St Mary’s University College Twickenham London
At a glance Ethics in Deep Water Activities in Brief Healthcare Allocation Report Human Dignity in Bioethics
Issue 4 Spring 2011 www.smuc.ac.uk
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Newsletter for the Centre for Bioethics & Emerging Technologies
ETHICS IN DEEP WATER Energy and Future Generations By Prof. Geoffrey Hunt
an ethical one, in a nutshell, an apparent human inability or reluctance to serve the welfare of future generations. Instead of exclusively focussing on what we need to solve certain piecemeal technical problems within even more complex technology we also need a leap in human understanding and attitude in which technical problems have their proper place. Technology is not the problem – we are the problem. This is what the Deepwater Horizon and Fukushima disasters vividly show us. They both show us a strategy of accepting the ‘normality’ of so-called ‘low frequency/ high severity’ hazards, which in ethical terms is a refusal or inability to overcome the diminishing returns of high-cost highcomplexity energy technologies with a long-term human welfare-sustaining viewpoint.
BP and Deepwater Horizon
Two new terms have just entered the lexicon of unacceptable hazard: ‘Deepwater Horizon’ and ‘Fukushima’. These two technological disasters may mark a historical turning point. In 2011 the ‘global economy’ (i.e. the human race) is obviously becoming desperate for energy to maintain ‘economic growth’ (i.e. unlimited consumption). These two disasters in two of the richest nations in the world, the USA and Japan, have shown that the further development of both fossil fuels and nuclear power has reached a blind alley. The hazard levels are now on the tipping point of counter-productivity. There are potential alternatives to these energy sources that stand in urgent need of a concerted
and cooperative effort of research on their sustainability, and for their development and investment: wind turbines, solar, hydrogen, hydroelectric, tidal energy, ethanol, biomass, ocean waves, geothermal, and even algae. Also, there is the often-forgotten alternative of using less. However, the transition to a policy of sustainable energy is moving at a painfully slow pace. There has to be agreement and action soon on all levels, from the international to the local, if the situation is not to become unmanageable. There are many reasons for this ‘energy crisis’ – some of them to do with science, technology and financial costs. However, the over-arching reason is
In the case of the Deepwater Horizon disaster we have BP, a powerful world-wide corporation with a sales revenue in 2009 of about 150 billion pounds (roughly twice the total annual cost of the NHS), that has a short-term policy of maintaining stock market price by going to ever-greater depths in the sea with ever-bigger and more complex technology for the really big rewards, and keeping costs low by not investing in safety (L. C. Steffy, Drowning in Oil, McGraw Hill). A long series of prior BP ‘accidents’ and disasters, including the Texas City oil refinery explosion of 2005 (15 dead), as well as stock market misconduct, has resulted in numerous warnings, fines, compensation and penalties – all apparently absorbed by BP as minor costs. The technology is certainly impressive. The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig used in the Gulf of Mexico, with a platform bigger than a football field and a drilling apparatus 20 stories above the main platform, housed 126 people. Continued on page 2 > CBET Bulletin Issue 4 Spring 2011 | 1
Ethics in Deep Water Continued ... It cost half a billion dollars to build. Floating in two-mile-deep sea water it could still drill another 5 miles into the earth’s crust (i.e. deeper than Mount Everest is high). Unfortunately, the economic, human and environmental hazards are equally impressive. A long line of inquiries into BP’s conduct reveals persistent failures of ethical accountability to workers, professional engineering advisors, local communities, the wider public and the environment.
