viernes, 8 de enero de 2016

MercatorNet ► Global ethics challenges for 2016

Global ethics challenges for 2016

Migration, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and conscientious objection will all be in the headlines.
Michael Cook | Jan 8 2016 | comment 

The Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad (Christian Daily) asked MercatorNet to do an ethical forecast for the coming year. Here is an edited version of our contribution.
What will be the ethical controversies in the headlines of 2016?
Of course, this depends on where you live and what your ethics are. MercatorNet is based in Australia and New Zealand and our bias is a focus on human dignity and placing the person at the centre of media debates about popular culture, the family, sexuality, bioethics, religion and law. So we tend to read headlines on these issues.
With this in mind, here are our predictions.
At a global level, migration will almost certainly be the biggest ethical issue of 2016. Even in distant Australia, which will take about 26,000 refugees in 2015-16, a drop in the bucket compared to Europe, migration arouses passionate debate. Expect controversies about every aspect of accommodating and integrating thousands of refugees, most of them Muslim.
According to figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there were nearly 60 million refugees and internally displaced people in 2014. Perhaps the sleeping ethical issue is what Pope Francis has called “the globalisation of indifference”. Europe is understandably rattled by the invasion of a million refugees from the Middle East and beyond, but what about the other 59 million? Who cares about them?
In Australia, the biggest debate of the year will certainly be same-sex marriage. It is the last major English-speaking country where marriage is still defined as between a man and a woman. The country is gearing up for an intense debate over whether the State should have the power to redefine a natural institution.
But same-sex marriage will be a huge issue in the United States, as well, where it was legalised last year by the Supreme Court. Since the ultimate aim of the LGBT community is not a cosy marriage, but social acceptance of their lifestyle, I believe that we will see conflicts constantly springing up around the country when married same-sex couples feel that they are denied their rights. (They will probably avert their eyes from serious ethical consequence: the rise ofsurrogacy. Their bundles of joy will have to be outsourced, mostly to poor women in poor countries.)
The second issue was triggered by the triumph of same-sex marriage, transgender rights. Immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision, transgender activists like Caitlyn Jenner suddenly became the darlings of the media. The core ethical issue of whether we are entitled to define our own identity is one that extends from sexuality into education and politics. Although only a tiny fraction of the population is transgender, accommodating their demands will be bitterly debated. Should an 8-year-old boy start hormone therapy to transition to being a girl? Should we respect the choice of a 52-year-old man to transition to a 6-year-old girl? (A real story.)
Conscientious objection is another issue which will often be in the headlines. The pace of legal change is so great that many people are being left behind with their “old-fashioned ethics”. Will governments accommodate their loyalty to deeply felt traditional principles? In Canada, it is possible that doctors will be forced to collaborate in euthanasia, for instance.
The fundamental issue here is how we define morality. Ironically, transgender activists are succeeding in having their identity choices respected, while doctors who “identify” as Christians are being denied theirs. This clash of worldviews will lead to some interesting conundrums.
On the technological side, scientists are calling for an urgent ethical debate about the eugenic potential of CRISPR, a new gene editing technology which will allow us to alter the human genome quickly, accurately, efficiently and cheaply. The era of genetic engineering has dawned. While the production of smarter and faster kids to order is years away, we can expect that entrepreneurs will at least start marketing disease-free embryos.
Another important ethical issue is personal privacy and corporate and government surveillance. On the one hand, we are shocked if intelligence agencies are building up massive files on citizens by tapping into social media, the internet, and government data. On the other, we cheerfully give away personal information in exchange for “free stuff” or just for free, in lurid Facebook posts. This is, so to speak, a sleeper issue, because people are hardly aware of it, until an Edward Snowden reminds them. But it is helping to erode our sense of modesty, to use an old-fashioned term: the circle of intimacy is ever-diminishing.
Finally, I’d nominate, without wanting to sound too alarmist, euthanasia. Canada and California legalised it last year, and right-to-die activists are on a roll. Ignoring the numerous problems which are surfacing in the Netherlands and Belgium, they contend that we have a right not to suffer. Originally euthanasia was meant for terminally-ill people with unbearable suffering. But now it has been extended to people with mental illness, the demented, prisoners and even children. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this issue, it is deeply controversial. We can expect lots of headlines.
* * * * * *
It’s interesting to compare these forecasts with what I might have said 50 years ago in 1966. The biggest ethical controversies in the public square back then were political. These were passionate national conversations about the common good and how to achieve it. In the United States the war on poverty, combating the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia, the nuclear arms race, and civil rights for African Americans touched everyone’s conscience.
Today, by and large, the ethical focus has shifted from politics to individual desires. Today’s debates are far more egocentric. The noisiest revolve around the satisfaction of my personal needs, not other people’s right to participate in the common good.
Having made this daring over-simplification, I must backtrack a little. In 2016 migration, a deeply political debate, will probably be the lead issue and two issues of sexual morality, no-fault divorce and the contraceptive pill, were hot topics in 1966. In fact, the social changes which ensued laid the foundation for today’s me-generation. But the trend is clear: we are moving from a culture of social commitment to a culture of personal contentment.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.
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Designing our descendants

Assisted human reproduction technology is growing ever more controversial.
Margaret Somerville | Jan 8 2016 | comment 

