Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Freedom of Research: Brazil

The World Congress for Freedom of Scientific Research published data on the freedom of research and cure in Brazil collected by some of my students at Bryant University in the Fall of 2008 when I taught the class Science, Law and Human Values.

A discussion of the overall purposes and methodology the study are available here.

Anybody interested in helping with data collection in Brazil (by providing new data, integrating the existent, or amending mistakes) is more than welcome to write me. Also, we are looking for assistance with data from a number of other countries. Don't be shy and help us out with this terrific project.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book review of the volume on global health edited with Anna Gatti

The review appearing in the November 2009 issue of the WHO Bulletin is authored by Richard Smith of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A note to my reader(s)

I have been blogging irregularly about various topics. At one point, I turned off the comments. Sometimes it feels that things are published online get easily lost in the tons of information that every second are added to the Internet. Yet, recently, a person wrote me and asked to blog about some news (here is the blog entry that followed that request). The famous Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni wrote his masterpiece (I Promessi Sposi) assuming that he had’25 readers’ (in one occasion he referred to just 10 readers because he imagined that only 10 readers would follow him at that point).
I have one reader (and possibly more but I do not want to be too presumptuous) and that is enough to justify keep writing this blog. I will try to write more often and write entries that relate directly to my present research interests. I am working on issued of legal regulation of capitalism focusing in particular on the asbestos industry and the compensation of asbestos victims.
Therefore, I will try to post my reflections on two aspects of this research:

  1. Comments on the overall relationship between law and capitalism. It is a fascinating, difficult and very contemporary topic. I am learning about it every day and I would welcome any help (in terms of comments to my post or emails suggesting ideas or readings) to deepen my understanding of this complex relationship. (blog label = capitalism and law)
  2. News regarding various initiatives involving asbestos compensation around the world. In particular, I will try to follow the developments of a criminal trial that will start in early December 2009 in Torino. It will be an extraordinary trial, one of his kind: executives of the Swiss company Eternit will be tried for criminal actions that cause disease and deaths among communities whose members worked for or lived in the vicinity of several asbestos plants in Italy (blog label = asbestos compensation).
As a social scientist and an intellectual, I am interested in understanding how we came about to set up societies in which people go to work to make a living and then die because of the employment itself.
Please read my blog, comment it, send me suggestions. Be critical, engaged, and thoughtful because we need these three qualities to figure out how to imagine a better world.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, our society and ourselves

I have been asked to comment on the enactment of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). Title II of this law came into effect a few days ago. Under Title II, an employer may not ‘discriminate against any employee with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment … because of genetic information.’

I do not feel particularly qualified to speak about its impact on insurance and workplaces, and whether this is truly going to make a positive difference in the lives of Americans. What I found interesting is that the process that led to the enactment of this piece of federal regulation was lengthy (13 years) and controversial, and that somehow the paradigm regarding genetic information has shifted. In the late 1990s, when the policy debate that led to GINA started, many commentators had been captured by the idea that genetic information were ‘exceptional’ in the sense that they carried along a great deal of predictability and significance. 13 years we know that we do not know much and that genetic data alone are a poor source of information (read the excellent chapter authored by Alex Capron in this book). In this regard, GINA is outdated because it reflects a view that is no longer widely shared.

On the other hand, it is certainly important to anticipate and correct possible forms of discrimination. Therefore, in that regard, GINA is still a useful tool. However, the real problem is that insurers and employers have incentives in piling up information about the genetic prospects of insured and employed individuals. People should not be worried about losing their insurance or employment because of who they are genetically (which certainly contributes to defining who we are only to a tiny little bit). The genetic lottery should not matter in defining who we are and how we can achieve our aspirations in life. This is also true for many other traits, many of which are the product of our choice—believing in God or not, having a certain partner, holding certain political ideas, and so forth.

If we need legislation to protect us against social arrangements (such as insurance or employment) that were set, sometimes in the past, to help us lead a better life, then we do have a problem. We ought to reason about the significance of the need to protect ourselves against our own social ‘creations,’ and reform the place that those ‘creations’ are occupying in our lives. It is a challenge that has been part of our civilization since the beginning. Genetic knowledge should not matter to define who we are.

