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Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies

Greetings from Stephen Latham, Bioethics Center Director

Well, that's it, then. We've reached the end of another eventful year. This newsletter is going on hiatus until the fall.

Our year has been very full, not least because upwards of 500 Yale undergrads (and a bunch of law and divinity and forestry students, and a few hearty Yale alumni) have been exposed to bioethics in the classroom. And of course, many publications have come out (and now there's blessed teaching-free time to produce more!). And we've hosted a decent number of activities and events.

But wait, I hear you ask: sure, you claim to have been busy, but this year, did you bring in any speakers from the US Arctic Research Commission to talk about the effects of climate change on whales? or from the Wildlife Conservation Society, to talk about how the NRA is lobbying against laws meant to control elephant poaching and ivory sales? Did you bring in anyone who advised the US President and ran the White House neuroscience initiative? Anyone from the Presidential Commission on the Study of Bioethical Issues? Any experts on pre-implantation diagnosis from the NIH Bioethics Division? Did you host any nationally-recognized scholars on scientific and medical research integrity and methodology, like, I dunno, may Stanford's John Ioannidis? Did your Center give any talks to student groups with interests in bioethics or medicine or public health? Did you do any work on grants from Fogarty or NIMH or the New Haven Community Foundation or the Spencer Family Foundation or NIH or Robert Wood Johnson? Any joint ventures with scholars from the Child Study Center, The Hastings Center, the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, the Medical School, the Resource Office on Disability, or EPH? Have you pulled together a university-wide working-group on Disability? Has your center co-sponsored any events with student organizations or academic centers from Yale College or the Law School's Solomon Center or the Div School or the Peabody or Forestry or Medicine or Public Health? Have you hosted students from 15 different countries in your Summer Bioethics Institute, or hosted visiting bioethics scholars from Poland or Australia, say, or Chile?

Well, um, this is a bit awkward--you know, not wanting to blow one's own horn and all that. But since you've asked: Yes. And there were two from Australia.

But enough about us. What about our sister organization, the Medical School’s Program for Biomedical Ethics? Well, one thing to say about them is that they're planning, on this Wednesday May 11, to host Yale Med’s own Drs. Sanjay Kulkarni and Carrie Thiessen, speaking on “A Donor-Centered Approach to Risk Assessment: Normative, Empirical, and Policy Perspectives on Rebalancing Non-Maleficence and Autonomy for Living Kidney Donors." The event is at the Cohen Auditorium of the Child Study Center at 5pm. Refreshments will be served, so please RSVP to Karen.Kolb@Yale.edu. More details at the link!

But back to us. Our own Dr. Matt Riley, who teaches "Environmental Ethics" and "Religion and Ecology" in our Summer Institute, is teaching a one-week intensive course at Yale in June (13th-17th). The course is called "Christian Ecotheology: Text, Context, and Practice" and it’s open to anyone interested in Christianity and care for the environment. To enroll, visit this link. Matt also recently published a chapter on Thomas Berry in the new book Living Cosmology (edited by our own Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim). But, best for last: Matt was awarded the Helen LePage and William Hale Chamberlain Prize for his dissertation on Lynn White. The award is given to a Ph.D. dissertation that is "singularly distinguished by creative thought and excellent prose style." The title of Matt's (award-winning!) dissertation is "Reading Beyond Roots: The Theological and Weberian Aspects of Lynn White's Scholarship.”

And more about us: Bioethics Scholar Bonnie Kaplan has published a chapter entitled "Evaluation of People, Social, and Organizational Issues–Sociotechnical Ethnographic Evaluation," in the book, Evidence-Based Health Informatics - Promoting Safety and Efficiency through Scientific Methods and Ethical Policy, eds. E. Ammenwerth and M. Rigby, Studies in Health Technology and Informatics Series, Amsterdam: IOS Press, (2016). Congratulations, Bonnie!

We reserve the right to send out a special edition of this newsletter during the summer, in the event of special news. But barring that, we'll see you in late August. Meanwhile, as always, if there's a bit of news you'd like to see reported here in the fall, let me know at stephen.latham@yale.edu--and please, please, put the magic word "Frimail" in your subject line.

Oh, and because our matchless articles editor and Grad Student Fellow in Applied Ethics Matthew Leisinger is off this week, our articles section is not off, but is weak.

  Updates from the Summer Institute

Campus Events



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Updates from the Summer Institute

From Summer Institute Director Carol Pollard

This is the last Friday Newsletter of the semester. I hope you all have interesting and rewarding summers! Be sure to keep me updated for the first Friday Newsletter of the Fall semester.

Congratulations to Gelareh Homayounfar and Justin Stahl who will be married this August in Washington DC! (Wishing you a Happy Wedding and a Long and Happy Life together.)

Read some terrific news about Matt Riley in Steve’s section, above!

