Bioethics seminar and book launch: Prof Søren Holm and Dr Silvia Camporesi (19/01/15)

We are delighted to invite you all to a seminar by Professor Søren Holm on The seven deadly sins of bioethics – how bioethical argument can go disastrously wrong​, followed by the launch of Dr Silvia Camporesi‘s new book, From Bench to Bedside, to Track & Field: the Context of Enhancement and its Ethical Relevance​, recently published for the UC Medical Humanities Series, with a foreword by Professor Holm.

camporesi_cover_6x9-202x300When: Monday January 19th, 2pm to 4.30pm
Where: Room SW1.17, East Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS
RSVP here

Søren Holm is a prominent bioethicist and philosopher of medicine. He is Professor of Bioethics at the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy, part of the School of Law at the University of Manchester and at the Centre for Medical Ethics at the University of Oslo.

Abstract: The seven deadly sins of bioethics – how bioethical argument can go disastrously wrong
Søren Holm has entered grumpy middle age and in this talk he will use his long experience as an academic bioethicist and journal editor to Silvia Book Launch 1identify some of the way in which bioethical argument can go disastrously wrong. He will identify the seven deadly sins of bioethics, but will only discuss five of them in detail, partly because some of the deadly sins do not really require any in depth discussion. The bioethical equivalent of the canonical sin of ‘sloth’, i.e. lazy referencing is, for instance hardly worth any discussion, despite being extremely prevalent. The sins that will be identified, analysed and discussed are ‘simplification and reduction’, ‘unlifted bracketing’, ‘it ain’t necessarily so arguments’, ‘the irresistible attraction of the hole in one argument’, and ‘the grand leap of the whale up the Niagara falls’. In Silvia Book Launch 3so far as it is possible, the seminar will use examples drawn from the literature on human enhancement.

Professor Brian Hurwitz will be chairing the seminar, which will be followed by the presentation of Dr Camporesi’s book on the ethics of genetic technologies.

Tea and coffe, cookies and wines will follow.

New book out: From Bench to Bedside, to Track & Field: The Context of Enhancement and its Ethical Relevance

Paperback | 978-0-9889865-4-1 | October 2014 | pp 185 | $24.95

From the back cover:

What is it to talk about gene transfer, gene therapy, and gene doping? Is choosing deafness with preimplantation genetic diagnosis an ethical way to carry on a cultural bloodline? What are the ethical and social implications of genetic testing to identify precocious talents? Should sponsors be held responsible for the doping behaviours of their athletes?camporesi_cover_6x9-202x300 These are only some of the questions that Dr. Silvia Camporesi addresses in this book, through a contextual, bottom up approach based on real-world ethical dilemmas. This book represents a unique contribution to the debate on enhancement technologies as it spans from the bench of molecular biology where the technologies are being developed, to the bedside of a clinical trial where they are used for selective reproduction or for first-in-human gene therapy studies, to the track & field where they are being applied to enhance human athletic performance. These investigations address current debates regarding the resurgence of eugenics in relation to genetic technologies, and provide a clear and much needed ethical autopsy of contemporary genetic practices.

The book is forthcoming for the ‘UC Perspectives in Medical Humanities Book Series‘, with a foreword by Professor Søren Holm. The series publishes scholarship produced or reviewed under the auspices of the University of California Medical Humanities Consortium, a multi-campus collaborative of faculty, students and trainees in the humanities, medicine, and health sciences.The editor of the series is Professor Brian Dolan.

From the acknowledgments:

This book builds to a large extent on my PhD dissertation in Philosophy of Medicine for King’s College London. […] From 2010 to 2013 I had the privilege of working in the intellectually stimulating atmosphere of the Wellcome Trust-funded Centre for the Humanities & Health at King’s College London. I am very grateful to my supervisor, Dr Matteo Mameli, Reader in Philosophy at King’s College London, for supporting and mentoring me, and allowing me a wide degree of freedom in pursuing my research interests during my PhD. I have very fond memories of engaging discussions on medical humanities and philosophy of medicine (among other topics!) with my colleagues at the Centre for the Humanities & Health over the past three years. In particular, thanks to Elisabetta Babini, Natalie Banner, Monika Class, Bonnie Evans, Keren Hammerschlag, Elselijn Kingma, MM McCabe, David Papineau, Anne Marie Rafferty, Maria Vaccarella, and Stefan Wagner. A big thanks goes to Professor Brian Hurwitz, Director of the Centre, for his great support in helping me launch my career.
I now have the pleasure of working as a Lecturer in Bioethics & Society the Department of Social Science, Health & Medicine at King’s College London, and I thank Professor Nikolas Rose, Head of Department, and all my new colleagues at SSHM for welcoming me and fostering such a vibrant work environment.

New CHH Publication on Medical Case Histories for Literature and Medicine Journal

Special Cluster “Medical Case Histories as Genre
Literature and Medicine, Volume 32, Number 1, Spring 2014
(Johns Hopkins University Press)

lm.32.1_front_smThis series of articles outlines a number of new approaches to the study of medical case histories in the history of medicine and medical humanities from a genre-theoretical vantage point. Drawing on a range of approaches about the relation of form and content, the articles explore similarities and differences among specific series of case histories in order to recover evolving, changing, or decaying patterns and practices in texts and communicative acts about human health.