Fukushima While nuclear is seen as an answer to climatechanging fossil fuel, the serious questions about nuclear reactors’ high-severity hazards and unmanageable waste disposal are left unanswered. The real answers in diversified low-risk sustainable energy sources are not confronted wholeheartedly and urgently for reasons of failure in ethical vision. In Japan, a country with vast geothermal energy resources largely untapped, we now have the case of the Fukushima reactors. A Japanese scientific colleague of mine said in an email from Tsukuba recently: while the Fukushima reactors served neonlit Tokyo, it is the thousands of local farmers and others who now have to abandon their homes and livelihood although they never received one watt of power from the reactors. Here again we see the ‘low frequency/ high severity’ mentality at work. That is, ‘If it happens it will be catastrophic, but don’t worry it won’t happen for a long time’. Does this not put the lives of future generations at a lower value than those of today? The reactors, brazenly facing the direction of a very well-known tsunami hazard, were protected by a sea
Activities in brief Professor Geoff Hunt spoke on 'Ethical Aspects of Nanotechnology' for the Joint Conference of Bishops' Bioethics Committee and the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford on 1st October. On Wednesday 14th October, Dr Trevor Stammers spoke on "Ethical issues in Organ Donation" at the South East Organ Donation Coordination Service Training Day, Redhill Hospital Surrey. On Saturday 23rd October, Dr Stammers delivered a lecture at The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London Philosophy of Medicine course on "The Euthyphro Dilemma". On 25th October, Professor Hunt delivered a talk on 'Nanotechnology & Healthcare', at the School of Nursing, Salford University. 2 | CBET Bulletin Issue 4 Spring 2011
wall designed to hold back a 19-foot wave. It was hit instead by a 46-foot (supposedly a ‘low-frequency’ event), wiping out the reactors’ vital cooling systems. Meanwhile, the disruption to energy supplies, communications, transport and emergency services prevented assistance being brought in fast enough to prevent a catastrophe – a situation well-recognised in all disaster management manuals. It is no secret that the islands of Japan lie on a major fault line and there are tremblings underfoot on an almost daily basis. I unnervingly experienced one myself while in a high building in Tokyo a few years ago. Yet this is a country that now has 55 reactors, with more under construction. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had already expressed concern about the capacity of Japan’s nuclear plants to withstand earthquakes. In an earthquake only four years ago the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant had to be closed for nearly two years. The Fukushima disaster has resulted in a number of countries re-appraising their nuclear plans. In the face of climate change the industry was looking forward to a ‘nuclear renaissance’, which is the unfounded belief that the global hazard of oil/coal technology can be rectified with the global hazard of nuclear technology – neither of them sustainable in the long term. This reappraisal is unlikely to involve ethical dimensions or any kind of major re-think, but will instead focus on ‘improving safety’. Failure of ethical vision The general features of our ethical situation as we enter the third millennium need to be brought to the forefront in our appraisal of the role of technologies.
Following his lecture at a large conference on chemical industries regulation in Lyon on 8th September 2010, Prof. Hunt was invited to write for CHEManager, Europe’s leading publication for the chemical industry, on the controversial subject of labelling products to indicate that they contain nanoparticles. The article has appeared in the issue of 10th December 2010 (www.chemanageronline.com/en/topics/chemicals-distribution/labelingnano-products). Hunt has been chairing an ISO/CEN project group on the development of international guidance on the labelling of nano-products, involving stakeholders from many countries and sectors including industry, consumer bodies and NGOs. Some have seen this issue as echoing the controversy over the labelling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMO). Despite having achieved consensus in the project, the draft Guidance failed to get approval in the international ballot, partly because of industry opposition in some regions of the world. In response, efforts are now being to continue the project either
Our ethical vision needs to embrace: • •
Long term planning for human welfare, as opposed to short term ‘economic’ gains. An ability to comprehend limits, including the impact of ignoring diminishing returns on highcost-high-hazard technological investment i.e. spending and risking more and more to gain less and less. An understanding of the dire human-welfare repercussions of not solving the energy crisis in good time; and how every delay exacerbates our position and makes catastrophe less manageable. Debate on what the human alternatives to untrammelled consumerism, and its selfdestructive values, may be. The capacity to identify with the whole human family, including future generations, and also grasp our intimate interdependence with all living things. Above all, to go beyond dualistic thinking, in which ‘nature’ is out there to be controlled by ‘us’, rather an understanding of the interdependent unity of all things.
The deeper ethical meaning of both the Deepwater Horizon and Fukushima Nuclear plant disasters may easily escape us as merely ‘technical mistakes’ or ‘negligence’. The crisis of the age, which appears to us in a kaleidoscope of unrelated fragments – the extinction of species, chemical pollution, financial crisis, economic recession, climate change, global water shortages, population migrations and refugees, etc. – is at bottom an ethical and moral one. Simply put, do we care enough about our grandchildren and great grandchildren?
with a new draft or by containing its applicability to the EU region only. This project may be regarded as an international dimension of CBET’s knowledge transfer activity. From 29th to 30th November 2010, Professor Hunt spoke at a ‘nano-safety’ conference in Prague, supported by the British Embassy, and he designed and coordinated a survey of nanotoxicologists on what they perceive to be the main safety issues surrounding nanotechnology. Dr Erden of CBET assisted Prof. Hunt in collating the results. A report will be published for the EU nanotechnology community and the findings presented at an occupational health conference in Washington DC this summer. Dr Stammers has been accepted as a member of the Accreditation Council and Awards Panel of the CHKS (www.chks.co.uk), the leading provider of healthcare intelligence and quality improvement services.
