That’s not Dad, that’s the Alzheimer’s that speaks, by Evelien van Veen (de Volkskrant 18 May 2018) – TrudoLemmens

It is March 9, 2018, and Luc Beemsterboer (52) enters the nursing home where his father has been living for three days. He walks through the long hallway and types in the access code for the glass sliding doors, behind which dad just happens to arrive. A little man, a little crooked by old age, neat jacket suit. When he sees his son, he momentarily pretends to run past him, a teasing twinkle in his eyes.

“How are you doing, Dad?”, asks Luc, when the tall and the short man stand head to head.

“Shitty”, is the answer – with a tone of: what did you expect?

Jacques Beemsterboer (80) is not in a nursing home because he really wanted it badly. He would by far have preferred to stay with his Toos, with whom he has been married for 55 years, in their new flat in the center of Papendrecht. But it did not work anymore. Jacques has Alzheimer’s, is confused, at home he ran around at night as a ghost, keeping Toos busy with him at the most impossible times. Sometimes, he realizes that he has dementia. “It enters your life insidiously,” he says when you ask him about it. “I can still participate quite well in conversations about nearly anything, but will I still know about it in fourteen days, that’s another question.

https://trudolemmens.wordpress.com/2018/07/14/thats-not-dad-thats-the-alzheimers-that-sounds-by-evelien-van-veen/

Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking Is Legal and Ethical - The ASCO Post

Terminally ill patients with cancer will sometimes ask their clinicians for help with assisted or hastened death.1 Although palliative care and hospice care can usually address the concerns of most patients, some have physical or existential suffering that is refractory to comfort and supportive care. Consequently, these patients sometimes persist in their requests for help with a hastened death. Because many clinicians are unsure how to respond to such requests, here we clarify the status of medical aid in dying laws and one important, yet still obscure, option for terminally ill patients looking to end their lives: voluntarily stopping eating and drinking

http://www.ascopost.com/issues/june-25-2018/voluntarily-stopping-eating-and-drinking-is-legal-and-ethical/

 

'It's nothing like a broken leg': why I'm done with the mental health conversation | The Guardian

Iam bleeding from the wrists in a toilet cubicle of the building I have therapy in, with my junior doctor psychiatrist peering over the top of the door, her lanyards clanking against the lock. Her shift finished half an hour earlier.

An hour later she calls the police, because I have refused to go to A&E or to let her look at me. Four policemen arrive. They are all ridiculously handsome. One of them is called Austin. Austin doesn’t have a Taser like all the others and when I question this, Austin says he hasn’t done his Taser training and all the others laugh. I feel bad for Austin.

I want to go home but I am not allowed. I am crying. The police ask me to tip out the contents of my jacket. Tampons fall out, with four sad coffee loyalty cards, each with a single stamp. Then I make a break for it because, seriously now, I just want to go home. The four officers surround me at the building entrance. One officer who has done his Taser training threatens to section me if I do not stop struggling.

As if you can just section me, I say. You can’t just say someone is sectioned and then they are sectioned. That is not how it works.

It turns out this is exactly how it works.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jun/30/nothing-like-broken-leg-mental-health-conversation

Why we need a clear definition of when death occurs - The Globe and Mail

Ontario Superior Court Justice Lucille Shaw released her long overdue decision this week in the case of a young Brampton woman pronounced dead in September, 2017, six months after closing arguments ended. Shaw concluded that Taquisha McKitty, 27, is in fact dead, rejecting arguments presented by her family that she was alive and had the right to continuing mechanical life support.

Justice Shaw determined that this woman died last September when doctors determined her brain had irreversibly ceased to function. While the wait was painful for everyone, Justice Shaw’s decision was clear: People need and deserve to know with simplicity, clarity and consistency when their family member is dead. At the heart of this ruling is the principle that identifying death has to be carried out in the same manner for all people in society, even if people choose to understand life in different ways.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-why-we-need-a-clear-definition-of-when-death-occurs

Postmodernism vs. The Pomoid Cluster - Areo

Since I’ve been active on Twitter, I’ve had front row seats to the best intellectual slapfights no money can buy. It’s been uniquely interesting and yet frustrating. What’s hot right now in my bubble and its warzone-laden borderlands is “postmodernism.” The arguments usually start with tweets complaining about the latest social justice-related spat and using the word “postmodernism” or the phrases “postmodernist neo-Marxism” or even “cultural Marxism.” (These all mean the same thing, with slight differences in emphasis: “postmodernism” often focuses on a hostility to objectivity; “cultural Marxism” describes collectivist, conflict-based politics; “postmodern neo-Marxism” is the whole package.) Then other people criticize or mock the tweeters for not understanding what postmodernism is. Unproductive discussion results.

