2021-2022 Symposium Presentations

2021-2022 Symposium Presentations
April 13, 2022 No Comments Global Bioethics Ariel Sykes

To Be or Not To Be, That is the Danger: Examining the Impact of “Virtuous” Medical Advancements

Presentation by: Emily Shewchuk and Abigail Wall

For centuries, humans have wrestled with the question of whether we should always strive to alleviate suffering and prevent misfortune. On the surface, it seems the answer is simple and obvious. Shouldn’t we always try to prevent disease, or improve the quality of life? It is hard to imagine a more virtuous reason to engage in research or legalize a medical procedure. But what if the potentially life-saving research undertaken with virtuous intent can also have lethal consequences on a global scale? What if reducing suffering means making it legal for a physician to kill their patient? This workshop will use virtue ethics to examine technological and social implications of medical advancements and invite participants to consider whether the human race has crossed a moral boundary and whether, with the best of intentions, we are nonetheless on a path to a brave new world of eugenics and premature extinction.

Redefining Human Identity: The Ethics of Transformative Biomedical Technologies

Presentation by: Katherine Tan and Ishani Wadhwa

What if we could change aspects of our identity at will? Biomedical technologies that use stem cells could redefine what it means to be human. Brain organoids created from stem cells enable neurological research and already have helped achieve breakthroughs in autism and schizophrenia. Stem cells also may be able to help remedy biological aging at the cellular level.  Emerging stem cell technologies could help humans live healthier and longer.  What implications does this have for what it means to be human? This workshop will address the ethics of these potentially transformational technologies. This workshop will touch on ideas of human identity and consequentialism, ultimately asking, “What does it mean to be human?”

Rights and Rites: Should Religion Influence Priority for Organ Donation and Burial?

Presentation by: Sophia Brandstaedter and Alexandra Grushkin

Who is prioritized when allocating a scarce resource? What if that scarce resource could save your life or fulfill your final wishes? In this workshop, we will examine the impact of religion and ethics on prioritization for receiving an organ transplant or for expedited burial. For years, the number of organ transplants needed has exceeded the number of available organs. Similarly, during COVID, the number of deaths has overwhelmed the funeral industry, making it difficult to adhere to the burial guidelines mandated by certain religions. Participants in this workshop will be invited to consider how religion plays a role in prioritization. In Israel, registered organ donors are prioritized on the transplant waiting list, but religion may prevent an individual from being a registered organ donor, and, therefore, receiving priority. With COVID, the funeral industry is struggling with death management, leading to issues with families striving to adhere to religious dictates after a loved one’s death. Both of these topics explore the most just and equitable way to allocate a scarce resource taking religion into consideration.

Planet vs. People: Ethical Parallels Between Hydraulic Fracturing and Plastics in Healthcare

Presentation by: Sophia Bullione and Lily Tan

Does society have a responsibility to limit the use of resources essential to almost every aspect of daily life, if it means creating a more sustainable environment? Single-use plastics in the healthcare industry have revolutionized medicine with their sterile, cheap, versatile and supposedly disposable qualities, with COVID heightening the need to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Additionally, the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) industry has helped lower and  stabilize oil prices in a world where energy is a human necessity. But both plastics and fracking have adverse consequences for people and our planet. Would it be fair to compromise safety and security to better protect the environment as a whole? In this interactive workshop, we will be examining both the fracking and plastics industries through a consequentialist lens to illuminate the complex issues they present. To understand these issues, we will consider the values of responsibility, safety, accountability, and fairness as they apply to common stakeholders of the fracking and healthcare industries, such as the environment, the economy, and society. Participants will be given the opportunity to broaden their perspectives and consider whether the potential positive short-term benefits of these technological advances outweigh their potential negative long-term effects.

Capacity to Choose: The Impact of Paternalism on Patients With Psychiatric Illnesses

Presentation by: Madeline Popolow and Ella Schestag

Mental health care is in crisis. Cases are increasing in number and severity, and we do not have enough highly qualified mental health care professionals, and enough effective treatment options to cure some patients or even help them achieve extended remission of symptoms. Some patients with severe and enduring anorexia nervosa or other psychiatric illnesses spend years pursuing care and treatment with little or no success. As a result, some of these patients seek to end their suffering at any cost … even the ultimate cost — death. Should society allow a patient diagnosed with a severe and enduring psychiatric illness, gripped by chronic physical and mental suffering, to choose to end their life by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking, or through euthanasia?  Can a person with a severe psychiatric illness be allowed to exercise autonomy to decide whether to live or die? In this workshop, participants will examine a real case study, learn about an ethical decision-making framework, and voice their opinions on this important issue.

Your Body But Not Necessarily Your Choice: Societal Influence on Womens’ Autonomy

Presentation by: Elizabeth Khidekel and Olivia Santoro

When does societal pressure cross the boundary into coercion? How does the commonly held view of what the ideal woman is impact decision making? This workshop will examine how the autonomy of women can be impacted by societal pressures, specifically through influence of the beauty industry and how it affects women’s decisions about undergoing cosmetic surgery. Additionally, societal pressure codified as law will be discussed by examining Poland’s female reproductive health system and the religious reasoning behind it. The ethical values and principles that will be discussed include autonomy, safety, responsibility and non-maleficence.  We also will consider decision-making capacity in relation to coercion. Some ethical questions that will be asked include: Can the harsh beauty standards placed on women be considered a form of coercion when making decisions about permanently altering one’s appearance? What impacts do religiously-motivated laws have on the exercise of reproductive autonomy?

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