“Predatory science journal publishes paper titled: ‘Get me off Your Fucking Mailing List'”

Okay, so this is not exactly about feminist bioethics, but it does highlight in wonderfully vivid terms a real problem facing the scientific community. (Also, it’s Friday afternoon, and, if you’re still in front of your computer, you deserve a good laugh.)

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The problem to which I refer is, obviously, the proliferation of fraudulent journals. Specifically, I would be very interested to see a study documenting the reception of articles published in such “journals.” Are they ever cited to deleterious effect? I assume the overwhelming majority of practicing scientists know the sociology of the field and are not going to be misled when they encounter an unusual conclusion supported by a citation from a journal they have never heard of that turns out to exist only on the Internet and doesn’t have any reputable scientists or institutions supporting it.

So it would seem this is a rather marginal issue–except only for the epidemic of public ignorance about how science advances and what basic facts and theories it has uncontroversially established. I could easily see hucksters in the supplement industry, new age cult leaders, or–most dangerously–politicians citing such non-scientific articles and successfully duping their audiences. Dangerous substances contained in supplements have caused serious health problems and even death. Cults damage people both psychologically and physically, as, for instance, when they deny children basic medical treatment; those that reject vaccination (which more than half of Americans already doubt is safe and effective) additionally compromise public health. As to politicians, I don’t think I even need to elaborate: suffice it to say that elected officials and professional educators in the U.S. continue to question the truth of evolutionary theory and global warming.

Are readers aware of any such instances? I simply do not know whether or to what extent these fraudulent journals pose a genuine danger to the public at large. It is entirely possible that my previous paragraph is unduly alarmist and that the only victims of this industry are those aspiring scientists duped into paying to have their sub-standard work published in a disreputable venue to which no one pays any attention.

These additional links provide concrete evidence showing just how prevalent such publications are and one noteworthy attempt to do something about it.

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Bill Cosby: Serial Rapist? If so, what he should do.

I’ll begin by acknowledging that I only just this week linked approvingly to a post calling for a renewed focus on the structures and institutions upholding the patriarchy, rather than self-righteously castigating flagrantly sexist individuals. Yet, as was pointed out in discussion on our Facebook Page, these strategies are in no way incompatible and can be productively pursued conjointly. It is with this in mind, that I weigh in on the recent allegations that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist.

Previously, though dimly aware of such allegations, given my general disgust with the media’s prurient mucking around into the sex lives of celebrities and politicians, I never followed through to read any of the stories. This video, however, woke me up:

I will do my best not to presume that he is guilty, but he makes this very difficult. Generously provided with an open-ended opportunity to simply deny the charges or defend himself at greater length on his own terms, he refuses to answer the question and–furthermore–repeatedly insists that the AP suppress all footage of this portion of the interview. I simply cannot think of plausible reason for handling the question in this way except that any actual answer would either be an admission of guilt or a flat-out lie. (Also, I can’t decide, is it really sweet, or really creepy that his wife seems to totally support this line of defense?)

If the mounting allegations are false and he is not a serial rapist, why would he decline to simply say so? I mean how would you, non-rapist readers, respond if such a question were put to you? Because I know I would respond rather differently than Cosby does here.

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Million Dollar Baby

No it’s not the Clint Eastwood movie; it is the cost of a premature birth. This is making the news in Canada and eliciting some of the usual ‘tsk tsk’ the evils of private insurance. Here is the brief version of the story: a Saskatchewan resident, Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel, went on vacation with her husband to Hawaii. She wisely purchased travel insurance; she was 24 weeks pregnant. However, she was told that she could get coverage since she was less than 36 weeks pregnant. Shortly, after arriving to their vacation spot, Ms. Huculak-Kimmel’s water broke resulting in the premature birth of Reece (who is now by all appearances a fine and thriving baby). Needless to say, a neo-natal unit is costly. The problem is that the private insurance company, Blue Cross, is refusing to pay citing a pre-existing condition. Now since Ms. Huculak-Kimmle was cleared by her doctor as being able to travel, what could be the pre-existing condition? Ms. Huculak-Kimmel did say she had had a bladder infection some time during her pregnancy but the doctor was not of the opinion that this should any problems (one would conclude especially one such as risk of premature birth which would have been considered by the doctor).

