawmakers’ push to legislate the industry out of existence. Since 2011, at least 162 abortion providers have shut or stopped offering the procedure, while just 21 opened. Continue reading…

Jan Hoffman. “Better Care or Onerous Restrictions? Texas Abortion Law Going Before Supreme Court.” The New York Times. February 26, 2016.

Two provisions of a 2013 Texas law are before the US Supreme Court. One requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. The other requires all abortion facilities to meet the specifications of ambulatory surgical centers, which have more staff and equipment, and are more expensive to manage. Continue reading…

Nina Martin. “The Most Important Abortion Case You Never Heard About.” ProPublica. February 29, 2016.

With abortion rights up before the Supreme Court again, the author examines the recent history of the abortion debate in the US, focusing in particular on the legacy of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reined in the abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade. Continue reading…

Sarah Kliff. “We polled 1,060 Americans about abortion. This is what they got wrong.” Vox.

Most Americans — Democrats and Republicans, men and women, pro-choice and pro-life — all share a belief about abortion: that it's rare. Continue reading…

Back to top

In the Journals

In focus: animal rights.

The Society of Philosophy Annual Lecture 2015 was given by Yale’s own Shelly Kagan. In his piece, entitled “What’s Wrong with Speciesism?”, Kagan challenges Peter Singer’s well-known claims (1) that most people are “speciesists” and  (2) that speciesism is morally unjustifiable. Instead, Kagan proposes an alternative view, which he calls “Modal Personism”. Kagan’s fascinating piece was featured in the latest issue of the Journal of Applied Philosophy. The issue also included responses by three well-known ethicists, including Peter Singer. Find Kagan’s piece and the responses below.

Shelly Kagan. “What's Wrong with Speciesism? (Society of Applied Philosophy Annual Lecture 2015).” Journal of Applied Philosophy Vol. 33, Issue 1 (2016), 1-21.

Peter Singer famously argued in Animal Liberation that almost all of us are speciesists, unjustifiably favoring the interests of humans over the similar interests of other animals. Although I long found that charge compelling, I now find myself having doubts. This article starts by trying to get clear about the nature of speciesism, and then argues that Singer's attempt to show that speciesism is a mere prejudice is unsuccessful. I also argue that most of us are not actually speciesists at all, but rather accept a view I call modal personism. Although I am not confident that modal personism can be adequately defended, it is, at the very least, a philosophical view worthy of further consideration. Continue reading…

David DeGrazia. “Modal Personhood and Moral Status: A Reply to Kagan's Proposal.” Journal of Applied Philosophy Vol. 33, Issue 1 (2016), 22-25.

Kagan argues that human beings who are neither persons nor even potential persons — if their impairment is independent of genetic constitution — are modal persons: individuals who might have been persons. Moreover, he proposes a view according to which both (actual) personhood and modal personhood are sufficient for counting more, morally, than nonhuman animals. In response to this proposal, I raise one relatively minor concern about Kagan's reasoning — that he judges too quickly that insentient beings can have interests — before engaging the appeal to modal personhood. I challenge the thesis that modal personhood is relevant to one's moral status, first, by way of analogy to a kicker who misses a field goal though he might have made it; second, by casting doubt on implications for two impaired infants (only one of whom might have been a person); and, finally, by examining implications for dogs who would count as modal persons when genetic enhancements are capable of transforming them into persons. Continue reading…

Jeff McMahan. “On ‘Modal Personism’.” Journal of Applied Philosophy Vol. 33, Issue 1 (2016), 26-30.

In this article I present several challenges to the view that Shelly Kagan calls ‘modal personism’. First, there is a plausible account of our identity that, if true, greatly diminishes the scope of Kagan's view. But the scope of the view is already quite limited because the category of modal persons is restricted to those non-persons that had but have lost the potential to become persons. If the category were to include non-persons that retain the potential to become persons, Kagan's view would have implausible implications about abortion and about the moral status of certain animals. Continue reading…

Peter Singer. “Why Speciesism is Wrong: A Response to Kagan.” Journal of Applied Philosophy Vol. 33, Issue 1 (2016), 31-35.

In Animal Liberation I argued that we commonly ignore or discount the interests of sentient members of other species merely because they are not human, and that this bias in favour of members of our own species is, in important respects, parallel to the biases that lie behind racism and sexism. Shelly Kagan, in ‘What's Wrong With Speciesism’ misconstrues this argument, as well as the principle of equal consideration of interests, which I offer as an alternative to speciesism. Kagan also offers, as an alternative explanation of, and possible justification for, our discounting the interests of nonhuman animals, the suggestion that your interests count more if you are a member of a species whose typical adult members are persons. Although this view is not a form of speciesism, Kagan seems not to be aware of the fact that it is a view commonly defended by advocates of natural law ethics, on which there is already an extensive critical literature. Continue reading…

Ruijun Chen et al. “Publication and reporting of clinical trial results: cross sectional analysis across academic medical centers.” BMJ 352. February 17, 2016.

