Category: Academic Paper

2017, Academic Paper

The Refugee Crisis and the Right to Health: Political and Practical Outcomes

MEGHAN BROWN

Through a case study of Germany and Greece in the current refugee crisis, this paper examines the political and practical outcomes that negatively impact refugee access to health care. Within the current framework, a certain legal status accorded to an asylum seeker will confer the rights that individual possesses, thereby deeming only some people as “deserving” of health care. However, in so determining deservingness, only certain individual need is legitimized. Ultimately, I demonstrate that the political and practical aspects of the framework in Germany and Greece do not institutionalize health as a right for refugees in the current crisis.

 

2017, Academic Paper

Structural Injustice in the American Chicken-farming Industry

BENJAMIN CARD

American chicken farming is an industry worth $32.7 billion a year. As the national per capita consumption of chicken increases in parallel with the population generally, the value of the industry can only go up in kind. But chicken profits are conspicuously concentrated in the hands of enormous multinational corporations, which have left those farmers that actually raise the chickens financially behind—farmers with whom these corporations have a contract-based relationship. In this paper, I apply the structural insights of Sally Haslanger and John Rawls to, first, identity the hotspots of injustice in the chicken industry, and, second, suggest how blame might be distributed and solutions achieved. More specifically, I examine the interaction of (1) market domination by four enormous multinational corporations; (2) the contracting-out of chicken farming, in contrast to the tight vertical integration uniting each other step of the broiler-chicken process; (3) the strength of industry-secrets-protecting, anti-journalistic ‘ag-gag’ laws; and (4) the concentration of chicken farms in the American South. I then demonstrate that the combination of these four features of contemporary American chicken farming severely circumscribes the choice architecture of contract farmers. I target information asymmetry as an especially salient problem that contributes to the “invisible foot” of corporate domination of small farmers, and examine the state of Arkansas to witness this structural injustice in action. Furthermore, the importance of cheap chicken to the American diet, its staple-food status, and the degree of moral harm at all levels (from animal rights to global warming to the curtailment of farmers’ choice architecture) make the structural injustice at the heart of the chicken industry a matter of bioethical importance.

 

2017, Academic Paper

The Idealization of Consumption: Perpetuating Female Gender Roles

CINDY FAN

Tuberculosis is a highly infectious pulmonary disease that is passed via airborne transmission. Each year it kills an estimated 1.7 million people and generates more than nine million new cases. During the nineteenth century, the disease, more popularly known as consumption due to way it seemed to consume its sufferers, produced not just painful and debilitating symptoms for the afflicted, but also profoundly influenced society’s behavior and aesthetic ideals. Eighteenth and nineteenth century romantics sentimentalized it as the illness of gifted intellectuals. Idealized in literary and artistic works, the public were led to believe that certain qualities made particular individuals more susceptible to contracting tuberculosis, including attractiveness, youth and sensibility. These beliefs were even echoed by medical professionals, some of whom vocalized support for a consumptive death because of its slow, albeit painful progression that allowed its sufferers to make peace with God. Consequently, the consumptive aesthetic was popularized as a desirable standard of beauty, internalized by women who sometimes deliberately harmed their bodies to achieve a fashionable consumptive chic. Through examination of artistic and literary works, this paper argues that the glorification of tuberculosis subverted traditional notions of sickness as undesirable, compelling women to employ physically harmful strategies in pursuit of the consumptive aesthetic that ultimately reinforced normative female gender roles.

 

2017, Academic Paper

Life in a Glasshouse: Disentangling Agricultural Globalization from Injustice

PETER HOGAN

Economics is not a topic that many would immediately associate with bioethics research. Certainly the impact of humanitarian work by governments and international organizations on issues like food scarcity, water access, agricultural flourishing, and disaster relief each intersect the social sciences, public policy, and bioethical evaluation. But equally important are matters of trade theory and economic equilibrium. Especially in agricultural cultivation, policy frameworks affect growth trajectories across nations and shuffle the economic distribution of benefits and burdens for billions of people. In light of the discipline’s significant impact on international affairs and institutional goals that in turn affect individuals’ biological flourishing, economic thought deserves the utmost scrutiny through the lens of ethical critique.

My paper, “Life in a Glasshouse: Disentangling Agricultural Globalization from Injustice,” looks at how comparative advantage theory informs commodity cash crop specialization, which presents a moral dilemma for farmers in developing countries. Commodity reliance inequitably burdens these states’ agrarian populations with systematic risk, as their crops can make or break its export volume and consequently its GDP. This and the agricultural sector’s ability (or lack thereof) to foster capital innovation have implications for the long-term institutional strength of developing states. These disadvantageous circumstances – which can manifest in economic and institutional instability at atomistic and aggregate levels – are morally impermissible when evaluated through a human rights framework. But the international institutions that have enabled this shift towards reckless trade also have the capacity to offer dynamic solutions to this economic inequity.

My hope is that this paper gives readers a new perspective on the ways in which international trade, development, and policy organizations are subject to scrutiny through a bioethical framework in the pursuit of global justice.

 

2017, Academic Paper

Do Genes Have Agency?

