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Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies

Greetings from Stephen Latham, Bioethics Center Director

Happy springtime! Here are a few events to put on your calendars:

On Wednesday, April  20, our Technology and Ethics group will host John Horgan (Stevens Institute of Technology), speaking on “The Mind-Body Problem: A Lack-of-Progress Report.” The talk, which is open to the public, will begin at 4:30 in Rosenkranz 005.

Also on Wednesday, the Yale Pediatric Ethics Program presents Douglas Opel (Pediatrics, Univ. of Washington) speaking on "Shared Decision-making: A Decrepit Concept." The talk will be in the Cohen Auditorium of the Child Study Center at 5pm; details at the link.

The following Wednesday, April 27, the Community Bioethics Forum will host our own John Hughes (Biomedical Ethics, YSM) speaking on Ethical Considerations in US Health Care Policy. The talk will be at 6pm in the Medical Historical Library at 333 Cedar St.

Our colleagues at The Hastings Center are putting on a terrific event on moral psychology and bioethics, on Thursday, May 19 in New York. Details at the link! The event will address the question, "How should bioethicists take aboard the findings of contemporary moral psychology?"--findings that undermine our traditional reliance on "reason" and that indicate a powerful role for intuition in affecting people's behavior and opinions. Jonathan Haidt of NYU will deliver a public talk, and a who's who of academic bioethicists will address the issue.
  Updates from the Summer Institute

Campus Events



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Updates from the Summer Institute

From Summer Institute Director Carol Pollard

Laura Ballantyne-Brodie writes: “Over the moon excitement to say that I've been invited to head up the United Nations Harmony with Nature initiative as the Member and Facilitator at Continental Level (Australia/Oceania). The UN Harmony with Nature office (based in New York) is "dedicated to strengthening interdisciplinary collaboration and information-sharing among leading experts and practitioners on Earth-centered governance and scholarship, or Earth Jurisprudence, worldwide.” Emoticon: *crazy wild jumping*  (Congratulations Laura!!) 

Case Studies/Challenges on Medscape: If you want to try your hand at medical diagnoses, do look at these cases!

Here’s a photo of Rebecca Oliver at Koh Ha Yai Island – “A day of diving before ringing in the Thai New Year!” (A National Geographic shot!)

Mary Evelyn Tucker wanted to pass this article on to you: “Yale Begins Divestment from fossil fuels,” Yale Daily News, April 12, 2016. (Thank you Mary Evelyn!)

Shari Esquenazi writes: “Anyone interested in pediatric bioethics (particularly regarding autism) should submit an abstract to the July 22-23 Pediatric Bioethics Conference/Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Lily Simmons finished and submitted her Master’s Thesis! (Congratulations!)

Jeff Matsler put another segment of his interview with Hope For Mental Health online. Its title is “Combat and Moral Injury.”  (Congratulations Jeff!)

Tulio Rubio Rodriguez wanted to share some articles with us. (Thank you Tulio!)

Andrea Meloff writes: “I wanted to share this picture with you. Today was the last day of law school for Ryan (Adams) and me. (Congratulations to you both!  You look tired and happy – in that order!)

Ramona Fernandez and Savannah Hartnett had a reunion in Minneapolis.  (Wonderful news!  Wish I could have been there with you!)

The latest Jeanie Graustein Lecture in Environmental Justice took place on April 16, Saint Thomas Moore Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale, 268 Park Street, New Haven. The lecture is given to honor her lifelong passion and service in the effort of Catholic social and environmental justice. Christiana Peppard, Assistant Professor of Theology at Fordham University and author of Just Water: Theology, Ethics and the Global Water Crisis, (and a former seminar leader in the Summer Institute) was a keynote speaker. The presentation was followed by breakout sessions with, among others, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim. (Congratulations to all!)

