Science | Medicine | Health - Related Tags

FDA's Caution: Friend or Foe?

May 09, 2013

Most can agree that regulating the safety and effectiveness of drugs and medical devices is for the protection of public health. The FDA is appointed this responsibility, but is it failing? The time-consuming and costly approval process could be preventing life-changing treatments from reaching the market; however, more lives could be at risk if safety were sacrificed for speed. The topic of the most recent Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, “The FDA’s Caution is Hazardous to Our Health,” had panelists vehemently arguing for or against this motion.

On the team defending the motion was Scott Gottlieb, M.D., currently a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and formerly FDA deputy commissioner, with his partner Peter Huber, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. The pair debating against the motion was Jerry Avorn, M.D., professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and his teammate David R. Challoner, M.D., vp of Emeritus for Health Affairs of the University of Florida.

Experts Discourage Ban on Genetic Engineering

April 04, 2013

“Banning is not a productive way forward,” said Nita Farahany, professor of law, philosophy and genome sciences and policy. “Whether or not [genetic modification] should be allowed is a different discussion.” Farahany, a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, argued against a motion banning the genetic modification of fetuses at the Intelligence Squared U.S. debates on prohibiting genetically engineered babies February. Despite her motion against the ban, Farahany said she does not unequivocally support the procedure.

Now a Reality, Should Genetically Modified Babies Be Prohibited?

March 23, 2013

After an announcement last year that a series of experiments in the United States had resulted in the birth of 30 healthy genetically modified babies, genetics experts are now debating whether or not further development of designer offspring should be banned.

Just 16 years ago, the concept of genetic perfection was the stuff of Hollywood movies like "Gattaca." Fast forward to just over a month ago, however, and experts were busy debating over whether genetically engineered babies should be prohibited in a session hosted in New York City by Intelligence Squared U.S.

Genetically Engineered Babies? Experts Debate Idea Of 'Designer Baby' Ban

February 19, 2013

NEW YORK — The increasing power and accessibility of genetic technology may one day give parents the option of modifying their unborn children, in order to spare offspring from disease or, conceivably, make them tall, well muscled, intelligent or otherwise blessed with desirable traits. Would this change mean empowering parents to give their children the best start possible? Or would it mean designer babies who could face unforeseen genetic problems? Experts debated on Wednesday evening (Feb. 13) whether prenatal engineering should be banned in the United States.

Designer Babies Debate Heats Up

February 14, 2013

Could you envision a world without genetic diseases, where parents could control their child’s height, muscle strength, eye color, personality, and even intelligence? Some might consider this a tempting endeavor while others see it as a horrifying science fiction novel turning into reality. The topic of the most recent Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, Prohibit Genetically Engineered Babies, sparked a heated discussion on whether or not this science should be banned. Even if the science were perfected, would human genetic enhancement be considered morally wrong?

Legalization Debate Turns to Other Drugs

November 15, 2012

Feisty exchanges in New York last night reflect a country wondering more than ever about radical drug-law change.

Legalization is in the air right now, and an unusually constructive debate was waged in Manhattan last night on whether the US should end its prohibition on all currently illegal drugs. Hosted by the Intelligence Squared foundation, to be broadcast on NPR and Channel 13, it featured what debater Nick Gillespie (editor-in-chief at Reason.com, for the motion) characterized as four sometime participants in the drug war: a soldier (Paul Butler, law professor at Georgetown University and former federal prosecutor, also for legalization); a general (Asa Hutchinson, former DEA administrator and Congressman, against); a medic (Theodore Dalrymple, former prison doctor and psychiatrist, against); and a "conscientious objector" (Gillespie himself).

Butler kicked off with a passionate plea to end America's mass incarceration, in which he used to collaborate. Noting that "No country has ever found a way to stop people using drugs," he drew attention to the grotesque racial disparities in drug-law enforcement in a country where black people use drugs no more than white people, but are far likelier to be imprisoned for it. Doubting that Hutchinson would call the cops if he caught his own daughter using cocaine, Butler concluded that "What is good enough for our children and friends is also good enough for African Americans." Hutchinson admitted that many changes are needed in the way US drug laws are enforced, but said that this doesn't mean the drug laws themselves should disappear. Stating that a $2.5 trillion total drug-war expenditure has helped to halve illegal drug use in the last 30 years, he argued, "The idea that prohibition isn't working may appeal to the popular culture, but does not pass muster on closer examination."

Gillespie made the libertarian case for "pharmacological freedom": granting adults the right to decide what they put into their own bodies. "If we don't have the right to change our minds [by using drugs]," he asked, "then what rights do we really have that are worth a damn?" A drug user who no longer boozes ("because I'm a bad drinker: I tried and tried, but..."), he raised laughs with his sense of the ludicrous—at one point imagining "fair-trade methamphetamine." But he predicted that full legalization would change little, except to jail fewer people, give us "a couple more options" in our bathroom cabinets, and "Monday mornings would be a lot easier to face." Dalrymple responded by focusing on the harm drugs can do—noting the huge addiction and overdose toll of opioid painkillers in the US, "all created perfectly legally." Citing examples like buprenorphine use in France, he argued that making drugs legal increases their availability, and that "Supply can produce a large and disastrous demand." He conceded Butler and Gillespie's point that most people who take drugs don't become addicted, adding, "but then 99% of drunk drivers get home perfectly safely—I know, because I've done it myself."

