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Rationing/ Resource Allocation

When autonomy trumps sense: the costs of refusal to allow withdrawal of life support.

In Canada this week, an 84 year old man died after 9 months of treatment
in an intensive care unit. He had severe brain damage and multi-organ
failure, but his family sought a legal injunction to prevent doctors in
the intensive care unit from withdrawing life-support. Over the course
of his long intensive care stay, intensive care beds at a major trauma
centre were closed
so that nurses could used instead to support his
care, and three doctors resigned from the hospital in protest at being
required to provide what they felt was ‘unethical’ treatment.

Read More »When autonomy trumps sense: the costs of refusal to allow withdrawal of life support.

Same species, different needs: could ‘genes for’ improve the way we treat animals?

The New
Scientist recently reviewed a variety of studies showing that many traits often supposed unique to humans are in fact shared by
There is evidence that apes, dolphins,
songbirds, elephants, and monkeys share with humans some of the
most important aspects of behaviour associated with speech; killer whales have
distinct cultural groups; great apes and some monkeys have a degree of
understanding of the minds of others, enabling them to deceive; chimpanzees,
gorillas, and crows use tools; and there is suggestive evidence that elephants,
magpies, baboons, whales, and chimpanzees demonstrate emotional behaviour, and
that monkeys and rats are capable of drawing primitive moral distinctions.

Claims that animals have capacities usually thought
unique to humans are controversial, and those who make them are often accused
of anthropomorphising animal behaviour. Plausibly,
there is often more to such accusations than concern for explanatory
parsimony. As humans, we profit from
using animals—for food, research, sport, and so on—in ways that we would not
use other humans, and suggestions that animals are more like humans than we
usually suppose place an unwelcome demand on society to rethink its ethical stance
towards animals. This suggests that a
clear division between humans and other species is important to us in justifying
the discrepancies between what we view as ethical treatment of other humans and
what we view as ethical treatment of non-human animals. Pragmatically speaking, if we
humans wish to retain a privileged moral status, and if our privileged moral
status is at least partly due to our being different to other animals in
certain important (usually biologically-based) respects, then it is in our
interests to resist attempts to draw similarities between humans and other

Read More »Same species, different needs: could ‘genes for’ improve the way we treat animals?

Conditional gifts for the NHS

The Royal Bank of Scotland has donated a state-of-the-art three dimensional CT scanner to an Edinburgh hospital, but with strings attached. The scanner will be available for use by NHS patients, but the Bank wants its staff to have priority access to up to 25% of the scanner’s capacity.

Some politicians and academics are opposed to the gift. But would there be good grounds for rejecting it?

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Lesbians and male role models

In Britain, the Conservative Party has challenged the government to block lesbian couples from receiving IVF treatment unless they can provide a ‘male role model’ for their child. This is part of a proposed amendment to the human fertilisation and embryology bill which is currently before the parliament. Such a change would be a very bad idea.

Read More »Lesbians and male role models