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02/27/2012 - 2:51pm
Dr. J. chats with David Koepsell about his book Innovation and Nanotechnology: Converging Technologies and the End of Intellectual Property. Koepsell is an author, philosopher, attorney, and educator who teaches at the Delft University of Technology. He is also author Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes.
02/27/2012 - 12:39pm

My week with Marilyn (Michelle Williams) is based on two books by Colin Clark. It is adapted for the screen by writer Adrian Hodges and director Simon Curtis. The film shows Marilyn as frail and dependent.   It is under these circumstances that she spent time with Colin Clark (a young gofer for Sir Lawrence Olivier during the period when movie The Prince and the Showgirl was being made. Smart people do not tolerate injustice well, when trapped they will chew off their paw to get out of a trap.  History is replete with examples, among them Marilyn Monroe. Until fame changes, its price won't. Fame is unsustainable because, in the language of Bioethics, the people who make fame use people as a commodity.  This commodity model is a slave model. When one slave dies the fame industry buys another. Norma Jean Baker was 36 years old when she died.  Any college student with interest in child and family psychology could understand how Norma Jean Baker came to be found dead in August 1962 from probable suicide.  She was set up for the fall through rejections and abuses during her early years, followed by rejections and abuses during her years of fame.  The Norma Jean Baker well depicted in the My Week With Marilyn was frail, vulnerable and misunderstood by all but a "lackey."  There is also an homage to Marilyn Monroe in The Help (Taylor, 2011). In this film it was also "the help"   that understood and protected her.  In both films she was married to a man she loved, but feared would not love her if he knew her truths. In both films she was pregnant but unable to be a viable mother. In both films she turned to working class people for support; her acting coach, production assistant, body guard, maid.  The outcome in The Help homage to Marilyn Monroe would have been so much more a better fate than the one actual befalling the real woman. Accuracy in historical biographies often takes a backseat to narrative, but these threads of Marilyn's reality stream through all her biographical leads. Marilyn Monroe, though often reflected as dependent and frail, lived a dichotomous life. She supported and identified with working class and poor people. She was allied to significant forces in the left political and art movement; Arthur Miller, the Actors Studio as cases in point.  She openly supported   banning nuclear bombs, racial equality, human and civil rights. Her personal sexuality was in the feminist vein.  Further, she abhorred the HUAAC, just as openly as she embraced her causes. As a star, her job was to be a sexual commodity, yet as factory worker her photos are thought to have been a part Rosie the Riveters' evolution.  In her personal life, her fertility was at odds with her sexuality and her love relationships tenuous.  This woman's life was a perpetual double bind of competing interest. Bioethical Conflict is considered irresolvable. If resolvable, it likely was not a real conflict.  Norma Jean Baker was caught in a real ethical conflict. Like many famous people, she died without resolution: Wealth and Fame, allowed her to do good. Fleeing Wealth and Fame would doom her to the poverty of self and finances from which she came.  My Week With Marilyn  is a road map to and for the fallen star. My Week With Marilyn. (35 mm) directed by Simon Curtis. USA. The Weinstein Company. 2011. (101 min)

02/27/2012 - 8:54am

A recent editorial in The Lancet  issued a dire warning to the international medical community: medicine is a weapon of war in Syria. It is just the latest in a series of reports from across the Middle East on how medical care and medical professionals and facilities are being used to inflict politically-motivated violence.

The editorial references a recent Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) report, which provides 15 testimonials, five from doctors and ten from patients inside Syria.  The testimonies offer a complicated picture of how health facilities are being used as battlegrounds. National security forces are a constant presence at medical facilities to track, detain, and further injure or execute opponents. Medical personnel are being targeted, arrested, and tortured for caring for the wounded. And some health professionals who support President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are reportedly further injuring wounded protesters and rebels who seek care.  

MSF states that its staff collected the testimonials from Jan. 30 to Feb. 6, 2012.  “MSF is not authorized to operate inside Syria at present and thus is unable to fully verify the information collected here,” the report said. “However, given the recurring nature, the consistency, and the severity of the acts described in the testimonies, MSF has decided to make them public.” The MSF dossier echoes Amnesty International report on Syria from late last year.

The new MSF testimonies include one from a 29 year-old man with gunshot wounds, who described how he received care in a makeshift hospital in a house. “[Y]ou cannot go to a hospital,” he said, “because if you do, they either amputate the limb that you are suffering from or they take you to prison.” A 23 year-old man testified that he sought care for a gunshot wound at a hospital in the capitol and had his hand amputated unnecessarily.

One doctor’s testimony captures the danger for wounded rebels in Assad-sympathizing public hospitals, but also the danger for health workers who care for wounded rebels or are perceived as sympathizing with the cause:

“To take these patients to the public hospitals is impossible, not just because there are doctors and nurses working for the regime in these hospitals, but due to the fact that in each hospital there is a police unit and they are on the door . . .