This case highlights several issues. The first is one that I feel compelled to note: Saskatchewan is the province responsible for Canada’s single payer health care insurance. Tommy Douglas became Premier and instituted (he cannot be thanked enough in my opinion) the province’s Hospital Services Plan in 1947. Then in 1961 the province adopted a comprehensive health insurance. This model was adopted by the federal government of Canada in 1966 as the Medical Care Act. This means, basically that if Ms. Huculak-Kimmel had given birth in Canada she would not face any cost nor any stress resulting from costs of care. Continue reading

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“Barbie Book Titled ‘I Can Be a Computer Engineer’ Tells Girls They Need A Man’s Help To Code”

As a friend put it, “so close to getting it–but not at all.” How did this sexist rubbish make it through the editorial review process at Random House? Are they completely tone deaf? You can find the depressing details at the notorious, radical feminist rag, Business Insider

Or, since the title basically tells you everything you need to know, I’ll just share the funny bit here: “The majority of parents reviewing it on Amazon have deemed it worthy of only one star, and the site’s sole three-star review suggests renaming the title ‘I Can Manipulate Boys Into Programming While I Sit Back and Take Credit.'”

UPDATE: The Internet speaks back.

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Is Feminism in Danger of Becoming Toxic?

Julie Bindel makes the case at The Guardian with a call for renewed focus on the structural and institutional sources of oppression, rather than what she describes as the dominant “witch-hunt mentality” of the current political climate:

It would appear we have forgotten how to target institutions. The tactic du jour is to wind up a crowd and shut down any nuanced discussion or debate. Patriarchy is being left to its own devices while bad and unpalatable men are being taken to task one by one.

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IJFAB News Alerts

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The Ethics of Work Actions: When are work actions by HC providers acceptable, or even desirable?

The reader is forgiven for some small disappointment in learning that I am not going to definitively answer the question in the title of this piece. The scope of a blog entry simply can’t handle it. However, I will consider a number of issues that bear on the answer to that question, including the type of work action and the reasons for the work action. This is a general issue, but particularly timely as health care providers around the world are currently conducting various kinds of work actions related to the Ebola epidemic. Let us begin first with a few such examples from around the world, and then move on to a discussion of ethical issues in work actions by health care providers more generally.

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: In April of 2012, trade unions of health and social protection workers in Belgrade, Serbia, organized a one-hour “warning strike” in response to a state proposal to reduce the salaries of all healthcare employees by 10 percent. In this image, a dense crowd or professionally dressed individuals marches down a major tree-lined street. All the people who can be seen are light-skinned; both men and women are present. Street car tracks can be seen in the road surface disappearing under the feet of the crowd. Signs are not legible to this author as they are written in Cyrillic alphabet. However, the very large banners and small signs alike bear a common symbol: a blue square with rounded corners; in the middle of the right side of the square is a white circle within which is a red cross. The red cross and the color blue are traditional international symbols of modern medicine. Some signs bear the date “April 25, 2012” in European format: 25.4.12. At the bottom of this blog entry, you can find a description of more recent strikes in Serbia over similar austerity measures, as well as other examples of health care provider work actions in Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America. IMAGE CREDIT: b92.

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: In April of 2012, trade unions of health and social protection workers in Belgrade, Serbia, organized a one-hour “warning strike” in response to a state proposal to reduce the salaries of all healthcare employees by 10 percent. In this image, a dense crowd or professionally dressed individuals marches down a major tree-lined street. All the people who can be seen are light-skinned; both men and women are present. Street car tracks can be seen in the road surface disappearing under the feet of the crowd. Signs are not legible to this author as they are written in Cyrillic alphabet. However, the very large banners and small signs alike bear a common symbol: a blue square with rounded corners; in the middle of the right side of the square is a white circle within which is a red cross. The red cross and the color blue are traditional international symbols of modern medicine. Some signs bear the date “April 25, 2012” in European format: 25.4.12. At the bottom of this blog entry, you can find a description of more recent strikes in Serbia over similar austerity measures, as well as other examples of health care provider work actions in Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America. IMAGE CREDIT: b92.

