The Bioethics Podcast 2009

The Bioethics Podcast is an audio resource exploring the pressing bioethical challenges of our day featuring staff, fellows, and associates of The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity. For more information, click here for The Bioethics Podcast FAQ

When I Was Hungry, You Gave Me to Eat: The Dignity of Hand Feeding in Persons with Dementia

Preserving the dignity of those who inhabit Nursing Homes at the end of life—individuals frequently bearing the concurrent burden of dementia— is a critical feature of cultures that embrace compassion. In the United States, such persons comprise a demographic estimated at five million. One demanding aspect of care in this population is feeding. The ethical dilemma resides in the choice between hand feeding by staff or family versus feeding tubes. Hand feeding is adopted when it is comfortable and safe, that is, unaccompanied by aspiration; and although human intimacy integral to hand feeding would be preferable, feeding tubes have become de rigueur in contemporary medical practice. As Kenneth Ludmerer poignantly asked, might the efficiency in time and effort derived from feeding tubes, as well as their reimbursement as medical procedures, be the dynamic driving choice in this context?[1] Recent publications are noteworthy in this regard.

Podcast Episode: 
145

Biotechnology Meets Primetime TV

It is no secret that bioethical content has been the fodder for both film and television for quite some time. The mainstay of science fiction films for years has ranged from cyborgs (Bicentennial Man) and artificial intelligence (AI, I Robot) to bizarre human experimentation and research (The X-Files: I Want to Believe), such as genetic enhancement (GATTACA), organ farming (The Island), and cloning (The 6th Day) just to name a few more. Even the occasional drama has featured key bioethical dilemmas such as euthanasia (Million Dollar Baby) and just access to healthcare services (John Q) to the recent film depiction of savior siblings (My Sister’s Keeper).[1] The silver screen has accessed these issues for years. Similar ventures in primetime television have met varied success. Medical dramas have highlighted key issues raised in clinical medicine. Pick your show of choice: ER, Grey’s Anatomy, House, Private Practice,[2] or any of the numerous other medical dramas that have reigned in primetime television for years. The success of the medical drama is demonstrated through the proliferation of spinoffs and the creation of the genre of medical comedies as epitomized in Scrubs. Amidst the daytime plotlines of hypersexuality and human frailty, primetime viewers are exposed to such issues as informed consent, medical error, and the nature of the Hippocratic Oath. Not surprisingly these connections have been noted by savvy educators who use culture as one of the means by which they teach bioethics.

Podcast Episode: 
136

Egg Cryopreservation: An Update on an Emerging Reproductive Technology

Egg cryopreservation or freezing is a technique that was first demonstrated to be a success in the mid-1980s with the first report of a live birth from frozen and thawed human eggs. This technique, however, was abandoned as a routine clinical option after initial concerns that egg cryopreservation led to an increase in chromosomal abnormalities[1] and as the transfer of cryopreserved embryos became more commonplace. Interest in this technique has been recently renewed as a means of preserving the eggs of women about to undergo chemotherapy and for patients who object to embryo cryopreservation on religious or moral grounds. In particular, this procedure is being investigated as an alternative to embryo cryopreservation by countries that do not permit the freezing of embryos, such as Italy and Germany, in addition to fertility centers in the U.S., which recognize both a need and the financial incentive for offering this technique. It has been calculated that 936 children worldwide have been born from cryopreserved eggs as of April 2009.[2]

Podcast Episode: 
133

Facebook and the Fusiform Gyrus : A Neurologic Perspective on Social Online Networking for the Cultivation of Global Bioethics

Issues: 

2009 Parallel Paper Presentation, Global Bioethics: Emerging Challenges Facing Human Dignity.

Podcast Episode: 
130

Discerning Palliative Sedation from Euthanasia: What’s at Stake for Human Dignity

The last presidential election saw Washington become the second state to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS).  Pressure will increase for other states to follow suit so that those who are terminally ill can exercise the full scope of their “autonomy” and “die with dignity” through PAS if they so choose. Many concerned persons see trends toward legalizing PAS and the broad acceptance of euthanasia as not upholding the inherent dignity of human persons as is often claimed, but actually undermining it. 

Podcast Episode: 
129

Revitalizing Medicine: Empowering Natality vs. Fearing Mortality Part II

One of the great accomplishments of modern medicine is arguably the gains that have been made in extending longevity. Throughout the twentieth century, average life expectancy increased dramatically across the globe, a trend being continued in the twenty-first century with the notable exceptions of sub-Saharan Africa and Russia. For the first time in history it now seems “normal” that a person should live a long, healthy, and active life. Although the trend line is still moving up, it has started to plateau.