Greg Becker sent the following article with these comments: “Who ever thought so?” (Thanks Greg!) “Walt Whitman Promoted a Paleo Diet. Who Knew?” Jennifer Schuessler, The New York Times, April 29, 2016.

Gina Ylonen Ramirez writes: “A false hope for the cure of autism.  It is very interesting to analyze.”

News from The Forum on Religion and Ecology:

“We are very excited to share with you a new volume edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim entitled Living Cosmology: Christian Responses to Journey of the Universe.  Published by Orbis Books, this is the newest book in the Ecology and Justice Series on Integral Ecology. This volume is a collection of papers from the 2014 “Living Cosmology” conference at Yale University held in honor of Thomas Berry's 100th birthday. We are happy to let you know that Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim participated in the “Second International Seminar on Religion, Culture and Environment,” which was held April 23-24 in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran. The Journey of the Universe trailer was shown with Persian subtitles at the beginning and end of the conference. For the seminar agenda, visit: http://tinyurl.com/jh4d3v6. To read a discussion note prepared for this seminar entitled “Environment, Religion and Culture in the Context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” visit: http://tinyurl.com/je64h5s. This conference follows on two conferences on religion and ecology in Tehran in 2001 and 2005 that Mary Evelyn and John also participated in, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Iranian government. Finally, we would like to call your attention to “Christian Ecotheology: Text, Context, and Practice,” a summer course that will be taught by one of our Forum scholars, Dr. Matthew Riley. The class is a week-long intensive course held at Yale Divinity School on June 13-17. It is open to all.” (Congratulations Mary Evelyn, John, and Matt!)

James Ninia has already committed to studying at Columbia starting in the Fall. “I'm very excited to be continuing my education in Bioethics at one of my first choice programs. I even might share an apartment with Megan Hoberg next year!!!” (Congratulations to both of you!)

Andrea Meloff writes: “I just wanted to give you an update. I got all of my grades back for this semester, and I made Dean's List again. I plan to move to Nashville and will be taking the Tennessee Bar Exam in July. I am still looking for a job for after graduation. Ryan (Adams) and I will officially graduate on Friday, May 6th!  We will be sure to send pictures. I will try to visit this summer, but it may be hard due to bar preparation. I plan to come back as often as possible to visit!  I hope that you are doing well and miss you a bunch! (Congratulations to you both! Will be thinking of you on the 6th!)

Rachel Teo writes: “I'm just writing to tell you that I got the Research Associate job at the National University of Singapore! I'll be working at the Centre of Biomedical Ethics again on two projects - one is a research project on humanitarian ethics, and the other is a research project on medical education and professionalism. I will start on Wednesday! I'll let you know how it goes (: …It's Labour Day today, and so my parents decided to go to Bangkok, Thailand, with their friends. I decided to crash their holiday and made arrangements to meet Rebecca Oliver (because she's working in Chiang Rai), and she came to hang out with us haha! Here's a couple of pictures (: (Congratulations Rachel! Yes, keep me updated PLEASE!)

Bioethics Essay Contest – Calling all undergraduates who have something to say about bioethics! Submit an original article to Columbia University’s online journal titled “Voices in Bioethics.” Send in a 1,500-word opinion-editorial focusing on a current bioethical issue of your choice that falls within one of these three categories and win $350 for the winning submission: Clinical Ethics, Reproductive Ethics, or Global Challenges in Bioethics. Submit by June 30th; winners announced August 15th. For more information, please contact voicesinbioethics.org.

Theo El Sayed Omar writes: “After six long years I will have an MD  degree from Keele Medical School (UK), an Master’s from Keele Law School, and a Fellowship Certificate from Harvard Medical School. Combined with my diploma from Yale’s Summer Institute 2013, I am looking forward to a thriving career in surgery and medical ethics! J  (Congratulations Theo!)

Click here for a photo of Emily Shepp trying street food at a Hollywood, California, Market! Click here for a graduation photo of Megan Hoberg. Click here for a photo sent to us by Fouzia Kazim – amazing!  Click here for a photo of Amanda (Andie) Burkey who is a student at the University of Rochester, Fairport, New York.

Praveena Deekonda is a spinal surgery research student at Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust, University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, UK. Click here for a photo.

Tulio Rubio-Rodriguez sent an article, adding: “Future students of the ‘Technology and Bioethics’ seminar 2016: this case summarizes some of the topics to be discussed in class – cyborgs, privacy issues, and human enhancement. Be prepared, cyborgs are just around the corner!”

Prya Murad sent a photo with Jack Furlong, Transylvania University mentor and professor, who helped in the selection process that sent Transy students to our Summer Institute.  Jack is retiring and will be missed.

Have a great summer!  Come visit when you can!  And click here for one more beautiful flower picture.

Here’s the Articles Section.


