In the past week in the UK, an Italian woman has claimed that a health trust had carried out a Caesarean section on her against her will. Whilst details of the case are still emerging, it appears that the woman had been detained under the Mental Health Act whilst pregnant after suffering a panic attack (which, it is reported, was possibly a result of a failure to take medication for a pre-existing mental health condition). Having been hospitalized for a number of weeks, the woman was given a Caesarean section whilst under sedation without consent. It appears that a health trust had been granted permission to carry out the procedure from the Court of Protection. Further to this, Essex social services also decreed that the mother was unfit to raise the child, and took the child into its care. Continue reading
In a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal, Tim Kendall draws attention to a recent study that suggests that modest financial incentives can significantly improve adherence in people treated with depot drugs for schizophrenia and other psychoses in the UK. This study looks set to reignite the debate regarding the moral permissibility of offering financial incentives as a part of medical care. Whilst those who support this practice point out that we already offer non-financial rewards to many patients, others have criticised the practice as, among other things, amounting to coercion. In this post, I shall contest this particular objection to the practice of offering financial incentives to patients as part of medical care. Continue reading
Having a post-mortem (henceforth PM) carried out on a recently deceased loved one can be hugely distressing for those left behind. The procedure involves a detailed examination of the body after death, and requires what some would deem to be a violation of the deceased’s bodily integrity. For obvious reasons, the subject of the PM him or herself is not harmed by the procedure (unless, perhaps, they had previously expressed a wish not to undergo a PM). Rather, it seems that the harm that PMs do, if any, is most readily understood as being inflicted upon those of the friends and relatives of the deceased who are distressed by the idea of a pathologist examining their loved one, mere days after they have been confronted with the loss of that person. Here, I shall consider the ethics of certain legally required post mortems. Continue reading
Yesterday, three judges representing the England and Wales Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed a challenge to a High Court ruling that Parliament, rather than judges, should decide whether the law on assisted dying should change. The challenge was mounted by Paul Lamb (who is paralysed from the neck down and wishes to end his life, but is physically unable to do so) and Jane Nicklinson (the widow of Tony Nicklinson, a sufferer of locked-in syndrome who unsuccessfully appealed to the High Court to change the law on assisted suicide prior to his death). Continue reading
A recent British study has suggested that the exhibition of certain personality dispositions in youth can serve as reliable indicators of well-being in later life . The data obtained in this longitudinal study suggest that subjects who score highly for extroversion in youth tend to report greater well-being in later life. In contrast, those who score highly for neuroticism in youth report lower satisfaction with life in follow up questionnaires; the authors also posited that these subjects also experienced indirect detrimental effects on their well-being by virtue of the psychological distress and poor physical health that has been linked to neuroticism. Continue reading
Sussex police have announced a scheme to fit people suffering from dementia with GPS tracking systems. These small devices will allow police to locate the wearer, and also allow the wearer to reach a 24 hour helpline by pressing a small button on the device. It has been claimed that these devices will save police time and resources, as well as reducing both the potential risk to dementia patients who go missing, and the anxiety that relatives of the missing person will feel when their loved one goes missing.
However, some parties have decried the introduction of this scheme as barbaric and inhumane. For example, Neil Duncan-Jordan, the national officer of the National Pensioners’ Convention, claimed that the scheme serves to stigmatise sufferers of dementia by equating them with people who have committed a criminal act. Continue reading
It was reported yesterday that the Tate gallery has decided to remove prints created by the artist Graham Ovenden following his conviction for child sex offences (on Tuesday 2nd April). Ovenden’s conviction itself raises difficult moral questions which I shall not address here. Ovenden is (or at least was) a celebrated portrait artist; he admitted to taking pictures of and painting nude children in the course of creating his portraiture, claiming that, in doing so, he was aiming to capture children in what he termed their “state of grace”. Although he vigorously denied allegations of paedophilia over the course of the trial, Ovenden was found guilty of six counts of indecency and one count of indecent assault.
There may well be room for debate about whether Ovenden is a paedophile or just a harmless, albeit esoteric, artist. However, I shall not address this question here; I shall assume throughout (rightly or wrongly) that the court is warranted in describing Ovenden as a paedophile. Rather, I am interested in the Tate gallery’s response to the conviction, and more generally, the questions about the nature of art to which it gives rise. Continue reading
In this talk, (which you can listen to here) Neil Levy brings a new perspective to the debate concerning the moral responsibility of psychopaths. Previously, this debate has been thought to turn on the question of whether psychopaths have moral knowledge. Here, Levy argues that regardless of whether psychopaths count as having moral knowledge, we ought to believe that they lack moral responsibility on the grounds that their intentions don’t have the kinds of contents that can underwrite full-blown moral responsibility. Continue reading
Many of us are guilty of sleeping more than we really need to. Moreover, some people just need more sleep than others. In this talk, (which you can listen to here) Alexandre Erler argues that this means that many of us (who sleep excessively) are severely restricting our opportunities for well-being, and that the unfortunate people who need long sleep are significantly restricted in their opportunities for well-being by their need for sleep; in view of this, he argues that more research ought to be carried out into ways in which people might safely be able to restrict their sleep. Continue reading