If you have any trouble getting any of these publications from your library, please email me for offprints (my email @vole.org is 'vole').
Suppose that Depletion will reduce the well-being of future people. Many of us would like to say that Depletion is wrong because of the harm to future people. However, it can easily be made to seem that Depletion is actually harmless – this is the non-identity problem. I discuss a particularly ingenious attempt by Melinda Roberts to attribute a harm to Depletion. I will argue that the magnitude of Roberts's harm is off target by many orders of magnitude: it is just too tiny to explain the intuitive wrong of Depletion.
Gregor Samsa awakes to find himself transformed into a gigantic bug. The creature's inchoate flailing leads Gregor's sister to conclude that Gregor is no more, having been replaced by a brute beast lacking any vestige of human understanding. Sadly, real cases of brain injury and disease can lead to psychological metamorphoses so profound that we cannot easily think that the survivor is the person we knew. I argue that there can be cases in which statements like, "It's just not Gregor anymore," are not merely figures of speech. With this in mind, I consider three possible results of saving a biological life: (1) ordinary cases where saving the life will save the person, with strong duties to save the life; (2) cases where the intervention needed to save the life will replace the person, with strong duties not to save the life; (3) cases in which it is indeterminate whether the person will be saved or replaced. How should we think about indeterminate cases? Impersonal ethical considerations miss the point, while standard person-affecting considerations are inapplicable. I suggest turning attention away from survival towards a richer focus on what I call "personal concern." I show how considerations of personal concern, unlike those of self-interest, need not be tied to survival and how this allows personal concern to provide a basis for ethically substantive discussion of cases where saving a life might result in losing the patient.
M. Greene (2011). "On the Origin of Species Notions and Their Ethical Limitations", Ch. 20 in The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics, T. L. Beauchamp and R. G. Frey (eds.). New York, Oxford University Press: 577-602.
I argue that defenders of general duties of species preservation are faced with an impossible task. I distinguish derivative from non-derivative value and argue that the derivative value of species can yield only limited and contingent duties of preservation. There can be no general duty of species preservation unless all species have non-derivative value. Ongoing controversy over the 'species' notion has not deterred some from claiming settled authority for whatever notion appears most conducive to their favored account of species value. This is a mistake. The actual task is to state biologically plausible criteria for a 'species' notion and to make the case that these criteria demarcate something of moral value. I argue that the task is made impossible by the same basic biological facts that led Darwin to the view that species are "merely artificial combinations made for convenience."
In this paper we challenge the moral consensus against selection for disability. Our discussion will concern only those disabilities that are compatible with a life worth living from the point of view of the disabled individual. We will argue that an influential, impersonal argument against selection for disability falls to a counterexample. We will then show how the reach of the counterexample can be broadened to make trouble for anyone who objects to selection for disability. If we are right about the problems for objections to selection for disability, why are objections are so widespread? We suggest that intuitions are being skewed against selection for disability by certain quirks in the usual ways of presenting the issue. Nevertheless, we must confess to finding our own result surprising.
(Random note: If you've read 'Everworse', you might be amused by this news item. With thanks to Amitabha Palmer for finding it.)
How do everyday folk manage to refer to chocolate despite knowing so little about it? Traditional semantic externalism suggests a two-part answer: a negative claim that meanings are not determined inside speakers' heads, and a positive claim that meanings are fixed by external factors. Traditional externalism gets the semantics of 'chocolate' half right: the negative claim is correct, but the positive claim is not. I will argue that there is nothing special about 'chocolate'. Scientifically respectable natural kind terms also fail to live up to the positive expectations of traditional externalism. How should we respond? I will argue that kind term indeterminacy is compatible with important advances associated with externalism's de re understanding of kind terms.
Mark Greene (2009). "Choosing Future People: Reproductive Technologies and Identity", in V. Ravitsky, A. Fiester and A.L. Caplan, eds., The Penn Center Guide to Bioethics (New York: Springer Publishing Company): 307-317.
Reproductive technologies do not allow us to choose future people, but they do change who will exist. Confusion arises because of the different senses in which 'identity' is used in ethical debate. I distinguish qualitative, cultural, and numerical identity. Reproductive choices do impact the qualitative features of children in ways that affect wellbeing, both directly and indirectly via cultural identification. I explain how the nonidentity problem makes it difficult to say what, if anything, is wrong with risky reproductive choices, and I outline four strategies for responding to the non-identity problem.
M. Greene (2008). "The Indeterminacy of Loss", Ethics 118(4): 633-658.
This paper argues that continua of both genetic and environmental manipulation give rise to cases in which it is indeterminate whether the non-identity problem arises. In clear non-identity cases, impersonal principles can underwrite intuitions of wrongdoing. In clear cases of ordinary personal harm, ordinary ethical thinking about personal compensation augments or supersedes impersonal considerations. Indeterminate cases raise a special problem because it is indeterminate whether personal ethical considerations apply. Might indeterminacy of identity preclude a determinate and ethically justified resolution of personal compensation claims? A way is suggested in which to continue ethically substantive discussion despite indeterminacy.
