End of Life Decisions and Young Adults

Compassionate care for a young adult at the end of life may present many difficult ethical issues. Consider for example Sarah, a 19-year old young woman, admitted for what her team believes may be her final stay at the hospital that has treated her throughout a 5-year struggle with lymphoma. Sarah literally has grown from […]


Middle School Science

Palo Alto was buzzing last month over the unfortunate case of 11 year old Colman Chadam [i]. Colman was settling in and making friends at a new middle school, until school administrators determined that the bantam-weight fifth grader posed a threat to other students and should be transferred across town. Authorities deemed Colman threatening because […]


Genetic Kits for Consumers and the Role of the FDA

The other day I landed on the website of 23andMe. To my surprise, I learned that if I wanted to send the company a sample of my DNA, I’d have to swear under penalty of law neither to collect my sample in nor to mail it from New York State. That’s because New York State […]


Making the Cut: Are Court-Ordered Cesarean Sections Ethical?

A condensed version of this post was originally published on Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s The Doctor’s Tablet blog. According to the CDC’s most recent National Vital Statistics Report, in 2009, Cesarean section rates reached an all-time high of 32.3 percent of all births in the U.S. A Cesarean section is a major surgical procedure […]


Swapping Mitochondrial DNA: Ethically Sound or Excessive?

Headlines about “three-parent designer babies” have been inciting controversy since initial research on pronuclear transfer (PNT) was published two years ago. This treatment is aimed at stopping the maternal transmission of mutated mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). The disorders caused by mutated mtDNA range in severity, but can be devastating and are incurable. One of the most […]


Sex, Gender, and Sport

At the Olympic Games this summer, competitors from around the world will present dazzling displays of athleticism and sportsmanship—that is, if they meet the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) sex criteria. On June 22nd, just five weeks before the opening ceremonies in London, the IOC ruled that testosterone levels will be used to determine the eligibility […]


Just Love: What a Denounced Book Can Teach Bioethics

In early June, when the Vatican denounced Sister Margaret Farley’s book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, I took notice. As a recent graduate of Yale Divinity School (where I studied ethics), I’ve been influenced by Farley’s scholarship and work, even though she was professor emeritus by the time I arrived on campus. […]


Dying with Dignity in Massachusetts

The presidential and senatorial elections won’t be the only hotly contested issues on Election Day in Massachusetts this year. On Tuesday November 6th, Massachusetts residents will vote on a Death with Dignity Law; if the ballot measure passes, Massachusetts will join Oregon and Washington in legalizing physician assisted suicide. Physician assisted suicide was made legal […]


Justified Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Obama administration’s decision regarding Catholic institutions and coverage for reproductive health has stirred up a firestorm of claims that the policy restricts religious freedom. That’s true: the policy does restrict religious freedom to an extent. But while freedom of religion is surely a principle Americans hold dear, it is not absolute. Religious rights end […]


The Bioethics of Circumcision

The Religion and Bioethics seminar explores the role and interaction of religion and medical practices, always examining reading from a range of viewpoints. This week’s session looks at similarities, differences and controversies surrounding male and female circumcision. Male circumcision is familiar to all in the US and has had a long history of general acceptance. […]