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ethics

Video Interview: Introducing Academic Visitor Dr María de Jesús Medina Arellano

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An interview with academic visitor Dr María de Jesús Medina Arellano, Professor and Researcher at the Institute of Legal Research at the National Autonomous University (UNAM), on her research focusing on the ethics and regulation of biotechnologies in developing countries, such as stem cell science, human genome editing and reproductive technologies.

Book Launch: Pandemic Ethics: From Covid-19 to Disease X

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Press release and an interview with Prof Dominic Wilkinson on the new book, Pandemic Ethics: From Covid-19 to Disease X, which he has co-authored with Prof Julian Savulescu.

Press Release: Are we ethically prepared for Disease X?


image of pandemic ethics book cover
Oxford University Press

1 May 2023

According to some estimates, there is more than a one in four chance in the next decade of another global pandemic. We don’t know whether this will be influenza, a coronavirus (like SARS and COVID), or something completely new. The World Health Organisation refers to this unknown future threat as “Disease X”.Read More »Book Launch: Pandemic Ethics: From Covid-19 to Disease X

Cross Post: Dutch Government to Expand Euthanasia Law to Include Children Aged One to 12 – An Ethicist’s View

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Written by Dominic Wilkinson, University of Oxford

Ernst Kuipers, the Dutch health minister, recently announced that regulations were being modified to allow doctors to actively end the lives of children aged one to 12 years who were terminally ill and suffering unbearably.

Previously, assisted dying was an option in the Netherlands in rare cases in younger children (under one year) and in some older teenagers who requested voluntary euthanasia. Until now, Belgium was the only country in the world to allow assisted dying in children under 12.

Under the proposal, it will remain against the law for doctors in the Netherlands to actively end the life of a child under the age of 12. However, a force majeure clause gives prosecutors the discretion not to prosecute in exceptional circumstances.

In 2005, Dutch doctors and legal experts published guidelines (the so-called “Groningen protocol”) elaborating when these exceptional circumstances would apply for infants under the age of one year. That included certainty about diagnosis and prognosis, “hopeless and unbearable suffering”, the support of both parents and appropriateness confirmed by an independent doctor.

The new regulations would allow the same principles to apply to children between one and 12 years of age.Read More »Cross Post: Dutch Government to Expand Euthanasia Law to Include Children Aged One to 12 – An Ethicist’s View

Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: Turning up the Hedonic Treadmill: Is It Morally Impermissible for Parents to Give Their Children a Luxurious Standard of Living?

This essay was the overall winner in the Undergraduate Category of the 2023 National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by University of Oxford student, Lukas Joosten

Most parents think they are helping their children when they give them a very high standard of life. This essay argues that giving luxuries to your children can, in fact, be morally impermissible. The core of my argument is that when parents give their children a luxurious standard of life, they foist an expectation for a higher standard of living upon their children, reducing their lifetime wellbeing if they cannot afford this standard in adulthood.

I argue for this conclusion in four steps. Firstly, I discuss how one can harm someone by changing their preferences. Secondly, I develop a model for the general permissibility of gift giving in the context of adaptive preferences. Thirdly, I apply this to the case of parental giving, arguing it is uniquely problematic. Lastly, I respond to a series of objections to the main argument.  Read More »Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: Turning up the Hedonic Treadmill: Is It Morally Impermissible for Parents to Give Their Children a Luxurious Standard of Living?

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

National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: The Ambiguous Ethicality of Applause: Ethnography’s Uncomfortable Challenge to the Ethical Subject

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This article received an honourable mention in the graduate category of the 2023 National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by University of Manchester student Thomas Long

Abstract

This essay presents, first and foremost, the recollections of a doctoral anthropologist as they attempt to make sense of a moment of embodied, ethical dissonance: a moment where the “familiar” of their own ethical positionality was suddenly and violently made very “strange” to them through participation in applause. Applause is one of the most practical ways we can perform our support for a cause, idea or individual within corporeal social space. Through a vignette, I examine the ethical challenge presented by my own, unexpected applause – applause for the Pro-Life movement – that occurred during fieldwork with Evangelical Christians in the U.S.A. I use this vignette to question the impact of the field on an anthropologist’s capacity to practice what they see as good ethics, and in doing so, consider the practical ethical limits of conducting ethnographic research with so called “repugnant cultural others” (Harding 1991). I argue that moments of uncomfortable alienation from one’s own perceived ethical positionality present not a moral, but a conceptual challenge, in that through this alienation the elasticity of our ethical selves is laid bare. I conclude by suggesting that the challenge presented by doing ethnography with ethically divergent interlocutors constitutes an “object dissolving critique” (Robbins, 2003, p.193) of our implicit conception of what it means to be a coherent ethical subject at all.Read More »National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: The Ambiguous Ethicality of Applause: Ethnography’s Uncomfortable Challenge to the Ethical Subject

National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: Why the Responsibility Gap is Not a Compelling Objection to Lethal Autonomous Weapons

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This article received an honourable mention in the undergraduate category of the 2023 National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by Tanae Rao, University of Oxford student

There are some crimes, such as killing non-combatants and mutilating corpses, so vile that they are clearly impermissible even in the brutal chaos of war. Upholding human dignity, or whatever is left of it, in these situations may require us to hold someone morally responsible for violation of the rules of combat. Common sense morality dictates that we owe it to those unlawfully killed or injured to punish the people who carried out the atrocity. But what if the perpetrators weren’t people at all? Robert Sparrow argues that, when lethal autonomous weapons cause war crimes, it is often impossible to identify someone–man or machine–who can appropriately be held morally responsible (Sparrow 2007; Sparrow 2016). This might explain some of our ambivalence about the deployment of autonomous weapons, even if their use would replace human combatants who commit war crimes more frequently than their robotic counterparts.Read More »National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: Why the Responsibility Gap is Not a Compelling Objection to Lethal Autonomous Weapons

National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: What is Wrong With Stating Slurs?

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This article received an honourable mention in the undergraduate category of the 2023 National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by Leah O’Grady, University of Oxford

 

This essay will argue that it is wrong to use slurs in a non-derogatory context due to the phenomena of constitutive prohibition, put forward by Alexandre and Lepore (2013). That is, I will argue that slurs are wrong because they are considered wrong. Throughout, I will use ‘offensive’ interchangeably with ‘considered wrong (by the marginalised community to which it applies)’. I wish to distinguish ‘offensive’ with ‘wrong’. A slur is wrong if and only if it does harm to the marginalised community to which it applies. I will begin the essay from the assumption that an offensive slur is not necessarily wrong and vice versa. However, through argument I will conclude that slurs are wrong because they are offensive, that is, it is wrong to say slurs because it implies either an ignorance of or a disregard to the wishes of marginalised communities.Read More »National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: What is Wrong With Stating Slurs?