Friday, June 24, 2016

Areas of Ethical Conversation


Philosophy 301 students will find this glossary of Ethics helpful.

Bioethics: concerns the ethical controversies brought about by advances in biology and medicine. Public attention was drawn to these questions by abuses of human subjects in biomedical experiments, especially during the Second World War, but with recent advances in bio-technology, bioethics has become a fast-growing academic and professional area of inquiry. Issues include consideration of cloning, stem cell research, transplant trade, genetically modified food, human genetic engineering, genomics, infertility treatment, etc.

Business Ethics: examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that can arise in a business environment. This includes Corporate Social Responsibility, a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities and operations on customers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment, over and above the statutory obligation to comply with legislation.

Environmental Ethics: considers the ethical relationship between human beings and the natural environment. It addresses questions like "Should we continue to clear cut forests for the sake of human consumption?", :Should we continue to make gasoline powered vehicles, depleting fossil fuel resources while the technology exists to create zero-emission vehicles?", :What environmental obligations do we need to keep for future generations?", "Is it right for humans to knowingly cause the extinction of a species for the (perceived or real) convenience of humanity?"

Legal Ethics: an ethical code governing the conduct of people engaged in the practice of law. Model rules usually address the client-lawyer relationship, duties of a lawyer as advocate in adversary proceedings, dealings with persons other than clients, law firms and associations, public service, advertising and maintaining the integrity of the profession. Respect of client confidences, truthfulness in statements to others, and professional independence are some of the defining features of legal ethics.

Media Ethics: deals with the specific ethical principles and standards of media in general, including the ethical issues relating to journalism, advertising and marketing, and entertainment media.

Medical Ethics: the study of moral values and judgments as they apply to medicine. Historically, Western medical ethics may be traced to guidelines on the duty of physicians in antiquity, such as the Hippocratic Oath (at its simplest, "to practice and prescribe to the best of my ability for the good of my patients, and to try to avoid harming them"), and early rabbinic, Muslim and Christian teachings. Six of the values that commonly apply to medical ethics discussions are: Beneficence (a practitioner should act in the best interest of the patient, Non-maleficence ("first, do no harm"), Autonomy (the patient has the right to refuse or choose their treatment), Justice (concerning the distribution of scarce health resources, and the decision of who gets what treatment), Dignity (both the patient and the practitioner have the right to dignity), Honesty (truthfulness and respect for the concept of informed consent).
Information Ethics: investigates the ethical issues arising from the development and application of computers and information technologies. It is concerned with issues like the privacy of information, whether artificial agents may be moral, cyber ethics, how to behave in the infosphere, and ownership and copyright problems arising from the creation, collection, recording, distribution, processing, etc, of information.

Virtue Ethics (or Virtue Theory) is an approach to Ethics that emphasizes an individual's character as the key element of ethical thinking, rather than rules about the acts themselves (Deontology) or their consequences (Consequentialism).



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Canada Grants Right to Active Euthanasia


Canada’s Senate passed Bill C-14, the euthanasia and assisted suicide bill.

The Senate first passed Bill C-14 a few days ago with seven amendments from the original bill that was passed in the House of Commons on May 31.
Yesterday, the House of Commons removed a controversial amendment and a protective amendment in the Senate version of the bill and then sent it back to the Senate for approval.

This morning the Senate considered an amendment that would have referred the terminal illness provision in the bill (natural death is reasonably foreseeable) to the Supreme Court of Canada, but that amendment was defeated.

The controversial issue was the requirement that a medical or nurse practitioner could approve a lethal injection if the person’s “natural death is reasonably foreseeable.” Parliament insisted that this requirement remain in the bill while the Senate argued that the Supreme Court did not state that a person must be “terminally ill.”

The final bill maintains that “natural death must be reasonably foreseeable.”

I was disappointed that House of Commons withdrew the amendment that prohibited a beneficiary from participating in a persons assisted death or signing the person’s request for assisted death. This was an amendment that protected people from a greedy beneficiary or an unscrupulous family member.

The final bill allows a beneficiary to participate in the act, even to lethally inject.
The Senate then passed Bill C-14 by a vote of 44 to 28. The response from parliament was to declare a summer recess.

The bill that determines how Canadians will kill Canadians was passed on the last day of the parliamentary schedule in time for the summer recess.

Bill C-14 now goes to the Governor General to be signed.

No attempts were made to amend the most grievous parts of Bill C-14.

