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Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies

Greetings from Stephen Latham, Bioethics Center Director

Welcome to this snow-delayed edition of the Bioethics Newsletter. We had an excellent and well-attended Robert J. Levine Lecture last week from John Ioannidis (Medicine, Stanford), on the vexing problems of irreproducibility in medical, scientific and social-scientific research. Thanks to all who attended this excellent talk!

An important transition to announce: Sue Kopp, longtime convenor of our Animal Ethics group, will be moving to South Africa, and will therefore be leaving us. To say that Sue will be sorely missed would be gross understatement. Lucky for us, Lisa Moses,
VMD, DACVIM, CVMA (and currently a student in Harvard's Bioethics Masters program) will be taking over as Animal Ethics convenor. Good luck in South Africa, Sue; and good luck here at Yale, Lisa!

This Wednesday, April 6, the Medical School’s Program on Biomedical Ethics will present Daniel Sulmasy MD, PhD (Ethics, Divinity and Medicine, UChicago), speaking on “Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff.” The talk will be from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm in the Cohen Auditorium at the Child Study Center on Frontage Road. A light dinner will be served, so pleases RSVP to Karen.Kolb@Yale.edu. More details here.

In the only-slightly-more-distant future (Wednesday, April 20) the Yale Pediatric Ethics Program will hear Douglas Opel (Bioethics/Pediatrics, Univ. of Washington Medical) speak on "Shared Decision-Making in Medicine: A Decrepit Concept, " from 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM at the Child Study Center’s Cohen Auditorium; and on Wednesday April 27, the Community Bioethics Forum will host John Hughes (Bioethics/Medicine, Yale) speaking on “Ethical Considerations in US Healthcare Policy,” from 6-8pm at the Yale Medical Library, 333 Cedar Street.

Former Yale/Hastings Scholar Mirko Garasic (Safra Center for Ethics Adjunct Fellow, Tel Aviv) has published a new article, “Moral and social reasons to acknowledge the use of cognitive enhancers in competitive-selective contexts,” in BMC Medical Ethics. Congratulations, Mirko!

  Updates from the Summer Institute

Campus Events

Conferences & Off Campus Events

Grants, Fellowships & Jobs



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Updates from the Summer Institute

From Summer Institute Director Carol Pollard

Sophie Arkette, one of our incoming 2016 students, writes: “I came across this article and thought it might be suitable material for the Newsletter. Like any far-reaching technology, CRISPR has many applications, some of which would be pretty awful. Not mentioned in the article is the lack of regulation over a sphere of bio-experimentation colloquially called Biohacking. The biohacking community - a group of amateurs with an interest in bio-science - has started to experiment with CRISPR. Some have experimented with yeast; others with florescent proteins. The US environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Agriculture claim to have no jurisdiction, and the FDA does not seen to have the scope to regulate in this case; what is to become of these modified 'creations'?  In the case of human genetic modification, this lack of an international blanket regulation is quite worrying.” (Thank you Sophie!  More on this during the Summer Program!)

Gina Ylonen Ramirez sent us an article.  (Thank you Gina!) “First womb-transplant baby born, James Gallagher, Health Editor, BBC News, October 4, 2014.

Shlomo Zuckier wanted to remind everyone to come to “Divine Law, Revelation and Authority: A Symposium on Ancient Wisdom and Contemporary Judaism,” at Yale’s Slifka Center this Sunday, April 3, at 11 am.  The Slifka Center is at 80 Wall Street, New Haven.  RSVP to Slifka.Symposium@gmail.com. Also, Shlomo wanted to tell everyone about another symposium, posted by The Association for the Philosophy of Judaism, on the topic of self-defense.  Everyone is welcome to participate by commenting “intelligently” in the attached forum: http://www.theapj.com/march-17-23-symposium-on-shlomo-zuckiers-a-halakhic-philosophic-account-of-justified-self-defense/. For a copy of Shlomo’s paper (A Halakhic-Philosophic Account of Justified Self-Defense,” please visit: http://www.theapj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Self-Defense1.pdf. (Congratulations Shlomo!)

