“Femicide and Impunity: A humanitarian crisis in Central America, and a growing problem worldwide”

This is a reposting of an article from La Via Campensina: International Peasant’s MovementPlease visit their website for more information.

El Salvador has had the highest rate of femicide in the world, with 2, 250 femicides between 2010 and 2013. Guatemala has the third and Honduras the seventh highest rate of femicides.   In Guatemala, only 2% of murdered women’s cases were investigated in 2013 and likewise in Honduras less than 2% were investigated.  For cases that somehow make it to court in Guatemala, 90% of defendants are not convicted. It is much the same in El Salvador.  In 2014 alone, between January and October, over 300  bodies of young women between the ages of 12 and 18 years old have been found in unmarked common  graves.

Femicide is the violent and deliberate murder of a woman, and is a crime, but many national governments do not specifically define such murders as a crime in their criminal codes.  Thus, femicide  is difficult to prosecute through the justice system of many states.  Stories of thousands of women and girls who have been murdered and then discarded like rubbish in alleyways, city streets and dumpsters continue to make headlines. The victims of femicide often show signs of torture, rape, or breast and genital mutilation and dismembered body parts.

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Posted in International Aid & Development, Legislation | Leave a comment

Medication and Aging

There have been recent reports on the over-medicalization of older individuals in nursing homes and assisted living residences. This problem is not a new one.

Just imagine: you are overworked and there is not enough staff to take care of everyone. There is a resident that wanders all over the place and you cannot keep an eye on him. Or, there is a woman that keeps repeating the same half sentence every 20 seconds of so. Visitors might find it amusing but hearing this in the course of several hours, every day, non-stop, is driving you crazy. Here is another scenario: you are somewhat trained in elder care but do not have the tools or the time to deal with a troublesome resident who may get violent. The man in room 24 keeps yelling and swearing; you need to calm him down because the family of another resident is complaining. They say they pay good money and they do not like to hear swearing. How do you stop Mister B from spitting on you or stealing his neighbor’s cookies? How do you control unwanted behavior? How do you cope?

Drugs that can control behavior such as antipsychotic medications seem like a good answer to all your problems. Although it is the ancillary care staff that deal with these front line issues, it is the physician who prescribes. But you might just be thankful that he or she does that so that you can go ahead with your job of cleaning messes and bringing food. You get the job done, and everyone seems more or less controlled at the end of your shift; your supervisor is pleased. More than likely there were many under you care so you did not have much time to ponder the mental state of your charges. You can go home and be happy that at least everyone who was under your care got washed and fed in a timely manner. Even if the pay is bad, you know that you can keep your job at least for the immediate future.

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Posted in Aging, Mental Health, Vulnerability | 1 Comment

“Encyclopedia Frown: Wikipedia is amazing. But it’s become a rancorous, sexist, elitist, stupidly bureaucratic mess.”

Okay, so no surprise that “beneath its reasonably serene surface, the website can be as ugly and bitter as 4chan and as mind-numbingly bureaucratic as a Kafka story.” And perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that only 10% of its editors are women, but, never having though about it, I was.

While this is worrisome by itself, what is really outrageous is the treatment of Carol Moore, a vocal feminist editor who stood up to press for more aggressive measures to correct this disparity. She has been “indefinitely banned from all of Wikipedia over her uncivil comments toward a group of male editors.” No surprise that some of the men who said much worse received just a slap on the wrist.  Read about it at Slate.

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U.K. Court Says Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Isn’t a Crime

Read about it at The Daily Beast, featuring commentary from Eva Kittay:

“Criminalizing these women can lead to the sort of horror stories we hear in the U.S. of pregnant addicts being forced to go cold turkey, to being locked up, to having to give birth in chains,” she said. What are needed, she argued, are neither criminal penalties nor civil damages. Rather, “we need much more and much better ways of treating pregnant woman who abuse drugs: more treatment centers, more therapists, more detox centers.”

