Thursday, September 28, 2006

Organ 'donations' Chinese style

There have long been rumours that the organs of executed prisoners in the PR of China are available for sale to the highest foreign bidder. The UK's BBC managed to provide evidence for this. Its undercover journalist went into one of the largest organ transplant specialist hospitals in the PR of China and posed as a buyer (supposedly looking to buy an organ for his father). A doctor and a special marketing person from the hospital explained the deal to him (all on the tape from the hidden camera). Interesting anecdote on the side, the doctor advised that this is a particularly good time to buy organs as they have a surplus of executed prisoners' organs due to the fact that there is a wave of executions prior to an upcoming national holiday... nuff said, check the story out here According to news reports the country executed approximately 1770 people in 2005.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Researching 'gay' sheep

Weird story. I received a message from PETA asking whether I would support their campaign to have research involving 'gay' sheep at Oregon Health and Science's University stopped. From what I gather researchers there investigate the question of what leads some male-oriented rams to be male-oriented as opposed to female-oriented. They also experimented with changing hormone levels in sheep fetuses. The ethical questions with re to this research are really two fold: one certainly is whether this research interest is ethically justifiable, seeing that some animal suffering and death is involved (given that once the answer is found, there would be no health benefits for either sheep or humans or any other higher mammals), the other is whether this type of research ought to be undertaken in homophobic societies?
It will be interesting to see how these scientists will respond to public criticism of their work.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Why do we admire people doing silly and risky things?

It's kinda weird, a few weeks ago this Australian guy died who had a habit of fighting with crocodiles in front of cameras. He died in a freak accident, swimming too close to a sting ray. The frightened sting ray stung him with its tail in his heart. He died nearly instantly. Big drama in Down Under, the PM giving a speech celebrating the dead guy, stuff like one would expect in that part of the world.
Last night a presenter on a show usually propagating highly expensive, outrageously oversized gaz guzzling cars nearly killed himself while trying to set a new land speed record while riding a rocket driven vehicle. He crashed at something like 280-300 MPH. Since then the UK is in crisis mode much like Down Under for its hero.
The UK NHS is, of course, paid for by our taxes. I'm truly surprised that not more people are really upset that massive resources are spent on keeping this rocket car riding TV presenter alive. Why should we spent money to cover him for follies that he committed? To my mind, such people ought to be forced to take out private health insurance that is covering such risk behaviour. Thereby the general public (not usually prone to engage in similarly nonsensical activities!) can focus on spending its health care tax monies in other areas.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Burning the Pope's image

So, there we go again, someone criticises Islam and a few hours later the speaker's effigy is burned all over the Islamic world. There's something slightly contradictory about this peace loving ideology and too many of its proponents and 'representatives'. Particularly ironic is that the Pope (a rightwing ideologue by most people's standards) agrees with those currently burning his effigy on just about everything from opposition to reproductive health rights to gay equality to funny ideas about evolution. Putting these natural allies noses out of joint is kinda intriguing.
Here's what he had to say (quoting an obscure Christian character who died hundreds of years back): 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.' Invariably accusations form those burning the effigy suggest that the Pope got it all wrong, yet their very reaction makes one wonder (one being someone like me who is not a scholar on anything Muhammad or Jesus or Dianetics).
What irritates me so very much about this affair is that these people don't seem to realise that their convictions are all man-made. They are chosen by their adherents in a manner similar to other ideologies. It is entirely unclear why their leaders think that somehow they should be above criticism and ridicule anymore then, say, the Labour Party in the UK or the Rpublicans in the US. My gut feeling is that they know about the inellectual poverty of their enterprise. It is probably in direct response to their inability to defend their ideology that they quickly resort to the silencing of critics by various civilised and uncivilised means.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Proper role of Applied Ethics

There has been some argument in recent years about the proper role of Applied Ethics. Should the types of questions people in Applied Ethics confront be determined by the number of sentient beings currently (or potentially in future) affected by a given problem? Or should we aim to resolve particularly theoretically challenging questions, even if the answers to these questions would, if implemented, affect only very few sentient beings? Well... I have argued in a number of articles and editorials for an affirmative stance on the first as opposed to the latter proposition. Surely there is little utility in calling something applied ethics if it isn't applied to a real-world practical problem. What are your views?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Test picture: Scottish Highlands

Picture 165
Originally uploaded by udo schuklenk.

Just testing whether Flickr gamma and blogger beta talk to each other. Ignore this posting and/or enjoy the picture :).

Friday, September 08, 2006

Consciousness in PVS - Bollocks...

The Scotsman reports in today's edition that some people in persistent vegetative state might be conscious to a certain extent and capable of responding for instance to sentences spoken to them. Steve Miles, MD, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota comments: '1. This woman had suffered a traumatic, not ischemic, brain injury five months before the testing. 2. The MRI showed that the frontal cortex was damaged from the trauma and post accident surgery but that the cortex and white matter were essential intact.
3. The PVS was diagnosed with the Royal College of Physicians 2003 guidelines. However, those guidelines do not allow the diagnosis of post traumatic PVS until one year after the trauma because of the 20% prognosis for recovery in such persons. The clinical exam at 11.5 months showed recovery to Minimal Conscious State thus moving her outside the diagnosis of PVS as defined by the Royal College. 4. She was asked to imagine herself touring her house and playing tennis and appropriate areas of the brain showed metabolic activity. The researchers interpreted this as intentional cooperation rather than as word association responsiveness. She was not given a neutral stimulus such as “tennis” to test this difference.'

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Go Zoe Go!

Zoe Williams comments in today's GUARDIAN newspaper that we all should take a much stronger stance against what she describes as 'deranged opponents of a vaccine against cervical cancer'. The main thing about a cervical cancer vaccine is that for it to act successfully against the HPV (which causes cervical cancer) it must be administered before women start having sex (with men). Once you got the bug, the vaccine can't help you.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the Christian Right is busily agitating against the vaccine saying that it would encourage young girls to have sex before they should. Of course, they are also quietly saying that girls should only have sex in marriage. Knowing, however, that this doesn't go down too well in modern societies they aim to prevent young girls from access to this potentially life saving vaccine.
Read Zoe Williams fairly sharp but to the point analysis is here.