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.

Methodology in Philosophical Bioethics: a special issue of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

The issue of the second quarter of 2011 of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics presents an original focus on methodological issues in philosophical bioethics. Guest editor is John Coggon, Research Fellow at the Institute for Science, Ethics, and Innovation, School of Law at the University of Manchester, and -at the time of writing- a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, working in issues relating to public health law and ethics.
In his editorial, Coggon writes that, as bioethics is a “field of disparate disciplines”, it is not always clear what role the philosopher plays in the wider scheme”. As a consequence, there can be difficulty in finding sound resolution between the competing perspectives, with the result of an “apparent deadlock, with theorists seemingly able only to talk across each other”. Therefore the need of a special issue devoted to analyzing the different available methodologies in philosophical bioethics. Different authors take different -sometimes even very different!- stances on this point, as it becomes evident from the contribution of the special issue. Many of the articles take as a starting point of their analysis the book “Rationality and the genetic challenge: making people better?” by Matti Häyry (Cambridge University Press 2010), also at the Institute for Science, Ethics, and Innovation in Manchester.
Among the contributors, Søren Holm, (Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy, School of Law, University of Manchester) argues that bioethics is, as is moral philosophy in general, a field spanning a range of different philosophical approaches, normative standpoints, methods and styles of analysis, metaphysics, and ontologies. Holm also argues that the categorization of individual philosophers or specific arguments into a relatively small number of categories (something very common nowadays in bioethics, of which the book by Häyry is an example) can be an useful tool to introduce some kind of “order” in an otherwise “messy” (my qualification) field.
The book by Häyry does so by identifying three ways to deal with what he considers the challenges of “genethics”, namely pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) , the possibility to design children, savior siblings, reproductive cloning, human embryonic stem cell (hES) research, gene therapies, and considerable life extension techniques, which he refers to heuristically as neo-consequentialism, neo-virtue ethics, and neo-deontology. Putting aside the question of whether such labeling is correct (the contributions to the issue by John Coggon and by John Harris tackle this issue), Häyry’s main claim is that it is not possible to conclude with philosophical tools which of three frameworks is the most appropriate for assessing the ethical justifiability of a new biotechnological practice. According to Häyry, philosophical tools fail in doing so, as the three frameworks defined as above differ in the fundamental values and principles they employ. So Häyry seems to say that what is left for the philosopher in bioethics is to assess the internal coherence of each position, but then to step back and assume what he calls a non-confrontational “polite bystander view” which recognizes the existence of many divergent rationalities, all of which are simultaneously valid on the premise of internal coherence.
In my own contribution to the special issue (“Genetic Enhancement in Sports: The Role of Reason and Private Rationalities in the Public Arena“, coauthored with Paolo Maugeri of the European School of Molecular Medicine), we tested the approach outlined by Häyry by applying it to an eighth genetic challenge, namely, a variation of the genetic enhancement challenge discussed by Häyry as it applies to sports: gene doping. Should genetic enhancement in sports should be conceived as an eighth wonder or an eighth cardinal sin? And how useful is Häyry’s nonconfrontational approach for dealing with this kind of issues?
In our paper we argued that the genetic challenges described by Häyry’ are “public questions requiring public answers” and in this regard Häyry’s nonconfrontational approach is neither exhaustive nor satisfactory. To prove our point we chose to nail it down to the very timely eight “genetic challenge” of gene doping in professional track & field, which will be a very practical issue to deal with at the upcoming London 2012 Olympics games. Using the case of genetic enhancement in sports as our case study, we tested Häyry’s claim about the polite bystander view of the philosopher in the bioethical arena and argued that, on the contrary, philosophers are not, and definitely should not, remain out of assessing the rationality of the available alternative approaches. Quite on the contrary, philosophers should undertake the necessary confrontation required when a moral position underpins a practical decision, as the decisions concerning the permissibility of genetic enhancement in professional sports, or the permissibility of other biotechnological interventions, are. Even if moral disagreement will persist, this is not a good reason for philosophers to watch and stand by. Rather, it is a good reason for philosophers to enter into the arena of political philosophy and to come up with tools of deliberative democracy to deal with the moral disagreement. But we will leave this realm for the next post.