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Tina Fey on Kim Kardashian

I had initially refrained from dignifying Ms. Kardashian’s, as far as I can see, pointless publicity stunt with any further attention than it has already received. After all, there really isn’t a lot of nuance to explore. But this is just funny enough to pass along, presciently published, it should be noted, in Fey’s 2011 Bossypants:

I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then, what felt like moments later, boom—Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful.

Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyoncé and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.

UPDATE: For those interested in a refreshingly deflationary take on this non-event, as well as some useful reflections about all the vapid hullabaloo surrounding it, read this at Huff Post. (I have to say, to me the only thing at all remarkable about the whole affair is the staggering narcissism on display with the suggestion that photos of her naked body could in any way even approach “breaking the Internet.” I mean, huh? The Internet survived your sex tape, Kim, which consumes a lot more bandwidth, by the way; be assured, it will survive this as well.)

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More on Responses to Ebola: Can the World Get It Right?

Canada is imposing quarantine measures on travelers from “Ebola countries,” and more missteps from a frightened world.  Here is the story.  I have nothing to add right now, other than to remind readers of the AIDS crisis several decades ago.  Have we learned nothing?  I look forward to your thoughts.

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You won’t believe this one easy trick for doing your part for health care justice for transgender patients!

The Institute of Medicine has long acknowledged that transgender patients have difficulty accessing care due to a combination of stigma and lack of coverage. Want to do something to help trans folk get health care from the insurance plans they already pay for? Read this and write a letter to HHS on civil rights protections for people with plans operating under the ACA. Trans folk are fully folk; trans rights are civil rights.

(For more discussion of this issue, you may refer to these previous posts on the IJFAB Blog: “Denying the Patient In Front Of You: Recent Studies of Transgender Patients’ Experiences in the ER Confirms Prior Results about Poor Treatment of Transgender Persons in Clinical Settings” and “Transitions in Law: What Struggles Over Policy Changes Affecting Transgender Persons Reveal.”)

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Recent Anthology on Vulnerability Reviewed

Vulnerability: New Essays in Ethics and Feminist Philosophy edited by Catriona Mackenzie, Wendy Rogers, and Susan Dodds is reviewed by Joan C. Tronto at Notre Dame Philosophical ReviewsHer conclusion:

In all, though, this is a remarkably rich and important collection that will soon become essential reading in contemporary feminist and moral philosophy.

Interested readers should also recall IJFAB‘s special issue 5.2 on vulnerability guest edited by the same group of scholars. The editors’ essay, “Why Bioethics Needs a Concept of Vulnerability” is available to read for free even to those without a subscription.

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“Selling U.S. Citizenship”??

“Obama Administration Allows Fertility Clinics to Sell US Citizenship” cries one website.[1] At issue is, allegedly, not only infertility clinics making big bucks selling U.S. citizenship for babies gestated by American citizens, but access to the entire U.S. benefits system—including education, health, welfare, and retirement services—for them and their foreign parents who have never even lived here. Horrifying.

Shall we dig a little deeper? Here’s the policy: U.S. women whose children are born in a jurisdiction that recognizes them as a legal parent may now transmit citizenship to them, even if their relationship is solely gestational (“biological,”), not genetic.[2] In some jurisdictions, this happens automatically; in others, she must take steps to achieve this outcome.

On the face of it, this policy change seems like a good idea. First, it recognizes gestation as a key element in pregnancy and parenthood, eroding—even if only somewhat—the insistence that only genetic relationships matter. Secondly, it changes policy to recognize technological developments that have already happened: women are bearing babies with whom they have no genetic relationship. In most cases they are doing this to form their own families. In others, they are doing it to help others, often for pay. In either case, their children’s legal status needs to be ensured. Of course, in most cases, no one questions a child’s status since medical records are, in theory, private. However, recent politics shows why legal clarity might be crucial. And, regardless of one’s take on surrogacy, until and unless it is more stringently regulated (or banned) where it is now legal, like the U.S., the status of the children it produces needs clarification as well to prevent babies from being stateless and help ensure that parents and babies can live together.

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