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Healthcare Booklet Launched CBET hosted a launch of Healthcare Allocation and Justice, Applying Catholic Social Teaching, published by the Catholic Truth Society, on Thursday 3rd February 2011. The launch was the culmination of research coordinated by the CBET and the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford, resulting in the publication of the booklet by Paul Gately, Fr Ashley Beck and Professor David Albert Jones. It has been written after consultation with healthcare professionals including people who work in Primary Care Trusts, General Practice Managers, Consultants, GPs, Nurses, hospital chaplains and other healthcare providers and advisers.
This process has involved listening to what professionals have to say and sharing the insights of Catholic teaching. Fr Ashley Beck, Researcher in Healthcare Resource Allocation in the CBET, said, “Catholics and others who have responsibility for the allocation are facing very difficult decisions; we hope that this booklet will be a useful resource for them from the theological community to help them make just and fair decisions”.
New Course for Sixth Formers
Ethics and Artificial Intelligence
CBET has just completed its first series of evening lectures on medical ethics and law for an audience of sixth formers and the general public. Over the course of seven Wednesday evenings during the whole of February and early March, between 35 and 55 people attended for two lectures and discussion each evening, on topics ranging from lying doctors to infanticide, assisted suicide to informed consent and cloning to nanomedicine. The vast majority of the weekly audience were sixth formers intending to study either medicine, nursing or law and on the evening of the final session, when some of the students gave their own presentations, the Principal, Prof Esler came to address the students, encourage them in pursuing a career in law or medicine and thank them for attending the course. When the new undergraduate programme in Law begins at St Mary’s we hope some of them will apply to study here. The feedback from the students has been very positive and the vast majority of those attending would recommend the course to others. CBET is already planning to repeat this event on a regular basis. There is obviously a demand out there, especially among sixth formers for courses like this that will help students to have an ‘added extra’ on their CV when they apply for places at University.
Copies of the booklet are available on request. Please contact Matt James on email@example.com
Artificial intelligence has been added to the research activities of CBET with the arrival of Dr Yasemin J. Erden, who took up the post of Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Centre for Ethics and Emerging Technologies in January 2011. She has a PhD in philosophy of language and has invaluable experience in teaching courses in ethics. She has published on the topic of developing technologies that engender ethical issues (including, for instance, the increasing use of robotics within the care industry), and also on conceptual issues associated with the development of intelligent systems. These include the concept of creativity in AI, or more recently the notion of desire in relation to the development of autonomous cognitive agent systems. Dr Erden is on the Organising Committee for a Computing and Philosophy Symposium, which has as a central focus the opening of communication channels between those working in related but distinct industries that use and develop intelligent
systems within both the public and private sector. One of her most recent papers investigated the development of identity alongside both existent and emerging digital media (including social networking and the increasing use of data mining software). In February she gave a presentation at a Stakeholders’ Dialogue session at the FP7NanoImpactNet conference on nanomedicine in Lausanne. The presentation explored ethical issues arising from resource allocation, and raised questions about benefits and the cost of funding research into nanoscience. Shortly after this in March she presented a poster on ethical design of polymers at the FP7-NaPolyNet conference in Pozzuoli. She has recently been involved in securing Royal Institute of Philosophy (RIP) branch status for St Mary’s. As a branch of RIP we we will receive funding for the year to host a series of lectures, many of which will be interdisciplinary. She has been developing expertise in the increasing overlap between developments in intelligent systems and emerging nanotechnology, and is seeking to further bridge research in these fields and to explore pertinent overlaps. Dr Erden has a vast amount of experience communicating with various groups in a professional capacity, and has excellent links with academics and engineers working across the IT and robotics sector. CBET Bulletin Issue 4 Spring 2011 | 3
CBET resident staff Technology ethics
Prof. Geoffrey Hunt CBET Director and Professorial Research Fellow Tel: +44 (0)20 8240 2311 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. David Albert Jones Visiting Professor of Bioethics Email: email@example.com
Mr Matthew James CBET Administrator Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Wendy Hiscox Lecturer in Medical Law Tel: +44 (0)20 8240 4250 Email: email@example.com
Dr Pia Matthews Lecturer in Healthcare Ethics Tel: +44 (0)20 8240 4250 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Yasemin J. Erden Research Fellow in Ethics & Emerging Technologies Tel: +44 (0)20 8240 4250 Email: email@example.com
Biomedicine ethics Dr Trevor Stammers Programme Director in Bioethics Tel: +44 (0)20 8240 4250 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Rodney Taylor Visiting Professor Tel: +44 (0)20 8240 4250 Email: email@example.com
Tel: 020 8240 4250 Fax: 020 8240 2362 www.smuc.ac.uk/cbet
Human Dignity in Bioethics
CBET has recently been awarded funding from the Porticus Trust to develop an impact-network with the specific aim of influencing policy debates in the UK and abroad.