Congratulations to Aseel Alawadhi who was married this past Sunday in Kuwait.  If you are coming to our first summer symposium on Saturday, May 28th, Aseel will be presenting, and you will meet her new husband!  Click here for a wedding photo!

Congratulations to Mayelin De La Cruz who was just offered admission into the Einstein-Cardozo Master of Science in Bioethics Program and was also offered a spot at the NUBC 2016 Conference (National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference) on April 9th where she will be giving a 20-minute oral presentation on her work!  (Way to go, Mayelin!!)

Madeline Goldberg, who holds a MS in Bioethics from Columbia University, is now a medical student at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. (Congratulations Madeline!)

Çağrı Zeybek Unsal is busy working on her PhD proposal in Turkey but wanted to share the Letter to the Editor she published about her experiences at the Summer Institute 2015. “They would not publish the acknowledgements, so I posted them on our class Facebook page.” (What a great write-up, Çağrı! Thank you!)

Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Scholar, is taking part in the Yale Sustainability Leadership Forum, September 21-23. The Forum is a three-day program exploring sustainability as an overarching framework for life in the 21st Century, focusing specifically on the megatrends distinguishing sustainability from its 20th Century precursors. (Congratulations Mary Evelyn!)

Kristin Bergman writes: “I’m excited to announce that I will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this Fall to pursue my Masters degree in Public Health. Thanks to everyone who helped me through this process, and I look forward to seeing everyone this summer!” (Congratulations Kristin!!)

Avital Arnson and Jack Brackney wanted to let everyone know that the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University is now accepting applications for its graduate program for Fall 2016.

Ramona Fernandez writes: “I've been elected to the position of Vice President of the international Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC). I'll begin my term in a few weeks and take office as President in April 2017.” (Congratulations Ramona!)

Nancy Alderman, 2016 Morning Lecturer writes: “If you click on this website you will be able to watch two Bald Eagles in their nest in Washington, DC, and, if you are lucky, you might see them feeding their chicks. I was lucky enough to watch this.” (Thank you Nancy!)

A study published in this month’s Annals of Family Medicine showed positive results from Community Health Center’s groundbreaking use of Electronic Consults (known as eConsults). Electronic Consultations to Improve the Primary Care-Specialty Care Interface.

Hugo Tulio Cesar Rubio Rodriguez writes: “I don't remember if this was posted before, but the International Association of Bioethics is hosting its annual world congress in Edinburgh, from 14-17 June... take a look at the programme here: http://iab2016.com/  (Thank you Tulio!)

Wendell Wallach writes: My grant may have already been mentioned in the Newsletter, but I am not sure.  It is a Future of Life grant (Elon Musk’s money) to The Hastings Center for a project titled “Control and Responsible Innovation in the Development of Autonomous Systems.” There will be three workshops over the next eighteen months bringing together leaders from many different fields to develop a comprehensive map for developing AI in a truly beneficial, robust, safe, and controllable manner. I am the PI and will co-chair the workshops with Steward Russell (Berkeley), Bart Selman (Cornell), and Gary Marchant (ASU). I think of this as a silo-busting project bringing leaders from many fields together to hopefully collaborate on interdisciplinary projects.” Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics will host one of the events.

Also, Wendell was in the news! Survey: ‘Machines will take jobs – just not mine’,” Jason Thomson, The Christian Science Monitor, March 10, 2016. (Congratulations and Good Luck, Wendell!)

The Center for Humans and Nature has a 13-minute video titled “Water Ethics Project that introduces many compelling reasons why a water ethic is essential for helping us do the right thing by each other, by the generations that follow us, and by the whole community of life. Christy Peppard is part of the video presentation. (Congratulations Christy!)