This bothers me for two reasons. One is erisological—this is a typical case of dysfunctional disagreement, i.e. a disagreement is fuelled by at least one party’s intentional or unintentional misunderstanding of either the other party’s position or the nature of their differences. The other is that I hate seeing arguments I’m fundamentally sympathetic to presented in a weak form.

I truly am sympathetic to those who complain about “postmodernism.” But I’ve spent too much time and effort learning to recognize disagreement patterns not to notice when “my side” is engaging in dodgy argumentation. Part of this is integrity (I hope), but another part is recognition of a tactical mistake: the sloppy use of terms like “postmodernism” or academically strange hybrids like “postmodern neo-Marxism” gives people an excuse to reject what you say. It’s good argumentation tactics to avoid making points which leave you vulnerable to criticism for trivial reasons, e.g. using a term in a way that suggests you don’t know what you’re talking about. Using technical terms in non-technical senses makes those in the know think exactly that and reject otherwise reasonable points

https://areomagazine.com/2018/06/30/postmodernism-vs-the-pomo-oid-cluster/

Psychology’s trolley problem might have a problem.

[...] For all this method’s enduring popularity, few have bothered to examine how it might relate to real-life moral judgments. Would your answers to a set of trolley hypotheticals correspond with what you’d do if, say, a deadly train were really coming down the tracks, and you really did have the means to change its course? In November 2016, though, Dries Bostyn, a graduate student in social psychology at the University of Ghent, ran what may have been the first-ever real-life version of a trolley-problem study in the lab. In place of railroad tracks and human victims, he used an electroschock machine and a colony of mice—and the question was no longer hypothetical: Would students press a button to zap a living, breathing mouse, so as to spare five other living, breathing mice from feeling pain?

“I think almost everyone within this field has considered running this experiment in real life, but for some reason no one ever got around to it,” Bostyn says. He published his own results last month: People’s thoughts about imaginary trolleys and other sacrificial hypotheticals did not predict their actions with the mice, he found.

It’s a discomfiting result, and one that seems—at least at first—to throw a boulder into the path of this research. Scientists have been using a set of cheap-and-easy mental probes (Would you hit the railroad switch?) to capture moral judgment. But if the answers to those questions don’t connect to real behavior, then where, exactly, have these trolley problems taken us?

https://slate.com/technology/2018/06/psychologys-trolley-problem-might-have-a-problem.html

Ontario judge refuses family's plea to keep brain dead woman on life-support | CBC News

Ontario judge has ruled she can be taken off the mechanical ventilator. (Instagram)

An Ontario court has rejected a Toronto-area family's plea to keep their 27-year-old daughter, who has been declared brain dead, on life-support.

Taquisha McKitty's parents were seeking an order to keep her on a mechanical ventilator, arguing she continues to show signs of life and that her Christian fundamentalist beliefs say she's alive as long as her heart's still beating. However, the  Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled Tuesday, in a complex and potentially precedent-setting decision, that McKitty can be considered dead and can be removed from life-support.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/taquisha-mckitty-decision-1.4674367

Friedrich Nietzsche: The truth is terrible – TheTLS

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) pursued two main themes in his work, one now familiar, even commonplace in modernity, the other still under-appreciated, often ignored.  The familiar Nietzsche is the “existentialist”, who diagnoses the most profound cultural fact about modernity: “the death of God”, or more exactly, the collapse of the possibility of reasonable belief in God. Belief in God – in transcendent meaning or purpose, dictated by a supernatural being – is now incredible, usurped by naturalistic explanations of the evolution of species, the behaviour of matter in motion, the unconscious causes of human behaviours and attitudes, indeed, by explanations of how such a bizarre belief arose in the first place. But without God or transcendent purpose, how can we withstand the terrible truths about our existence, namely, its inevitable suffering and disappointment, followed by death and the abyss of nothingness?