Centuries ago, Terentius proclaimed that ‘Homo sum: nihil humani a me alienum puto’ (I am a human being and nothing human could be alien to me). This seems to be a good starting point to reason about GINA and what it means to us.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Marvel's Asbestos Lady

It was 1947, and Marvel comics created the Asbestos Lady, a blonde-haired, brown-eyed knockout with a green mini-skirt, a purple cape, and a flamethrower with which she will try to take over the world! She wasn't a heroin: she a villain, which is certainly much more in tune with the properties of the 'mineral killer' underlining her powers.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A building full of asbestos near Milan, Italy

A very will done report by the Italian TV program, Le Iene (in Italian, alas!) and on air on 11/03/09 tells the story of 55 families living in an asbestos-contaminated building near Milan. Built in 1984, the building is owned by the City of Milan and its fate is uncertain.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Drug-resistant TB, and human rights: a response to a reply

The forthcoming issues of Health and Human Rights (Vol.11, no.2) will feature the paper by Limitations on human rights in the context of drug-resistant tuberculosis: A reply to Boggio et al. by Joseph J. Amon, Françoise Girard, and Salmaan Keshavjee. The paper is a “reply” to a paper I had co-authored with Matteo Zignol, Ernesto Jaramillo, Paul Nunn, Genevieve Pinet, and Mario Raviglione on treatment supervision for basic TB control, management of drug-resistant TB, and human rights. After reading the paper, some of my co-authors and I felt compelled to write a letter to Health and Human Rights’ editors to raise a number of issues. The letter, which is published on-line after the paper, is the following:

Dear Editors:

We read with interest the paper “Limitations on human rights in the context of drug-resistant tuberculosis: A reply to Boggio et al.” co-authored by Drs. Amon, Girard, and Keshavjee. While we welcome the effort to expand our framework[1] and we applaud the Authors for continuing the discussion on this extremely important topic, we believe that the paper by Amon and colleagues may be misleading to your Journal’s readership.

First, Amon and colleagues do not technically “reply” to our argument. They do not challenge any of our assumptions. To the contrary, they explicitly agree with all of them. In the abstract, they state “there is little international disagreement with [our] position.” A similar claim is made on page 2 (“Boggio et al., like others previously, argue that involuntary detention may legitimately be used in a limited number of cases. . . . In theory, few would disagree”), page 6 (“Boggio et al. fairly describe the relationship of rights and health in theory”), and eventually offer conclusions that mirror precisely our own conclusions: “Only in exceptional cases, where patients resist treatment after all feasible programmatic solutions have been exhausted, should detention with proper checks, balances, and safeguards, be considered” (p. 6; citation pages here refer to the pdf version of Amon et al.). These considerations undermine the idea that Amon and colleagues’ paper is in reply to ours. If anything, it expands our arguments.

Second, Amon and colleagues criticize our paper as it is allegedly not “informed by practice” (p 6). The claim is without merit, as our paper was intended to articulate the foundations of WHO’s recommendations for practice in the area of drug-resistant TB, drawing on the field experience of the co-authors and many others,[2] rather than providing a tool to be directly translated into practice. WHO’s involvement with control of drug-resistant TB is much broader than our paper, as Amon et al., know well; thus, characterizing it as not “informed by practice” does a disservice to the readership.

Third, Amon and colleagues claim that policies adopted by the South African government are in violations of international human rights law and that this may be caused by a “a narrow reading of [our] argument, coupled with [our] lack of explicit reference of what constitutes a ‘last resort’” (p. 6). After this statement, Amon and colleagues fail to provide any evidence — empirical or logical — of why our paper, if narrowly read, would be the cause of certain practices. We certainly did and do not endorse a lighthearted approach to coercive measures.