1. Bill C-14 provides medical practitioners or nurse practitioners legal immunity for decisions or acts that contravene the law.
•Section 241.3 states: Before a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner provides a person with medical assistance in dying, the medical or nurse practitioner must: (a) be of the opinion that the person meets all of the criteria set out in subsection (1);
• Section 227(3) states: For greater certainty, the exemption set out in subsection (1) or (2) applies even if the person invoking it has a reasonable but mistaken belief about any fact that is an element of the exemption.
These sections of the law ensure that a medical or nurse practitioner will never be prosecuted for decisions or acts that contravene Bill C-14.

2. Bill C-14 allows anyone to cause death by euthanasia or assisted suicide.


• Bill C-14 – Section 227(2) states: No person is a party to culpable homicide if they do anything for the purpose of aiding a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to provide a person with medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.‍2.


• Bill C-14 – Section 241(3) states: No person is a party to an offence under paragraph (1)(b) if they do anything for the purpose of aiding a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to provide a person with medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.‍2.


• Bill C-14 – Section 241(5) states: No person commits an offence under paragraph (1)‍(b) if they do anything, at another person’s explicit request, for the purpose of aiding that other person to self-administer a substance that has been prescribed for that other person as part of the provision of medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.‍2.

No jurisdiction in the world offers legal immunity to anyone who does anything for the purposes of assisting death. Bill C-14 is the most wide-open bill in the world. It is even worse than the Belgian law. Recent studies from Belgium indicate that more than 1000 assisted deaths occur without request each year.

Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, writes, "I cannot understand why people remain so blind about the implications of the language of Bill C-14. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition will resist the cultural acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide." You can read his blog here.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Child Trafficking Verdict in Sarasota, Florida


The first human trafficking guilty verdict in Sarasota Florida was handed down last week, to Ronald McBride III, 22, for six felony counts, one of which was human trafficking. After the jury’s conviction, McBride could face up to life in prison. It is a milestone case for the Sarasota Police Department.

According to news reports the trafficker began “grooming the victim in November 2015, on how to trade her body for drugs and money.” The young woman was in her twenties receiving counseling for drug addiction at the time she met McBride. Instead, McBride got the victim hooked on heroine and crack cocaine.

The girl told the Sarasota police, “If she didn’t make a certain amount of money for a sexual act, McBride would beat her or have another girl beat her. I have to give all the money I make to McBride because he says he owns me.” On the day she escaped, December 29, 2015, McBride beat her with a gun and told her he would come back to kill her.

Read more here.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ethics of Addiction



The ethical debate centers on questions of individual freedom, autonomy, self-determination, and control. What passes for individual freedom to chose a way of life may be simply delusion - a non-freedom. In a conflict between the individual and the state, where should the individual's autonomy end and the state's right to intervene begin? Must we regard freedom of self-medication as a fundamental right?

There are many excellent articles on the ethics of addiction in scholarly journals, many of which are not accessible to the public. Much good information on this topic is available at blogs. Here is a list of blogs that I recommend to students who are writing papers on the ethics of addiction.

The Hurt Healer





Saturday, June 11, 2016

Islamic Extremism and Iconoclasm

2000-year-old temple in Palmyra, Syria
destroyed by IS in August 2015

In early June 2016, Islamic State (IS) insurgents posted a video on the internet showing a 3,000-year-old temple being blown up at the Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq. This is the latest example of radical Islamic iconoclasm. The Nabu Temple is one of the world's archaeological and cultural treasures.

The United Nations confirmed in a statement that satellite imagery showed "extensive damage to the main entrance" of the temple of Nabu, the Babylonian god of wisdom.

Nimrud was a 13th century BC Assyrian city located about 20 miles south of the modern city of Mosul. Islamic State militants took control of Mosul in June 2014.

The IS video also shows scenes of bulldozers razing the ancient Gate of Nergal, part of the historic Nineveh city wall in Mosul. The fanatical Islamic group considers all pre-Islamic culture idolatrous, along with any religion outside its own radical interpretation of Sunni Islam.

IS has systematically destroyed many sites of archeological and historical importance. Islamic State militants destroyed the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria in August 2015.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Killing Babies


Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.

The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.

The journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said the article's authors had received death threats since publishing the article. He said those who made abusive and threatening posts about the study were “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society”.

The article, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?”, was written by two of Prof Savulescu’s former associates, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.

They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

Read the article here.


Julian Savulescu has been consistently ghoulish. Savulescu, an Australian, also believes that parents are morally obliged to genetically engineer their children so that they will have higher IQs. "There are other ethical principles which should govern reproduction, such as the public interest," he said. This policy would reduce welfare dependency, crowding in jails, school dropout rates and poverty. "Cheaper, efficient whole genome analysis makes it a real possibility in the near future."

Eugenics did not die with the Nazi regime. Eugenics has clawed its way out of the grave and is being rehabilitated by so-called ethicists like Savulescu.

He remains ignorant of the sophisticated ethics of archaic communities, against the background of which his ethics appear barbarian.

