Cross Post

Cross Post: You Could Lie To A Health Chatbot – But It Might Change How You Perceive Yourself

Dominic Wilkinson, Consultant Neonatologist and Professor of Ethics, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Imagine that you are on the waiting list for a non-urgent operation. You were seen in the clinic some months ago, but still don’t have a date for the procedure. It is extremely frustrating, but it seems that you will just have to wait.

However, the hospital surgical team has just got in contact via a chatbot. The chatbot asks some screening questions about whether your symptoms have worsened since you were last seen, and whether they are stopping you from sleeping, working, or doing your everyday activities.

Your symptoms are much the same, but part of you wonders if you should answer yes. After all, perhaps that will get you bumped up the list, or at least able to speak to someone. And anyway, it’s not as if this is a real person. Continue reading

Cross Post: Spectator TV – Should the government ban smoking? With Kate Andrews and Dominic Wilkinson

Oxford Uehiro Centre’s Professor Dominic Wilkinson discusses the government’s proposal to ban smoking with The Spectator.

Cross Post: Should A Health Professional Be Disciplined For Reporting An Illegal Abortion?

Written by: Prof Dominic Wilkinson, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

There have been several high-profile cases in the last year of women in the UK being prosecuted for allegedly obtaining abortions illegally. In 2022, there were 29 cases of suspected unlawful abortions that were reported to police – almost a twofold rise on the number reported four years earlier.

In response to this, the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has issued guidance that seeks to clarify the legal obligations of healthcare professionals. The full guideline has not yet been released, but the RCOG insists that professionals “are under no legal obligation to contact the police following an abortion, pregnancy loss or unattended delivery”. Continue reading

Cross Post: Brainpower: Use it or Lose it?

This is the first in a series of blogposts by the members of the Expanding Autonomy project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

Written By: J Adam Carter, COGITO, University of Glasgow

E-mail: adam.carter@glasgow.ac.uk

 

What are things going to be like in 100 years? Here’s one possible future, described in Michael P. Lynch’s The Internet of Us. He invites us to imagine:

smartphones are miniaturized and hooked directly into a person’s brain. With a single mental command, those who have this technology – let’s call it neuromedia – can access information on any subject ….

That sounds pretty good. Just think how quickly you could gain information you need, and how easy and intellectually streamlined the process would be. But here is the rest of the story:

Now imagine that an environmental disaster strikes our invented society after several generations have enjoyed the fruits of neuromedia. The electronic communication grid that allows neuromedia to function is destroyed. Suddenly no one can access the shared cloud of information by thought alone. . . . [F]or the inhabitants of this society, losing neuromedia is an immensely unsettling experience; it’s like a normally sighted person going blind. They have lost a way of accessing information on which they’ve come to rely. Continue reading

Cross-post: Fairness and Freedom in Public Health Policy – On the need for a Humanities-based approach to public health policy

by Alberto Giubilini

Originally posted on the Oxford Medical Humanities website

 

This conference explored two distinct but related issues in public health. One is the extent to which individual freedom could be restricted in the pursuit of public health goals. The other is whose freedom could be restricted. That is, freedom and fairness in public health policy.

The tension between freedom and public goods pervades our lives. Public goods such as functioning healthcare systems or environmental resources depend on actions we collectively take. Collective actions raise issues about whether and how each of us ought to contribute to them by giving up some of our own personal interests. Pandemic policies simply made that tension more salient. However, our living together is a constant negotiation of the boundaries between us as individuals and us as members of communities, often (but not necessarily) through the mediation of Governmental restrictions.

Public goods cost freedom or, if you prefer, freedoms can erode public goods. Continue reading

Cross Post: Why Government Budgets are Exercises in Distributing Life and Death as Much as Fiscal Calculations

Written by Hazem Zohny, University of Oxford

Sacrificial dilemmas are popular among philosophers. Should you divert a train from five people strapped to the tracks to a side-track with only one person strapped to it? What if that one person were a renowned cancer researcher? What if there were only a 70% chance the five people would die?

These questions sound like they have nothing to do with a government budget. These annual events are, after all, conveyed as an endeavour in accounting. They are a chance to show anticipated tax revenues and propose public spending. We are told the name of the game is “fiscal responsibility” and the goal is stimulating “economic growth”. Never do we talk of budgets in terms of sacrificing some lives to save others.

