Town Hall Meeting

From the presentation of town hall meeting, I learned the different perspectives from different person. Some local residents did suffer a lot from this case such as had cancer or other serious diseases and became a little sensitive to this case. People from CACWNY all agree that good listening to the public and build relationship among different stakeholders is really important.

When we were talking about that how we construct a new system if the present one was a “bad” one, Pan mentioned that the system will naturally dead and give a new birth instead, as a cycle. I partially agree with this kind of saying. If a system keep corrupting and accumulate enough problems, it definitely will dead. But it is not necessary to happen “naturally”. Actually, if the officers from the agencies do not care about the public and connive the behavior of the TCC, TCC would make it worse by discharging more pollution to the air which probably leads to a larger percent of residents to be affected to a greater extent. Then the residents will soon be trigger by the corrupted system and take action on it. It is like to push the system to the “bad” end. The “bad” system might be overturned soon. However, if the agencies could consider for the residents by listening to their advice and reaction to this case, or by the pressure from the public and media, they might introspect to their acts and monitor the TCC to reduce their pollution. Thus, it promotes the system to move to the “good” end.

A system needs a long time to be constructed and maintained. It is really not easy to be changed simply by one or two cases. But if someone who wants to strive for his/her right or stands for the community to insist his/her moral principles, he/she will soon influences people around him/her and push things toward to a much better direction.

Keep our ethics

In today’s class, we all think about the way of how to keep our own ethics while surviving in this world. It happens everywhere and could be any time: your boss asks you to do something non-ethics. Although most people will feel uncomfortable, they still do it just because they don’t want to lose their job or they will not feel guilty. Most time they only break a small rule which seems would not trigger any negative impact at first. However, they will find that they are involved in a big case later which will induce serious consequence in the future. As the result of a serious of non-ethics behaviors which based on the former wrong choice, people who are trusting to luck already could never be out of the affair. I am wondering if one day their boss is sued by the non-ethics behavior and they will be responsible for the case as they are the direct actor, whether they will choose to do the “wrong” thing at the very beginning.

On the other hand, there are still many people will choose to say “no” to their boss when they feel what they do will break their moral standards. For example, when my Chinese advisor just began his career as associate professor, he joined in a big group following a famous professor to obtain experiences. As he gradually get to know more in this group, he found the moral standard of the professor was so different from him. My advisor finally decided to leave this group until he was asked to make money from providing basic technical knowledge to cooperative universities or institutes. My advisor did experience a long time of difficulty as he needed to apply for research funding without a powerful backup and he also got a problem of his promotion because of the “betray” to that professor. However, he never regret of his behavior and keep insisting his ethics standard and the way of treating people. Although some one feel he is unwise, my advisor had a lot of good friends both from food industry and our university support his research and respect him. Last year, he was promoted to professor and receives a new funding from a national project.  

It is not easy to insist one’s ethic/moral standard without losing the job. However, we still could find a way survive in this society by following our heart.

Patenting human genes?

Should we patenting human genes? In my opinion, it is better to patenting human cells or cultures rather than genes. As genes are the basic component of all the creatures which are just like the basic chemical atoms of all the objects, they are form the “warehouse” of the whole human beings. In this phase, genes are public and could be shared by all the people. However, cell that derived from these genes could have millions of ways of arrangement and thus make up various cells and cultures. Each of them is specific and unique in this world such as Henrietta Lack’s cancer cell, which is still the only immortal human cell in this world. It may not be worth to patent every people’s cell. But when refers to a cell that has a significant contribution to research as well as a large business benefit just like HeLa cell, I think it is worth to patent and memory it.

Also, human derived from their cell are reasonable to own their cells. Nevertheless, if people authorize the researchers to use their cells/genes for research through consent form, then the scientists also have the right to hold their cells. What’s more, the consent form should clear that weather the cells are given voluntarily or paid by charge. But if the cells will be used for business benefits or further research that is not included in the former consent form, the researchers or any other responsible organization should let their stakeholders know and sign the consent form for further use.