 A doctor now is considered more dangerous than those fighting with the [rebel group, Syrian] Free Army, and anyone caught with drugs in his possession, the charges against him are more grave than being accused with possession of weapons.

 The average person is normally taken for days or up to a week, but doctors are detained for months. The doctors are also targeted not just because they treat the injured but also because they are involved with the movement.”

Another doctor said:

“I'm a Syrian doctor. I was treating the wounded in Syria. At first, when the demonstrations started, we sent the injured to public hospitals. But then we were told that injured demonstrators were being tortured or left untreated. . . Doctors who treat the wounded are also being harassed by security forces. . . The risk of being arrested is big. But despite that risk, many doctors are putting their lives in danger in order to fulfill their medical oath.”

The Lancet editorial points to President Assad, who is “shockingly, a former doctor,” and “has shown total disregard for the health of Syrians and for the Geneva Conventions.” The editorial comes on the heels of a 137-12 vote on a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly to condemn the Assad regime’s violent crackdown, although the action is nonbinding with no power for enforcement. Preceding the resolution, Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, delivered a forceful speech to the United Nations General Assembly condemning violence in Syria, including attacks on medical facilities, medical professionals, and patients.

“Hospitals have been used as detention and torture facilities. Ambulances have come under fire, and many of the injured and sick have been turned away from public hospitals in several cities. Wounded detainees have been subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment in military hospitals. Evidence gathered indicates that doctors and medical workers have been pursued, arrested, and tortured by the security forces. Increasingly, most of the wounded avoid going to public hospitals for fear of being arrested or tortured.”

We cannot see Syria as an isolated case. Earlier this month, I wrote a post about MSF’s decision to stop treating patients at detention centers in Libya rather than abetting the continuing torture of these patients. The Lancet has also reported on military forces occupying public hospitals in Bahrain, and the detention and trials of Bahraini nurses and doctors. In Egypt, the violence against health facilities appears to be less systematic but media sources have reported attacks on field hospitals and threats against doctors.

It is debatable whether the exploitation of medicine, health facilities, and health professionals is a hallmark of the violence that started with the Arab Spring uprisings or more generally a hallmark today’s violent political struggles, in general. But either way, it is indefensible. The U.N.’s condemnation of this type of violence in Syria specifically is one step in the right direction, but it is high time the international medical community speaks out against the overt violations of medicine’s covenant with society, violations that are clearly a strategic weapon on the part of these political regimes.

Susanna Smith writes on global health, international development, and medical ethics. Follow her on Twitter @susannajsmith

02/27/2012 - 8:18am
What would it mean if like was extended to the point that death was avoidable?  How would this impact society?
02/27/2012 - 8:05am
Topics discussed in this week’s episode: Moral enhancement and cognitive enhancement (featuring insights from Peter Singer and Allen Buchanen), progressivism and the potential for transhumanism (featuring clips from James Hughes and Robert Sawyer), and an update on PETA’s case against SeaWorld.
02/27/2012 - 7:43am

To end the suffering caused by animal predators, should the “serial killers” be rendered extinct, or just “reprogrammed”?

1) Extinction...

02/27/2012 - 6:28am

PETA may have lost its case against Sea World, but it marks an important step forward in the struggle to recognize highly sapient animals as persons. This is not going to happen overnight, and it’s through cases like these that the idea of nonhuman persons will be normalized in society.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller recently dismissed the lawsuit that sought constitutional protection against alleged slavery of orcas. But PETA isn’t backing down yet....

02/26/2012 - 7:25pm

Rick Kasper, CEO of Joliet Area Community Hospice, has an alarming article in yesterday's Illinois Herald-News.  He writes that "the state is pondering what “optional services” to do away with in an effort to save Medicaid money. . . .  Hospice is one of the services considered 'optional' . . . ."

He also notes that hospices save money:...

02/26/2012 - 9:59am

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close helps to further clarify the Peace Genre Film. It shows that Peace Genre Films contain all the elements of tragedy, violence, self hate, and despair without surrendering to them. In 2010, I began this blog with the identification of the Peace Genre Film.   La Mission (Bratt, 2010) was the prototype. Among core components of this genre are corralling passionate spirit and channeling it toward Peace.  Peace Genre Films are not about one section of humanity but about all of humanity. Humanity is reflected by the cross racial, ethnic and cultural people in the film.

Mass deaths shake the collective consciousness to the core. How is it that the individual consciousness frequently does not measure the quake?  Peace in the world of bioethics is a universal “good,” and as such can only be held by the humanity as a whole -- not the individual. The arch rival of peace is Hate. Hate is manifest in war, terrorism and torture among other venues.   As a corollary, hate also is held by humanity as a whole. The magic of this film is the believable portrayal of Oskar  suspends disbelief, turning hate into peace; water into wine....

02/26/2012 - 7:41am
Meditation can increase the cortical thickness of the brain; this creates an ability to experience greater compassion