Podcast Episode: 
128

Revitalizing Medicine: Empowering Natality vs. Fearing Mortality

One of the great accomplishments of modern medicine is arguably the gains that have been made in extending longevity. Throughout the twentieth century, average life expectancy increased dramatically across the globe, a trend being continued in the twenty-first century with the notable exceptions of sub-Saharan Africa and Russia. For the first time in history it now seems “normal” that a person should live a long, healthy, and active life. Although the trend line is still moving up, it has started to plateau.

Podcast Episode: 
127

Nip & Tuck: A Parable

Cosmetic surgery for many elicits an unbidden, irresistible reaction of repugnance. The growing reality of nose jobs, breast and pectoral implants, buttock lifts, and liposuctions – it appalls and disturbs. In a different context, Leon Kass popularized the notion of the ‘wisdom of repugnance.’ This negative response or ‘yuck factor’ is a strong intuition that something is wrong or morally amiss. Folks who worry about Botox rituals discern the stink of ethical death in the cultural air. Their repugnance is an ethical gatekeeper, a barometer of all things pernicious to genuine human flourishing: This far you can go, and no further.

It is worth asking, however, whether this custodial ethical wisdom has anything going for it. To many the issue seems simple enough – we do not need the nuance of philosophers to realize that cosmetic surgery goes against the grain of what nature and her God have granted us. Few will chastise parents who warn their children against the surgical woes of the recently deceased pop star Michael Jackson. This seems obviously wrong. Likewise, the antics of a Jocelyn Wildenstein can be easily dismissed, her face a shocking specter of multiple surgeries. Yes, something has obviously gone awry.

Podcast Episode: 
126

The Global Outcomes Movement: Is it Compatible with Medicine?

2009 Parallel Paper Presentation, Global Bioethics: Emerging Challenges Facing Human Dignity.

Podcast Episode: 
125

Shared Decision Making: A Spectrum of Directiveness

2009 Parallel Paper Presentation, Global Bioethics: Emerging Challenges Facing Human Dignity
 

Podcast Episode: 
124

What Has Healthcare Reform Got to Do with Ice Floes? The Déjà Vu of Rationing, the Elderly, and Social Valuation

For those whose worldview picture is framed by biblical anthropology, the recent tenor of the healthcare reform debate should come as no surprise. When Americans have been forced to ration healthcare in the past—e.g., the early dialysis era, organ transplantation—social valuation explicitly and implicitly crept into decision-making.[1] Unfortunately, contemporary discussion, once again, is openly engaging the same wrong-headed direction.

Podcast Episode: 
123

Grey Matters: Accelerated Thought in the Fast Lane

The quest for speed has increasingly driven the course of progress. The history of technology records remarkable innovations to advance the cause of speed in communication and travel in particular. Emerging neuropharmaceutical technologies now introduce the prospect of accelerating the speed of thought.

Podcast Episode: 
122

On the Permissibility of a DNR Order for Patient with Dismal Prognosis

Editor’s Note: The following consultation report is based on a real clinical dilemma that led to a request for an ethics consultation. Some details have been changed to preserve patient privacy. The goal of this column is to address ethical dilemmas faced by patients, families and healthcare professionals, offering careful analysis and recommendations that are consistent with biblical standards.

Podcast Episode: 
121

Fetal Stem Cells and Parkinson Disease—promises never to be kept?

When fetal stem cells are publicly discussed, three diseases—often represented by their celebrity spokespersons—lead a list of potential therapeutic applications. They are Parkinson Disease (Michael J Fox), paralysis as a result of spinal cord injury (previously the late Christopher Reeve), and Diabetes Mellitus, type 1, (either Mary Tyler Moore or Ron Santo). The media packages the information as foregone conclusions: fetal stem cells are a veritable source of untapped, and then implied, “unlimited” therapeutic uses.

Podcast Episode: 
120

The Case for Prudence in the Public Square

Issues: 

Because we live in a world of constraints, prudence tells us that if we cannot prohibit a social evil entirely, we can limit it through appropriate fences.  Building fences around a social evil, as part of a larger strategy to secure justice, precludes what can be prohibited now without admitting the legitimacy of what remains unprohibited.  By limiting the harm done or lessening the negative consequences, we do not admit or support the rest of the evil that we do not have the power (legal or political) to touch now.

Podcast Episode: 
118

Pages