The February edition of The Biochemist (magazine of the Biochemical Society) included another very positive review of our book Where Science and Ethics Meet: Dilemmas at the frontiers of medicine and biology. The review notes that “Willmott and Macip fulfil their promise of providing epistemologically balanced tools to the reader” and concludes that the book “certainly represents a valuable tool for teaching ethics at the undergraduate level and for engaging a wider audience in the challenges arising from scientific and biotechnical developments” which is gratifying since this was exactly our ambition in writing the book.
TV viewers in the UK will likely have noted that the Public Health England “Act F.A.S.T.” adverts promoting stroke awareness are back on our screens. The campaign has run periodically since 2009* and emphasises the importance of knowing the signs that someone is having a stroke – Face (has their face fallen on one side?), Arms (can they raise both arms and keep them there?), Speech (is their speech slurred?), Time to call 999.
The campaign has evolved over the years. For example, a broader ethnic range of characters experiencing stroke was introduced in 2014.
This year there has been a highly significant additional change. Did you spot it? The final tag line for the advert has been altered from “The faster you act, the more of the person you save” to “The faster you act, the better their chances“.
The change is subtle, but hugely important. The previous version reinforces a perception that someone who has suffered a stroke is somehow less human they were before. This is ableist and reflect a view of personhood that considers, albeit unintentionally, someone with a disability as less of a person than those who are able-bodied. I welcome this change and congratulate Public Health England for correcting this error.
*Official analysis of the impact of the Act F.A.S.T. campaign has been mixed. In 2012 the government reported an increase in stroke-related calls to the 999 emergency number, however a qualitative study published the following year was more sceptical (see Dombrowski et al (2013) BMC Public Health 13:915).
The February 2-8th 2017 Edition of Times Higher Education (number 2291) carried another enthusiastic review for Where Science and Ethics Meet.
The October 2016 edition of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics has a special focus on Clinical Neuroethics. It contains a review of my Neurolaw book Biological Determinism, Free Will and Moral Responsibility: Insights from genetics and neuroscience.
I’m thrilled that the review is hugely positive about the book. Quotable quotes include:
- “…a very accessible explanation of the need to reconsider notions of free will and moral responsibility in an age of scientific breakthroughs in genomics and brain science…”
- “…an insightful philosophical account of the apparent stand-off between free will and the evidence of determinism…”
- “…a remarkably lucid account of the relevance of science for the debate on free will and determinism…”
- “…an impressive prudential approach, balancing the reliability of scientific achievement with caution about its applicability to criminal courts…”
- “…an extraordinary resource for engaging moral responsibility in the age of genetics and neuroscience…”.
I’m excited to say that my book Biological Determinism, Free Will and Moral Responsibility: Insights from Genetics and Neuroscience is being published this week.
There are 5 chapters, in which I have attempted to pull together threads from moral philosophy, from law and from neuroscience to examine the growth of Neurolaw. Around the world, notably the USA and Italy, an increasing number of defendants are appealing to their genes or issues with the structure and function of their brain as mitigation for their crimes. To what extent should we allow this, now or in the future?
- Free will and determinism: an overview of some of the main schools of thought regarding the “free will problem” – Libertarianism, Compatibilism and Hard Determinism.
- Existing legislation on mental disorders and criminal cases: automatism, criminal liability, diminished responsibility, “disease of the mind”, insanity, mens rea and M’Naghten.
- Biological basis of behaviour: background on behavioural genetics and the use of various brain imaging techniques to investigate the extent to which our behaviour might be “hard wired”.
- Use of genetic and neuroscientific evidence in criminal cases: a brief history of neurolaw. Summarises many of the key cases in which scientific evidence has been proffered by in criminal cases as (partial) justification of the behaviour of the defendant.
- Are we ready for an expanded use of neuroscientific evidence in the courtroom?: In which I caution that the current use of genetic and brain physiology evidence is, at best, premature and uncertain.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics are currently running a series of “how to” teach bioethics articles on their Nuff’ said blog. I was asked to contribute a post on Use of multimedia in bioethics, which can be accessed via this link.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is an independent body that examines and reports on ethical issues in biology and medicine
Other posts in the series will include features on: the Role of bioethics in (school) science education; Use of debates; Teaching ethics with medical students; Use of theatre to stimulate awareness and discussion; and Use of case studies/scenarios.
The second phase of my November tour has taken me to Naples, for the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics 9th World Conference on Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law. I hope to find time to reflect more fully on the conference in the next few days.
In the meantime, I’ve provided a link to the slides from my presentation on the work we’ve been doing over the past six years, in which second year Medical Biochemists (and Medics) produce short videos about different aspects of biomedical ethics.