Bioethics Discussion Group

A group of people sit around and talk about issues on the frontiers of the biomedical landscape.

The coming year

Year 2, 2018–2019.

A quick look

Pertinent details

Essays to consider

Zombies. A discussion of the living, the dead, and those in between.

October 23, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Consciousness: the most critical moral (constitutional) standard for human personhood

CDC preparedness 101 – zombie pandemic

Zombies v. materialists

In vitro meat

Cloning. A discussion coping with copying seeing double, and creating anew.

November 6, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Genetic encores

Human cloning and our sense of self

The ethics of reviving long extinct species

Uniqueness, individuality, and human cloning

A bioethical lunch on genomics. 

November 15, 2018, 12PM, NCRC

Details to follow

Animal experimentation. A discussion testing the limitations of our testing limitations.

November 20, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Does animal experimentation inform human healthcare?

Ethical principles and guidelines for experiments on animals

The flaws and human harms of animal experimentation

Animal testing is still the best way to find new treatments for patients

Alternatives to animal testing

Suicide. A discussion on our (chosen?) ends.

December 4, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

The myth of Sisyphus

The ethics of suicide

Suicide: rationality and responsibility for life

Suicide responsibility of hospital and psychiatrist

A bioethical lunch on Harry Potter.

December 13, 2018

Details to follow

Race. A discussion on (in)equality that’s more than skin deep.

January 15, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Racial disparity in emergency department triage.

Dealing with the realities of race and ethnicity

Race/Ethnicity and success in academic medicine

Race and trust in the health care system

Why bioethics has a race problem

A bioethical lunch on race and gender in STEM, a panel-based discussion.

January 17, 2019, 12PM, NCRC

Details to follow

Gender. A discussion on who we are, who society sees, and who we want to be.

January 29, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Doing gender

For whom the burden tolls

Performative acts and gender constitution

Resisting medicine, re/modeling gender

The restroom revolution: unisex toilets and campus politics

Circumcision. A discussion on health, tradition, and mutilation.

February 12, 2019, 7PM 2185 LBME

Male circumcision

Female genital alteration: a compromise solution

Female genital mutilation and male circumcision: toward an autonomy-based ethical framework

Rationalising circumcision

Current medical evidence supports male circumcision

Circumcision: case against surgery without medical indication

A bioethical lunch on neural interfaces.

February 14, 2019, 12PM, NCRC

Details to follow

Pain. A discussion on what we (don’t want to) feel.

February 26, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME

The undertreatment of pain

Moral agency in pain medicine

Suffering and the goals of medicine

The unequal burden of pain: confronting racial and ethnic disparities in pain

Pain medicine and its models: helping or hindering?

Mental health. A discussion on our internal (dys)functions.

March 12, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME

The myth of mental illness

Distinguishing between the validity and utility of psychiatric diagnoses

Diagnostic issues and controversies in DSM 5

How stigma interferes with mental health care

Identification of a common neurobiological substrate for mental illness

A bioethical lunch on mathematical biology.

March 14, 2019

Details to follow

Eugenics. A discussion on who ought to be here.

March 26, 2019, 7PM, 2185

Eugenics: its definition, scope, and aims

The second international congress of eugenics

CC Little renaming resolution

Buck v. Bell Supreme Court opinion

Moderate eugenics and human enhancement

Replicability of medical studies. A discussion on the significance of our results.

April 9, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Reproducibility in science

Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science

How many scientists fabricate and falsify research?

Is the replicability crisis overblown?

A bioethical lunch on Game of Thrones.

April 18, 2019, 12PM, NCRC

Details to follow

Extinction. A discussion on our (inevitable?) ends.

April 23, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME

The nature of extinction

Extinction risk from climate change

Extinction and overspecialization: the dark side of human innovation

The ethics of de-extinction

A bioethical lunch on Star Wars. The Empire strikes back in this sequel to our original event.

May 2, 2019

Details to follow


Upcoming projects! 