Finally, Amon and colleagues claim, in the abstract, that our paper raises a “false” dilemma. The authors’ explanation of why it is a false dilemma is that there is no need to breach individual rights for the sake of containing TB because, “given the early indications of success of Lesotho’s community-based treatment program, and the documented evidence of successful community-based models in other urban and rural settings, any assumption that isolation and other compulsory measures are necessary and effective for the treatment of drug-resistant TB must be reconsidered.” (p. 6). In other words, “early indications” suggest that there is not (nor will be) need for coercive measures. A few comments are needed on this characterization of our paper as presenting a “false” dilemma. First, without need to delve a complex philosophical debate on dilemmas,[3] it suffices to say that a dilemma is “true” if it can genuinely arise from practice (in our case, the tension between individual rights and public health considerations). A “true” dilemma can then be resolved and that does not turn it into a “false” dilemma: it simply becomes a “resolved” dilemma. Second, Amon and colleagues’ language itself suggests that evidence that coercive measures are never warranted is not robust enough. Therefore, they implicitly concede that the dilemma raised in our paper may in fact arise. As a matter of fact, sound and resourceful TB control programs sometimes deal with TB patients in which all measures have failed to promote adherence to treatment.[4] Furthermore, they also concede that it is unlikely to be resolved unless one resorts to coercive measures — once again under exceptional circumstances. Finally, Amon and colleagues advocate a course of action that is precisely what WHO has recommended for a long time: community-based measures and the DOTS strategy.

Andrea Boggio, Matteo Zignol, Ernesto Jaramillo, and Mario Raviglione

1. A. Boggio, M. Zignol, E. Jaramillo, et al. “Limitations on human rights: are they justifiable to reduce the burden of tuberculosis in the era of MDR- and XDR-TB?” Health and Human Rights: An International Journal 10/2 (2008), pp. 121-126. Available at (html) and at (pdf).
2. B. H. Lerner, “Catching Patients: Tuberculosis and Detention in 1990s,” Chest 1115/1 (1999), pp. 236-241; “How Israel Manages Noncompliant TB Patients” Biot Report #437 (July 05, 2007). Available at
3. T. McConnell, “Moral Dilemmas,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2003 Edition), E. N. Zalta (ed).
4. See, references cited in footnote 2.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Asbestos: The Bill Gates Of Switzerland -

This week, Forbes features a profile of Stephan Schmidheiny, the heir of the family that owned Eternit (the asbestos manufacturer) for four generations. Stephan is/was a major shareholder and board member of Swissair, Nestle, Swatch, the banking group UBS and the multinational Asea Brown Boveri. Stephan is a billionaire, the fifth richest Swiss business man; a resident of Costa Rica: a philanthropist and a defendant in a criminal trial in Torino, Italy, involving thousands of asbestos deaths occurred in Italy since the 1950s.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

From Nature: Japan relaxes human stem-cell rules

I writing a short commentary on the new rules concerning human embryonic stem (ES) cells. I found this editorial published in Nature very interesting and I wanted to share. The field of research with Domestic regulation of human embryonic stem cell is very much an international one. Japan's new rules follow the new rules adopted by the NIH a few weeks ago in the USA. Domestic policy matters outside the boudaries of that nation, as the editorial suggests. It's also interesting to note that Japan had allocated most of its money for stem cell research to finance reseach with induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells (cells that are produced from normal adult cells and can be reprogrammed in any human cell, thus been akin to ES cells). IPS cells were created for the first time in Japan, in Kyoto. National pride certainly plays a role in Japan's early decision to fund more IPS cell research than ES cell research. The lesson is simple: biomedical research is an international enteprise in which national interests still matter greatly.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal - Ethical Norms and the International Governance of Genetic Databases and Biobanks: Findings from an International Study

The paper Ethical Norms and the International Governance of Genetic Databases and Biobanks: Findings from an International Study was published in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal.

Here is the abstract:

This article highlights major results of a study into the ethical norms and rules governing biobanks. After describing the methodology, the findings regarding four topics are presented: (1) the ownership of human biological samples held in biobanks; (2) the regulation of researchers’ use of samples obtained from biobanks; (3) what constitutes “collective consent” to genetic research, and when it is needed; and (4) benefit sharing and remuneration of research participants. The paper then summarizes key lessons to be drawn from the findings and concludes by reflecting on the importance of such empirical research to inform future governance norms and practices.

