February 10, 2010

What makes somebody an expert "bioethicist" — other than a "willingness to issue life-and-death pronouncements involving other people"?

Who are these people?

50 comments:

The Drill SGT said...

The best line:

bioethics today is a field with widely divergent understandings of itself

rhhardin said...

Corporations willing to pay to avoid lawsuits creates the market for ethics experts, mostly giving seminars.

Always raise your hand and ask them if it's ever okay to lie.

There's no point passing up an opportunity for an authoritative answer.

chuckR said...

In Peter Singer, you have a person who has a different understanding of the term 'animal husbandry' than most folks do.

Oligonicella said...

Hell, I'm a bioethicist. I have a degree in biology and I have a set of ethics. Hence. The difference is I don't charge for my opinion (for that is all it is) and I don't attempt to get legislation enforcing it on others. That last part seems to be most rampant in academia.

wv: spigness - the trait of thinking your ethics are the 'right' ethics.

DADvocate said...

Looks like people running the death panels are getting pissed if someone bypasses them.

ricpic said...

Those who can become doctors, those who can't substitute "deep thought" for can do and become bioethicists.

Based on the one bioethicist I know for whom the most important thing in the world was that the world have the same high opinion of her that she had, so she became a bioethicist where she could pontificate her life away on "important" questions. She was married to a doctor by the way, who didn't have to prove anything.

Peter V. Bella said...

The me first attitude?

Hey, when it comes to MY life, after me everyone else comes first. Why would any normal person wait years for a transplant, when one is readily available? Why would any so called ethicist object? Why would anyone even postulate such tripe?

Self survival and self preservation are man's first and highest priority. If some donor comes forward and there is a match, who cares about some eight year waiting list? Why should any one care?

Those three letters tell it all-ist. They imply ideology over common sense.

I wonder how ethical those ethicists would be if they were on the receiving end. WOuld they just wait in line with a death sentence or would they jump at the opportunity if a donor came out of the blue or the internet?

How ethical is it when certain people- celebrities, wealthy people, politicians- are allowed to jump the lists? Are their lives more valuable?

Like Seinfeld, bioethics is a little field about nothing.

SteveR said...

Stay away from me.

Chris said...

Reminds me of what Michael Keaton's character in Beetlejuice referred to himself as: a "bio-exorcist".

wv: corba - what the bio(ethi|exor)cist feeds apostates to

Paddy O. said...

As a degreed ethicethicist, I would like to pronounce some moral qualms about bioethicists assumption of the quandaries others must face. By accepting the deflected blame, such figures become, in essence, the clinicized scapegoats of our society, bureaucratic sin-eaters, assuming guilt so society can function in a supposedly orderly fashion.

sydney said...

Kind of like that ethicist who writes the New York Times column.

Joan said...

The author of this piece, Sally Satel, received a donor kidney from Virginia Postrel, well before Postrel's breast cancer diagnosis. Both Postrel and Satel have been voices of sanity in trying to create a more reasonable market (for lack of a better term) for kidney donations.

I agree with Satel's position anyway, but I wonder how/if readers' reaction to this piece would change, knowing that Satel herself was saved by the kind of kidney donation that most bioethicists condemn.

Greg Hlatky said...

A bioethicist is a person who comes up with a high-minded reason for killing you.

Oligonicella said...

sydney -

"He received a fifth Emmy as a result of a clerical error, and he kept it."

Says it all.

JAL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

Did you read later in the article, about how bioethicists thought that genetic testing of women, to determine if they carried the gene that causes breast cancer, should not be done because they didn't think they could handle it?

I agree with the article's point early on, that simply matching donors with organ recipients helps those on the organ waiting list, because it shortens the line. Maybe someone on the list waiting for an organ doesn't get that organ? If you're on the waiting list, then you're essentially waiting for someone to die, correct? And they have to hope the organ is a tissue match, correct?

How is this any different from someone giving blood to a family member who needs a transfusion? Shouldn't your blood be given to someone else who needs it, maybe someone in more dire need?

How does someone who is pro-choice (My body, my life, I get to decide what is done with it) square the circle that they can't decide who gets their kidney?

john said...

I'm going to be a geoethicist. Rocks have feelings too*.



