Kidney Markets, Criminal and State-Sanctioned

After seeing this New York Times’ piece last week, “Transplant Brokers in Israel Lure Desperate Kidney Patients to Costa Rica,” I was surprised to hear a transplant nephrologist on WNYC discussing the advantages of the the Iranian system, in which the sale of organs is legal and regulated–and which is the only country with no waiting list for kidneys. (I would not have been surprised if I had read the article more carefully and noticed the paragraph mentioning Iran and linking to this academic study.) Googling around also turned up this piece by two economists arguing on utilitarian grounds that the Iranian model should be adopted universally.

I have some concerns about this from a social justice perspective–most obviously, that it is the poorest among us who have the greatest incentive to sell their organs, and that these procedures are not without risk–but I find these reservations largely outweighed by the greater and more equitable availability of organs to those who need them,  better compensation offered to those providing the organs, stronger medical oversight, and elimination of the various harms and dangers accompanying black market transactions. What do readers think?

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Black women’s bodies matter

Check out SUNY Professor Janell Hobson’s excellent piece on female pop star videos in the context of Ferguson. What are your thoughts?

Image from Dr. Janell Hobson's "Bodies on the Line: The Streets vs. Pop Culture," Ms. Magazine Blog, Aug. 20, 2014

Image from Dr. Janell Hobson’s “Bodies on the Line: The Streets vs. Pop Culture,” Ms. Magazine Blog, Aug. 20, 2014

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Posted in Popular Culture & Media | Tagged | Leave a comment

“Why Are So Many Women Dying from Ebola?

Studies show that infectious disease often affects one gender more than another — but that knowledge isn’t being put into practice….

On Aug. 14, the Washington Post reported that across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone collectively, women have comprised 55 to 60 percent of the dead. In Liberia, the government has reported that 75 percent of victims are women. “I felt very sad when I read that thing from the Washington Post,” Anker says. “I’m so sorry to be right.”

The willful failure to take sex/gender into account is reminiscent of the failure to notice that most victims of gun massacres are women. Find the article at Foreign Policy.

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Posted in International Aid & Development | 1 Comment

“Ebola And The Gap Between The Haves And Have-Nots In Global Health”

From philosopher Catherine Womack:

In health care, we’re always looking for a magic pill or new technology to save us. But in this case, the focus on experimental drugs — who gets them, how much there is of them, when will there be more — is a distraction from what the Ebola-stricken countries really need. And what is that? They need low-tech but highly effective materials like gloves, gowns, masks, mattresses, sheets, chlorine bleach, buckets and, alas, body bags for safe burial of the dead. These materials, used in concert with well-established public health protocols can be put to work to care for patients with Ebola, reduce the spread of the disease, and protect health workers, families and their communities.

Find the whole article at Cognoscenti.

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“What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism”

Michelle Goldberg’s recent article for The New Yorker, “What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism,” is an account of the fight between certain radical feminists and transgender women over whether or not transgender women should be included in women-only spaces.  Goldberg’s tone is very fair and even-handed, but those familiar with the debate will detect a definite bias in favor of the radical feminist position. Readers interested in getting a fuller picture of the debate should also read the open letter to The New Yorker penned by transgender activist Julia Serano, which provides some necessary context for understanding Goldberg’s article.

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Posted in LGBT & Intersex issues | 1 Comment

Ebola, and the ethics of research in pandemics and other disasters

The current outbreak of Ebola in west Africa has prompted a fair amount of debate around the ethics of epidemic control, containment, and intervention. Some of this discussion looks at what kind of intervention (use of experimental treatment? compassionate use? randomised clinical trial?) is ethically appropriate in the context of such an outbreak. Here’s a link to a blog posting that considers what the writer describes as the “fetishisation” of science and data gathering in situations of crisis.

What do people think?

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Posted in Access to Medical Care, International Aid & Development, Research | 7 Comments

“When Patients Read What Their Doctors Write”

80 percent of patients who saw their records reported better understanding of their medical condition and said they were in better control of their health. Two-thirds reported that they were better at sticking with their prescriptions. Ninety-nine percent of the patients wanted OpenNotes to continue, and no doctor withdrew from the pilot….. When patients see their records, there’s more trust and more accuracy.

Find the story at NPR.

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“Society: Don’t blame the mothers”

A new piece in Nature raises important points for scientists working in fetal epigenetics to consider when writing up and communicating their work. The authors urge consideration of how the results will be used to target the behavior of pregnant women.

Image Credit: Nature magazine. This image shows the silhouette of a pregnant woman, her face looking at the ground as if in shame while two bright red hands with fingers pointing at her accusingly come into the image from both sides.

Image Credit: Nature magazine. This image shows the silhouette of a pregnant woman, her face looking at the ground as if in shame while bright red hands with fingers pointing at her accusingly come into the image from all sides.