In addition, I think the Lackses should be compensated for Henrietta’s cells. Since the doctors took the cultures of Henrietta for research without asking, it is difficult to say that weather Henrietta would like to donate her cells to the science as the colored people were not treated fairly that time. Furthermore, her children now ask for the compensation for their mother’s cells and they represent the Lacks and their mom in law. Thus, I think the Henrietta’s children should get compensation which include their health insurance that directly correlate with this case.

respect the life

What is your feeling if one of your family member’s cell is immortal and widely used in science? This is the first question I think about when reading “the immortal life of Henrietta Lacks”.

For me, I will be proud of this family member since his/her cells have a such important contribution to science, including developing new vaccines, studying on certain disease and saving people’s lives. In addition, the cells which are also part of his/her body could be immortal in this world make me feel it is kind of commemoration, like this people never leave us. However, when I read the first part of this book, I found the family of Henrietta was very angry about the cells were used by science and they did not want to talk about anything about Henrietta and her cells at all. I was curious about the reason and their thinking until I learned what happened on Henrietta since she went to John Hopkins.

It is the way of treating colored patients by doctors that time. At first, Henrietta signed a form before any treatment: “I hereby give consent to the staff of The Johns Hopkins Hospital to perform any operative procedures and under any anaesthetic either local or general that they may deem necessary in the proper surgical care and treatment”. It is a little horrible when reading this sentence. It sounds like sacrifice agreement rather than treatment agreement. This form seemed to be designed for asking for people’s lives rather than saving them.

 And soon, the horrible dream came true. The doctors “burned” Henrietta by laser for killing the cancer cells. Although Henrietta kept telling doctors about her pain many times, the medical record still be wrote that “no evidence of recurrence” and they continued using laser to “burn” Henrietta until nothing could help her except analgesics. This is the reason made Henrietta’s family believed that the white doctors were doing experiments on colored patients in hospital. They believe that the doctors burned Henrietta to dead. The lists of Henrietta’s medical history in Page 16 also showed that colored people was afraid of doctors and hospital even they had various diseases.  

I have the same question with Rebecca that “what will happen if Henrietta is a white people? Is she will be recovery by the careful treatment and check at the early stage of the cancer”? I think the doctors in Hopkins did not treat Henrietta seriously and professionally, just like they take her cells without asking. I also doubt the dose of laser on Henrietta was part of the experiment that what amount of laser could kill cancer cells safely. At that time, the way of dealing with colored patients by white doctors may be even worse than how the scientists treat animals today. It really cost a lot before every scientist or doctor to learn how to respect the life today and each of us should put it on the first place when doing research.

Local knowledge and Science

As last time I was leaving for another class, so I would like to share some of my points about our discussion.

In my opinion, the local knowledge is beneficial to the society, scientists and engineers. The relationship of “local knowledge” and “science” is similar to that between “practice” and “theory”. It is because that the local knowledge is come from the direct evidence of one’s eyes and life experience of people who suffer the problems, so they could feel the impact more deeply. They could provide the details that how the problems influence their daily life and what the side effect triggered by it. Some of them may be neglected only by statistical analysis or instrumental experiment rather than personal experience. A simple example could be: during my master study, my school tried to change the years of master study of all majors to two years. This was due to the high efficiency theory from some researches and it worked very well in many developed countries. However, it would not work well for the students of Plant. Normally the plant growth needs 1-2 years, so they need to graduate before getting any data. At last, the policy was changed depend on different majors. It is also true that sometimes the local knowledge is not correct and may be misconception or misunderstanding. But it is still a valuable source for scientists to improve their research with a full consideration, especially when the “local knowledge” is logical and thought through.

I think “knowledge-making” is making policy depend on the expert and professional knowledge. It needs a thoroughly study from the theory and previous data before finding out the rules and drawing a conclusion. For the “decision-making”, it is making choice which includes find the problem, set a goal and then choose the solution. The knowledge-making could be used on making policy like the safety level of lead in drinking water. It needs the widely test of residence living in different types of room, the drinking habit, lead source, the rate of lead increase in the water and health evaluation like blood test. Sometimes the “knowledge-making” works better and sometimes the “policy-making” is more practical such as the public opinion is hard to uniform and local knowledge is not enough for the public to have an overview about the whole case. However, both the decision-making methods should be made carefully after overall study and listen to the public.

CACWNY——a good example of ethic

Last class we had an interview with people from the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York (CACWNY). Each of the members stated his/her position and perspectives in TCC case and we posed plenty of questions, made it as a press conference. I do learn a lot from their points and have a more comprehensive understand of this case. Also, I think CACWNY is actually a good example of ethic.

