Philosophy & Ethics

It is difficult for pharmaceutical companies to have good public relations in an immediate news and social media world - no matter how many trials are done, people can still have adverse effects or even suffer real harm - and social media detractors can just claim they are corrupt and convince a large segment of their followers. 

To make sure the public has as much confidence as possible in new products, all drugs have to undergo exhaustive, time-consuming and expensive testing. When high-profile media events like ebola, which killed 1/13,000th as many Americans this week as heart disease did, happen, there are calls to throw ethics and testing protocols out the window.

Image: author provided

By David Glance, University of Western Australia

In June of this year, Facebook provoked a widespread public outcry after it became known that it had tried to manipulate the emotions of nearly 700,000 of its users as part of a social “experiment.”

Look at a fan rotating its blades. Now look somewhat to the side of it. It seems to rotate slower now. Now shift your gaze slowly back toward the center of the fan. The fan seems to pick up speed. There are not just two appearances of its speed, one fast if I stare at it, and one slow if it is in the periphery of my visual field, but instead the fan seems to pick up speed gradually!

In the future, new organs will be created from a patient's own stem cells and they will require no waiting lists, no immunosuppressive drugs, and no stickers on drivers licenses making people available for organ donations.

Currently, organ transplantation is "opt in" - you have a choice. A new paper by psychologists examines whether it might be better to have organ donation be opt-out.

From government control of health care to new reproductive technologies in this century, we'll need to be able identify key issues, articulate their values and concerns, deliberate openly and find ways forward.

The Hastings Center and the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues have teamed up to publish a series of essays to highlight the best practices in teaching bioethics and to identify gaps in our knowledge of how best to inspire and increase moral understanding, analytical thinking in the moral domain, and professional integrity. The first three of these essays, which appear in the current Hastings Center Report, focus on bioethics education for practicing clinicians.

Eyes – windows on the soul?Credit: Ángelo González, CC BY-SA

By Tracy Long-Sutehall, University of Southampton

The word morality makes people uneasy – but not ethics. What is the basis of a moral education? Credit: Flood G/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

By Patrick Stokes, Deakin University

New research on the treatment of 'hardcore' female Mau Mau prisoners by the British in the late 1950s sheds new light on how ideas about gender, deviancy and mental health shaped colonial practices of punishment.

The treatment of the Mau Mau by the British has led to compensation claims in the courts. Last year the British government agreed to pay out £19.9m in costs and compensation to more than 5,000 elderly Kenyans who suffered torture and abuse during the Mau Mau uprising in the 50s. Two of those involved in the recent case were women and further female compensation cases are pending.

Is morality and happiness determined by how you affect the people around you? Credit: Shutterstock

By Peter Bowden, University of Sydney

It is a word we hear from time to time, but few of us know what it means.