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“FDA Panel Endorses Lifetime Ban on Gay Blood Donation, Suggests Gay Men Are Diseased Liars”

I was shocked when I recently learned about the existence of such a ban. As to doubling down on it now, the title of this Slate article pretty much says it all. See also these reflections from Daniel Susser at The Second Shift about the weirdness (okay: total homophobic irrationality) of the original proposal to scale back to ban only those who have had gay sex in the past year.

UPDATE: More thoughts from Susser.

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Posted in LGBT & Intersex issues, U.S. Politics | Leave a comment

“Best Way for Professors to Get Good Student Evaluations? Be Male.”

Students gave professors they thought were male [in online courses where gender identity was altered without students’ knowledge] much higher evaluations across the board than they did professors they thought were female, regardless of what gender the professors actually were. When they told students they were men, both the male and female professors got a bump in ratings. When they told the students they were women, they took a hit in ratings. Because everything else was the same about them, this difference has to be the result of gender bias.

A small study, as they note. Still: hiring and promotion committees, take note. Find the story at Slate’s “XXFactor.”

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Posted in Academia | 1 Comment

Where can I go? Conscientious Objection, the Catholic Church, and Patient Access to Care

Catholic hospitals control 1 out of every 9 hospital beds in the United States, either through direct administration or mergers with other health care systems; in eight states, they control more than 30% of beds. According to a 2013 article in AJOB Primary Research, Four of the 10 largest hospital systems in the United States are Catholic, and 1 in 6 patients receives care in a Catholic institution. They provide medically necessary care with dedication to doing so at high quality with an ethical commitment to human health. However, that same ethical commitment to human health which comes from Catholic authorities bears specific content about which forms of health care must not be provided. These prohibitions are contained within the Catholic Church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, sometimes called “the Directive” or “Directives.”

Three pale-skinned white-haired men in clerical collars—white bands beneath black shirts and suit jackets—gesture while they talk to each other in this close up shot. They are, from left, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, KY and president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. The picture was taken during the conference’s annual fall meeting in Baltimore on Monday, November 10, 2014. IMAGE CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Ruark.

Three pale-skinned, white-haired men in clerical collars—white bands beneath black shirts and suit jackets—gesture while they talk to each other in this close up shot. They are, from left, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, KY and president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. The picture was taken during the conference’s annual fall meeting in Baltimore on Monday, November 10, 2014. IMAGE CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Ruark.


In November of 2013, these Directives were recently revised and approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and have thus had a mild media resurgence as of late, as have the refusals to provide care which the Directives necessitate.

Such refusals fall within the terrain of medical conscientious objection, and are based on rights of personal conscience. As Lisa Harris has pointed out, such rights of personal conscience can also motivate conscientious provision of services such as abortion. In discussing Harris’s article with students, they have raised the point that not only abortion providers but also doctors who work for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) or work in underserved areas may well be engaging in conscientious provision of services. Providers working in Catholic health care systems sometimes face deep conflicts with the Directives which govern the health care they are allowed to provide; correspondingly patients struggle to receive that health care in areas where Catholic-controlled systems dominate the local health care market. Such conflicts have only grown as Catholic health care systems have expanded through merger and through acquisition: the resulting health care institutions are all now bound by the Directives.

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Posted in Abortion, Access to Medical Care, U.S. Politics | Leave a comment

“The Rolling Stone Fiasco Is Terrible News for Rape Survivors”

Just in case you have not already heard about this, and are not already completely depressed about the state of world, here’s this account from The Atlantic of Rolling Stone’s retraction of its earlier story detailing the sexual assault of a young woman using the pseudonym “Jackie.”

Maybe there will be a rebuttal of this–quite defensibly, out of respect for the importance and sensitivity of the subject matter–rather tentative and qualified retraction. Still, it just does not read to me, in view of subsequent investigations, as if the story could possibly be even only “98 percent right.” It sounds as though Jackie pretty much just made the whole thing up. And, although the graph The Atlantic presents was lazily copied off of Twitter with no supporting documentation, on the basis of other studies I’ve read or heard reported, I’m inclined to believe it is basically accurate. This is to say that rape is a huge social problem, massively underreported, that is now going to receive even less attention than it does today. So here’s to hoping for that unlikely rebuttal!