I co-authored it with Alex Capron, Alexandre Mauron, Bernice Elger, Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra, and Nikola Biller-Andorno.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

CRAP paper accepted by journal - opinion - 11 June 2009 - New Scientist

The New Scientist reports thata computer generated paper was accepted by a peer review journal. A graduate student in library and information science at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, "got a nonsensical computer-generated paper accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal."

I love this stuff! The ingenuity of the student, the naivete of peer-review, and the thought that the system can be easily undermined.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Regulating assisted reproduction in Italy: a 5-year assessment - Human Fertility

A paper co-authored with Gilberto Corbellini discussing empirical evidence of how well the Italian law on assisted reproduction is doing five years after its enactment appears in Human Fertility.

Abstract. In 2004, the Italian parliament comprehensively regulated medically assisted reproduction. Law 40/2004 has outlawed several techniques and tightly compressed the freedom of research in the area of human reproduction and regenerative medicine. This article analyses the post-2004 political, bioethical and legal debate on assisted reproduction in Italy. The analysis is grounded on empirical evidence on fertilisation outcomes released in 2007 and 2008 by the Italian government, on recent amendments related to the regulation of preimplantation genetic diagnosis and on the debates on the status of spare embryos as for their availability for scientific researches. The analysis shows that Law 40/2004 has failed to improve the access of infertile couples to assisted reproduction techniques and keeps supporting practices that the other jurisdictions have rejected because they are unwise from a clinical standpoint. Moreover, Law 40/2004 created severe limitations to scientific researches in the fields of medical embryology, gynaecology and regenerative medicine. With the political support of some Italian political parties and the Catholic Church, Law 40/2004 disregards the expectations of the majority of Italian citizens, international guidelines of good clinical practice, international codes of medical ethics, the interests of infertile couples and the social and economic relevance of biomedical research.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

IVF and the health of the future baby

Although bioethicists and policymakers often debate the merits and the permissible boundaries of assisted reproduction techniques (ARTs), IVF seems to be a (ethical) given even in more conservative legal environments: couples ought to be able to have children with IVF. It is important, however, to keep looking at health outcomes to make sure that the empirical foundation of an ethical argument is solid.

Human reproduction published two papers that advance our understanding of ARTs. The first paper shows that IVF twins are far more likely to need hospital treatment than naturally-conceived twins. Normally conceived twins are healthier and IVF twins spend about an extra 4 days in hospital after birth, have an almost 4-fold increased risk of admission to neo-natal intensive care, and an increased risk of hospital admission in the first three years. The second paper shows that
children born from embryos that were frozen and stored are as healthy as other artificially conceived youngsters.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hans Rosling on HIV: New facts and stunning data visuals

Hans Rosling, who wrote the preface to the book on global health I edited with Anna Gatti, presents recent data on the HIV-AIDS epidemic. Interesting powerpoint.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fake peer review

The Scientist reports that Elsevier published 6 fake journals. These titles were: the Australasian Journal of General Practice, the Australasian Journal of Neurology, the Australasian Journal of Cardiology, the Australasian Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, the Australasian Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine, and the Australasian Journal of Bone & Joint [Medicine].

[Elsevier] produced a pharmaceutical company-funded publication in the early 2000s without disclosing that the "journal" was corporate sponsored.

Merck is among the undisclosed corporate sponsor of these 'peer reviewed' journals.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Day The Endangered Species Act Died

The Obama Administration announced today, through Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, that it would not break with the Bush II Administration's policy of abandoning the Polar Bear to its fate. Despite both the clear intent and letter of the Endangered Species Act to contrary, Secretary Salazar stated that "The Endangered Species Act is not the appropriate tool for us to deal with what is a global issue, and that is the issue of global warming"

Full post here: The Day The Endangered Species Act Died.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Research on asbestos litigation

The semester is over and it's time to go back to an old love: comparing the compensation of asbestos victims and explaining how it contributes to our understanding of capitalism and modernity.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Swine flu or NAFTA flu

Interesting interview published on Democracy Now!