Congratulations to Deanna Cole who is now Copy Editor at Taste of Cinema.

Congratulations to Jack Kanouzi who spent time in Nicaragua a few weeks ago with other members of Yale’s Plastic Surgery Department representing the organization “Helping Hands.” They were doing corrective hand surgery there. Click here to see Jack in action! (Way to go, Jack!) And a correction to our last entry for Jack:  It was Benjamin Herreros who had asked for Jack’s help in Madrid.

Izabella Borek writes: “I am sure you are very busy preparing for the upcoming Summer Institute. I think I am doing OK. I live in Austria now. I just started the 3rd year of my PhD program in immunology at the Medical University of Graz. I do a lot of running between the lab, conferences, and lectures. At this point I am putting together the data for the preparation of my first manuscript. Hopefully I will complete it by the end of the year. I am thinking a lot about everyone at Yale...especially when the time of the Summer Institute is coming up. I had such a wonderful time with you guys that I keep hoping that we can see each other again soon! mile emoticon Hugs from cold Austria!” (I hope so too! Congratulations on the PhD work!) 

Martyna Sniegocka posted on her class Facebook page: “Today in Poland we celebrate Wet Monday (so called "Śmingus dyngus") --  during this day boys throw water over girls. It's hard to stay dry today, but it's a lot of fun ;-)”  

Congratulations to Sierra Alef-Defoe who is now a Visiting Undergraduate Researcher at the University of Copenhagen.

Yvonne Abby sent a recent picture.  (Movie Star Material!)

Ebony Allen sent this article about work being done at our “sister University” Monash. (Thanks Ebony!) Are Computers CONSCIOUS?  ‘Phi’ Theory suggests being self-aware may not be as unique to humans as first thought,” Matthew Davidson, The Conversation, March 21, 2016

Pranav Reddy took a picture with someone he worked with in the Canadian Parliament. GUESS WHO

Jack Brackney sent an article and asked “any thoughts”?  Please let him know! "As Healthy and Beautiful as Ever,” Jahi McMath’s Mother Posts New Photo of Teen Declared Brain Dead,” Breana Edwards, THEROOT.com, March 18, 2016

Laura Ballanatyne-Brodie writes: “I am writing as I think you might be interested to learn more about a lesser known movement that's gaining momentum as the ecological crisis unfolds. The Rights of Nature movement recognizes that entire human societies, our global economic system and our structures of law, have been built from a colonial mindset that places humans above nature rather than a part of it. The Rights of the Nature movement (and Earth Jurisprudence that sits behind it) seeks to correct this and provides a powerful alternative through recognising Nature’s inherent 'right' to exist, and our dependence on Nature and natural systems for our mutual flourishing. In December last year, while all eyes were on Paris, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a Declaration calling for the Rights of Nature to be recognised at an international and national level. In recognition of this awesome achievement, as well as to continue the work of tireless campaigners, the UN Office for Harmony with Nature will convene a digital interactive dialogue to bring together a diverse range of voices and actors in the Rights of Nature and Earth Jurisprudence movement. The participants engaging in the interactive dialogue will focus on developing non-anthropocentric (holistic) alternatives to current disciplinary thinking; including thinking that addresses issues such as silos, professionalisation of disciplines, conceptual lock-in, and importantly thinking that moves us closer to the creation of new paradigms based on new scientific insights, alternative worldviews and more. The discussion will be addressed from the disciplinary perspective of:

  1. Philosophy/Earth System Ethics
  2. Education
  3. Holistic Earth Science
  4. Holistic Food Systems
  5. Rights of Nature Legislation
  6. Humanities
  7. Economics (non-market and science-based)
  8. Natural Systems in Arts/Design/Architecture/ Music
  9. Theology/Spirituality
  10. Holistic Medicine

If you would like to be involved in this interactive virtual dialogue, please select the category that you feel you would best contribute to and let me know your interests: laura.b.brodie@gmail.com

Please see the attached Articles List I’ve prepared for you!


