July 11, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Bioethicist Arthur Caplan comments on Pinker piece claims

In the Steve Pinker interview that I posted this morning he was highly critical of noted bioethicist Dr. Arthur CaplanArthur Caplan. I contacted Dr. Caplan out of fairness and balance to invite him to do a post/ask for any comment, etc. for this blog.

Here is what he wrote:

“Steven Pinker says;

“But Arthur Caplan, the country’s most famous bioethicist, argued that the parents of such infants would be so consumed with grief that they could not truly give consent—the kind of paternalistic argument that is all too common in this field—and that an 18-year-old with a mild form of the disease, who technically could give consent, should be enrolled instead. A strained interpretation of the magic word “consent” was allowed to trump expected harm and benefit, and the result was tragedy.”

If this is the level of Professor Pinker’s commentary on bioethics I think it fair to say his insights on the value of bioethics are sorely lacking and can be dismissed out of hand.  His comments on the Gelsinger case are apparently drawn from reading the newspapers, rather than trying to find out what actually happened.  If you are going to limit your critical insights to newspaper quotes you will surely produce lousy assessments of bioethics.  Pinker has.  For someone so self-avowedly concerned about the deleterious impact of bioethics on biomedicine past and future one would expect much much better.”

Do you tend to agree more with Pinker or Arthur Caplan?

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