Lydia Lissanu writes: “I've been working at the University of Chicago as a research assistant since January!  I'm currently working with Chronic Kidney Disease patients, and I feel as though I'm grappling with the ethics of providing care to a terminally ill vulnerable populations all the time. What I learned at Yale has allowed me to process the interactions I see in the hospital, from learning about mediation between patients and clinicians to end-of-life care to transplant ethics. I have a wonderful boss, who's really become a mentor to me, and I couldn't be happier. It was a long road to finally find meaningful employment, and I just wanted to say thank you for all the encouragement and support you gave me throughout the entire process. (Good News! So glad you are in such a great and supportive environment! Come visit when you can!)

Thank you Courtney Petty for sending unrestricted funds for this summer’s Program.  What a wonderful gesture!

Tsion Tesfaye writes: “I wanted to share that pgEd's (Personal Genetics Education Project) next Congressional briefing will be May 3, 2016.  This link will direct you to the description of the event - feel free to share! (Hope it is successful!  Congratulations!)

Anja Gleicher writes: “I was able to have dinner with Megan (Hoberg) on Saturday because she was in Chicago for a conference.  We had a wonderful time catching up and discussing when we both should come visit this summer. This was a really wonderful reunion, and I’m looking forward to many more opportunities to reconnect with my classmates in the future!” (Hope you both can make it this summer. It would be great to see you!)

Click here for a picture of Steve Campbell and his family!

The Penn Bioethics Journal has issued a Call for Papers. This is an opportunity for undergraduates to get published in their Fall 2016 issue. Embracing the interdisciplinary nature of bioethics, they review and publish undergraduate work addressing ethical concerns in medicine, science, technology, philosophy, public policy, law, theology, and ethics, among other disciplines. With an audience ranging from scholars in the field to a broader public seeking unbiased information, being published in PBJ is a significant accomplishment for undergraduates interested in any aspect of bioethics. They encourage the submission of papers that were written for courses. The final submission deadline is on June 12th. All submissions must be through their website.

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy has Internship opportunities available now. The ICD Internship Project is a 10-year program with the main purpose to enable students who need an internship as a compulsory part of their BA or graduate studies to engage in cultural diplomacy, and, in doing so, to further promote cultural diplomacy and multiculturalism worldwide. ICD is located in Berlin.

Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History recently hosted a talk by Jonathan Losos  titled “Improbable Destinies: Is Evolution Predictable and Why It Matters.” Here’s an overview – interesting just to think about this!

“If we somehow were able to re-run the tape of life, would the outcome be the same? Were humans, or something very much like us, destined to evolve? Some argue that evolution is unpredictable. But others suggest quite the contrary, that the selective demands shaping evolution are so stringent that life inevitably will evolve in predictable, repeatable ways. This debate was initiated more than 25 years ago, and developments in evolutionary biology are now giving us the ability to understand the predictability of the evolutionary process.”

Please see the Articles I’ve collected for you!


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This Week on Campus

Wednesday, April 20

The Bioethics Center's Technology and Ethics presents John Horgan (Stevens Institute of Technology), speaking on “The Mind-Body Problem: A Lack-of-Progress Report.” Open to the public. 4:30 pm in Rosenkranz 005.

Yale Pediatric Ethics Program presents Douglas Opel (Pediatrics, Univ. of Washington) speaking on "Shared Decision-making: A Decrepit Concept." Open to the public; please RSVP to Karen.Kolb@Yale.edu. Cohen Auditorium of the Child Study Center at 5pm.

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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

Climate Change

Coral Davenport. “Can Economies Rise as Emissions Fall? The Evidence Says Yes.” The New York Times. April 5, 2016.

There are signs that G.D.P. growth and carbon emissions need not rise in tandem. Last year, for the first time in the 40 years since both metrics have been recorded, a study by the International Energy Agency found that in 2014, as global G.D.P. grew, global carbon emissions leveled off. Continue reading…

Geraldine Fabrikant. “Yale Advances in Shaping Portfolio to Address Climate Change.” The New York Times. April 12, 2016.