Nietzsche the “existentialist” exists in tandem with an “illiberal” Nietzsche, one who sees the collapse of theism and divine teleology as tied fundamentally to the untenability of the entire moral world view of post-Christian modernity. If there is no God who deems each human to be of equal worth or possessed with an immortal soul beloved by God, then why think we all deserve equal moral consideration?  And what if, as Nietzsche argues, a morality of equality – and altruism and pity for suffering – were, in fact, an obstacle to human excellence? What if being a “moral” person makes it impossible to be Beethoven? Nietzsche’s conclusion is clear: if moral equality is an obstacle to human excellence, then so much the worse for moral equality. This is the less familiar and often shockingly anti-egalitarian Nietzsche.

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/friedrich-nietzsche-truth-terrible/

QALYs in 2018—Advantages and Concerns | JAMA

The quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) is a health metric some people love to hate. Concerns include that QALYs are not patient focused,1 may be used as rationing tools by health insurers, and may be perceived as dehumanizing. The Affordable Care Act prohibits the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute from using cost-per-QALY benchmarks. The use of QALYs by policy makers to inform coverage and reimbursement decisions is controversial.

However, QALYs are simply a metric to quantify health. Despite concerns, QALYs endure because they help address a difficult and unavoidable question: how to estimate and compare the benefits of what are often heterogeneous health interventions. Recently, QALYs have received increased interest in the United States from the work of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), a private, nonprofit organization that evaluates pharmaceuticals and other technologies and uses QALYs in its cost-effectiveness assessments. Thus, it remains important to appreciate the strengths and limitations of QALYs, why this metric is not going away, and what QALYs may portend for the future of health policy and medical practice.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2682917

How philosophy helped one soldier on the battlefield | Aeon Essays

When I attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2002-3, the leadership training was excellent. It included discussion of the British Army’s values and the laws of armed conflict. However, I received no ethics training for the occasions when neither values nor laws would fully prepare me to make complex moral decisions in faraway fields populated by people with very different cultural norms. 

The then prime minister Tony Blair spoke at our pass-out parade just weeks after the invasion of Iraq. Dignitaries usually stop at every third or fourth person on parade to have a few words. Blair stopped at what seemed like every single officer cadet to speak, no doubt driven by good motivation, but inadvertently causing great pain for all on parade who had to stand there much longer than normal. He asked me what I would be doing in the Army. I told him I would be in intelligence. He said: ‘You will be busy.’ And he was right.

https://aeon.co/essays/how-philosophy-helped-one-soldier-on-the-battlefield

How Much Pain Should Animals Endure for Science? - The Atlantic

Each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roughly 820,800 guinea pigs, dogs, cats, and other animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act are used in research in the United States; of those, about 71,370 are subjected to unalleviated pain. These stats don’t track the millions of mice and rats that are used in lab experiments and excluded from the animal protection law (although the rodents are covered by other federal regulations). Scientists and their institutions say they’re committed to keeping pain or distress to a minimum in lab animals where they can. But how do you know how much pain a mouse or a zebrafish feels? And who decides how much pain is too much?

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/06/how-much-pain-should-animals-endure-for-science/562268/

The relentless honesty of Ludwig Wittgenstein | Ian Ground

If you ask philosophers – those in the English speaking analytic tradition anyway – who is the most important philosopher of the twentieth century, they will most likely name Ludwig Wittgenstein. But the chances are that if you ask them exactly why he was so important, they will be unable to tell you. Moreover, in their own philosophical practice it will be rare, certainly these days, that they mention him or his work. Indeed, they may very fluently introduce positions, against which Wittgenstein launched powerful arguments: the very arguments which, by general agreement, make him such an important philosopher. Contemporary philosophers don’t argue with Wittgenstein. Rather they bypass him. Wittgenstein has a deeply ambivalent status – he has authority, but not influence.

For the more general reader, Wittgenstein’s status in contemporary philosophy will be puzzling. The general view is that Wittgenstein is surely the very model of a great philosopher. The perception is that he is difficult, obscure and intense, severe and mystical, charismatic and strange, driven and tragic, with his charisma and difficulty bound up with his character and his life. Wittgenstein saw philosophy not just as a vocation, but as a way of life he had to lead. This is perhaps why writers and artists have found him an object of fascination and inspiration. He is the subject of novels, poetry, plays, painting, music, sculpture and films. In the arts and the culture generally, Wittgenstein seems to be what a philosopher ought to be.