 “Editing” the human germline - the genes passed on from generation to generation that have evolved naturally over millions of years to create each unique one of us – has gone from science fiction to science fact. We can now design our descendants.
The vast majority of bioethicists and many major institutions had agreed that would be wrong. Now, some are arguing it should be allowed because of its potential to do “good”.
How should we decide? Let’s examine the past of “assisted human reproduction technologies” for some lessons.
In 1978, the birth of Louise Brown, the first “test tube” baby conceived outside a woman’s body through IVF, shocked the world. But IVF quickly became a routine procedure.
Then freezing human embryos faced us with ethical issues regarding those “leftover” from IVF.  May they be donated to an infertile couple, a single woman, a same-sex couple, used for research or as a source of stem cells to manufacture therapeutic products to benefit others? If the parents are killed, do the embryos deserve a chance at life? If they divorce, who “owns” the embryos?
Frozen sperm long preceded freezing ova.  Was post-mortem use of sperm by a dead man’s parents to “replace” him with a grandchild ethically and legally acceptable? Should women freeze eggs when young to use in their 50s or even 60s to create a family?
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis meant certain groups of people, e.g. those with Down syndrome, could be eliminated. Sex selection became easy.
Canada prohibited commercialization, but the “fertility industry” exploded into a US$9.3 billion a year business worldwide in 2012, estimated to reach $21.6 billion by 2020. Sale of ova and sperm, paid surrogate motherhood, even where legally prohibited, flourished raising ethical and human rights issues, especially the exploitation of poor and vulnerable women.
The “products” of these transactions – children – reached an age when they could protest their origins, especially that anonymous sperm (and now ova) donation is wrong. They called themselves “genetic orphans” and demanded to know their biological parents and other family members. Some Canadian provinces changed their law to require such disclosure.
Making a baby with three biological parents was recently approved in the UK. Those favouring it minimize the momentousness of what that means and argue “it’s just another medical treatment to deal with genetic disease”.
So turning to the future, what ethical, legal and human rights issues might reproductive technologies face us with?
The debate about “editing” the human germline has shifted from almost universal agreement it’s inherently wrong, to asking would allowing it do more good than harm – a utilitarian approach. What if we can delete just one gene and cure a terrible disease such as Huntington’s chorea? It will be difficult to say no. And if we allow this, could we effectively prohibit “designer children” for “vanity” or human enhancement reasons?
Many people believe human cloning is unethical, but would they change their minds if they needed an organ and they could be cloned, a surrogate mother used and the unborn child aborted to obtain tissue or organs for transplant? I know of parents who wanted to create IVF embryos, genetically screen them for “best match” to their severely diabetic 7-year-old daughter and abort the “saviour sibling” at five months gestation to take its pancreas for transplant.
What about using artificial uteruses when these are developed? The image of a laundromat comes to mind – machines containing babies instead of clothes. Some celebrities able to bear a child are using surrogate mothers. They might prefer this.
And when such manufacturing becomes possible why limit the number of children for those who can afford the cost? The son of a Japanese billionaire had at least ten children by Thai surrogate mothers in 2014, why not five hundred?
What about creating artificial sperm or ova so a same-sex couple could have a genetically shared child?
Ethically we must place the future child at the centre of the decision-making.
Do human beings have a right not to be designed, not to be manufactured, not to be the object of commercial deals, to come into existence with their own unique, naturally created ticket in the great genetic lottery of the passing-on of human life?
And we must protect present and future societies.
What would be the impact on society’s most important values, especially respect for human life, shared beliefs that parents have unconditional love for their children and that human life is priceless and must never be made a commodity?
These technologies bring momentous possibilities for changing human life and its transmission and entail momentous decisions.
Margaret Somerville is the Samuel Gale Professor of Law, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, and Founding Director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, Montreal.
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MercatorNet’s focus on human dignity attracts readers from many countries. Yesterday a Danish Christian newspaper contacted the editor, asking for an ethical forecast for the coming year. You can read Michael Cook’s round-up of the issuesmost likely to dominate the headlines, on our website. His comments at the end, contrasting today’s leading controversies with those of 50 years ago, are really spot on.
Coincidentally, Denmark has indirectly given us another article today. Daniel Moody, whose article about human rights we published earlier in the week, has reviewed a new film, The Danish Girl. It is based on the life of a famous transsexual (male to female) and from Daniel’s account of the film it is definitely not one to see.
Michael rightly picks transgender rights as one of the top controversies of 2016. Be prepared.

Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor,
Global ethics challenges for 2016
Michael Cook | FEATURES | 8 January 2016
Migration, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and conscientious objection will all be in the headlines.
Designing our descendants
Margaret Somerville | FEATURES | 8 January 2016
Assisted human reproduction technology is growing ever more controversial.
If Einar is a Danish girl then I’m a Dutchman
Daniel Moody | POPCORN | 8 January 2016
The movie is a glossy bid to sell the desperate ideology of transgenderism.
The backstory of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Belgian Jihadist
Michele Brignone | ABOVE | 8 January 2016
How Islam has evolved following migrations to Europe.
Parental divorce ups likelihood of marijuana use
Nicole M. King | FAMILY EDGE | 8 January 2016
Religion, on the other hand, is linked to less marijuana use.
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