The following are a few projects/events/things our members are going to try to put together. So far we’ve got interest in the following things:

  • Leaders in the fields of biomedicine and/or engineering to be interviewed by working scientists on the larger issues of their work and/or field;
  • A book club or book clubs (monthly/semesterly);
  • A movie night;
  • A journal club;
  • We’re hoping to have a real published paper on one of our topics by the end of next year; and
  • Better audio recordings possibly in service of wider distribution to others.

And yet, we’ve still got more. If you or someone you know or someone you suspect might be interested or might become interested or are really simply looking to volunteer someone (possibly yourself) to the burden of making one or more of the following happen, let me know (

  • Technical Town Halls in which a serious, professional, and public biopsy of the ethical character of one of our fields is taken, examined, displayed;
  • Collaborations with other programs and organizations such as CBSSM, RELATE, SWE, ASEE, SME, etc.; and
  • Someone to sift through our current datasets and develop a working research hypothesis on what effects ethical training might have on a person and what sort of previous academic/professional experience shape and inform ethical underpinnings and maybe, just maybe, how can we exploit that.

We are looking to keep churning out great discussions, keep producing great public lectures, and experiment with something strange a time or two (or three or maybe more).


Year 3, 2019 – 2020

A quick look

Pertinent details

Other details 

Self. A discussion on us by us.

September 17, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Body/modification. A discussion on distorted selves and distorting selves.

October 1, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Body/art. A discussion on aesthetics.

October 15, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Fear. A discussion past where we dare to tread.

October 29, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Body/politics. A discussion on government.

November 12, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME


CitiesA discussion on our new environment.

November 26, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME


AntinatalismA discussion on the end to our means.

December 10, 2019, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Others. A discussion on us and them, but mostly them.

January 14, 2020, 7PM, 2185 LBME


MichiganA discussion on our state.

January 28, 2020, 7PM, 2185 LBME


LoveA discussion on the chemistry of our biology.

February 11, 2020, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Overpopulation. A discussion on one too many.

February 25, 2020, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Public health. A discussion on the health of our society.

March 10, 2020, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Solitude. A discussion on who we are when we are alone.

March 24, 2020, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Responsibility. A discussion on what we owe to ourselves and others.

April 7, 2020, 7PM, 2185 LBME


History. A discussion on the means to our ends.

April 24, 2020, 7PM, 2185 LBME






Past events

Year 1, 2017–2018.

A quick look

Pertinent details

Other details 

First, do no harm. A discussion concerning the basis of care.

September 12, 2017, 7PM, 2185 LBME

The Hippocratic oath

The nocebo effect of informed consent

The doctor-patient relationship in different cultures

Organ and body donations. A discussion on the give and take of our very selves.

September 26, 2017, 7PM, 2185 LBME

The survival lottery

The case for allowing kidney sales

Organ donation and retrieval: whose body is it anyway?

Human experimentation. A discussion testing the limits of testing ourselves.

October 10, 7PM, 2185 LBME 

The Belmont report

The patient and the public good

Scientific research is a moral duty

We’re trying to help out ticket people, not exploit them 

Big data, little privacy. A discussion on the shape of things to come.

October 24, 2017, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Ethical issues in big data health research

Confidentiality in medicine: a decrepit concept

On telling patients the truth

Universal healthcare. A discussion on the (inevitable?) end of medicine.

November 7, 2017, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Bubbles under the wallpaper

Uncertainty and welfare economics of medical care

Barack Obama’s speech to Joint Session of Congress, September 2009

Family in medicine. A discussion on love, blood, and responsibility.

November 21, 2017, 7PM, 2185 LBME

The abnormal child

Life past reason

Treatment decisions regarding infants, children and adolescents

Death. A discussion on our ends.

December 5, 2017, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Abortion. A discussion “going there” respectfully.

January 9, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Abortion and health care ethics

Abortion and infanticide

A defense of abortion

Assisted reproduction. A discussion for the bravest in the new world.