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This Week on Campus

Wednesday, April 6

This Wednesday, April 6, the Medical School’s Program on Biomedical Ethics will present Daniel Sulmasy MD, PhD (Ethics, Divinity and Medicine, UChicago), speaking on “Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff.” The talk will be from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm in the Cohen Auditorium at the Child Study Center on Frontage Road. A light dinner will be served, so pleases RSVP to Karen.Kolb@Yale.edu. More details here.

Thursday, April 7

Health and Environment at Yale is proud to co-sponsor an exciting event at the Environmental Film Festival at Yale (EFFY) this year! This Thursday at 7 PM, EFFY  will screen the film NERVE: how a small Kentucky town led the fight to safely dismantle the world's chemical weapons and protect the health of communities. Evans Hall, Zhang Auditorium. Details here.

Friday, April 8

The next Disability Studies Working Group meeting will take place on Friday, April 8 @ 1:30 PM in HGS 217A. The meeting will focus on the intersection of Mental Health and Disability Studies. Several special guest speakers from the Veterans' Peer Support and Recovery Program will offer perspectives "from the field" on mental health-related disability. The discussion will focus on the importance of peer support, the recovery model of mental health and disability (and its relationship to social and medical models), and future advocacy directions. We hope you're able to join us! All are welcome, and pizza will be provided. Please contact caroline.lieffers@yale.edu if you have any questions.

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Conferences & Off Campus Events

The CT Coalition to Improve End of Life Care in collaboration with Fairfield School of Nursing is hosting a half day conference on 4/23/16 concerning Best Practices in Pediatric Palliative Care. Details here.

The Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) is pleased to announce the 2016 a2ru National Conference, hosted by the University of Colorado Denver, November 3-5, 2016. This year’s theme is ArtsRx: Creative Venture, Wellbeing & the New Humanities. a2ru is seeking proposals for panels, breakout sessions and workshops that explore and reflect arts-integrative interdisciplinary research and practice in higher education. a2ru especially encourages librarians and museum professionals to join us, in addition to funders, national stakeholders, and the faculty, staff, students, deans and other administrators from U.S. universities and abroad who engage in this work. The conference website is http://a2ru.org/events/a2ru-2016-national-conference/

International emergency medical organization Doctors Without Borders proudly presents "Central African Republic: Uncertain Tomorrow," prize-winning photographer William Daniels' intimate portrait of a nation often overlooked, even when it has been on the brink of collapse.  OPENING RECEPTION Thursday, April 7, 6:00 - 9:00 PM, 60 Water Street, Brooklyn, NY. RSVP not required. The exhibition is open Wednesday through Sunday, starting Friday, April 8 until Saturday, April 30, 12 - 7 PM, at two Locations in DUMBO:  The Archway Under the Manhattan Bridge at Adams and Water Streets; and 60 Water Street Storefront.

Please join the Insurance Law Center and UConn School of Law on April 15, 2016  for  the Fifth Annual National Benefits & Social Insurance Conference.  Assistant U.S. Secretary of Labor Phyllis Borzi will be the keynote speaker and the conference will bring together benefit experts from around the country to discuss the law and policy of retirement, healthcare, disability insurance, and more.  The Schedule and panelists are below, the conference takes place on the Law School Campus, and there is no charge for attending.  Register here.

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Grants, Fellowships, & Jobs

The Honors College at the University of South Florida seeks a full-time instructor in the field of Medical Ethics, Health Policy, or Medical Humanities to join a growing, interdisciplinary core faculty. You can find details and application requirements on the USF jobs site,  here.

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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

Environmental Management

Jack Healy. “Remote Utah Enclave Becomes New Battleground Over Reach of U.S. Control.” The New York Times. March 12, 2016.

Activists are lobbying President Obama to designate the “Bears Ears” region of southern Utah a national monument. Continue reading

Mental Health

Sarah Knapton. “Mental illness mostly caused by life events not genetics, argue psychologists.” The Telegraph. March 28, 2016.