The video interview looks at the political choices behind the current pandemic threat with a focus on the livestock revolution:

The swine are not in the driver’s seat. They are not in a position to organize themselves into what are now cities of pigs that stretch around the world.

We really have to go back to the livestock revolution. Before World War II, poultry and pigs were basically farmed in backyard operations across this country. So we’re talking about poultry flocks of the size of seventy chickens. After the World War II, all those independent farming operations were—many of them were basically put under one roof and increasingly put under the control of particular corporations—Holly Farms, Tyson, Perdue. And the geography of the poultry and pork change. So, while previously pork and poultry were grown across the country, it was now grown, or they’re now raised within only a few southeastern states here in the United States. After the livestock revolution, poultry and pigs were now being grown and raised in much larger populations, so we go from seventy poultry now up to populations of 30,000 at a time. So we have cities of pigs and poultry.

That model was subsequently spread around the world. So, starting in the 1970s, the livestock revolution was brought to East Asia. You have the CP Group, which is now the fourth—world’s fourth-largest poultry company, in Thailand. That company subsequently brought the livestock revolution into China once China opened up its doors in 1980. So we have cities of poultry and pork developing around the world.

And this phenomenon goes hand in hand with the very structural adjustment programs that the IMF and the World Bank helped institute during this time. So if you’re a poor country, you’re having financial difficulties, in order to get some money to bail you out, you had to go to the International Monetary Fund for a loan. And in return, the IMF would make demands on you to change your economy in such a way that would allow you—will force you to open up your economy to outside corporations, including agricultural companies. And, of course, that would have a detrimental effect on domestic agriculture. So, small companies within poor countries could not out-compete large agribusinesses from the North that are subsidized by the industrial governments. So they’re not able to compete with them, so there’s—they either must contract their labor and land to the companies, foreign companies that are coming into their country, or they basically retire out of the business and sell their land to the large companies that are coming in. So, in other words, the spread of the cities of pork and poultry go hand in hand with this structural adjustment program.

And, of course, NAFTA is our local version of that...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The ethics of DNA databasing

The Economist devotes a column to one of my long standing research interests: DNA databases.

The questions posed is: "This house believes that people's DNA sequences are their business, and nobody else's."

Craig Venter and Artie Caplan argue opposing pointes of view. While it is great that magazines discuss such an important topic, the Economist presents the debate in the wrong way as it lines up a scientist who clearly things that research is needed and the bioethicist who clearly things that reflection is needed before and while research is conducted. It perpetuates the idea that ethics is against science, which is often not the case. In fact, in their opening statements, both intellectuals end up advocating stronger genetic privacy: Venter advocates that the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) is adopted by all nations around the world; Caplan concludes that, "Unless something can be done to minimise the latter, the case for genetic privacy is quite strong."

Again it is a matter of how issues are presented: if they are complex but non-polarized, they should be presented as, as complex and non-polarized. Not as a matter of winning and losing the argument.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Another EU post on assisted-suicide: UK

BBC reports that former health secretary Patricia Hewitt is urging MPs to change the law to allow people to take terminally ill patients abroad for assisted suicide.
The proposed amendment amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill would protect Britons seeking assisted suicide abroad from prosecution--i.e., the surviving spouse, relative, friend who help the patient to reach a jurisdiction in which assisted-suicide is not against the law. To date, more than 700 Britons are members of Dignitas, the Swiss organization that helps mentally competent patients to terminate their lives.
The initiative originates from the Purdy case. In October multiple sclerosis patient Debbie Purdy, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, lost a High Court case in which she wanted a guarantee from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that her husband would not be prosecuted for murder if he assisted her death in Dignitas.

Here is a radio interview.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Luxembourg becomes third EU country to legalize euthanasia

Luxembourg became on Tuesday the third European country to legalise euthanasia after the Netherlands and Belgium, as a new law went into force.

