Bioethics is the study of the moral implications of new and emerging medical technologies and looks to answer questions such as selling organs, euthanasia and whether should we clone people. The series consists of a series of interviews by leading bioethics academics and is aimed at individuals looking to explore often difficult and confusing questions surrounding medical ethics. The series lays out the issue in a clear and precise way and looks to show all sides of the debate.
Neuroscience Can Tell Us About Morality
What can science tell us about morality? Many philosophers would say, 'nothing at all'. Facts don't imply values, they say. you need further argument to move from facts about us and about the world to conclusions about what we ought to do. For example, most humans are altruistic - they genuinely care about the well-being of friends and family and to a lesser extent even of strangers - they'll give money to charity to help people they've never even met. Suppose science gives us a compelling scientific explanation for why we're altruistic. Does that tell us whether we should be altruistic? Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Brain Chemistry and Moral Decision-Making
Answers to moral questions, it seems, depend on how much serotonin there is flowing through your brain. In the future might we be able to alter people's moral behaviour with concoctions of chemicals? A train is hurtling towards five people; it's out of control. You are standing on a footbridge, standing next to a very obese man. The only way to save the five is to push the man over the footbridge to his certain death: his bulk would stop the train and save five lives. Should you do it? Should you give him a shove? Most people would say no. Utilitarians say yes, you should take one life to save five. Now it turns out that the answer you give will depend on how much serotonin there is flowing through your brain. This raises an intriguing possibility: in the future might we be able to alter people's moral behaviour with concoctions of chemicals? That's been the research focus of Molly Crockett, now based in Zurich, but formerly of Cambridge University Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
If someone caught me shoplifting, and I was later diagnosed with kleptomania, should I be held responsible? Should I be blamed? There's a growing body of knowledge in psychiatry and neuroscience about why people think and behave the way they do. And according to one school of thought, as our knowledge expands, so the space for responsibility contracts. Hanna Pickard is not from that school. She believes we can, at one and the same time, diagnose a disorder and hold the person with that disorder responsible. Dr. Hanna Pickard is an Oxford based philosopher and therapist, and the holder of a Wellcome Trust fellowship examining the nature of responsibility and morality within personality disorder. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Everyday people die in hospitals because there aren't enough organs available for transplant. In most countries of the world - though not all - it is illegal to sell organs. Governments insist that the motive for donating organs has to be altruistic, it can't be financial reward. The idea of being able to sell body parts makes many people uneasy. But is it time for a policy change: should we be permitted to flog one of our kidneys on ebay, say, for $10,000. If not, why not? Tim Lewens is a Cambridge philosopher and a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Demand for health care is infinite, but money is finite. So how should we distribute resources? Whom should we help, and why? Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Radically new techniques are opening up exciting possibilities for those working in health care - for psychiatrists, doctors, surgeons; the option to clone human beings, to give just one example. Who should determine what is allowed and what prohibited? And what sort of consent should doctors have to have from patients before treatment. Is the trend towards consent forms helpful? Or should we trust doctors to make good decisions for us. For many years now, philosopher Onora O'neill, formerly principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, has been thinking about the issue of 'trust': trust is vital in most areas of human interaction - but nowhere more so than in health and medicine. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Very interesting interview
McMahon's views on moral status are well-reasoned and entirely different from what one ordinarily hears.
We need this kind of exploration of ethics and morality done with the structure of logic and science. When intellectually gifted scientists make an effort like this - to share their work with the public in everyday language - we should be thankful. I appreciate this podcast very much.
First time checking out iTunes U and I am beyond satisfied. The Moral Status interview was incredible. Really makes you reconsider how and why you value others. CAN'T WAIT FOR MORE!!!!