Practical Ethics

Reminder: Everyday philosophy

Quick reminder of a forthcoming talk at the Oxford Playhouse on the 11th February, given by Philosophy Bites author Nigel Warburton:

What is philosophy? Who needs it? Writer and podcaster Nigel Warburton, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University, discusses the relevance of philosophy to life today. From questions about the limits of free speech to the nature of happiness, from what art is to the impact of new technology, philosophy offers insights into questions that matter. Warburton will explore how the thoughts of some of the great philosophers of the past shed light on our present day predicament.

The quixotic prohibition of attention-enhancing drugs in sport.

Amphetamines and major league baseball are in the news again, with a number of busts made for the prescription drug Adderall, which contains several amphetamine stimulants in its list of active ingredients.

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Is Discounted Therapy Fair?

by David Shipley

A friend of mine is a therapist. She faced the following dilemma.

My friend specialises in enhancing fertility and was approached by a prospective patient who wished to become pregnant but could not afford to pay the standard fee of £45 per treatment as she was on benefits. The woman was aged 40 and had no children. What should my friend the therapist have done?

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Advance notice: Everyday philosophy

Advance notice of a forthcoming talk at the Oxford Playhouse on the 11th February, given by Philosophy Bites author Nigel Warburton:

What is philosophy? Who needs it? Writer and podcaster Nigel Warburton, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University, discusses the relevance of philosophy to life today. From questions about the limits of free speech to the nature of happiness, from what art is to the impact of new technology, philosophy offers insights into questions that matter. Warburton will explore how the thoughts of some of the great philosophers of the past shed light on our present day predicament.

 

Data or life? Ethical obligations to present and future patients.

By Jahel Queralt-Lange

Each year 10.9 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed worldwide, and 6.7 million people die. The good news is that better drugs are developing faster. We all want to hear about “wonder drugs” and the scientific and medical communities feel the urge (and sometimes the pressure) to provide them. However, some ethical problems might appear in our way to this breakthrough. Before being released into the market, any drug has to undergo a trial in which its benefits are tested and weighed up against its adverse effects. Of course, the desirability of increasing our knowledge in order to improve our health is beyond question. What poses problems is that those individuals who participate in the trials are the means by which we achieve that knowledge. Past experiences, like the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment that took place in the US showed that it’s morally outrageous to trade the life of some individuals for the sake of benefiting society. Nowadays the issue is regulated but moral dilemmas persist.

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Stem Cell Trial for Stroke: Is It Cannabilizing Human Beings?

By Julian Savulescu

Reneuron has today announced the first transfer of stem cells in the UK to treat stroke. This follows quickly from Geron’s recent trial in spinal cord injury.

This is a historic moment which may be viewed in the same way as the first attempts to use antibiotics. Stem cells offer the door to entirely new form of medical treatment called regenerative medicine. When cells (the building blocks) or tissues of the body are damaged, they are generally not replaced. The dead tissue is replaced by scar that holds the rest of the organ together. So when a person has a stroke (or heart attack) a blood vessel to an area of brain is typically blocked and that area of the brain dies, being replaced by a scar that is functionless. Stem cell therapy offers the hope of replacing that dead or damaged tissue and cells with functioning new cells, in this case nerve cells. This trial is the very first stage to see if the transfer can be done safely.

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Lethal Ethics: When Philosophical Distinctions Kill

by Julian Savulescu

Teresa Lewis died on the 24th of September after being a lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Centre in Virginia. The 41-year-old was convicted of plotting to kill her husband, Julian Lewis, and her stepson, Charles Lewis. She persuaded two men to carry out the murders in return for sex and money. The two men received life sentences. The execution went ahead in spite of protests from lawyers, celebrities and others who argued that she should have been given clemency because of her low IQ. Under US law, anyone with an IQ of 70 avoids the death penalty. Lewis was judged to have an IQ of 72.

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How Many Lives Should I Save?

by Julian Savulescu

Toby Ord is a brilliant young Oxford post doc. He has established Giving What We Can. On the website, you can calculate how many lives you could save by giving to the most effective charities he has evaluated. He calculates that even a person on the median salary could save 1350 lives. Here is an example of how Toby calculates the number of lives which could be saved.

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Why Bioenhancement of Mathematical Ability Is Ethically Important

by Julian Savulescu

In a paper just released today, Cohen Kadosh and colleagues (Cohen Kadosh et al., Modulating Neuronal Activity Produces Specific and Long-Lasting Changes in Numerical Competence, Current Biology (2010), doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.10.007) described how they increased the numerical ability of normal people by applying an electrical current to a part of the skull. So what? Most of us don’t do that much maths after leaving school and manage just fine.

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Trolleyology

In the October edition of Prospect magazine, Practical ethics blogger David Edmonds provides an accessible and thoughtful insight into "Trolley problems"

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