*P.E.T.R.

MadisonMan said...

The difference is I don't charge for my opinion

Phew. (Putting away my checkbook)

A bioethicist tells people to shut up and die, essentially. What is ethical about that?

JAL said...

“more centrally and deeply involved with [global] suffering and issues of social justice.”

So I got stuck there.

Not much time anyway and I skipped through the rest.

As for the above -- what ever happened to "think globally act locally"?

Like -- Worldwide work to end kidney disease, make transplants accessible, and locally donate a kidney if you feel led, to a perfect stranger.

And I am not sure it is true that "conservative" bioethicists do not "study the history of in vitro fertilization, paid egg donation, and surrogate motherhood to learn about cultural resistance and adaptation to such practices."

I attended a "conservative" bioethics conference once upon a time. It really surprises me that this allegation is made, based on the information I was exposed to there.

It seems "Oy!"that should be a more common response before making a move in many things. (Think "health care destruction" aka "reform.")

And as far as risk taking in the history of "morally repugnant practices" ever heard of Cotton Mather? Beyond his notorious connection with the Salem Witch trials?

He looked at the small pox epidemic in Boston, said "Oy!" and then tried to figure out what he might do.

Just a mini history lesson for today.

And I admire immensely, those who chose to donate their kidneys to dying people.

wv bolox
for people who are afraid of tox

Paddy O. said...

"in the end, far fewer of the innoculated died."

Though, it didn't work out too well for Jonathan Edwards.

Dare I mention, in this setting, the scene in the John Adams miniseries that shows that early form of inoculation.

c3 said...

Corporations willing to pay to avoid lawsuits creates the market for ethics experts, mostly giving seminars.

Huh!?

As a doc my exposure to medical ethics came in Medical School classes, some discussions in residency and then interactions with various hospital ethics committees. I know of no corporations putting on seminars to avoid lawsuits.

The controversies always come out of two conceptual discussions:
-justice (as it pertains to medical ethics) For example, Is it "right" that someone gets healthcare and someone else doesn't?
-autonomy (i.e. an individual's right to refuse treatment.) This is particularly troublesome to some when expressed through a surrogate decision maker such as a husband or parent.

FYI, from wikipedia (and consistent with my education)
Values in medical ethics

Six of the values that commonly apply to medical ethics discussions are:

* Autonomy - the patient has the right to refuse or choose their treatment. (Voluntas aegroti suprema lex.)
* Beneficence - a practitioner should act in the best interest of the patient. (Salus aegroti suprema lex.)
* Non-maleficence - "first, do no harm" (primum non nocere).
* Justice - concerns the distribution of scarce health resources, and the decision of who gets what treatment (fairness and equality).
* Dignity - the patient (and the person treating the patient) have the right to dignity.
* Truthfulness and honesty - the concept of informed consent has increased in importance since the historical events of the Doctors' Trial of the Nuremberg trials and Tuskegee Syphilis Study.


wv: scully Yes, Mulder

traditionalguy said...

A Bioethicist is a mixture of a medical profession bureaucrat and a University Administered new profession that is the go to answer to the care level given the terminal patients. Their job is to make everyone happy with a bad result by listening to them and reasoning with them and the family about the short time left and the great pain and trouble the sick person is causing to the healthy people. They are the Profession that exists to legitimise the Death Panels as following the advice of an approved and higher educated/qualified person. In other words they are the High Priests of the approved killing of the old and sick for profit

c3 said...

And as f/u to my previous comment, I never found the ethics committee particularly helpful. They were not empowered to do anything other than review the ethical questions so that we (family and care providers) had a better understanding

knox said...

A bioethicist is a person who comes up with a high-minded reason for killing you.

LOL

... and not without making you listen to some tiresome gasbaggery first. Just to add insult to injury.

MadisonMan said...

A Bioethicist is a mixture of a medical profession bureaucrat and a University Administered

And this is what I think bothers me about the field -- where is the practical interaction with real life?

The priest at the church I go to has a degree in, I think, bioethics, or something related (as well as chemistry). Someone who is exposed regularly to the Spiritual side of Human Existence will have a much better feel for the true impact of Bioethics than anyone working at a University and going to a Professional Association Meeting.