This paper uses chronic beryllium disease as a case study to explore some of the challenges for decision-making and some of the problems for obtaining meaningful informed consent when the interpretation of screening results is complicated by their probabilistic nature and is clouded by empirical uncertainty. Although avoidance of further beryllium exposure might seem prudent for any individual whose test results suggest heightened disease risk, we will argue that such a clinical precautionary approach is likely to be a mistake. Instead, advice on the interpretation of screening results must focus not on risk per se, but on avoidable risk, and must be carefully tailored to the individual. These points are of importance for individual decision-making, for informed consent, and for occupational health.
Stem cell therapies should be available to people of all ethnicities. However, most cells used in the clinic will probably come from lines of cells stored in stem cell banks, which may end up benefiting the majority group most. The solution is to seek additional funding, earmarked for lines that will benefit minorities and offered as a public expression of apology for past discrimination.
Mark Greene, K. Schill, S. Takahashi, A. Bateman-House, T. Beauchamp, H. Bok, D. Cheney, J. Coyle, T. Deacon, D. Dennett, P. Donovan, O. Flanagan, S. Goldman, H. Greely, L. Martin, E. Miller, D. Mueller, A. Siegel, D. Solter, J. Gearhart, G. McKhann and R. Faden (2005). "Moral Issues of Human-Non-Human Primate Neural Grafting", Science 309(5733): 385-386.
The scientific, ethical, and policy issues raised by research involving the engraftment of human neural stem cells into the brains of nonhuman primates are explored by an interdisciplinary working group in this Policy Forum. The authors consider the possibility that this research might alter the cognitive capacities of recipient great apes and monkeys, with potential significance for their moral status.
R.R. Faden, L. Dawson, A.S. Bateman-House, D. Mueller Agnew, H. Bok, D.W. Brock, A. Chakravarti, X.-j. Gao, M. Greene, J.A. Hansen, P.A. King, S.J. O'Brien, D.H. Sachs, K.E. Schill, A. Siegel, D. Solter, S.M. Suter, C.M. Verfaillie, L. Walters and J.D. Gearhart (2003). "Public Stem Cell Banks: Considerations of Justice in Stem Cell Research and Therapy", Hastings Center Report 33(6): 13-27.
If stem cells fulfill their therapeutic promise, moving them from the laboratory into the clinic will raise several concerns about justice. One concern is that, for biological reasons alone, stem cell-based therapies might not be available for every patient who needs one. Worse, depending on how we address the problem of biological access, they might benefit primarily white Americans. We can avoid this outcome—although at a cost—by carefully selecting the stem cells we make available.
L. Dawson, A.S. Bateman-House, D. Mueller Agnew, H. Bok, D.W. Brock, A. Chakravarti, M. Greene, P.A. King, S.J. O'Brien, D.H. Sachs, K.E. Schill, A. Siegel, D. Solter, S.M. Suter, C.M. Verfaillie, L. Walters, J.D. Gearhart and R.R. Faden (2003). "Safety Issues in Cell-Based Intervention Trials", Fertility and Sterility 80(5): 1077-1085.
We report on the deliberations of an interdisciplinary group of experts in science, law, and philosophy who convened to discuss novel ethical and policy challenges in stem cell research. In this report we discuss the ethical and policy implications of safety concerns in the transition from basic laboratory research to clinical applications of cell-based therapies derived from stem cells. Although many features of this transition from lab to clinic are common to other therapies, three aspects of stem cell biology pose unique challenges. First, tension regarding the use of human embryos may complicate the scientific development of safe and effective cell lines. Second, because human stem cells were not developed in the laboratory until 1998, few safety questions relating to human applications have been addressed in animal research. Third, preclinical and clinical testing of biologic agents, particularly those as inherently complex as mammalian cells, present formidable challenges, such as the need to develop suitable standardized assays and the difficulty of selecting appropriate patient populations for early phase trials. We recommend that scientists, policy makers, and the public discuss these issues, and further, that a national advisory committee to oversee human trials of cell therapies be established.
A comment on the code of ethical practice of Genetic Savings & Clone, a companion animal cloning service.
In February 1994, Stephen Mobley was convicted of the murder of John Collins. Mobley's lawyers attempted to introduce genetic evidence in an attempt to have Mobley's sentence reduced from death to life imprisonment. I examine the prospects for appeal to genetic determinism as a criminal defense. Guided by existing standards for insanity defenses, I argue that a genetic defense might be allowable in exceptional cases but will not be generally available as some have worried.