Actvities in Brief Continued ... The Panel ensures impartiality in awarding accreditation and ISO certification, informs standards development and ratifies decisions, oversees the accreditation process and advises on all issues relating to the quality agenda. CBET staff members are currently supervising three doctoral students. Ian Berle is researching the privacy implications of biometrics, Haihong He is working on perception of risk and Bernard FarrellRoberts is studying views of brain death especially in relation to the demands of organ transplantation. On 14-17th February 2011 Professor Hunt helped organise and participated in a conference of NanoImpactNet (FP7 project) in Lausanne, 4 | CBET Bulletin Issue 4 Spring 2011
Centre for Bioethics & Emerging Technologies St Mary's University College Waldegrave Road, Strawberry Hill Twickenham TW1 4SX
At the heart of the project is a ‘change rationale’ involving the identification of ‘winnable arguments’ that must be articulated at the levels of intellectual, public and international discourse. Moreover, the project will foster a network of encouragement for those engaged with bioethical issues across national borders as well as to facilitate the sharing of scientific and ethical experiences in different contexts. As part of the project, CBET will be organising with the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics and the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium a conference on human dignity in bioethics to be hosted by St Mary’s University College in September 2011. This will be an invitation only conference and will seek to gather like minded change agents to identify areas of concern and direction where debate might influence policy.
CBET Public Lecture On Tuesday 10th May, 12.30-13:30, CBET was pleased to host another lecture in its public lecture series. The guest speaker was Dr Lola Oni OBE, Professional Services Director, Brent Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia Centre, London who spoke on 'The Ethics of Minority Medical Conditions: The Case of Sickle Cell Anaemia'. Previously, Dr Oni was a member of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) and is an eminent authority in the field of sickle cell anaemia. Among Dr Oni’s publications is 'Care and Management of Your Child with Sickle Cell Disease – A Parents Guide', 1997, 2nd edition 2007. This publication has been adopted as the national health promotion material distributed to all parents of newborn babies diagnosed with sickle cell disease in England. The third edition is due for print in 2011. An audio recording of the lecture will be available on the CBET web pages very shortly – www.smuc.ac.uk/cbet/publications-andtalks.htm
Switzerland. He was chair of a stakeholder dialogue session on the ethical issues of development of nanomedicine and chair of a discussion group on nano-vaccines. Dr Erden also delivered a paper on “Nanomedicine: Reflections from Healthcare Ethics”.
NaPolyNet (FP7 project) in Pozzuoli, near Naples, on 2nd-4th March 2011. At the same event Prof. Hunt presented a paper on conceptual difficulties in the characterization of nanomaterials, borrowing from ideas in complexity theory.
On 24th February 2011, Dr Stammers spoke at a Oxford Union debate where he participated as a speaker in opposition to the motion that "This House supports the unrestricted right to abortion". The opposition won the debate by a 3 figure majority.
The 16.1 edition of CBET’s new academic journal, Human Reproduction & Genetic Ethics has recently been published. CBET recently acquired the international peer review journal from Dr. Calum MacKellar (CBET advisory board member) and will be aiming to use it as an additional means through which to reclaim a sense of bioethics as a diverse and multi-disciplinary project. In providing a space to dialogue between different perspectives on biotechnology it offers the chance of finding new kinds of common ground as well as helping to continue to foster an intellectual community associated with CBET.
Dr Richard Lamerton, an important figure in the history of the hospice movement worldwide, visited CBET and generously donated his own library of books on death, dying and hospice care to CBET. CBET acknowledges his kindness with gratitude. ‘Polymer ethics’ was the subject of a poster presented by Dr Erden at a conference of