RADHIKA SAHAI

Contemporary science has discovered increasing evidence that validates theories of genetic centrism, leading to more literature supporting ideas that suggest genes ultimately motivate evolutionary processes. This literature legitimizes not only valid ideas regarding genetic centrism but also implicitly propagates genetic agency and anthropomorphism. Across most scientific literature discussing scientific centrism, genes are described as things with agency. Genes are constantly anthropomorphized for the sake of simplicity within scientific language. This language is justified as linguistic shorthand and we are assured that this language is not representative of the nature of genes. But if this is the case, then why do we constantly describe genes with fallacious language? Even in The Selfish Gene, the original source on genetic centrism, Dawkins notes that such “sloppy language” enables us to engage with the nature of genes (Dawkins, 1989). He suggests this language enables us strictly linguistically, not conceptually. Despite the constant anthropomorphism of genes, there is no literature explaining the universal need for this language. This paper is an exploration of existing ideas of genetic agency and how notions of genetic agency contribute to the concept of a gene.

 

2017, Academic Paper

Lessons From Ebola and Zika: The Role of Economic Incentives in Drug Development and Public Health

KELLY SONG

Public health emergencies are becoming familiar occurrences with dire human and economic consequences. Infectious disease outbreaks have sparked international concerns due to the large number of people impacted and lack of effective strategies to contain these diseases at the time of the outbreaks. In response to political pressure and economic incentives, billions of U.S. dollars have been invested in research for illnesses like HIV/AIDS and influenza. However, very limited resources have been dedicated to Ebola and Zika. To examine the relationship between economic incentives and accessible Ebola and Zika treatments, this paper will analyze timelines of key events during the Ebola and Zika outbreaks and compare them to a timeline of the HIV/AIDS outbreak (a prime case study of disparities in drug availability for the rich vs. the poor). Key events for each disease outbreak include: when the outbreak began when the virus was identified, when the disease began to garner media attention, when a public health emergency was declared, and when treatments became available for the rich and then the poor. These dates are compiled from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports and World Health Organization (WHO) reports for the Zika and Ebola outbreaks; and from AIDS.gov, the website on HIV/AIDS managed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Organized into timelines, this information will reveal key incidents that may have sparked drug development, in addition to lags in treatment accessibility for certain communities.

 

2017, Academic Paper

The Human Development Approach to Women’s Health in Yemen

SIMONE WAHNSCHAFFT

The Yemeni Civil War, an ongoing conflict that began in 2015, has placed significant strain on the country’s health care infrastructure, and has shifted both governmental and international aid focus away from long-term development initiatives and towards emergency threats, such as addressing water shortages and preventing the spread of infectious disease. However, many of Yemen’s poorest health indicators are rooted in problematic social structure that existed long before the outbreak of conflict and that cannot be addressed without a long term investment in human development, particularly in one population – women. Yemeni women have long faced inequities in access to social opportunities, such as forced child marriage and lack of access to education, that have not only resulted in poor health outcomes for women, but in high birth rates, unsustainable population growth, and high maternal and child mortality rates across the country.

The Human Development Framework, as put forth by Alex John London, offers a compelling analysis of both social and distributive justice concerns to argue for the responsibility to address women’s development as a fundamental determinant of health outcomes, even in the context of the health emergencies prevalent in war. London’s framework offers an analysis of the obligation of certain institutions – cultural, governmental, and health – to allocate resources to address the gaps in social structure that prevent Yemeni women from utilizing their “basic intellectual, affective and social capabilities to pursue a meaningful life plan” and ultimately culminate in negative health repercussions. Ultimately, the human development view appropriately situates the health issues that Yemen currently faces within the context of continued political instability and scarcity of resources and ultimately points to improvements in women’s development as an important goal for both health and distributive justice concerns going forward.

 

2017, Academic Paper

Advance Directives: Can the Present Self Impose Its Will on the Future Self?

JANELLE SPIRA

Advance directives allow the present self to impose its will on the future self; however, the future self may will different end of life desires than the present self. If the will of the self who formed the advance directive differs from the will of the future self upon whom the advance directive is imposed, this could lead to the premature termination of the future self’s life. Advance directives are contractual agreements between the present self and the future self, and I contend that using an advance directive is unethical because it allows the present self to unjustly impose its will on the future self.

 

2015, Academic Paper

Harmful Humanitarians? When Food Aid is Morally Problematic

ALI CARTER

A bioethics minor whose essay was sparked by a class on global justice and environmental ethics she took with KIE Scholar Madison Powers, Ali Carter (C’15) was surprised to learn that hunger is responsible for more global deaths each year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. Her analysis of “food aid,” which redistributes food from areas of plenty to areas of need, turned up some disturbing moral truths.

“[Food aid] programs are often carried out wastefully and in ways that are not necessarily the most helpful to countries in need,” Carter explains. She argues that food aid “is paternalistic, undercuts the resiliency of local markets, and does little to increase structural fairness around the world.” As a program to help those in need, she concludes, it stands in need of serious moral reform.

Her essay calls for reform in food aid practice, arguing primarily for initiatives that tie food aid to various health- and human rights-based initiatives, or promote locally-sourced food production to support the receiving nation’s economy and infrastructure-building endeavors.

2015 SHOWCASE GRAND CHAMPION

2015 FIRST PRIZE WINNER

2015, Academic Paper

The Pregnant Female Body in Jan van Riemsdyk’s Art and William Hunter’s Science

CHRISTINE SLOBOGIN

An English and Art History double major, Christine Slobogin (C’16) first became interested in the body and art and medicine through a curatorial internship last spring in which she worked directly on an exhibit on illness and the body.

Her paper analyzes of a series of images from a famous 18th century obstetrical atlas through the lens of the changing culture of obstetric medicine in the 18th century.

As Slobogin describes it, these meticulously detailed images of dissected pregnant bodies as scientific objects reflect a contemporaneous shift in the practice of birth from a home affair typically managed by midwives and other female caregivers to a more medicalized affair managed by male obstetric practitioners.

2015 FIRST PRIZE WINNER