The authors find that two-thirds of clinical trials led by scientists at top academic institutions don't share their results publicly within two years of the study's completion. Read the original article, or read the authors’ account of their research for NPR.

Back to top


Bioethics Forum (The Hastings Center)

Juliet Guichon, Pauline Alakija, Christopher Doig, Ian Mitchell, and Pascal Thibeault. “Canada Marches Toward Expansive Aid in Dying.” March 2, 2016.

The authors offer an overview of recent developments in Canadian assisted dying legislation, which they characterize as some of the most permissive legislation in the world, excepting the Netherlands and Belgium. Continue reading…

The Conversation

William Rhoads, Rebekah Martin, and Siddhartha Roy. “We helped uncover a public health crisis in Flint, but learned there are costs to doing good science.” February 29, 2016.

A team of scientists from Virginia Tech spent much of the past year in Flint, Michigan, analyzing and publicizing the unsafe state of drinking water. In this piece, three PhD students involved in the project document their work and reflect on the systemic problems that underlie the crisis in Flint. Continue reading…

The Guardian

Tamesha Means. “Catholic hospitals shouldn't deny care to miscarrying mothers like me.” February 23, 2016.

US hospitals are becoming increasingly affiliated with religious organizations. Ten of the 25 largest hospital systems in the country are Catholic-sponsored, and nearly one in nine hospital beds is in a Catholic facility. And in all these facilities, medical professionals should act in the best interests of their patients, not based on religious rules. Continue reading…

The New Statesman

Glosswitch. “Paid surrogacy makes disadvantaged women into walking wombs – an unacceptable solution to infertility.” February 26, 2016.

Liberal feminism has painted itself into a corner from which it is very hard to launch a coherent critique of surrogacy. A woman can, it is suggested, rent out any part of herself. To question this would be a denial of her agency. The logical conclusion of such a line of thought is that nothing that is mutually agreed and paid for can be deemed abusive or exploitative, regardless of the gendered, class-based and/or racial conditions under which the agreement is made. Continue reading…

The New York Times

Linda Greenhouse. “Why Courts Shouldn’t Ignore the Facts About Abortion Rights.” February 27, 2016.

At the core of the most important Supreme Court abortion case in a generation is a series of questions about facts. In deciding the constitutionality of a law that would shut down most abortion clinics in a state in the name of protecting women’s health, which facts about the law’s rationale and its impact may a court consider? Which facts must a court consider? Are there facts a court must ignore entirely? Continue reading…

Practical Ethics

Rachel New and Nadira Faber. “How psychology can help us solve climate change.” February 28, 2016.

The Paris agreement on climate change calls for a global responsibility to cooperate. As we are often reminded, we urgently and drastically need to limit our use of one shared resource – fossil fuels – and its effect on another – the climate. But how realistic is this goal, both for national leaders and for us? Well, psychology may hold some answers. Continue reading...

Pro Publica

Charles Ornstein. “A Blow to Health Care Transparency.” March 1, 2016.

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow today to nascent efforts to track the quality and cost of health care, ruling that a 1974 law precludes states from requiring that every health care claim involving their residents be submitted to a massive database. The arguments were arcane, but the effect is clear: We’re a long way off from having a true picture of the country’s health care spending, especially differences in the way hospitals treat patients and doctors practice medicine. Continue reading…

U.S. News & World Report

Karla Erickson. “Dying Better, Even If It Means Sooner.” February 29, 2016.

Life expectancy in the United States has increased by 30 years in the last century. Despite our longer lives, many Americans continue to fight death's inevitability in ways that are costly socially, economically and spiritually. Our over-reliance on medical "miracles" is causing us to throw more and more money at the final year of life rather than grapple with the difficult – but ultimately more gratifying – work of approaching death more willfully by removing the sense of crisis and making the most of the moments that remain. Continue reading…

The Washington Post

Charles Lane. ‘Where the prescription for autism can be death.” February 24, 2016.

The author argues that euthanasia legislation in the Netherlands hasn’t been enforced with enough care, and that not enough has been done to protect the vulnerable. Continue reading…

Back to top

Please visit our website at bioethics.yale.edu.

Yale University