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This Week on Campus

Wednesday, May 11

Drs. Sanjay Kulkarni and Carrie Thiessen (Yale) will speak on “A Donor-Centered Approach to Risk Assessment: Normative, Empirical, and Policy Perspectives on Rebalancing Non-Maleficence and Autonomy for Living Kidney Donors." The event is at the Cohen Auditorium of the Child Study Center at 5pm. Refreshments will be served, so please RSVP to Karen.Kolb@Yale.edu. Details at the link.

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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.  

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In the News


Jeremy Hsu, “Google Patent Reveals Vision for Cyborg Eye Implant,” ” The New York Times. April 28, 2016. Your implanted lens could adjust itself to all sorts of conditions, and could send data to your optometrist, or to a clinic.  

End of Life Care

Laura Donnelly, “'Unforgivable' failings in end-of-life care revealed as 40,000 dying patients subject to secret 'do not resuscitate' orders every year,” The Telegraph, May 2, 2016. Relatives in UK aren’t being informed of DNR orders…

Stem Cell Research

Sarah Knapton, “Dead could be brought 'back to life' in groundbreaking project,” The Telegraph, May 3, 2016.  A groundbreaking trial to see if it is possible to regenerate the brains of dead people, has won approval from health watchdogs. A biotech company in the US has been granted ethical permission to recruit 20 patients who have been declared clinically dead from a traumatic brain injury, to test whether parts of their central nervous system can be brought back to life. Scientists will use a combination of therapies, which include injecting the brain with stem cells and a cocktail of peptides, as well as deploying lasers and nerve stimulation techniques which have been shown to bring patients out of comas.


Lena Sun, “1 in 3 antibiotics prescribed in U.S. are unnecessary, major study finds,” The Washington Post, May 3, 2016. Nearly a third of antibiotics prescribed in doctors' offices, emergency rooms and hospital-based clinics in the United States are not needed, according to the most in-depth study yet to examine the use and misuse of these life-saving drugs. The finding, which has implications for antibiotics' diminished efficacy, translates to about 47 million unnecessary prescriptions given out each year across the country to children and adults. Most of these are for conditions that don't respond to antibiotics, such as colds, sore throats, bronchitis, flu and other viral illnesses.

Big Data

Hal Hodson, “Revealed: Google AI has access to huge haul of NHS patient data,” The New Scientist, April 29, 2016. A document obtained by New Scientist reveals that the Google’s collaboration with the UK’s National Health Service goes far beyond what has been publicly announced. The document – a data-sharing agreement between Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust – gives the clearest picture yet of what the company is doing and what sensitive data it now has access to. The agreement gives DeepMind access to a wide range of healthcare data on the 1.6 million patients who annually pass through three London hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust. This will include information about people who are HIV-positive, for instance, as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions. The agreement also includes access to patient data from the last five years.


Rachel Abrams, “Nepal Bans Surrogacy, Leaving Couples With Few Low-Cost Options,” The New York Times, May 2, 2016. Surrogacy may be the only way for some couples to have biological children by implanting an embryo into a woman who carries the child for them. But many cannot afford the process in developed countries like the United States or Canada and have looked for cheaper options in less-regulated countries like Nepal, India and Thailand. Now, one by one, these nations have shut their doors amid concerns over exploitation of the surrogates, oversight and safety, leaving people of less means without many choices.

In the Journals


Tejal Gandhi, Donald Berwick and Kaveh Shojania, "Patient Safety at the Crossroads,” May 3, 2016. The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) recently brought together leading experts and stakeholders representing the medical community, patient advocacy, the research community, and academia to assess progress…to chart a course for future patient safety work, in a report entitled Free From Harm: Accelerating Patient Safety Improvement 15 Years After “To Err Is Human.” The report makes 8 recommendations necessary to achieve total systems safety. This article focuses on the first recommendation: “Ensure that leaders establish and maintain a safety culture.”


John Iglehart, “Decriminalizing Mental Illness — The Miami Model,” May 3, 2016. Many communities have developed strategies to redirect people with mental illnesses away from the criminal justice system. Though these approaches reduce inappropriate arrests and incarcerations, their effect on communities’ public health and safety is often limited because they reside primarily within the legal system. What sets Miami-Dade County apart is its 15-year effort to develop a comprehensive, coordinated response to what’s recognized as a shared community problem requiring a shared community solution. This effort leverages diverse expertise and resources to divert people with mental illnesses from the criminal justice system to community-based mental health services, aiming to improve community outcomes.



Craig Klugman, “And Death Shall Be No More,” May 5, 2016.  The author reflects on the recently-approved study to use stem-cells to revive brain-dead people.

National Review Blog, “Human Exceptionalism”

Wesley Smith, “Death as Sociological Opens Door to Evil,” May 3, 2016. The author argues that bioethicists want to define death in terms of cognitive function instead of biological function, so that they can exploit dead people. Or something like that.

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