PSYC 3110 Lecture Notes - Lecture 21: Nuremberg Trials, Social Science & Medicine, Brain Death

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Lecture 21: Bioethics
• Attempts to answer questions of right & wrong, justice & crime, virtue & vice ...
• Applied ethics
Application of ethical theory to real world problems
- What do we mean by ethics?
- On a daily basis you might encounter questions of right or wrong.
- Ethics tries to answer questions about right or wrong
- Ethics as an object of study has been around for thousands of years and is deeply
important to being human
- Different philosophers and religions have different answers on how we answer ethical
- The idea of what is good for the majority is good for everyone (utilitarianism)
But then you have cases like Nazi Germany where this isn’t true
- There are many ways of defining right or wrong
- Why is this relevant?
In the course you have seen many examples where issues have an ethical dimension
For instance, vaccines. Evidence suggests that it is a good thing. But what if someone
says they don’t want to vaccinate their kids. Do you force them to do it or is it wrong?
This is an ethical question
- Research doesn’t give you the answer. There are normative elements to this question.
- Normative question example: Essay question on who has the responsibility
- Ethical questions are something beyond just the natural science of how things work
- Ethics is largely a philosophical and abstract area of inquiry but there is a field called
applied ethics that look at real world problems
- Everyone in their personal lives have to deal with ethical questions
- Ultimately it is a question of what do you think is the right thing to do. In large part you
deal with implications but it is up to you to make the call on how to deal with ethical
- Business ethics. How you answer questions in business it is not how you do this it is
about businesses are structured.
Minimum wage: Effects how we do things. Good for people but bad for businesses.
Ethical questions here. Applied ethics deals with these larger issues
- Bioethics
Ethical questions that relate to health care, biomedicine, doctors and patients
- Clinical bioethics
Deals with issues such as if someone goes into a coma and they are declared brain
dead and so the family and the doctor have to decide if patient to stay on life support. It is
an ethical issue, and clinical decision
- Research ethics
Ethical questions that come up when doing research
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Biomedical Ethics Background
Created in response to ...
Case of unethical treatment of human subjects like incidences described in Beecher,
1966; Tuskegee syphilis study 
Groundbreaking documents like the 1947 Nuremberg Code (Nazi war crimes)
- Biomedical research has been going on for a long time
- Ethics about biomedicine is fairly new
- Why did we as society decide we needed bioethics?
Few key things happened.
1. Paper by Beacher
2. Tuskegee syphilis studies
- Group of people who has syphilis and were being studied. A cure was discovered.
But for the sake of the research were not given cure.
- To really get the breadth of ethical implications need to consider that the
participants were all black, they were all poor
- Have a group of people that are being studied because they are ill. This is a group
who are disadvantaged racially at a time of segregation, they are poor and largely
uneducated manual labourers.
- Cure becomes available. They are not told and given them and they continue to
suffer and die. They continue to live in their community with syphilis and engage in
sexual relations, suggesting that the suffering goes beyond the group.
- The research they were trying to do was to try and understand the progression of
illness. So they didn’t give the cure was for scientific reasons. But the question is that
is the research that important that you would do these horrible things
- At the time there was no ethics oversight of research
- Once this became known people thought how could you do this and we need
procedures and institutions that stop this from happening
- Over time this developed to research ethics boards (in Canada), in the United States
institutional review boards
- Any study that involves human participants need to apply and get approval to go
ahead with they are doing
- When doing the study they cannot deviate from what they outlined in the application
- For information that is important:
- 1. The researchers were not trying to do bad stuff. The intentions were quite good…
One of the big issues in research ethics oversight researchers justify that they are
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