Yale University has made progress in minimizing its endowment portfolio’s exposure to less environmentally sound investments such as stocks of companies that contribute to climate change. Continue reading…


Daniel LeBlanc. “Canadians want restrictions on doctor-assisted dying, poll suggests.” The Globe and Mail. April 7, 2016.

A majority of Canadians do not want minors or people with mental illnesses and psychiatric conditions to be given access to doctor-assisted dying, a new Nanos Research/Globe and Mail poll has found. Continue reading…

Environmental Management

Austin Ramzy. “Cambodia to Bring Wild Tigers From Abroad in Fight Against Extinction.” The New York Times. April 6, 2016.

A plan to fight the extinction of wild tigers in Cambodia would require importing the big cats from abroad, in what conservationists say would be the first transnational tiger reintroduction. Continue reading…

Organ Donation

Didi Kirsten Tatlow. “Signing Up Organ Donors in China Can Be an Uphill Battle.” The New York Times. April 6, 2016.

In 2010, China set up a nationwide voluntary organ donation system, in addition to its standing practice of extracting organs from death-row prisoners. The voluntary donation system has been slow to take off, however, hampered by cultural beliefs that a person’s body must be buried intact. Continue reading…

Public Health

Julie Steenhuysen. “Zika mystery deepens with evidence of nerve cell infections.” Reuters. April 6, 2016.

Top Zika investigators now believe that the birth defect microcephaly and the paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome may be just the most obvious maladies caused by the mosquito-borne virus. Fueling that suspicion are recent discoveries of serious brain and spinal cord infections - including encephalitis, meningitis and myelitis - in people exposed to Zika. Continue reading…

Daniela Porat. “Weak Oversight Lets Dangerous Nurses Work in New York.” Pro Publica. April 7, 2016.

New York lags behind other states in vetting nurses and moving to discipline those who are incompetent or commit crimes. Often, even those disciplined by other states or New York agencies hold clear licenses. Continue reading…

Frances Robles. “Florida Agrees to Improve Poor Children’s Access to Health Care, Settling Suit.” The New York Times. April 5, 2016.

Florida health officials have agreed to improve access to health care for poor children, ending a long-running class-action lawsuit that had accused the state of shortchanging doctors and leaving low-income families to trek long distances to visit specialists. Continue reading…

Katy Migiro. “Lives at risk due to massive drug shortages in South Sudan.” Reuters. April 7, 2016.

Thousands of lives are at risk across South Sudan as massive drug shortages have forced many medical centers to close, a charity said, calling on donors to restore supplies before the deadly malaria season resumes. Continue reading…

Denis Campbell. “Nurses could safely take half of GPs' appointments, says thinktank.” The Guardian. April 11, 2016.

Only one in three people who visit a GP surgery are ill enough to need to see a doctor and many of the remainder could talk to a practice nurse instead, a report claims. Continue reading…

Reproductive Rights

Margaret Talbot. “The Pill That Still Hasn’t Changed the Politics of Abortion.” The New Yorker. April 4, 2016.

When the abortion drug mifepristone first became legally available in the U.S., in 2000, it seemed to carry with it the potential for a ceasefire in the abortion wars. Sixteen years later, it’s clear that the new method did not defuse the abortion debate, let alone change everything. Continue reading…

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In the Journals

Emma C. Bullock. “Defining Ourselves: Personal Bioinformation as a Tool of Narrative Self-Conception.” Bioethical Inquiry 13 (2016), 133-153.

Where ethical or regulatory questions arise about an individual’s interests in accessing bioinformation about herself (such as findings from screening or health research), the value of this information has traditionally been construed in terms of its clinical utility. It is increasingly argued, however, that the “personal utility” of findings should also be taken into account. This article characterizes one particular aspect of personal utility: that derived from the role of personal bioinformation in identity construction. Continue reading…

Jonathan Oberlander. “The Virtues and Vices of Single-Payer Health Care.” New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 374, Issue 15 (2016), 1401-1403.

