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.

London 2012: Nicholas Tan about the role and meaning of technology in professional cycling.

Nicholas Tan is a fourth year psychology student at the National University of Singapore. He recently completed the summer school in Medical Humanities offered by the Centre for the Humanities & Health, King’s College, London.

For the past one week, the London 2012 Olympic Games has been the hype of the world. From the opening ceremony to the games itself, the involvement of technology is well apparent. What we are witnessing is how technology has woven itself into the realm of sports – from the sporting equipments used by athletes, to fairplay technology which aids officials in making judgments. Technology then, defined as “human-made means to reach human interests and goals” (Loland, 2009), has become inextricable to sports as it helps athletes vie for sporting glory. However, what exactly are the roles of technology in sports and their meanings? Here I attempt to address these questions by looking into one Olympic sport, cycling.
First of all, technology plays a constitutive role in a sport like cycling. “Cycling sports arise with the technological development of the bike” (Loland, 2009). Given this premise, technology is a necessary condition for the sport.
Secondly, safety in cycling has improved greatly following technological advancement. As a high-speed racing sport, technology plays a crucial role in protecting the cyclist and prevents injuries. The helmet, for example, was made mandatory after a several tragedies that took place. Also, careful research and engineering work has led to the development of hydraulic hydraulic disc brake system that functions better than the traditional rim brake system in face of adverse weather and road conditions. Therefore, technology contributes to the survival of the cyclist, which is essentially the first step to reaching the ultimate goal in the sport.
Thirdly, technology enhances cycling performance. This is probably intuitive, considering how much race bikes and other cycling equipments have improved over the years thanks to complex innovation of engineering, and product and material design, and linking all these to its functionality. Indeed, studies have shown how world record times have decreased with aerodynamics improvements. For example, the development of the lighter and stiffer carbon fibre bikes in the 1980s led to the increase in average speed attained. This is a major milestone, as carbon fibre became the preferred material for bikes, and cyclists are racing faster than ever. Apart from bikes, helmets have been created to reduce aerodynamic resistance as well. However, I feel the real technological involvements in cycling, comes in the form of research work that gave rise to these creative innovations. The development of the wind tunnel testing was crucial in the study of aerodynamics. Thanks to it, many changes have been made to the sport, which makes it very different from what it was before. These changes are not haphazard, but are grounded in the most rigorous of scientific research. Some examples would be the aforementioned equipments, as well as the textile worn by cyclists and even the body position of the cyclists. Technology thus gave rise to the optimal cycling conditions in helping the cyclist reach their fastest possible speeds.
Having examined the roles of technology in cycling, and establishing the fact that it is inseparable from the sport, what then are the implications and the meanings of that? The beneficial roles of technology in cycling are not without its flipsides. The use of these expensive technologies in enhancing cycling performances means that teams with limited access to these technology will be unfairly penalized. To echo American cyclist Craig Lewis, “It (cycling) was first named the race of truth for a reason. Now it’s just a race between the biggest budgets” (Austen, 2009). Indeed, it is almost impossible to level the playing field now. It results in a vicious cycle whereby the affluent teams getting richer from competition prize money, and poorer teams always losing out and stagnating in their level of performance. It brings us to the question of whether winning teams win by their athletic abilities, or technical abilities.
Another implication would be the introduction of external parties into the sport, on top of cycling teams and an overseeing organization such as the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). Profit-driven bike manufacturers enter the arena, constantly developing high-tech equipments that challenge the boundaries accepted by UCI. The sudden, and often unaffordable rule changes made by UCI in response to new technological innovations may ultimately destabilize the sport (Editors, 2009).
As we can see, technology plays a beneficial role in cycling. It is necessary, and enhances safety and performance. However, more importantly and less apparently, it changes the nature of the sport, blurring the line between athletic and technical contribution to the success in the sport. I feel that in the pursuit of success, cyclists have to constantly aim to keep the sport in its purest form, utilizing technology but prevent it from tainting the spirit of the sport.
It will continue to be a struggle to strike a balance.

Further readings

Austen, I. (2009). Equipment Crackdown Brings More Turmoil to
Cycling’s Time Trails. Retrieved 2012 йил 14-July from The New York Times:
Editors, T. (2009, May 8). Is it the Athlete or the Equipment? Retrieved July 14,
2012, from The New York Times – The Opinion Pages:
Haake, S. (2009). The impact of technology on sporting performance in Olympic
sports. Journal of Sports Sciences , 1421-1431.
Loland, S. (2009). The Ethics of Performance-Enhancing Technology in Sport.
Journal of the Philosophy of Sport , 36, 152-161.