Related reading: Savulescu and Harris on Enhancing Morality;  Reduce Divorce With Love Drugs; Killing Babies in Ancient Greece and Rome



Saturday, May 21, 2016

What Students Should Know About Totalitarianism


Alice C. Linsley

A totalitarian government is a single-party dictatorship that controls all aspects of public and private life. Citizens do not enjoy rights such as freedom of expression or the right to assemble. Totalitarian governments silence critics who speak against the government's policies in public or on the internet. Residents are subject to censorship and arrest, and the media is state controlled.

Totalitarian governments occur where an individual or small group of individuals take power and implement policies designed to enhance their power. Such leaders are usually called "dictators" though some have been called Pharaohs, Emperors or Kings.

Dictators enforce their will by decree or by passing legislation that makes it possible for the leader to be the absolute ruler of a sovereign state; to govern outside the accepted rule of law, and to maintain or increase power through developing a cult of personality.

Totalitarian leaders in history include Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, Saddam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, and Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Stalin gained control of the Soviet Union in 1924, and forced millions of peasants to relinquish their land and work on large, government-run farms. He is responsible for the death of millions of Russians who refused his effort to collectivize. 

Benito Mussolini 

On 28 October 1922, King Vittorio Emanuele's appointed Benito Mussolini as prime minister of Italy. Mussolini needed to convince the people that fascism would work to their benefit. The word was spread that Mussolini had turned the dilapidated Italian rail system into a dependable mode of transportation. It was said that in Mussolini's Italy, all the trains ran on, but the many Italians who depended on the trains knew otherwise.

Hitler gained control of the nationalistic, anti-communist Nazi Party in the 1920s and established perhaps the most notorious regime in modern history. The Nazi ideology viewed Jews as a political and economy disease to be eradicated. The ideology also opposed Christianity. Efforts were made to limit the influence of Christianity on the German people, since, in the words of Martin Bormann to Alfred Rosenberg in an official letter, "the Christian religion and National Socialist doctrines are not compatible."

Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was characterized by corruption, rape, censorship, torture and terror tactics. Human rights organizations reported hundreds of thousands of civilian executions during Hussein’s reign.

Kim Il-sung ruled North Korea from 1948 until 1994. The leadership then passed to his son, Kim Jong-il, and then in 2011 to his grandson, Kim Jong-un. Human rights organizations report systematic abuses including torture, religious persecution, slave labor, infanticide, and public executions.


Hitler Youth 1933
Indoctrination of the Youth

A prime directive of totalitarian governments is the indoctrination of the youth. As Lenin said, "The best revolutionary is a youth devoid of morals." He insisted, "Give us the child for 8 years and it will be a Bolshevik forever."

On July 4, 1926 at a Nazi rally the German Youth Movement was renamed as the Hitlerjugend, Hilter Youth. The Hitler Youth were regarded as the Aryan hope for a glorious future and were indoctrinated as fighters Nazi Germany.


Totalitarian Versus Authoritarian: A matter of degree

Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976) was the founder of the People's Republic of China. He tolerated no resistance to his Communist system. His government was extremely thorough in its Communist propaganda and indoctrination of young people. He portrayed himself as the benevolent leader who would make China great. However, his "Great Leap Forward" proved disastrous for the Chinese people. 

On June 4, 1989, Chinese troops and security police fired on students who had gathered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square to call for greater democracy. Hundreds of students were killed and at least 10,000 people were arrested. This tragedy gained much world attention and other nations pressured China's leaders to grant greater liberty to their citizens.

Since China became more open to the West and to other Asian nations, it has eased some of the restrictions that were initiated by the Communist Revolution. Today China is more accurately described as an "authoritarian" state, as it does allow its citizens some personal freedoms and absolute power no longer rests with a single individual.

However, government policies are still strictly enforced and political dissidents continue to face imprisonment and censorship. There has been resistance to the government's limit on the number of children a couple can have, and the restriction of religion. To protest the lack of religious freedom, at least 122 Tibetan monks, nuns and civilians have committed self-immolation between 2009 and 2013. During the same period, at least 53 Chinese killed themselves by the same means to protest the government’s demolition of their homes.

For American foreign policy the distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian is significant. If faced with only these options, the United States should support an authoritarian government over a totalitarian government. This is what Jeane Kirkpatrick argued during the Carter Administration. The US often is faced with the choice to either back an authoritarian regime, or destabilize it, giving opportunity for the rise of totalitarianism. Kirkpatrick's distinction between authoritarianism and totalitarianism was a good one. However, she did not foresee the global thrust of Islamic extremism which is ready to fill every political vacuum. Destabilization has proved to benefit movements like ISIS in Iraq and Syria.