A law published in the official register said that doctors who carry out euthanasia and assisted suicides would not face "penal sanctions" or civil suits for damages and interest.

The law was the source of great controversy in the tiny country where the head of state, deeply catholic Grand Duke Henri, refused to sign off on the bill, triggering a constitutional crisis.

To get around his refusal and avoid such problems in the future, Luxembourg's parliament voted for legislation to give the monarch a purely ceremonial role.

Apart from Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium have been the only EU countries to allow euthanasia since legalising it in 2002 under strict conditions.

In Switzerland, a doctor can provide a patient who wants to die with lethal medication that the patient has to take by him or herself.

AFP reports.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Roboetichs: interview in Corriere della Sera

A Corriere della Sera interview on the ethical implications of robotics--tn particular on the implications of neural implants that produce deep brain stimulation to treat patients with Parkinson's disease. One of the issues is that neural implants cause apathy in the patients, this changing their personality. Did patients consent to the change of personality? What is their dear ones find the 'new' personality unacceptable: are they entited to object to the implant or move a court to uninstall the implant? The topic is fashinating and opens the door for raising important questions of disability and identity.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Video of paper delivered at the Second meeting of the World Congress for freedom of scientific research

Video of paper delivered at the Second meeting of the World Congress for freedom of scientific research (click on minute 11:47).

Monday, March 09, 2009

2001 ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cells was lifted today

At 12pm, President Obama signed an executive order lifting the ban of federal funding for embryonic stem cells. In his speech, he pointed out the fact that science serves humanity but also that science in itself is an exercise of freedom (i.e., science is free inquiry).

...promoting science isn't just about providing resources – it is also about protecting free and open inquiry.

He also indicated that the White House is committed to scientific integrity and to policy based on sound science rather than on ideology.
It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda – and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

This is very important. Yet, research with embryos is not entirely free under US policy. the Dickey Amendment, passed by United States Congress in 1995 and signed by former President Bill Clinton, prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from using appropriated funds for the creation of human embryos for research purposes or for research in which human embryos are destroyed.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Interview at the World Congress on Freedom of Research

Maurizio Paganelli reports from Brussels. The interview is in italian.

Pillsbury Winthrop's lay offs

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman sacked 55 associates, 10 paralegals and 90 support staffers indeed. Pillsbury is offering laid-off attorneys a chance to work for a year at a nonprofit legal services organization. Under the arrangement, the associate forgoes severance pay, and the firm pays his or her salary and benefits for a year. Rick Donaldson, the firm's chief operating officer, stated that:

"We believe that many lawyers, particularly junior associates, could benefit from this opportunity to assist their communities and at the same time enhance their legal skills and obtain additional professional experience,"

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Which country has the greenest bail-out?

The Financial Times published two interactive graphics reporting data on which country has the greenest bail-out. Here at the results by percentage:
- South Korea: 81%
- EU: 59%
- China 38%
- France: 21%
- Germany 13%
- US: 12%
- Australia: 9%
- Canada: 8%
- UK: 7%
- Japan: 3%
- Italy: 1%

Monday, March 02, 2009

On global governance

A provocative proposal to make global leadership more representative:

Economists Vijaya Ramachandran and Enrique Rueda-Sabater propose a simple system for deciding who gets to run the world. Call it the Two Percent Doctrine: If your country has either 2 percent of the planet's people or 2 percent of the world's gross domestic product, you're in, a proud member of a committee overseeing the World Bank, United Nations and other global institutions. Congrats.
By this count, 16 countries make the cut. First up, alphabetically, is Bangladesh. Brazil and Canada are next, with the list reaching the United Kingdom and the United States. (You didn't think Obama would be off the invite list, did you?)

This model would lead to excluding Mexico, Saudi Arabia and South Korea and including Nigeria and Pakistan in global governance.