January 23, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

The ethics of uterus transplantation

Assisted reproduction in same sex couples

Multiple gestation and damaged babies

Quantifying the self: I. For the heart, life is simple. A lecture on the means, methods, and consequences of measuring cardiovascular dynamics via pressures, flows, and voles.

January 24, 2018, 1:30PM, 1123 LBME

In partnership with the Transforming Engineering Education col-Laboratory.

A bioethical lunch on life-preserving technologies with Scott VanEpps.

February 5, 2018, 11AM, NCRC B10 G063

In partnership with the Biointerfaces Research Group.

Prenatal screening. A discussion on early look and tough decisions.

February 6, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion

Genetics and reproductive risk

Sex selection and preimplantation genetic diagnosis

Quantifying the self: II. I sing the body electric. A lecture on our potential charged with current understandings of our electrophysiology.

February 7, 2018, 1:30PM, 1123 LBME

In partnership with the Transforming Engineering Education col-Laboratory.

Genetic manipulation. A discussion on changing our codes.

February 20, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Questions about some uses of genetic engineering

The moral significance of the therapy-enhancement distinction in human genetics

Should we undertake genetic research on intelligence?

LGBTQ health. A discussion including inclusion and finding ourselves.

March 6, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Growing pains: problems with puberty suppression in treating gender dysphoria

The duty to warn and clinical ethics: legal and ethical aspects of confidentiality and HIV/AIDS

Obergefell v. Hodges decision


A bioethical lunch on clinical trialing with Cynthia Chestek and James Weiland. 

March 12, 2018, 12:30PM, NCRC B10 G063

In partnership with the Biointerfaces Research Group.

Quantifying the self: III. Health lies in action. A lecture on the next generation of physiological monitoring as embodied by wearables, therables, and the quantified self.

March 14, 2018, 1:30PM, 1123 LBME

In partnership with the Transforming Engineering Education col-Laboratory.

A philosophical movie night with Barry Belmont watching Synecdoche, New York.

March 15, 2018, 5PM, 1200 EECS

In partnership with the Engineering Student Government.

Vaccination. A discussion on public health and individual choice.

March 20, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children

The moral case for the routing vaccination of children in developed and developing counties

Ethics and infectious disease


Regulation. A discussion about the maze and the pathway.

April 3, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME


Thalidomide retrospective: what did we learn?

Improving medical device regulation: the United States and Europe in perspective

Ethics, regulation, and comparative effectiveness research

Posthumanity. A discussion on our end.

April 17, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

In defense of posthuman dignity

Stem cells, biotechnology, and human rights: implications for a posthuman future

A cyborg manifesto

A bioethical lunch on Star Wars with The Force. 

May 4th, 2018, 12PM, NCRC B10 ACR1

In partnership with the Biointerfaces Research Group. 

Neuroethics. A discussion on the origins of our moral situation.

September 11, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Neuroethics: an agenda for neuroscience and society

Neuroethics: the practical and the philosophical

Neuroethics for the new millennium

A bioethical lunch in a “moral minute”. 

September 20, 2018, 12PM, NCRC B18 Rm 113

Half a dozen current Ph.D. students walk us through the bioethical landscape of their biomedical work.

Please RSVP

MSBT Annual Panel: The Ethics of Gene Editing. A panel discussing the scientific and ethical implications of new genetic engineering techniques.

September 21, 2018. Forum Hall @ Palmer Commons

A semi-related event (Barry Belmont was a panelist discussing the bioethics of the situation)

Drugs. A discussion on the manipulation of our biochemical status.

September 25, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy

Adverse health effects of marijuana use

Practical, legal, and ethical issues in expanded access to investigational drugs

Alternative medicine. A discussion at the boundaries of the medical sciences.

October 9, 2018, 7PM, 2185 LBME

The placebo effect in alternative medicine

The use of complementary and alternative medicine in pediatrics

Efficacy of complementary and alternative medicine therapies

Trends in the use of complementary health approaches among adults: United States, 2002-2012

A bioethical lunch on complementary medicine with Richard Harris.

October 11, 2018, 12PM, NCRC