First edition of the ‘International Advanced Seminar in the Philosophy of Medicine’, Paris June 20-22

Registration is now open for the first meeting of the International Advanced Seminar in the Philosophy of Medicine (IASPM) on the website of the conference. The first meeting will be held at the Center Pantheon Sorbonne (12 place de la Sorbonne 75 005 Paris – room 1) from June 20 to June 22, 2013, in Paris.

IASPM aims to offer a biennial international three-day event for PhD students and early-career researchers in philosophy of medicine to meet, exchange ideas, acquire a general background in the discipline and present their work. The main theme of this first edition is “Unity and autonomy in the philosophy of medical science”. The list of speakers for this edition is the following:

Institut d’Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques (France) :

Maël Lemoine
Marie Darrason
Gladys Kostyrka
Hélène Richard

Institute for the History, Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine, Johannes-Gutenberg University, Mainz (Germany):

Norbert Paul
Lara Keuck
Yazan Abu Ghazal

Department of Health Sciences, European School of Molecular Medicine (Italy):

Giovanni Boniolo
Pierre-Luc Germain
Marco Annoni

Center for the Humanities and Health, King’s College of London (United Kingdom)

Derek Bolton
Norman Poole
Silvia Camporesi

Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh (United States):

Peter Machamer
Kathryn Tabb
Lauren Ross

Speakers selected through the call for contributions:

Nicholas Binney (University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom)
Jennifer Bulcock (Rice University, Houston, United States of America)
Chris J. Blunt (London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom)
Armand Dirand (University of Besançon, Besançon, France)
Lydia Du Bois (University of Wisconsin, Madison, United States of America)
Barthelemy Durrive (ENS Lyon/Université Lyon 1, Lyon, France)
Hajimé Fujimori (IHPST, Paris, France)
Jonathan Fuller (University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
Ashley Kennedy (University of South Carolina, Columbia, United States of America)
Johnatan Scholl (KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)
Stéphanie Van Droogenbroeck (Free University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium)

You can preview the program of the conference here.

The conference will be closed by three thematic workshops on the following topics:

– “Health and disease concepts: is there still any relevance of their philosophical analysis?” organized by Elodie Giroux (Université Lyon 3) and Marion Le Bidan;

– “Knowledge and practice in medicine” organized by Alain Leplège (Université Paris 7) and Hidetaka Yakura (Université Paris 7);

– “Plurality of explanatory schemes in medicine” organized by Michel Morange (Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris) and Smaïl Bouaziz (IHPST)

Click here to register. There are no registration fees for the conference, but places are limited, so hurry up!

New critique of Olympic ‘sex-testing’ policy for female athletes with hyper-androgenism on American Journal of Bioethics.

The Olympics Games in London are just around the corner, now less than one month away. At the 2012 Games, more than a decade after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) abandoned routine sex testing for female athletes, a ‘sex-testing’ policy will once again be in place. The change came in response to the case of Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose sex was first challenged by her competitors at the Berlin World Athletic Championship in 2009.

I have been interested in Caster Semenya’s case since then, when the at that time 18-yo South-African athlete became the center of a harsh contestation, and was subsequently banned by IAAF from competition for 11-months while investigations on her sex were being conducted. At that time I co-authored a brief report for the Journal of Medical Ethics with Paolo Maugeri from the University of Milan, where we argued that the answer to the question on the eligibility of Caster to compete should not be expected to lie in the result of sex-testing (at that time the tests were still underway), as such a decision is not to be informed only by science, but also by ethical and philosophical considerations on the meaning of athletic excellence, and of fairness in competition.

In a new paper just published on the American Journal of Bioethics, and co-authored with Katrina Karkazis from the Stanford Center of Biomedical Ethics et al, we tackle a broader question: i.e. we aim not only at systematically criticising the new policies released by IAAF on May 2011 on the eligibility of female athletes to compete in the female category, but we also point out the broader social implications of the concern about “overly masculine” women competing in sports. Also, these policies prompt us to reflect, by completely neglecting it, the questions of: Under what circumstances, if any at all, is it ethical to require individuals to undergo medical interventions in order to compete? What unintended consequences might these policies have for female athletes (for example, by reinforcing pressures to adhere to feminine standards of beauty)?

Ultimately, the debate started from Caster’s case demands us to reflect on the meaning and aims of sports, in other words, its ‘ethos’. Caster has qualified for the Olympics and focuses on gold after finishing second last year at World Track Championships in Daegu, South Korea. We will surely hear more about this debate at the London Olympics, and this paper could potentially be very helpful in straightening out the existing flaws in the scientific and philosophical assumptions underlying the new policies, together with the disputable way in which the policy itself were drafted, as we describe in the paper. In the end we hope this paper will nudge a revision of the IAAF policies.

The full AJOB paper is currently available without charge here.

A ‘contextualized’ reply to Wendler’s new justification for pediatric research devoid of therapeutic benefits.

David Wendler, head of the Unit on Vulnerable Populations in the Department of Bioethics at the NIH Clinical Center, just published a target article on AJOB where he presents new arguments for pediatric clinical research that offers no therapeutic benefits to the participating children. Some of these arguments were also presented in a more extended form in his 2010 book published by Oxford University Press and titled ‘The Ethics of Pediatric Research’. Wendler argues that research on children devoid on therapeutic benefits can be justified—provided that the risks for the participants are low—on the basis of two considerations: (i) Participating in clinical research is contributing to a valuable project and (ii) contributing to a valuable project is in any child’s broadly conceived interests.
In an open peer commentary published on the same January 2012 issue of AJOB, Mameli and I argue that Wendler’s argument is unsatisfactory in that it fails to consider the context of clinical research. By ‘context’ we refer the conditions in which participants find themselves and, more specifically, the kind of access to health care that they have. As a case study and an application of our arguments, we chose to analyse the recent COMPAS-Synflorix trial which represents an instance of a trial in which subjects were participating in research in exchange for access to health care resources that would otherwise not be available to them. We argue that under such a unique ‘context’ the fact that participants “contribute to a valuable project” -as put by Wendler – by participating in clinical research cannot by itself provide a sufficient justification for the ethical permissibility of the trial, notwithstanding the low risks involved in participation.
To note that the COMPAS-Synflorix trial represents also an instance of so-called off-shoring of clinical research to low- and middle-income countries that has been steadily increasing in the last couple of decades. More details on the COMPAS-Synflorix study can be found on this older post on this same blog. In addition, more open peer commentaries in reply to Wendler’s arguments can be found here.