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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, Policy Proposal + Business Plan

A Hard Pill to Swallow: Combatting the World’s Silent Battle on Drug Abuse

ZAINAB FEROZE, ROBBY DOUGHTY, HARNEET KAUR

The volunteer abroad industry has rapidly expanded in recent years, with some estimating the net worth of the industry to be upwards of $173 billion a year (The Wilson Quarterly). With tens of thousands of volunteers, including thousands of pre-health college students, volunteering abroad a year, it is important to be aware of the ethical impacts of the ever-growing field of “voluntourism”.

In this brief editorial, I advocate that pre-health students ought to adopt an attitudes-based framework to discern if an international medical service trip is ethically permissible. After a reflection of my own experience as an international volunteer, I examine the ways in which international medical service trips benefit and harm volunteers and community members. I argue that the qualities of “excellence” and “humility” are crucial for students to consider when searching for an international medical service trip, if they decide to participate on one. I include an framework of some questions students should ask when evaluating international medical service trips.

 

2017, Journalistic Reporting

Beyond Good Intentions: Why Attitudes Matter on International Medical Service Trips

MARNIE KLEIN

The volunteer abroad industry has rapidly expanded in recent years, with some estimating the net worth of the industry to be upwards of $173 billion a year (The Wilson Quarterly). With tens of thousands of volunteers, including thousands of pre-health college students, volunteering abroad a year, it is important to be aware of the ethical impacts of the ever-growing field of “voluntourism”.

In this brief editorial, I advocate that pre-health students ought to adopt an attitudes-based framework to discern if an international medical service trip is ethically permissible. After a reflection of my own experience as an international volunteer, I examine the ways in which international medical service trips benefit and harm volunteers and community members. I argue that the qualities of “excellence” and “humility” are crucial for students to consider when searching for an international medical service trip, if they decide to participate on one. I include an framework of some questions students should ask when evaluating international medical service trips.

 

2017, Journalistic Reporting

End of Life Care in the District: Campus Reacts to Death With Dignity Act

ALEX LEWONTIN

The District of Columbia recently passed the Death with Dignity Act, a local statute that allows terminally ill patients to end their own lives. This law is controversial, especially with Catholics interested in bioethics. Because of Georgetown’s strong Catholic identity, several groups and institutions on the Hilltop have had to consider the implications of the law. This article investigates these considerations. The article was originally published in print and online by The Georgetown Voice on March 17, 2017.

 

2017, Policy Proposal + Business Plan

Fiber Filter

CARTER CORTAZZI, JAMIE FARRELL, LOLA BUSHNELL

Every time you wash your fleece, it dumps 250,000 plastic microfibers into water sources. These fibers degrade the health of aquatic life, and when they make their way into food and water sources, can affect human well-being, too. It’s a newly discovered problem, but given its scale and the scale of synthetic fiber use worldwide, many parties – nonprofits, individual researchers, and even commercial retailers – are already on eager to take down microfiber pollution. Our solution is the Fiber Filter. Modeled on the idea of the already common delicates bag, the Fiber Filter is an easy to use garments pouch for synthetic clothing that prevents the release of microfibers into waterways right at the source. It allows the consumer to continue to wear their favorite synthetic pieces of clothing, without sacrificing the integrity of their conscience, the environment, or their daily routine. All it takes is a zip of the bag and a toss in the wash (and the dryer too!), and the consumer becomes a solution.