Psychologists warn that too much money is being spent on research into the genetic and biological factors underlying mental illnesses, which are largely caused by social crises such as unemployment or childhood abuse. Continue reading


Tim Radford. “Landmark as lab creates synthetic cell with minimum genes needed for life.” The Guardian. March 24, 2016.

Geneticists have established the minimum needed for life. They have designed and created a synthetic cell which can survive and replicate with just 473 genes. Humans and fruit flies have more than 20,000 genes each. Continue reading

Public Health

“Statement on the 9th meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee regarding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.” World Health Organization. March 29, 2016.

The WHO released a statement declaring an end to the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) regarding the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa. Read the WHO’s compete statement

Ben Allen. “A Crisis With Scant Data: States Move To Count Drug-Dependent Babies.” NPR. March 28, 2016.

Many babies are born dependent on opioids, yet many states don’t have comprehensive statistics about just how many and are forced instead to rely on estimates. Continue reading

Reproductive Rights

Marcin Goettig. “Poland to ban prescription-free emergency contraception.” Reuters. March 24, 2016.

Poland's ruling conservatives plan to reinstate a prescription requirement for "morning after" emergency contraceptive pills. Continue reading

 Sandhya Somashekhar. “Indiana just banned abortion if the fetus has Down syndrome.” The Washington Post. March 24, 2016.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a controversial abortion bill Thursday that, among other things, would ban the procedure if it is sought because the fetus was diagnosed with a disability or defect such as Down syndrome. Continue reading

Gardiner Harris. “Abortion Rights Advocates Cry Foul at New Step in Fetal Tissue Inquiry.” The New York Times. March 24, 2016.

A special House committee empaneled to investigate fetal tissue research is preparing to issue 17 subpoenas to medical supply companies and laboratories, seeking the names of researchers, graduate students, laboratory technicians and administrative personnel — and prompting charges of intimidation. Continue reading

Bill Cotterell. “Florida governor signs law ending funding to clinics providing abortions.” Reuters. March 25, 2016.

Florida Governor Rick Scott on Friday signed a law that cuts off state funding for preventive health services to clinics providing abortion and imposes abortion restrictions already being tested before the U.S. Supreme Court. Continue reading

Public Health

Stephanie Goodman. “Robert De Niro Pulls Anti-Vaccine Documentary From Tribeca Film Festival.” The New York Times. March 26, 2016.

Facing a storm of criticism over its plan to show a documentary about the widely debunked link between vaccines and autism, the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday pulled the film from its schedule next month. Continue reading, or jump to the “Opinion” section for reaction to the controversy…

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In the Journals

John Hoberman. “Why Bioethics Has a Race Problem.” The Hastings Center Report Vol. 46, Issue 2 (2016), 12-18. March 10, 2016.

The author discusses the place of race in bioethics and argues that the mainstream bioethics community at large has failed to engage with issues of race. Continue reading (behind paywall)…

Reich et. al. “Boreal and temperate trees show strong acclimation of respiration to warming.” Nature. March 16, 2016.

This study says that forests may be able to deal with hotter temperatures and contribute less carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than scientists previously thought. In this study, plants were able to adapt their respiration to increases in temperature over long periods of time, releasing only 5 percent more carbon dioxide than they did under normal conditions. Previously, scientists expected that the plants would increase their respiration by nearly five times that much. Read the original study, or jump to The New York Times’ coverage.

David C. Bellinger. “Lead Contamination in Flint — An Abject Failure to Protect Public Health.” New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 374, Issue 12 (2016), 1101-1103.

In 2014, solely as a cost-saving measure, the city of Flint, Michigan began taking its water from the Flint River rather than Lake Huron. The corrosion-control treatments required by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule were, for some reason, discontinued. To make matters worse, the addition of ferric chloride to reduce the formation of trihalomethanes from organic matter increased the corrosivity of the Flint River water. The water reaching consumers was therefore 19 times as corrosive as it had been when the source was Lake Huron. This contamination had consequences. Continue reading...

