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A Tale of Two Data Scientists

March 25, 2021 • Posted in Blog

 

Neil Ferguson, Ph.D. Infamous Graph Youyang Gu

 

D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A. Executive Director

It was a long year ago (March 2020) that a dire prediction was issued by a group at Imperial College London (UK) regarding the possible effects of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. The model predicted more than 500,000 UK deaths, and >2.2 million deaths in the U.S. by summer if no action were taken. One of the data scientists issuing that proclamation was Neil Ferguson, Ph.D. He and his group advised the government that “in the UK and US context, suppression will minimally require a combination of social distancing of the entire ...read more

Is It Science or Scientism?

February 28, 2021 • Posted in Blog

Joyce Shelton, Ph.D. Professor of Biology, Trinity International University Guest Column

In the climate of fear, uncertainty and urgency engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is often difficult to know what to do or whom to trust. Public policy makers are daily making decisions and enacting rules that affect our lives and dictate our actions in the name of protection. They lend authority and justification to their decisions by claiming that they are following the science, implying that this appeal to a trusted, rational voice should be enough to calm our concerns and guarantee our compliance. But the elevation of science to the ...read more

The Ethics of Rationing COVID-19 Vaccine for the Sickest Among Us

January 13, 2021 • Posted in Blog

C. Ben Mitchell, Ph.D Distinguished Fellow

We must not allow our combined COVID-19 fatigue to prevent us from asking important questions about public health ethics. At the time I am writing this essay, we are just transitioning into Phase 2 of the vaccination plan. I am sure our public health officials are doing the best they can under unprecedented circumstances, so we should give them the benefit of the doubt. But for the sake of clarity in the future, some retrospective analysis will be crucial.

For instance, in our own state, we have abandoned traditional triage ethics in favor of a purely age-based ...read more

The Prescription for Flourishing Embodiment in Public Bioethics

December 4, 2020 • Posted in Blog

 

A Book Review

C. Ben Mitchell, Ph.D. Distinguished Fellow

American public bioethics does not have a sterling history because it misunderstands its most important subject, the human subject. This is the claim of a brilliant new book by O. Carter Snead, the Director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture and professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.

In What it Means to be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics (Harvard, 2020), Snead offers a genealogy of American public bioethics. Public bioethics, as contrasted with clinical bioethics, is the realm of human subjects research where, instead ...read more

The Problem of Ill-Gotten Gain in Health Care

October 22, 2020 • Posted in Blog

C. Ben Mitchell, Ph.D. Distinguished Fellow

The politicized debate about President Trump’s treatment for Covid-19 may have shrouded an important set of questions about the science of developing treatments, viz., the problem of ill-gotten gain.

Among other treatment protocols, the President received Regeneron’s REGN-COV2, a “cocktail” of two neutralizing antibodies that has shown promise in some animal studies (see here and here). The media jumped on an association between REGN-COV2 antibodies and fetal cells, some even claiming that the antibodies were developed from fetal cells.

 

Screenshot of NYT headline on Oct. 8, 2020

 

 

 

 

The fact of the matter is REGN-COV2 was tested for its virus-neutralizing ...read more

A Project for Our Time

September 30, 2020 • Posted in Blog

D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A. Executive Director

The responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have been by turns dramatic and disconcerting, and, at times, draconian. I read about Steve Reiter’s deplorable experience and his new project in a BreakPoint commentary in July, and he was kind enough to speak with me by telephone on 24 July.

Steve’s beloved wife, Elizabeth, had diagnoses of lupus and pulmonary hypertension, among other difficulties. She had had a lengthy hospitalization in 2014, but had recovered. Steve attributes her recovery to excellent medical care and the 24/7 presence of her family. She had a Hickman line placed, and Steve ...read more

When the Foundations Are Wobbling, Part I

April 27, 2020 • Posted in Blog

 

The Denominator of Death Rates

D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A. Executive Director

How many people in the U.S. have died of SARS-CoV-2 infection, or COVID-19? That is difficult to say, and not for lack of numbers on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The case fatality rate for a particular disease is, basically, the number of persons dying of a disease, divided by the number of persons who have the disease, and multiplied by 100, to give an answer in terms of percentage:

# persons dying of COVID-19 disease X 100 # persons infected with SARS-CoV-2

How is this complicated? ...read more

COVID-19 in Wuhan: Plea for Help Retracted

February 27, 2020 • Posted in Blog

D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A. Executive Director

One thing is clear: COVID-19, the newest coronavirus to infect humans, has our attention. Locally, people planning to travel—almost anywhere—are wondering about where to obtain face masks. As of Tuesday of this week, reports the New York Times, the United States had 57 cases, with 40 of those related to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked in Japan. The NYT article further reported,

  “We cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus,” Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, told a Senate panel on Tuesday. “And we need to ...read more

Human Flourishing in an Age of Gene Editing

December 2, 2019 • Posted in Blog

 

A Book Review By R. Henry Williams, M.D., F.A.C.P., M.A. (Ethics) Board Chairman, The Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture

Human Flourishing in an Age of Gene Editing Erik Parens and Josephine Johnston, Editors Oxford University Press, 2019

 

 

As we now live in a time when our genetic code can be altered, whether for better or worse, how should we think about what is best for ourselves? How can we as a human species and as individuals flourish? These are the questions posed in the new volume, Human Flourishing in an Age of Gene Editing. The essays here are interactive, frequently referencing one another, as the ...read more

Life Without Us?

November 2, 2019 • Posted in Blog

By Jane Patton, Guest Columnist

It is not new that some people say that they do not want to bring children into the world. And, as far as the do’s and don’ts of being environmentally responsible, the carbon footprint of a single human being tops the list of avoidable behaviors. One presidential candidate even advocates abortion as a way to combat climate change. So, it may be okay to have one or two children. Any more than that and parents might be called selfish.

But, a growing movement is taking the idea of limiting births to the next level—preventing all births. Who ...read more