Ethics of doing nothing

calendargrumpyBiotechnology

Dec 14, 2012 (4 years and 7 months ago)

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Ethics of doing nothing

Some quotes

“First of all, do no harm”
-

Hippocratic
Oath




“All
that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good
men to do
nothing”
-

Tolstoy



“The
time is always right to do what’s
right”
Martin
Luther King





Ethics Scenario

Consider a runaway train traveling towards a station in which there are ten people
who will die if the train hits it



You are on the train and have the option to switch tracks to divert the train away from
the station.


However, there are three men working on the line on the other track who will die if you
pull the lever.


Do you pull the lever?


One argument, the utilitarian one, would say yes. Maximizing the total utility from the
situation.

Another argument says not pulling the lever is the only option since if you did the
deaths of the three men would be your responsibility but in doing nothing you would
be morally neutral



This is a form of egoistic consequentialism ????

Philosopher's view


On consequential grounds it can absolutely be right
to not act. If not acting causes the outcome to be
better

than acting then not acting is the morally
correct choice



On deontological grounds, specifically Kantian
grounds,
if a situation calls for action
then one is
morally obligated to act. So, if such a situation
occurred, one must act regardless of the
consequences.

Problem One



Who decides what is ethically right?


What criteria is used?

Problem two

At what point has enough time passed to judge the
morality of a course of action
?

Is it wrong to judge actions at year two but right to
judge them at year ten?


What if you wait it out until year fifty
years, one
hundred?
(Gates problem)


Why do we take risks to help others?



Why
would we do
something?


vs
.


Doing
nothing






Doing something

The selfish gene theory


Organisms act

altruistically (take risk)
to help related organisms
reproduce



Why?


Because genes are "helping" copies of themselves (or sequences
with the same

phenotypic effect) in other bodies to replicate


So
selfish actions of genes lead to unselfish actions by
organisms


Quantifying risk

Risking your life to save someone else’s needs an
equation


Risk of dying <= total relatedness

Total relatedness = sum(matching genes)


sum(n0n
matching genes)

Or (closely related people)


(distantly related people)


(one brother + one cousin) > (one uncle + stranger)


Doing nothing in science and medicine


What
about doing
nothing?



If you don’t know what is wrong with a patient, should
you just do nothing and hope the patient might get
better or maybe do something and do more harm?


Many science experiments use placebos


Is a placebo the same as doing nothing?



To do or not to do
-

science topics


CFC’s


Evolution vs. creationism


Genetic engineering


Cloning


Stem cells


End of life care


Infectious diseases


Climate Change


Need an approach


How do we approach whether to do something or do
nothing ?

Decision points
-

what to do?

Situation presents itself

Do nothing

Do cost


benefit analysis

Do something

Frame work for what to do

http://www.mylot.com/w/photokeywords/vault.aspx

Climate change

While a majority of scientists agree that we are
experiencing climate change


No one is certain



There is risk of being wrong in both directions


Cost of doing something can be very high


hundreds of
billions


Cost of doing nothing (business as usual) is low to
extremely high

Climate change


Do nothing vs. aggressive policy changes


http://www.glaciology.net/Home/Miscellaneous
-
Debris/relationshipbetweensealevelriseandglobaltemperature

Emerging Infectious Diseases

Includes
viruses, bacteria,
Achaea,
fungi, prions, and
protozoa


Humans


direct infection


Infections
of food crops can indirectly threaten human
health and
wellbeing


Infection of animals: food animals, work animals, pets


Infection of trees: pulp and wood production

Transmission routes

International Travel has increased over 200% since
1990

T
he number of different origination points has
increase dramatically


In
1950, the top 15 destinations accounted for

98%
of
all international tourism.


This
fraction fell to
40%
by
2012

http://www.irgc.org/IMG/pdf/Emerging_Infectious_Diseases_Fineberg_and_Wilson
-
2.pdf

What to do


What level of response is appropriate?


Risk vs. cost


MRSA, etc.

http://blogs.venturacountystar.com/greenberg/archives/2007/11/drugresistant_s.html



Public
health


vaccinations


Response level set by risk

A.
No human transmission

B.
Known slow human
transmission

C.
Known rapid human
transmission



1.
No human symptoms

2.
Known mild human symptoms

3.
Known severe human
symptoms


Level of response


A1


do nothing


B2


do something


C3


Panic (modified H5N1)



Vaccinations


Should we vaccinate or just let nature take its
course?

Benefits of Vaccinations

http://kschang.hubpages.com/hub/Herd
-
Immunity
-
Why
-
NOT
-
Vaccinating
-
Your
-
Children
-
Can
-
Hurt
-
Other
-
Children

Antibiotics

Over use of antibiotics in humans

Over use of antibiotics in farm animals

Contributes
to the rise of antibiotic
-
resistant
infections in humans


http://textbookofbacteriology.net/themicrobialworld/bactresanti.ht
ml

http://drcarycarpenter.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/antibiotic
-
overuse/

Humans

According to the CDC, antibiotic prescribing in
outpatient settings could be reduced by more than 30
percent without adversely affecting patient health.



http://www.cdc.gov/Features/GetSmart/

http://travel.feedfury.com/content/46436466
-
the
-
over
-
prescription
-
of
-
antibiotics
-
in
-
thailand.html

Farm use of antibiotics

Cattle
, swine, chickens and other livestock receive an
estimated 80 percent of the nation's
antibiotics



Changes are taking place

Opportunity
cost


The only reasonable argument for doing
nothing is that the time and resources could
be better spent elsewhere, and cost
-
effectiveness analysis provides us with the
information to know where it is best spent.

Science outpaces ethics

Questions?


Sources


http://www.123rf.com/photo_8405928_people
-
relaxing
-
on
-
a
-
beach
-
in
-
lanzarote
-
spain.html


http://www.sciencecartoonsplus.com/gallery/ethics/index.php
#


http://
tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Flatline


http://unequivocalkate.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/burning
-
books
/


http://mychinaconnection.com/english
-
idiom/carrot
-
and
-
stick
-
approach
-
meaning
/


http://highachieversnetwork.com/high
-
achievers
-
network/integrity
-
level
-
carrot
-
stick
-
doug
-
grady
#


http://
www.billfrymire.com/gallery/binary
-
highway
-
information
-
technology
-
speed.jpg.html


http://
www.onlinemedicinetips.com/disease/m/measles/Vaccination
-
Of
-
Measles.html


http://
ilene.typepad.com/ourfavorites/2011/09/panic
-
and
-
perspective
-
on
-
wall
-
street
-
from
-
art
-
cashin.html


http://www.healthwisery.com/category/health
-
and
-
fitness/