Daniel C. Sherkin et. al. “Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction vs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Usual Care on Back Pain and Functional Limitations in Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain.” The Journal of the American Medical Association Vol. 315, Issue 12 (2016), 1240-1249. March 29, 2016.

In a randomized clinical trial, this study found that, among adults with chronic low back pain, treatment with mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), compared with usual care, resulted in greater improvement in back pain and functional limitations at 26 weeks, with no significant differences in outcomes between MBSR and CBT. These findings suggest that MBSR may be an effective treatment option for patients with chronic low back pain. Continue reading, or read JAMA’s editorial response.

Udo Schuklenk. “Canada on course to introduce permissive assisted dying regime.” Journal of Medical Ethics. March 23, 2016.

Canada's Supreme Court decided in February 2015 that the criminalisation of assisted dying in the country violates the country's citizens and residents constitutional rights. This paper reviews policy recommendations produced by a special expert advisory panel appointed by Canada's provinces and territories, where the responsibility for the provision of health care lies. It also reviews a similar document produced by a special federal parliamentary committee. Based on the review of these two milestone documents it is argued that a Canadian consensus seems to emerge that foreshadows a permissive regulatory regime in that country. Continue reading (behind paywall)…

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Bioethics Forum

Daniel Callahan. “The Good of the Body.” March 10, 2016.

The author discusses the global challenges associated with population growth, aging, and chronic illness, which he contends are comparable in scale to the challenges of global warming. Continue reading



Jennifer Caudle. “Robert DeNiro made the right call on anti-vaccination film.” March 27, 2016.

De Niro made the right decision.

Vaccines save lives. As a family physician, my life's work is to help patients stay safe and healthy. Not only do I support vaccines, but I routinely recommend and administer them. The fact that this movie is gaining attention, and was even scheduled for a major film festival, is a reminder that even though we have made so much progress in the realm of preventing infectious diseases through vaccines, we have even further to go in convincing others of this. Continue reading

Conservation Magazine

Sarah DeWeerdt. “What If the World Went Vegan?” March 22, 2016.

An analysis of food and climate published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that, if every person on Earth adopted a vegan diet – without milk, meat, honey, or any other animal-sourced foods – the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food system in 2050 would fall by more than half compared to 2005/2007 levels. Continue reading

The Conversation

Luke Messac. The other opioid crisis – people in poor countries can’t get the pain medication they need.” March 25, 2016.

Hospitals in the U.S. and Europe routinely prescribe opioids for chronic cancer pain, end-of-life palliative care and some forms of acute pain, like bone fractures, sickle cell crises and burns. But patients with these conditions in much of Asia, Africa and Latin America often receive painkillers no stronger than acetaminophen. Continue reading


Leslie E. Wolf, Erin Fuse Brown, and Laura Beskow. “If we don’t own our genes, what protects study subjects in genetic research?” March 28, 2016.

Lots of people would assume that we each “own” our genetic information. But the legal reality is quite different. And that could turn out to be a problem, because research projects like the Precision Medicine Initiative, which aims to develop targeted drugs and treatments that would vary from individual to individual, rely on research participants trusting that their information is protected once they agree to share it. Continue reading

The Guardian

Rebecca Carroll. “Why did De Niro promote an anti-vaxx film?” March 28, 2016.

When Tribeca Film Festival founder Robert De Niro issued a statement in support of a screening of the film Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, directed by Andrew Wakefield, shamed doctor and anti-vaccination activist, I was, like many, appalled. And I was pleased when he pulled it. Only when I thought about it from the perspective of a parent did it make even a minuscule amount of sense. De Niro’s 18-year-old son Elliot with his wife Grace Hightower is autistic. Continue reading

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