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.”

2 thoughts on “Bioethicist Arthur Caplan comments on Pinker piece claims

  1. My instincts are “go for it”, because there is so much suffering. Also, I have seen so many years of obstructionism from those who make emotional or ideological objections to medical research. But it is also crucial that the argument continue.Thanks for publishing both sides.

  2. What a terrible self defence.

    “His comments on the Gelsinger case are apparently drawn from reading the newspapers, rather than trying to find out what actually happened.” So why don’t you take this opportunity to tell us what really happened?

    He says he wants to dismiss Pinker out of hand, but that just leaves him looking conceited and the audience worse of in what could have otherwise been an interesting, informative discussion.

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