I applaud the author for arguing that the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (oh brother) should not take Political stands. Scientists -- and I will grudgingly include ASBH members in that rank -- should provide facts and data. Even a Bioethicist does not have moral authority over the rest of the Country.

Peter V. Bella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kentuckyliz said...

I never renewed my membership in the American Counseling Association after they sneakily filed an amicus curiae brief with the SCOTUS in support of physician assisted suicide. The ACA did not ever discuss this with the membership or take a vote, hence, they no longer represent me.

To me, it seems like ACA saw this as a rich new avenue for generating business.

I know well the foolish and naive side of counseling, and can see how families could engage a counselor to help grandma decide to die...for any number of reasons, including greed.

Such a practice would violate our ethical code, because it would betray our duty to look after the most vulnerable person in that family system. They could even justify it using the ethical code, saying that the client was the rest of the family and not grandma.

Y'all need a state-specific Protective Medical Decisions Document & Health Care Power of Attorney, to ensure that someone you know, love, and trust makes decisions for you if you are unable, and make sure that person knows your thinking. My sister is my HCPOA. She knows that my major concern is dying in the kind of end stage cancer pain I saw my mother suffer. I told her to ensure I was getting adequate pain meds even if the unintended side effect was a lethal dosage. That is moral and ethical under the principle of double effect. She knows that I think it is wrong to withhold nutrition and hydration from non-terminal patients, but that it is okay if it would cause further suffering or complications. (We had to make the latter decision regarding my father.) She knows that I am unafraid of living with a disability, due to working with people with disabilities.

Those boilerplate living will forms at the hospital are wicked dangerous and could very well result in strangers making decisions for you, based on the bonehead bioethicists.

Contact the International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force in Ohio if you want a cheap, legal state specific form to protect you.

kentuckyliz said...

Peter Singer in his personal life does not live by the ideas he states. A philosophy professor friend of mine discusses this with her classes...and she explained it to me once, but I can't remember the details. Chemobrain.

MadisonMan said...

Y'all need a state-specific Protective Medical Decisions Document & Health Care Power of Attorney

Yes, Yes and Yes. My father in law had one and it made things so much easier to know what he wanted as his decline -- that included a decline in lucidity -- accelerated.

former law student said...

* Justice - concerns the distribution of scarce health resources, and the decision of who gets what treatment (fairness and equality).

The bioethicist's fatal mistake: Someone who, moved by a certain patient's plight, wants to give her a kidney, is not a scare health resource to be distributed. He is a free man; he has agency. Surely an ethicist should be able to recognize this.

Like the dude in the NYT magazine, ethicists should analyze a situation and give advice accordingly. People should be free to act on that advice, or not.

Andrew said...

I find it strange that a law professor would challenge anyone else's professional credentials. What do you need to be a law professor? From what I can see, you just need a JD from an accredited law school (the same degree every other lawyer practicing law has), and to have published some law review articles. There is no requirement for a PhD. No special certification. No need to have ever taught anything to anyone before.

sydney said...

Kentuckyliz,

Peter Singer in his personal life does not live by the ideas he states.

He believes it is acceptable to euthanize people who are not useful to society, but he supported his own mother's right to live with Alzheimer's. I would say he came face to face with the difference love makes, but he doesn't seem to have been able to expand that to those with whom he has no personal connection.

Peter V. Bella said...

Andrew said...
I find it strange that a law professor would challenge anyone else's professional credentials.

What are the criteria to be a bioethicist, other than a degree and an political ideology?

Smilin' Jack said...

Bioethecists are charlatans. Ethics is not a body of knowledge, like physics or law or history. Ethics is purely a matter of opinion--there are no facts to be an "expert" on. Ethical precepts such as "murder is wrong" are established by consensus of opinion, not by expert proclamation.

edutcher said...

Anybody else get the impression that these are people who get off on playing God?

The fact that this "profession" is dominated by the Left, to the exclusion of Conservatives and/or religion seems to indicate that they have created just another way to try to control people's lives.

traditionalguy said...