Audience votes were recorded before and after the debate, with a swing towards legalization seeing Butler and Gillespie declared the winners. But it felt more like a beginning than an end. With marijuana now legal in Colorado and Washington, America's drug-legalization debate is going to expand both in geography and scope. It will rarely remain this civil.

Doping Debate

January 15, 2008

Just hours after baseball assured Congress it's working to address the sport's doping problem, another group debated whether performance-enhancing drugs should even be banned.

Fiercely Partisan Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate on Organic Food

April 13, 2010

Intelligence Squared U.S. (IQ2US), the Oxford-style debate series, an initiative of The Rosenkranz Foundation, hosted one of its most aggressively fought and partisan debates on the unlikely subject of organic food.

Intellectual Juicing

January 18, 2008

The Oxford-style Intelligence Squared debates at the Asia Society are precisely what I hoped to discover moving to New York City last spring: Provocative, unabashedly intellectual, lively. How could anyone who slogs through the pathetic, pandering spectacle of modern American politics not love a debate series with a mission statement that includes a promise to "transcend the toxically emotional and reflexively ideological"?

Organic is Not Marketing Hype

April 15, 2010

Asked whether organic is marketing hype, the audience in attendance at the Intelligence Squared April 13th debate in New York City, voted against the claim, 69% to 21% in favor of it. The remaining 10% were undecided by the end of the evening.

Is Organic Food Marketing Hype?

April 18, 2010

Organic produce, and meat and dairy products, are a tiny—although growing—fraction of what Americans spend on food, on the order of 3 percent. And one would expect it to be a fairly uncontentious topic, compared with some that the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate series has tackled over the past year (American policy toward the Mideast, the financial crisis, etc.). But when six speakers—including a farmer and a food critic—squared off this week to debate the proposition "Organic food is marketing hype," the level of passion generated surprised even veteran moderator John Donvan.

Losing the Organic Debate

April 19, 2010

I lost a debate on organic food last week—to the city of New York. Intelligence Squared, a philanthropic foundation, which brings Oxford-style debating to American issues, invited me to be part of a debate on whether the organic food movement is a scam.

Public Affairs: Intelligence Squared Brings Oxford Union Debating to the Land of Loudmouths

January 19, 2008

It might be the formula for an intriguing cocktail party, or the set-up to a long and elaborate joke. An ethicist, a famous retired ballplayer, a pediatrician, a very loud sportscaster, a libertarian, a former anti-doping czar and one of the more famous faces in American television take the stage in the auditorium of the Asia Society and Museum.

The Great Debaters

January 20, 2008

America is pretty schizophrenic when it comes to performance-enhancing substances - we drag jocks who juice before Congress even as we spend a fortune on fountain of youth drugs.

Are Kidneys a Commodity?

May 26, 2008

Lloyd Cohen thinks people should have the right to buy or sell organs, an idea reviled by doctors. As of last Wednesday at 5:44 p.m., according to the minute-by-minute count on the Web site of the United Network for Organ Sharing, there were 75,629 people awaiting kidney transplants in the United States.

A Show of Hands

September 18, 2008

NEW YORK--The other night we attended the first-of-the-season Intelligence Squared debate. We've been going to these for a while and always find them interesting and stimulating. This week's topic was health-care policy, and one of the panelists arguing for more federal control was former Enron adviser Paul Krugman.

Vote Shows Wide Audience Support for the Obama Health Care Reform Bill

January 14, 2011

The debate, the first in IQ2US’s spring series “America’s House Divided,” was particularly timely given the planned House of Representatives vote to consider repealing the landmark health care reform bill. Arguments on both sides of the motion were passionate and insightful but in the end, one side had the clear support of the vast majority of the live audience in New York and the motion was rejected soundly.

An Actual Debate...

January 19, 2011

For an actual debate on the law, here's a debate sponsored by Intelligence Squared US, featuring two authors whose writing I admire and follow: Paul Starr and Jonathan Cohn.

Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates "Obesity Is the Government’s Business"

January 18, 2012

On February 7, Intelligence Squared U.S. (IQ2US) will take on one of America’s biggest problems when they host the debate: “Obesity Is the Government’s Business.” Obesity costs our health care system nearly $150 billion a year and is a major risk factor for expensive, chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Should the government intervene, or is this a matter of individual rights and personal responsibility?

“Obesity Is Not the Government’s Business” Decides Intelligence Squared U.S. Audience

February 08, 2012

Last night, Intelligence Squared U.S. continued its spring 2012 season with a sold-out debate and a victory against the motion “Obesity is the Government’s Business.” In the final tally, John Stossel and Paul Campos won the Oxford style debate by convincing 16% of the audience to change their minds and oppose the motion. Overall 55% of audience members agreed that government should be involved in public health initiatives to combat obesity.

Uncle Sam Is Not Coming to Dinner

February 08, 2012

America is fat, but Americans disagree about what this means. Either the country’s obesity rates—one third of all adults are obese—are a dangerous health crisis, or they show that the nation is healthier and wealthier than ever. Either the government must act immediately to curb our waistlines, or we must act to curb our bloated government. These were the questions debated in NYU’s Skirball Center last night at the Slate/Intelligence Squared live debate, in which four health and policy experts argued the motion that “Obesity is the government’s business.”

Is Obesity the Government’s Business?

February 11, 2012

Sorry, Uncle Sam, but you’ve been benched in the fight against obesity. That’s according to the Intelligence Squared debate earlier this week, where more voters were swayed to believe that weight control is a personal decision—leaving little room for government intervention.