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/ludwig-wittgenstein-honesty-ground

Is This the World’s Most Bizarre Scholarly Meeting? - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Start with Noam Chomsky, Deepak Chopra, and a robot that loves you no matter what. Add a knighted British physicist, a renowned French neuroscientist, and a prominent Australian philosopher/occasional blues singer. Toss in a bunch of psychologists, mathematicians, anesthesiologists, artists, meditators, a computer programmer or two, and several busloads of amateur theorists waving self-published manuscripts and touting grand unified solutions. Send them all to a swanky resort in the desert for a week, supply them with lots of free coffee and beer, and ask them to unpack a riddle so confounding that it’s unclear how to make progress or where you’d even begin.

Then just, like, see what happens.

https://www.chronicle.com/article/Is-This-the-World-s-Most/243599

Why scientists created a human-chicken hybrid embryo

One of the biggest mysteries of human life is how we develop from a tiny ball of cells into a being with bones, muscle and organs. The process starts inside the mother’s womb shortly after conception, but legal and regulatory restrictions on research involving human embryonic tissue have stymied scientists’ efforts to explain the process.

Now scientists have found a workaround. By transplanting human embryonic cells onto chicken embryos, researchers at Rockefeller University in New York City have created a hybrid embryo that they say will bring insights into fetal development — and perhaps lead to new cures for several diseases — without bumping up against the so-called “14-day rule” that prohibits research on human embryos more than two weeks old.

The popular media blasted the interspecies mash-up, with one headline reading “Half human-half chicken abomination created in US lab," even though no one is talking about creating a race of human-chicken beings. And the scientists defend their work, saying the hybrid embryo will help them understand why some human cells grow into the brain and nervous system, for example, while others form the trunk and limbs.

https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/why-scientists-created-human-chicken-hybrid-embryo-ncna880406

Act of love: The life and death of Donna Mae Hill - The Globe and Mail

The morning of May 17, 2018, my mother ate her last meal in the breakfast room of the Passage, a hotel in downtown Basel, Switzerland. Mom had black coffee, a croissant and a piece of cheese. She lingered over a small chocolate truffle that I had picked out for her at 7 a.m. that day in a store in the old quarter of the city. My mother had always had a weakness for chocolate and I had a weakness for indulging her.

Then we waited for Ruedi Habegger to pick us up at the hotel and drive us to the designated apartment in nearby Liestal, Switzerland, where people go to die.

Mr. Habegger – an affable, middle-aged man who co-founded the Eternal Spirit Foundation, an organization which facilitates assisted deaths – offered my mother the use of a walker to get up a flight of stairs when we arrived.

“I still walk perfectly well,” she told him, although she held the railing carefully as she mounted the stairs. Five foot zero, hazel eyes, a white shock of hair and in practical black shoes, my mother climbed slowly but steadily.

Mom died that day. Her name was Donna Mae Hill, and she was 90 years old. She died by her own hand. I was present for her death, along with her 29-year-old granddaughter, my niece Malaika; we had travelled with her to Switzerland to comfort her in the act.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-act-of-love-the-life-and-death-of-donna-mae-hill/

The Consciousness Deniers | by Galen Strawson

What is the silliest claim ever made? The competition is fierce, but I think the answer is easy. Some people have denied the existence of consciousness: conscious experience, the subjective character of experience, the “what-it-is-like” of experience. Next to this denial—I’ll call it “the Denial”—every known religious belief is only a little less sensible than the belief that grass is green.

The Denial began in the twentieth century and continues today in a few pockets of philosophy and psychology and, now, information technology. It had two main causes: the rise of the behaviorist approach in psychology, and the naturalistic approach in philosophy. These were good things in their way, but they spiraled out of control and gave birth to the Great Silliness. I want to consider these main causes first, and then say something rather gloomy about a third, deeper, darker cause. But before that, I need to comment on what is being denied—consciousness, conscious experience, experience for short.