In reality, though, government budgets are a lot like those trains, in philosophical terms. Whether explicitly intended or not, some of us take those trains to better or similar destinations, and some of us will be left strapped to the tracks. That is because the real business of budgets is in distributing death and life. They are exercises in allocating misery and happiness. Continue reading

Guest Cross Post: Extremism And The Sensible Centre

Written by Tony Coady , Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne and Honorary Professor at the Australian Catholic University, Honorary Fellow in the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics in Oxford.

There are a plethora of terms in widespread political and social use that often obfuscate more than they elucidate. One of those is “terrorism” and its derivatives such as “terrorist”, but I have had my say about this elsewhere, most recently in my 2021 book The Meaning of Terrorism and will simply commend it to readers. Here I want to address instead the cluster of expressions  around “extremist/extremism”, “radical/radicalism” and best of all “the sensible centre”.

Typical quotes about extremism show the standardly condemnatory nature of its widespread current usage. Examples are almost endless, but here are two examples from very different well-known people: “A people inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity will turn their back decisively against extremism.” – Benazir Bhutto;[1] “Extremism means borders beyond which life ends, and a passion for extremism, in art and in politics, is a veiled longing for death.” – Milan Kundera [2]  Continue reading

Cross Post: Halving Subsidised Psychology Appoints is a Grave Mistake—Young Australians Will Bear a Significant Burden 

Written by Dr Daniel D’Hotman, DPhil student studying mental health and ethics at the Oxford Uehiro Centre

The original version of this article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald

Unprecedented times called for unprecedented measures. COVID-19 was the most significant health crisis many of us had ever faced. While the physical effects were much discussed, the mental health burden was arguably just as devastating. In response, the previous Government doubled subsidised mental health appointments under the Better Access Program, allowing Australians suffering from mental illnesses like anxiety, PTSD and depression to claim an extra 10 appointments per year.

Now we are trying to convince ourselves COVID-19 and its impacts are over. In addition to requiring referrals for some PCR tests, the Australian Government is cutting the number of mental health visits available under Medicare to pre-pandemic levels, arguing this is a necessary step to improve equity. According to a review of the program, extra appointments clogged up waitlists and reduced access for those not engaging with services. Continue reading

Cross Post: When Can You Refuse to Rescue?

Written by Theron Pummer

This article originally appeared in the OUPBlog

 You can save a stranger’s life. Right now, you can open a new tab in your internet browser and donate to a charity that reliably saves the lives of people living in extreme poverty. Don’t have the money? Don’t worry—you can give your time instead. You can volunteer, organize a fundraiser, or earn money to donate. Be it using money or time, there are actions you can take now that will save lives. And it’s not just now. You can expect to face such opportunities to help strangers pretty much constantly over the remainder of your life.

I doubt you are morally required to help distant strangers at every opportunity, taking breaks only for food and sleep. Helping that much would be enormously costly. It would involve a lifetime of sacrificing your well-being, freedom, relationships, and personal projects. But even if you are not required to go that far, surely there are some significant costs you are required to incur over the course of your life, to prevent serious harms to strangers. Continue reading

First synthetic embryos: the scientific breakthrough raises serious ethical questions

synthetic mouse.
Weizmann Institute of Sciences

Julian Savulescu, University of Oxford; Christopher Gyngell, The University of Melbourne, and Tsutomu Sawai, Hiroshima University

Children, even some who are too young for school, know you can’t make a baby without sperm and an egg. But a team of researchers in Israel have called into question the basics of what we teach children about the birds and the bees, and created a mouse embryo using just stem cells.

It lived for eight days, about half a mouse’s gestation period, inside a bioreactor in the lab.

In 2021 the research team used the same artificial womb to grow natural mouse embryos (fertilised from sperm and eggs), which lived for 11 days. The lab-created womb, or external uterus, was a breakthrough in itself as embryos could not survive in petri dishes.

If you’re picturing a kind of silicone womb, think again. The external uterus is a rotating device filled with glass bottles of nutrients. This movement simulates how blood and nutrients flow to the placenta. The device also replicates the atmospheric pressure of a mouse uterus.

Some of the cells were treated with chemicals, which switched on genetic programmes to develop into placenta or yolk sac. Others developed into organs and other tissues without intervention. While most of the stem cells failed, about 0.5% were very similar to a natural eight-day-old embryo with a beating heart, basic nervous system and a yolk-sac.

These new technologies raise several ethical and legal concerns.

Continue reading

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