Given the plethora of laws which do so, it is critical that scientists generating research in this area take care to follow these authors’ recommendations to, among other things, emphasize complex causation, social factors such as race and class and gender which can increase likelihood of certain epigenetic effects, and generally not contribute to blaming individual mothers for their children’s epigenetic health factors.

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Have Sex Offender Laws Gone Too Far?

A thought-provoking piece at

The logic behind the past push for registries rested on what seem like common sense assumptions. Among the most prominent were, first, sex offenders were believed to be at a high risk for reoffending—once a sex offender, always a sex offender. Second, it was thought that sex offenses against children were commonly committed by strangers. Taken together, the point was that if the police had a list, and the public could access it, children would be safer.

The problem, however, is that a mass of empirical research conducted since the passage of Jacob’s Law has cast increasing doubt on all of those premises.

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Posted in State Legislation, Vulnerability | 1 Comment

“France Just Passed A Sweeping Gender Equality Law To Make It Easier To Get An Abortion”

A little bit of good news on the world stage:

The new abortion policy, which was proposed by the minister for women’s rights and has been debated among lawmakers since the beginning of this year, is just one of the measures in a broad package of legislation intended to strengthen gender equity in the country. The law also includes provisions to provide support for domestic abuse victims, improve women’s wages, encourage paternal leave and a more equal division of childcare, increase female representation in politics, and limit stereotypical images of women in the media. It represents the most comprehensive women’s rights legislation in the history of France….

That proactive approach to women’s equality sharply diverges from the policies in much of the rest of the world, including the United States. The U.S. does not currently guarantee paid family leave, and the gender wage gap in this country is actually widening. In one of France’s neighboring European countries, Spain, lawmakers are currently attempting to roll back abortion rights altogether and criminalize the procedure almost entirely.

Find more at ThinkProgress.

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Posted in Abortion, Access to Medical Care, Pregnancy | Leave a comment

Remembering the Great War

In Britain over the last weeks and months we’ve been inundated with a succession of memorial events about the First World War, or Great War, or War to End All Wars (which patently failed to achieve that aim, at least). In many ways this has been very appropriate. Until recently, thinking about WWI tended to be overshadowed by memorialisation of, and academic work on, WWII: more immediate, more accessible to recent memory, and a conflict in which the moral lines — at least to contemporary eyes — seem a good deal clearer. Having attention turned to the moral (and physical) quagmire of WWI seems right, and if any occasion for doing so is right, it’s surely the centenary of the outbreak.

Moreover, I’ve appreciated the stalwart efforts of institutions like the BBC, not known for their radical credentials, to include the alternative perspectives on the conflict. There have been programmes on women in the war, on the (non-white) colonial citizens who fought and died for the motherland, and on the conscientious objectors to the fighting. On the long evening of 4 August, when the BBC walked us thorough the official commemoration of the outbreak of war, we did so in the company of Shirley Williams, daughter of Vera Brittain (the author of the scalding “Testament of Youth”), who had a few caustic things to say — live and unstoppable on air — about war, women, and memorialisation.

There is something I am finding disturbing, though, and its exact nature has surprised me. Virtually all of the commemoration events have been focused on the human impact, the subjective experiences of those who went through the fighting or their families who coped with the aftermath; and again I think it’s a good thing to ensure these stories don’t vanish from sight. What’s happening, though, is that these personal accounts are corralled within some very restrictive scripts. Men who marched away, particularly if young, were heroic and deluded and made the ultimate sacrifice. Bereaved families were devastated. Families struggled but stayed together. Their descendants, present at the commemorative events, are invariably proud.

It would be nice if those accounts could be leavened by the counterstories. Of the women who were liberated by the disappearance of the male breadwinner because they were able, at least for a while, to take up the men’s jobs and who, like my grandmother, never looked back. Of the women who, while not wishing their violent and abusive man dead, were nonetheless mighty relieved when he never made it back home. Or of the men, like my grandfather, who made it alive through the war largely because (as far as we can make out) they spent a significant amount of it in the brig.

This isn’t to say that only the worst of the stories should be told either. It’s just that it would be good (actually, more than that: it’s necessary) for anyone interested in the rights and wrongs of war and violence to deal with the full range of ambiguity and ambivalence, whether in history or in contemporary sites of conflict.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Australia queries ‘moral responsibility’ over abandoned Down’s baby”

A complication of transnational surrogacy: what happens when the contracting couple/parent(s) decide after birth that they do not want the child? In this case, one of two twins carried by a surrogate was born with Down syndrome. His “healthy” sister was taken by the contracting couple back to their home in Australia. He, and his medical care, and debt therefrom, were left with the Thai surrogate.

Another complication: the Down syndrome was diagnosed in utero. The agent for the couple urged the surrogate to abort. She refused.

More here.

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Posted in Abortion, Disability & Ableism, Pregnancy | 2 Comments