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/03/13/the-consciousness-deniers/

Confronting a manifest injustice: chimpanzee rights | Impact Ethics

The New York Court of Appeals recently denied a motion for permission to appeal submitted by the Nonhuman Rights Project in their effort to see two chimpanzees, Kiko and Tommy, who are currently living alone, transferred to an adequate chimpanzee sanctuary. I was a co-author, in addition to sixteen other philosophers, of a philosophers’ brief that supported the Nonhuman Rights Project’s motion. Though it was denied, Judge Eugene Fahey, one of five judges who ruled on the motion, submitted a striking concurring opinion to explain his decision. Here are some of the details.

Judge Fahey’s decision to deny the Nonhuman Rights Project’s motion was not based on the merits of their case. Indeed, he indicates his discomfort with the initial ruling of the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court. Judge Fahey implies that, had he been a judge charged with making the initial ruling, the legal journey may well have been quite different (with, presumably, a more favorable result for Kiko and Tommy).

https://impactethics.ca/2018/05/19/confronting-a-manifest-injustice-chimpanzee-rights/

On Being an Arsehole: A defense | The Point Magazine

A few months into a cushy postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton, where the walls were a soothing yellow and poached salmon was a staple, it dawned on me that I could reasonably be considered an arsehole. This wasn’t the first time the thought had occurred to me: after all, I am the kind of Brit who insists on the difference between a donkey, otherwise known as an ass, and a backside, otherwise known as an arse. But on this occasion my reflection was prompted not by looking in the mirror or by hearing a recording of my voice but by the experience of being a philosopher in a non-philosophical setting. Calling yourself a philosopher already makes you sound a bit of an arse, but the fact remains that I have spent most of my professional life studying, discussing, writing and teaching philosophy—and it is this, I submit, that has made me liable to appear a right royal arsehole.

https://thepointmag.com/2018/examined-life/on-being-an-arsehole

Panitch: Time to decriminalize payment for sperm, ova and surrogacy | Ottawa Citizen

A private member’s bill has just been proposed that would eliminate Canada’s prohibition on payment for sperm, ova and surrogacy. And it’s about time. The bill, brought forward by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, takes aim at Canada’s Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRA). According to the Act, “trade in the reproductive capabilities of women and men, and the exploitation of children, women and men for commercial ends, raise health and ethical concerns that justify their prohibition.”

Housefather’s bill repudiates this claim, and rightly so. Why should Canadian citizens suffering from infertility be denied the same opportunity to build a family that fertile Canadians enjoy? Bans on payment for sperm, ova and surrogacy decrease the opportunities of Canadians with fertility issues, and of those in the LGBTQ2 community to build families, and this is unfair.

http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/panitch-time-to-decriminalize-payment-for-sperm-ova-and-surrogacy

William Saletan: Stop talking about race and IQ. Take it from someone who did.

The race-and-IQ debate is back. The latest round started a few weeks ago when Harvard geneticist David Reich wrote a New York Times op-ed in defense of race as a biological fact. The piece resurfaced Sam Harris’ year-old Waking Up podcast interview with Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, and launched a Twitter debate between Harris and Vox’s Ezra Klein. Klein then responded to Harris and Reich in Vox, Harris fired back, and Andrew Sullivan went after Klein. Two weeks ago, Klein and Harris released a two-hour podcast in which they fruitlessly continued their dispute.

I’ve watched this debate for more than a decade. It’s the same wreck, over and over. A person with a taste for puncturing taboos learns about racial gaps in IQ scores and the idea that they might be genetic. He writes or speaks about it, credulously or unreflectively. Every part of his argument is attacked: the validity of IQ, the claim that it’s substantially heritable, and the idea that races can be biologically distinguished. The offender is denounced as racist when he thinks he’s just defending science against political correctness.

I know what it’s like to be this person because, 11 years ago, I was that person. I saw a comment from Nobel laureate James Watson about the black-white IQ gap, read some journal articles about it, and bought in. That was a mistake. Having made that mistake, I’m in no position to throw stones at Sullivan, Harris, or anyone else. But I am in a position to speak to these people as someone who understands where they’re coming from. I believe I can change their thinking, because I’ve changed mine, and I’m here to make that case to them. And I hope those of you who find this whole subject vile will bear with me as I do.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/04/stop-talking-about-race-and-iq-take-it-from-someone-who-did.html