The Bio-Ethicists are useful as EXPERTS. The rest of the population is by definition not qualified to argue with them. That makes them the Ones With Whom One Cannot Disagree. They will smile and allow everyone to say what they think, and then everyone must obey the expert. It is like Obama acting bi-partisan. FYI these professional groups are up and running today creating a body of literature and holding seminars everywhere to announce their expert authority. They are a fait accomplis that willingly serves the political classes needs. One more reason to elect a certain Alaskan our next President. Her palm has "protect the weak" written on it.

Mary Martha said...

The one 'bioethicist' I have met would not describe himself that way.

He is a working physician at a Jesuit teaching hospital (I think he teaches at the medical school) and a Jesuit priest.

He would likely describe himself as a priest first and a doctor second. The term 'bioethicist' would be pretty low on the list after that.

It's interesting that the other comments here indicate that they think bioethicists are all leftists looking for 'high minded ways to justify killing you' (great turn of phrase).

My experience has been just the opposite. It has been with the Catholic bioethics center which is trying to find high minded ways to 'promote human dignity in health care'. I can understand if Catholic ethics aren't your thing... but there are some voices out there fighting for life in bioethics. They just don't get the media coverage of a Peter Singer.

wv: gushot - One letter away from death.

Joe said...

Bioethicist is one of those jobs people get when they can't do shit else.

Chip Ahoy said...

Article padded. Skimmed.
Don't need all those words to form opinion which is: bioethicist, piss off.

Greg Hlatky said...

I can understand if Catholic ethics aren't your thing... but there are some voices out there fighting for life in bioethics. They just don't get the media coverage of a Peter Singer.

Thanks Mary Martha for the useful correction that not all bioethicists are Peter Singers and Baroness Warnocks telling us we have a duty to snuff it before we cost the Almighty State too much money.

traditionalguy said...

Mary Martha and Joe... Today's Bio-ethicists are the best and the brightest full of empathy and having the proper mein in the face of death decisions. That is now done in a funded system based upon patient's choice. They urge a course of less pain and a peaceful end to the patient who retains his/her conscious ability to chose prior to their entering Living Will Territory. The next shoe to drop is the underfunded system where the choice is made for these patients. Why should Joe use up more costly resources than Bob??? We call that discouraging Heroic Interventions. Next it will be refusing Heroic Interventions. Being a Priest is a good on the job training for this new Profession. QUERY: Should John Murtha been having a surgery at all at age 77 ? Your answering that question will make you an ethicist.

Oligonicella said...

MadisonMan --

"Phew. (Putting away my checkbook)"

Tips are welcome, however.

Oligonicella said...

And that meant tips in the form of money, not suggestions.

wv: undiari - Live Journal, Face Book, etc.

Peter V. Bella said...

Well, we have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a bioethicist.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Too much agreement going on on this here thread.

Can someone call Jeremy?

c3 said...

tg;
Why should Joe use up more costly resources than Bob??? We call that discouraging Heroic Interventions. Next it will be refusing Heroic Interventions. Being a Priest is a good on the job training for this new Profession. QUERY: Should John Murtha been having a surgery at all at age 77 ? Your answering that question will make you an ethicist.

OK I'l step into it.

Presumably we all would have little problem if "Average Joe Citizen" is asked by another individual to pay for his expensive cosmetic surgery. And presumably we'd all feel comfortable with the tax-funded county hospital providing intensive care to the six year old hit by a car.

So somewhere between these two extremes (and the individual paying versus a whole bunch of individuals paying)is a dividing line. We'll need to find that line.

(And I would further presume that the distance between those two points would be shorter if resources became scarcer.)

wv: Baida: Saying farewell to your Irish father

traditionalguy said...

C3... You have won grand the prize. An all expense paid vacation to the National Health Care Hilton in sunny downtown Havanna. If they let you come back, then you can share the ethics you learned there of spending the lowest costs for the neediest since they are weakest and most worthless.

itzik basman said...

test

Kirk Parker said...

c3,

The way I read the reference to 'corporations' was that they were hiring outside 'experts' to put on seminars for their internal use, not that they were themselves getting into the 'bioethics seminar business'. FWIW.

Brian said...

Bioethicists like killing people. If you want proof, just look up the definition of "medical ethicist" on Urban Dictionary.