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Journal: Bioethics


In recent years much research has been undertaken regarding the feasibility of the human uterine transplant (UTx) as a treatment for absolute uterine factor infertility (AUFI). Should it reach clinical application this procedure would allow such individuals what is often a much-desired opportunity to become not only social mothers (via adoption or traditional surrogacy arrangements), or genetic and social mothers (through gestational surrogacy) but mothers in a social, genetic and gestational sense. Like many experimental transplantation procedures such as face, hand, corneal and larynx transplants, UTx as a therapeutic option falls firmly into the camp of the quality of life (QOL) transplant, undertaken with the aim, not to save a life, but to enrich one. However, unlike most of these novel procedures - where one would be unlikely to find a willing living donor or an ethics committee that would sanction such a donation - the organs to be transplanted in UTx are potentially available from both living and deceased donors. In this article, in the light of the recent nine-case research trial in Sweden which used uteri obtained from living donors, and the assertions on the part of a number of other research teams currently preparing trials that they will only be using deceased donors, I explore the question of whether, in the case of UTx, there exist compelling moral reasons to prefer the use of deceased donors despite the benefits that may be associated with the use of organs obtained from the living.

Concepts: Gestation, Morality, Life, Surrogacy, Organ transplant, Pregnancy


In an article in this journal, Christopher Cowley argues that we have ‘misunderstood the special nature of medicine, and have misunderstood the motivations of the conscientious objectors’. We have not. It is Cowley who has misunderstood the role of personal values in the profession of medicine. We argue that there should be better protections for patients from doctors' personal values and there should be more severe restrictions on the right to conscientious objection, particularly in relation to assisted dying. We argue that eligible patients could be guaranteed access to medical services that are subject to conscientious objections by: (1) removing a right to conscientious objection; (2) selecting candidates into relevant medical specialities or general practice who do not have objections; (3) demonopolizing the provision of these services away from the medical profession.

Concepts: Conscription, Medicine, Conscientious objector, Physician


Focusing on present-day possibilities raised by existing technology, I consider the normative aspects of genetically modifying the human germline from a utilitarian standpoint. With reference to a hypothetical case, I examine the probable consequences of permitting a well-conceived attempt to correct a disease-associated gene in the human germline using current CRISPR gene-editing technology. I consider inter alia the likely effects on utility of creating healthy new lives, of discouraging adoption, and of kickstarting a revolution in human germline genetic modification (HGGM). I reject various objections to HGGM, including claims that the risks of genetic harm outweigh the likely benefits. From this utilitarian analysis, I conclude that strong grounds exist to support intervening in the human germline using current technology. Delay in commencing such work will impose a utility cost, because the longer we wait until commencing the HGGM revolution and moving towards a world of increased utility, the greater will be the quantity of suffering accrued meantime through genetically influenced disease. Nevertheless, considering residual safety concerns and the negative publicity engendered by an ethically problematic recent (2018) first attempt at HGGM, it seems prudent-and ultimately generative of the greatest amount of utility-to delay implementing HGGM for a modest period of time, in the order of 1-2 years.


United States military medical ethics evolved during its involvement in two recent wars, Gulf War I (1990-1991) and the War on Terror (2001-). Norms of conduct for military clinicians with regard to the treatment of prisoners of war and the administration of non-therapeutic bioactive agents to soldiers were set aside because of the sense of being in a ‘new kind of war’. Concurrently, the use of radioactive metal in weaponry and the ability to measure the health consequences of trade embargos on vulnerable civilians occasioned new concerns about the health effects of war on soldiers, their offspring, and civilians living on battlefields. Civilian medical societies and medical ethicists fitfully engaged the evolving nature of the medical ethics issues and policy changes during these wars. Medical codes of professionalism have not been substantively updated and procedures for accountability for new kinds of abuses of medical ethics are not established. Looking to the future, medicine and medical ethics have not articulated a vision for an ongoing military-civilian dialogue to ensure that standards of medical ethics do not evolve simply in accord with military exigency.

Concepts: United Arab Emirates, Laws of war, Medical ethics, Iran–Iraq War, United States, Iraq War, Gulf War, 2003 invasion of Iraq


Encouraged by the success of smoking denormalization strategies as a tobacco-control measure, public health institutions are adopting a similar approach to other health behaviors. For example, a recent controversial ad campaign in New York explicitly aimed to denormalize HIV/AIDS amongst gay men. Authors such as Scott Burris have argued that efforts like this are tantamount to stigmatization and that such stigmatization is unethical because it is dehumanizing. Others have offered a limited endorsement of denormalization/stigmatization campaigns as being justified on consequentialist grounds; namely, that the potential public health benefits outweigh any stigmatizing side effects. In this paper, I examine and reject the blanket condemnation of stigmatization efforts in public health. I argue that the moral status of such efforts are best evaluated within a contractualist, as opposed to a consequentialist, framework. Contractualism in public health ethics asks whether a particular stigmatizing policy could be justified to reasonable individuals who do not know whether they will be affected by that policy. Using this approach, I argue that it is sometimes permissible for public health institutions to engage in health-related stigmatization.