The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign has produced many surprises. One unexpected turn is the reemergence of single-payer health insurance on the public agenda. Senator Bernie Sanders has made Medicare for All a centerpiece of his platform. His opponent for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has criticized Sanders’s plan as unrealistic. An old debate has thus reopened. What are the virtues and vices of single-payer reform? Is it a realistic option for the United States or a political impossibility? Continue reading…

Sharon H. Green et al. “Evidence, Policy, and E-Cigarettes — Will England Reframe the Debate?” New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 374, Issue 14 (2016), 1301-1303.

Tobacco-control advocates have been embroiled in a multiyear controversy over whether electronic cigarettes threaten the goal of further reducing tobacco smoking or offer the possibility of minimizing harm for people who cannot or will not quit smoking conventional cigarettes. England and the United States have now staked out very different positions. Continue reading…

Thomas A. Farley. “When Is It Ethical to Withhold Prevention?” New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 374, Issue 14 (2016), 1303-1306.

Whereas ethicists have focused primarily on whether it is ethical for society to mandate certain actions, such as immunization or treatment of active tuberculosis, there has been little written about the ethics of offering beneficial primary preventive services. The author argues, however, that it is difficult to develop an ethical justification for withholding these services; the fact that we don’t know the names or recognize the faces of the people who would be helped is clearly not a good reason. Accordingly, the author argues that it simply isn’t right for the health system to withhold interventions that can save hundreds or thousands of lives. Continue reading…

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Bioethics Forum

Daniel Callahan. “On Living to 100 or More.” April 6, 2016.

Many would like somehow significantly to increase the average life expectancy in developed countries. The author argues, however, that such an achievement likely wouldn’t solve any of the world’s pressing problems, and may well create new problems. Continue reading…

 Chelsea Jack. “Do Documentaries Have to Tell the Truth?” April 14, 2016.

When the Tribeca Film Festival canceled its controversial screening of the anti-vaccine documentary Vaxxed, it vindicated what scientists have collectively been saying for years: Vaccines don’t cause autism, full stop. But the decision to accept, and then kill, the documentary raises important questions that shouldn’t be put to rest just because the film has been. Continue reading…

The Conversation

Tamara Tulich and Harry Blagg. “Indigenous youth with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder need Indigenous-run alternatives to prison.” April 7, 2016.

The authors discuss the high rates of fetal alcohol syndrome in Australian Indigenous communities and recommend a “decolonizing” approach to the issue, suggesting the creation of non-stigmatising therapeutic alternatives run by Indigenous people. Continue reading…

Julian Savulescu and Kelton Tremellen. “Ideas for Australia: Rethinking funding and priorities in IVF – should the state pay for people to have babies?” April 13, 2016.

How much should the state spend on helping people to have children? At present, Australian government support for infertility treatment is approximately A$240 million a year. The success of fertility treatments such as IVF is good if you are under 35 years of age, but once a woman hits 40 it plummets, falling to an almost futile one-in-80 chance of producing a baby for women 45 years and older. This raises the question – is IVF a cost-effective use of taxpayers' money? And what about for older women? Continue reading…

Los Angeles Times

Henry T. Greely. “Putting human stem cells in animal embryos? The NIH should get on board.” April 7, 2016.

Today we face the possibility of babies getting organs grown in human/nonhuman chimeras — beasts that are pigs except for a single human organ. To the uninitiated, this may sound more like the dark arts than modern medicine, but the author argues that pursuing careful research and potential clinical use of these chimeras is both proper and important. Continue reading…

The New York Times

Editorial. “Making the Most of Clinical Trial Data.” April 12, 2016.

Data from past clinical trials can be used to draw new conclusions about diseases and treatments long after a trial is over, but researchers rarely take advantage of this valuable resource. By making data available and supporting analysis, foundations, research institutions and drug companies can increase the benefit of clinical trials and pave the way for new findings that could help patients. Continue reading…

Jack A. Markell. “What States Can Do on Birth Control.” April 12, 2016.

Jack A. Markell, the current governor of Delaware, argues that the American healthcare system ought to prioritize reproductive healthcare and improve effective access to contraception. Continue reading…

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