Table of contents including abstracts:

Introduction: Medical Case Histories as Genre – New Approaches
Monika Class (guest editor)

The Medical Case Narrative: Distant Reading of an Epistemic Genre
Gianna Pomata
In this article, Gianna Pomata argues that we should consider the medical case narrative as an “epistemic genre” (as distinct from “literary genre”). Shifting the focal point of the historiography on the medical case narrative from late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to earlier periods in an attempt to reconstruct the long-term lineaments of the story, Pomata adopts the approach that literary scholar Franco Moretti has called “distant reading,” that is, a focused attention to the long duration of a genre within a culture as well as its variations across cultures. Distant reading suggests, at first sight, that the genre appeared in embryonic form in antiquity, with the Hippocratic Epidemics, but also that it disappeared for long periods of time, to emerge again, in new form and with new vitality, in the late Renaissance. Most interestingly, distant reading also suggests that the evolutionary dynamic of the case narrative was closely intertwined with that of two other fundamental epistemic genres, the recipe and the commentary. In her article, Pomata examines in particular the association between case and commentary.
(see Pomata “Abstract” Literature and Medicine 32.1 (2014))

Telling Cases: Writing against Genre in Literature and Medicine
Nicolas Pethes
“Building on Gianna Pomata’s concept of “epistemic genre,” the article argues that case histories are a specific textform suited for medical as well as literary communication. But as an inherently cross-disciplinary mode of presenting individual biographies, case histories also work against the idea of “genre” as generalizing typologies both in medicine and aesthetics. Focusing on German literature between 1750 and 1850, the article highlights four aspects of medical case histories that account for the success of this “writing against genre” in literature: discovering reality, avoiding the general, narrating pathology, and calculating normality. As the concluding example of Adalbert Stifter’s novella My Great-Grandfather’s Notebook demonstrates, literary case histories thus challenge established views regarding the relationship between case narratives and the semantics of individuality by incorporating the serial structure of clinical practice.” (Pethes “Abstract” Literature and Medicine 32.1 (2014))

K. P. Moritz’s Case Poetics: Aesthetic Autonomy Reconsidered
Monika Class
To historians of medicine, Karl Philipp Moritz is known as the founding editor of the Magazine for Empirical Psychology (1783-93), arguably one the oldest psychiatric journals in Europe. In literary theory, Moritz counts as one of the inaugurators of aesthetic autonomy. Combining the analysis of both fields, this article uncovers that Moritz’s epistemic interest in observation, his reservations towards rationality, and his concern for the particular as opposed to the universal helped to shape his concept of “uselessness” in On the Creative Imitation of Beauty. From this double perspective, we see Moritz’s emerging understanding of case narrative as an end in itself, independent from plans for a future science of empirical psychology. Moritz’s passionate and compassionate approach to observership helps to revise Foucault’s “medical gaze.” This essay proposes that Moritz was a Wordsworthian figure in medical history injecting psychiatric writing with the experience of ordinary life expressed in the simple language of non-experts. (see Class “Abstract” Literature and Medicine 32.1 (2014))

Urban Observation and Sentimental Storytelling in James Parkinson’s Essay on the Shaking Palsy (1817)
Brian Hurwitz
“James Parkinson’s Essay on the Shaking Palsy (1817) has long been considered the foundational text of the disease which now bears the author’s name. This paper shows how the Essay radically re-formulated a diverse array of human dysmobilities as a “species” of disease. Parkinson incorporated medical observation with a clear focus on patient experience and subjectivity in a deeply affecting narrative, fusing clinical and urban case-descriptions within the genre of a sentimental natural history. His detailed, diagnostic portrayal of the malady recast earlier descriptions of trembling, posture and gait disorder within a new narrative order, simultaneously recruiting reader involvement to the plight of sufferers. Hardly any clinical examination as we know it today undergirds what remains an exemplary account of disciplined medical witness. The Essay demonstrates the potential of case construction and powerful, sympathetic case writing to transform clinical understanding of a complex medical condition of long duration.” (Hurwitz “Abstract” Literature and Medicine 32.1 (2014))

‘Let Me Die in Your House’: Cardiac Distress and Sympathy in Nineteenth-Century British Medicine
Meegan Kennedy
“This essay examines the prevalence of a romantic discourse (e.g., associated with the genre of romance) in nineteenth-century British treatises on diseases of the heart. The nineteenth century brought remarkable changes to cardiac medicine, from the stethoscope to the sphygmograph, rendering medical practice increasingly clinical. However, case histories of cardiac disorders from this period maintain a surprising frequency of three affective elements: sensationalism (exaggerated, dramatic, and shocking events and language), sentimentalism (pathos and melancholy), and imagined experience, where the narrator projects himself imaginatively into the lived experience of his subject. British cardiac texts during these professionalizing decades repeatedly use the ambiguous term “distress” to describe the symptoms of heart disorders but also the observer’s subjective response to the patient’s evident suffering. These “distressing” texts demonstrate how nineteenth-century British physicians narrativized their sympathy during a period we usually associate with the distancing of the patient-physician relationship.” (Kennedy “Abstract” Literature and Medicine 32.1 (2014))