An ethical case study

A couple, on vacation at an exotic beach, woke up one morning to find “red pinprick marks” on the butt of the woman. Soon thereafter, the husband developed the same marks. They got cursory treatment while on vacation but after the marks had not gone away after ten days, when the couple returned home they went to the hospital. The doctors found that the couple were each “infested by worms” and found an working combination of medications to relieve them of said infestation. The doctors, recognizing such a rare/interesting condition could be written up for the scientific community so that other doctors encountering the symptoms have something to go on, sought to obtain permission from the couple to publish a short case study in a prominent medical journal. The couple is informed that such medical journals are often read by journalists from larger news organizations and that there is a chance, though a remote one, that their case could be seen more widely. The couple gave permission to use their story.

Within days, photos of their infested regions end up in the tabloids. The couple fears recognition, asks the journal to remove the article, and the journal retracts the story and photos.


Questions to ponder

Is there at least one single action done by anyone that crosses the border into unethical behavior? In what way do you consider it unethical? If that person or entity had acted in a more ethically sound manner, what affect might it have had on the ultimate outcomes of the situation? From such an assessment and its extension, given the choices available to the person or entity, to what extent does a “more ethical” decision in this choice-making behavior affect the outcomes of the situation? Is there a choice among those that you believe would lead to the best of all possible worlds? If so, where does it lie on the moral grayness scale? Are you comfortable making that choice?

How much demographic information should we present about patients? Where lies the balance – in your opinion – between the twin duties of disclosure and discretion for the physician?

Is this an unfortunate example of the coarsening of our discourse? Is it yet another manifestation of the stigma of disease?

Does this story strike you? Why?

Try to put yourself in the place of one or both of the couple. Imagine wanting to go to an exotic beach location for your vacation, accidentally sitting in dog droppings somewhere on said beach, getting a nasty rash that turns out to be worms digging into the flesh of your butt, the symptoms progressing to respiratory malfunction, working with physicians who look at you with at least more than mild curiosity, getting treated, getting written about, signing a disclosure form, seeing your photos on newsstands. How has your perspective in life changed after such a walk?

Would you allow your photos to be remain published?


There is a metaphysics to engineering that goes unspoken

There is a metaphysics to engineering that goes unspoken. One must develop the sense, as an engineer, that the fuzziness of real life can be approximated usefully. Unlike some of our brothers and sisters in the STEM quadrivium (the mathematicians, the scientists), our reality need not be precise nor very accurate at times, so long as it sets out to accomplish what it was designed to accomplish. Our shapes come with tolerances, our rigor with fudge factors. We see the world not how it is but about how it is. Give or take, plus or minus, within such and such a percent. While some of said brothers and sisters can hold in their minds exotic manifolds of multidimensional spaces and still others that can conceive of an elemental particle conflating matter with waves carrying a single discrete unit of energy at the fastest speed possible in the universe (or just about), we just need to know how the LED is going to look when the user is holding it at some angle away from them. We are a practical lot. Not beholden to the right answer, but a right answer, engineers may content themselves with three simple things: a solution, a test, and a better solution.

Reviews, visually

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Reviews overall, 199 comments



ENGIN 100 2017: Final review, 25 comments



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BIOMEDE 458, Fall 2015: Final review, 24 comments



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BIOMEDE 599, Winter 2015: Final review, 8 comments



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A new liberalism 1

There will be times of resonance. Where waves of history converge, when constructive interference is reaching an unstable maximum. Exceptionally exponentially (decaying?) times such as these cannot go on forever. More than one of these vibrations has led to war to remove ourselves from some thing about us. This thing about us as I have it here, is illiberality. Americans, by and large, do not like this thing about us. The idea of America to Americans has been one of freedom and a place in this world amongst brothers and sisters, peers and equals, to do as one wishes without fear of what others may wish to do. Americans left this thing about us to practice an ever freer faith, one in which the state had no business. Americans fought against this thing about us to governmentally free their citizenry from a congenital tyrant, a fraud by birthright. Americans repelled this thing about us and its bonds of servitude, its shackles of happenstance, its cruel indifference towards fellow Americans. (So backward-facing did this thing about us want to be that it nearly broke America’s spine.) Americans did not let grow that cancer within their body politic as it did in so many others. Yet here we are again at the rise of such a wave. What does it portend? 


Topics of bioethical interest, random

  1. End-of-life care
  2. Access of care, distribution of services
  3. Dementia
  4. Professional ethics
  5. Clinical ethics
  6. “Big Pharma”
  7. Abuse
  8. Violence
  9. Sports
  10. Sex education
  11. Fountain of youth / life extension
  12. Non-human life
  13. Epistemology
  14. Death penalty 
  15. Funerals
  16. Depression
  17. Anxiety
  18. Digital health
  19. Lifeboat situations
  20. Compulsion
  21. Culpability
  22. Euthanasia
  23. Birth control
  24. Sleep
  25. Biohacking

Reason 1

A Courtney Shaw soon-to-be-of Northwestern, a biomedical engineering undergraduate, said of her reason to walk down this path:

“I knew I wanted to apply something, and engineering gives you the freedom to create things. The biomedical aspect came in because I want to work with healing or making movements better for everyday people and for athletes, to create things that would help. It’s interesting to me, but I’m not sure specifically what I want to do yet [in biomedical engineering].”