The Washington Post reports.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Law firm lay offs

In this laying off frenzy, I found this bit of information funny:

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman inadvertently announced attorney layoffs last week, when a senior partner apparently discussed the firm's situation on his cell phone in a crowded train car. Full details, however, have not yet been provided, and the firm reportedly may not actually make these layoffs until March.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Vatican and the US Congress

PBS Religion & Ethics reports on Nancy Pelosi's visit to Pope Benedict XVI:

Pope Benedict XVI apparently chastised Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi over her views on abortion. Pelosi is Catholic and pro-choice. After a private meeting with Pelosi at the Vatican this week, Benedict issued a statement saying all Catholics, especially lawmakers, should work to protect all human life.

Here is the video.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stem cells: is Obama acting slowly?

The Washington Post reports that researchers are waiting for Obama to simply reverse the 2001 ban on federal funding on stem cells.

Proponents expected Obama to lift the restriction in his first week in office, when he issued a flurry of executive orders to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, make government less secretive and lift a ban on funding international family planning groups that support abortion, among other things.

Why has Obama immediately lifted other restrictions but not federal funding for stem cells?

Italy’s creeping fascism

Discussing the controversial euthanasia case that is fueling the political and ethical debate in Italy on openDemocracy, Geoff Andrews rightfully suggests that,

The country is at present dominated by intolerant public discourses and veering towards authoritarian solutions; in this febrile atmosphere, such an event threatens to become a serious constitutional crisis.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Death Ends Coma Case That Set Off Furor in Italy

Over the past few days, Italy was the stage of a private tragedy that became a topic of public debate, constitutional battles, and political shame. A woman, who was about my same age, had been in a persistent vegetative state since a car accident in 1992. After 17 years, she eventually died yesterday with the assistance of a physician.

About a month ago, a British philosopher wrote an op-ed. Here is an excerpt:

The law must be changed so that people facing fatal or self-destroying conditions do not also have to endure this agony of not being able to protect their selves and their loved ones ... Patients need to be enabled to state their preferences, the circumstances under which they want to be killed ... It is not rocket science. It is obscenely overdue.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The ethics of animal experimentation

Today, I read with interest this paper on animal experimentation that was published today: Niall Shanks, Ray Greek and Jean Greek, Are animal models predictive for humans?
Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 2009, 4:2 (doi:10.1186/1747-5341-4-2). The authors look at the contentious claim that animal models are not good predictors of human response to drugs and other chemicals, and conclude that the literature supports this claim. The paper raises interesting ethical and policy implications.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Health and Development. Toward a Matrix Approach

The book I edited with Anna Gatti, Health and Development. Toward a Matrix Approach (Palgrave Macmillan 2009) is available. A sample chapter can be downloaded here.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Preface; L. Brilliant and H. Rosling
Introduction: Toward a Matrix Approach; A. Gatti and A. Boggio

Global Health: Getting it Right; L. Garrett and K. Schneider
The World Health Organization and its Role in Health and Development; R. Koskenmaki, E. Granziera and G. L. Burci
Beyond the Matrix: Thinking Three-dimensionally About Social Determinants of Health; T. Schrecker and R. Labonté
Research and Innovation in Health and Development; S. A. Matlin

Health and Evolution; F. C. Sforza
Health and Development: An Economic Perspective; D. Evans
Health, Development, and Human Rights; S. Marks
Health and Development: An Ethics Perspective; A. Boggio

Health and Development: The Role of International Organizations in Population Ageing; C. Phillipson, C. Estes and E. Portacolone
Child Health and Development; L. Richter and C. Desmond
Women Health and Development; L. Manderson

Long Term Impacts of Leading Chronic Diseases in Low and Middle Income Countries: A Comparative Analysis; D. Stuckler and D. Yach
Strategies for Financing Universal Access to Health Care and Prevention: Lessons Learned and Perspective for the 21st Century; S. Spinaci and V. Crowel
HIV Epidemic and Response: Social, Economic and Development Impact; K. A. Kutch, D. Yu and Y. Souteyrand
Global TB Control: Persisting Problems, Shifting Solutions; M. W. Uplekar and M. C. Raviglione