- Editorial Note
The summer issue of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal highlights a range of controversial issues that will incite spirited disagreement amongst our readers. These five papers each take up complex contemporary ethical challenges and develop creative strategies to resolve them. Together they represent our continued commitment to publishing theoretically rigorous, empirically informed, and practically relevant work in bioethics.
In “HPV and the Ethics of CDC’s Vaccination Requirements for Immigrants,” Mark Navin offers a timely defense of immunization mandates for migrants, extending the contentious debates taking place in the United States to the domain of immigration justice. Navin begins by critiquing the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) short-lived, pre-2009 policy that was used to exclude female immigrants who were not vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV). He then evaluates CDC’s new criteria, arguing that they replace the murky ethical commitments of the old policy with explicit moral reasons that can be justified from within competing perspectives on immigration justice. Thus on his view the policy shift constitutes a clear instance of moral progress that preserves the rights of both migrants and nation states. But even in light of this progress, Navin believes the new criteria may have been misapplied. He concludes by suggesting how they could still license exclusion based HPV vaccination status—a startling conclusion, given that the criteria were designed to avoid this very result.
In response, Heidi Malm argues against Navin’s narrower claim that an HPV vaccine mandate is justifiable. In “Immigration Justice and the Grounds for Mandatory Vaccinations,” Malm agrees that the new CDC criteria are vastly superior to the old, but she doubts how well they apply to the case of HPV. After providing a history of the stigma created by the health and immunization requirements for immigration into the US, Malm argues that uninfected, unvaccinated persons do not pose the right kind of threat to ‘herd immunity’ or public health to warrant exclusion. [End Page ix]
Next, in “Gamete Donor Consent and Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research,” Andrew Siegel disputes the sufficiency of current informed consent procedures used in human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research and develops a novel defense of expanded gamete donor rights. His approach, which is rooted in the right to bodily integrity, generates a surprising result that standard approaches grounded in the right to control one’s own genetic material miss. When seen through the lens of bodily integrity, Siegel argues that the right to informed consent grants egg donors greater moral authority over the permissible uses of created embryos than sperm donors. This is because for egg donors, the use of embryos in undisclosed ways can constitute an unwanted bodily invasion, which he claims is untrue of sperm donors. As a corrective, Siegel proposes stricter regulations for research involving gametes donated for non-reproductive purposes.
Our fourth paper, Andreas Matthias’s “Robot Lies in Health Care: When Is Deception Morally Permissible?” raises a series of fascinating puzzles about trust relationships between ‘care robots’—automated personal assistants often used to care for children, the elderly, and the disabled—and the people they serve. Specifically, Matthias questions the ethicality of leading patients to believe that care robots possess cognitive or emotional capacities that they in fact do not. Matthias provocatively argues not only that robot deception can be permissible, but also that it may sometimes even be morally prescribed. However, he claims that the relevant factors for evaluating trust and autonomy in different cases will vary significantly. Thus in assessing whether trust and autonomy are eroded, designers must accommodate a range of user-specific considerations. To that end, Matthias offers a set of requirements that must be fulfilled in order to justify robot deception across diverse cases.
Paul Biegler rounds out the issue with a critical analysis of direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs. His paper “Filling in the Gaps: Priming and the Ethics of Pharmaceutical Advertising,” brings budding empirical work in social psychology and consumer research to bear on the ethical challenges posed by DTCA. He contends that, when taken together, research on affective priming and the limited research on DTCA raise worries that such advertising...