So far the best defense I’ve heard of Jackie is on NPR‘s Weekend Edition, in which the host speaks to Emily Renda, who handles sexual misconduct response and prevention at UVA and has spoken to Jackie directly. Here is part of what she has to say:

I think that there are some larger complexities at play here. There’s a lot of good research, you know, citing Dr. David Lisak and Dr. Rebecca Campbell that suggest that traumatic memories are stored differently in the brain. And so as a result, they’re brought out by the brain different as well. So through none of this process have I ever disbelieved Jackie. Have I believed that details may change shape over time because of the nature of trauma? Absolutely.

So we may indeed be much too quick to disregard Jackie’s story. Who, after all, would make up such a thing? I would especially welcome comments from anyone familiar with the psychological effects of traumatic experience who could speak to the plausibility of Renda’s explanation and perhaps expand a bit for other readers.

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“First Gene Therapy Drug Sets Million-Euro Price Record”

This news item underlines one of the most urgent issues raised by commodified drug development and marketing, and it deserves far more attention and analysis than I am able to provide here. It has been known for sometime that drug prices in the U.S. tend to be far higher than many other countries, and the recent trend is toward prices intended to see what the market will bear (rather than reasonable rates of return for drug production). This example simply magnifies that trend. Drug company justifications (and the appropriate rebuttals) are familiar to anyone who has been doing any reading on the subject. However, reasonable remedies are less clear, and usually focus on patchwork regulation rather than any more fundamental response. In my experience, more radical approaches, such as expanding the public research and development sector (or even replacing our current system with it) are greeted, at best, with lack of interest for examining whether it is feasible and what the benefits and disadvantages might be, even in bioethics contexts.

PJW Note: Anyone in research or public-health ethics interested in pursuing the more detailed analysis for which Purdy calls, please, contact me!

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“Why I Spoke Out About One Rape but Stayed Silent About Another”

An excellent piece by Susan J. Brison (Dartmouth) at Time. From the essay:

Those who have been raped know that if they speak out, they will be blamed for not doing whatever it is people imagine would have prevented they from being raped. They know this first-hand because they already blame themselves. Even the UVA student, who spoke anonymously about having been gang-raped, still blames herself for her “bad decision” in going to “that stupid party.”

After an acquaintance raped me when I was 20, I didn’t blame him or think he was bad. I thought I was bad—so bad I didn’t even deserve to live. This may have been an extreme reaction, but when someone treats you as worthless, as a usable, disposable thing, an “it,” you can come to view yourself that way, especially when you’re the age Cosby’s accusers say they were when assaulted. Before asking why women who were raped 30 to 45 years ago stayed silent for so long, we should also remember that, in those days, we didn’t call rape by a date or acquaintance “rape.” So what was there to report?

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“#YesAllWomen, but Not Really: How Feminism Leaves the Disabled Behind”

Eva Feder Kittay (Stony Brook University) commends this piece from The Daily Beast to feminists everywhere. From the article:

Feminists with disabilities say their voices aren’t being heard, and this is very, very dangerous. Why? Because women with disabilities are one of the most at-risk demographics in the world. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a staggering 80 percent of disabled women are sexually assaulted, and the rates are even higher for women with cognitive disabilities. Disabled women are, in general, 40 percent more likely to be violently treated—usually by their male partners, but also by caregivers and family—than non-disabled women.

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Congratulations to Alison Reiheld!

Her April 17 post, “Constraints on Medical Autonomy for Pregnant Women,” has advanced to the semi-finals in the philosophy category of 3quarksdaily’s best blog post of the year competition! You may find a list of the other contenders with links listed here at their site.

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