Concepts: Applied ethics, Peter Singer, Aristotle, Virtue ethics, Health economics, Morality, Normative ethics, Health care


The moral importance of the ‘intention-foresight’ distinction has long been a matter of philosophical controversy, particularly in the context of end-of-life care. Previous empirical research in Australia has suggested that general physicians and surgeons may use analgesic or sedative infusions with ambiguous intentions, their actions sometimes approximating ‘slow euthanasia’. In this paper, we report findings from a qualitative study of 18 Australian palliative care medical specialists, using in-depth interviews to address the use of sedation at the end of life. The majority of subjects were agnostic or atheistic. In contrast to their colleagues in acute medical practice, these Australian palliative care specialists were almost unanimously committed to distinguishing their actions from euthanasia. This commitment appeared to arise principally from the need to maintain a clear professional role, and not obviously from an ideological opposition to euthanasia. While some respondents acknowledged that there are difficult cases that require considered reflection upon one’s intention, and where there may be some ‘mental gymnastics,’ the nearly unanimous view was that it is important, even in these difficult cases, to cultivate an intention that focuses exclusively on the relief of symptoms. We present four narratives of ‘terminal’ sedation - cases where sedation was administered in significant doses just before death, and may well have hastened death. Considerable ambiguities of intention were evident in some instances, but the discussion around these clearly exceptional cases illustrates the importance of intention to palliative care specialists in maintaining their professional roles.

Concepts: Medicine, End-of-life care, Death, Euthanasia, Hospice, Terminal sedation, Palliative medicine, Palliative care


The neuro-enhancement Modafinil promises to dramatically increase users' waking hours without much sacrifice to clarity of thought and without serious side effects (inducing addiction). For Modafinil to be advantageous, its usage must enable access to goods that themselves improve the quality of one’s life. I draw attention to a variety of conditions that must be met for an experience, activity or object to improve the quality of one’s life, such as positional, relational, and saturation conditions, as well as it’s being good for its own sake. I discuss and describe the contexts in which widespread usage (legal or not) of Modafinil would undermine these conditions being met, and thus users would fail to significantly improve the quality of their lives and would in fact potentially make both themselves and nonusers worse off in important respects thus far overlooked by critics. In the right contexts, where free time is protected and prolonged, Modafinil does have a variety of potential benefits including, most interestingly, a distinctive form of agency possible only in free time. The potential disadvantages and advantages highlighted in this article are relevant not only to public institutions deciding whether to legalize Modafinil’s use as an enhancement but also to individuals deciding whether to use it illegally, as well as to the questions of how and whether to alter key features of one’s context (e.g. regulating work hours or extending social services) rather than, or in addition, to regulating the use of enhancement drugs such as Modafinil.

Concepts: Nootropic, Drug addiction, Good, Promise, ConTeXt, Potential, Law


Most people who endorse physician-assisted suicide are against commercially assisted suicide - a suicide assisted by professional non-medical providers against payment. The article questions if this position - endorsement of physician-assisted suicide on the one hand and rejection of commercially assisted suicide on the other hand - is a coherent ethical position. To this end the article first discusses some obvious advantages of commercially assisted suicide and then scrutinizes six types of argument about whether they can justify the rejection of commercially assisted suicide while simultaneously endorsing physician-assisted suicide. The conclusion is that they cannot provide this justification and that the mentioned position is not coherent. People who endorse physician-assisted suicide have to endorse commercially assisted suicide as well, or they have to revise their endorsement of physician-assisted suicide.

Concepts: Assisted suicide


In recent years there has been a wealth of literature arguing the need for empirical and interdisciplinary approaches to bioethics, based on the premise that an empirically informed ethical analysis is more grounded, contextually sensitive and therefore more relevant to clinical practice than an ‘abstract’ philosophical analysis. Bioethics has (arguably) always been an interdisciplinary field, and the rise of ‘empirical’ (bio)ethics need not be seen as an attempt to give a new name to the longstanding practice of interdisciplinary collaboration, but can perhaps best be understood as a substantive attempt to engage with the nature of that interdisciplinarity and to articulate the relationship between the many different disciplines (some of them empirical) that contribute to the field. It can also be described as an endeavour to explain how different disciplinary approaches can be integrated to effectively answer normative questions in bioethics, and fundamental to that endeavour is the need to think about how a robust methodology can be articulated that successfully marries apparently divergent epistemological and metaethical perspectives with method. This paper proposes ‘Reflexive Bioethics’ (RB) as a methodology for interdisciplinary and empirical bioethics, which utilizes a method of ‘Reflexive Balancing’ (RBL). RBL has been developed in response to criticisms of various forms of reflective equilibrium, and is built upon a pragmatic characterization of Bioethics and a ‘quasi-moral foundationalism’, which allows RBL to avoid some of the difficulties associated with RE and yet retain the flexible egalitarianism that makes it intuitively appealing to many.

Concepts: Interdisciplinary fields, Transdisciplinarity, Epistemology, Multidisciplinarity, Disciplinary, Interdisciplinarity, Scientific method


The goal of this article is to introduce a philosophical analysis of a widely neglected condition which affects between 3% and 18% of the population. People affected by this condition (which will be revealed later in the article) experience a lower level of wellbeing than the average population and are discriminated against in both their professional and their personal life. I will argue that this form of discrimination should be taken more seriously in philosophical debate and that social, legal and medical measures ought to be taken in order to improve the quality of life of people affected by this condition.

Concepts: Ethics, Sociology, Happiness, Logic, Biology, Quality