At first, they are good at listening to public. One of their members mentioned that she had a door-to-door interview with the residence to learn their feeling and opinions about the air pollution in their community. And she was surprise to find that some residents were really happy that someone would listen to them and want to know their situations, especially some of them suffer a long-term disease. The CACWNY members also care about how to make residence understand their work and trust them. One of the members stated one needs to respect people and understand they have different background which give them different language, cultures and different way of thinking and reaction. It is important to work together with the public by asking questions and bringing information to each other.

What’s more, the CACWNY actively tried to find out the solutions of air problems in Tonawanda district. They not only educated people how to protect themselves from toxics, they were also working on make new policy. The CACWNY members also stated that they were pay attention to collect reliable data to show the problems to public and other departments. It was a sharp contrast with the conduct of WASA in their press conference. The WASA failed to give data to prove their statement or policy, especially refer to the recommended flushing time before drinking water. It seems that WASA gave such a suggestion only for coping with the request of EPA and finish the work on noticing and educating the public. They were not care whether their suggestion worked. This made the public lose their trust of the agency since WASA neglected the part which the public cared about the most. 

Also, one point from CACWNY deeply impressed me is that “don’t be afraid to do right things”. When they found the EPA models were clearly wrong, they decided to make new policy and tried to solve the problems. It made me to think of WASA again. WASA should also found the suggestion from EPA was useless, but they just performed the rule of EPA. Of course, WASA did not want to do additional work and do not want to take the responsibility also.

It is true that the CACWNY fulfill their responsibility very well partly because they are a community-based group and their members are mainly the people from Tanawanda district. It is reasonable that they could understand this situation and the desire of local residence and try their best to protect the public which also includes themselves. However, why the other agencies such like WASA and EPA in DC water case had such a big gap with the public? Is it because the officers themselves drink the safe water, so the lead water is none of their business? If every agency could listen to the public carefully and put them into their consumers’ position, they definitely will obtain the trust, support and respect from the public.

Scientists VS public

Last class we talked about the relationship between science and public. It is interesting to find that public have many misunderstanding about science and scientists also misread public too.

I still remember the first class, we were asked to write down our impression on scientists. Many words came out as “boring”, “anti-social”, “nerd” and so on. It seems that public does not show so many interests on science and does not understand it very well. But is it the nature of public of feeling boring on science? I think the scientists should also responsible for this. When scientists have a speech to explain some new technologies or introduce a new concept to public, they always use scientific terms as they used in seminar or academic conference. Although they will explain this to public at first, the public could not keep focusing on these professional words and lose interests very soon. If scientists would like to use simple language to tell a story or try to use examples from our daily life, the public will interested and participate in science. What’s more, scientists should identify the difference between a academic report and public education. For popularize certain knowledge to public, scientists do not need to explore too much about its mechanism or principle. Clarify the basic concepts and their relationship to our lives is already an effective way of quick learning. 

Also, scientists should be patient to public and trust them. It needs time for a new concept to be accepted by public. It is true that some people may overact or be emotional on it. But the scientists should gradually guide them to help them to understand rather than overlooking their reaction and questions. If scientists could not take their responsibility and provide reliable information, they would only deepen the gap between science and public. In addition, scientists should not expect professional suggestions from public. What scientists could learn from them are mainly their complaints. The complaint means problem there and it is just the part need to improve for science.  

However, public should also understand scientists too. Scientists afford a big pressure when questioned by public, especially when there is potential dangerous of their projects. Public should authorize scientists time and funding to try and to fail, and not to be too eager to except a solution.

 Public could participate in scientific activity by giving suggestions while scientists could learn from public by listening their advices and complaints. Both of them are responsible in keeping a healthy social relationship and trust each other.

When dog helps dog, who helps human?

Last class we were talking about an interesting topic: dog can help dog, why human cannot help human? I agree with Dr. Edwards that this is because dog’s mind like 3 years old children, they do not calculate their lost before giving a hand to the others. I believe that human also have the nature of helping each other, but what gradually change them? I try to find out the reasons.

 I think it is our society changes us a lot. It is hurt to see a little girl was hit by a car and more than 18 people passed by but no one gives a help. However, it is “dangerous” for helping a stranger in China now. News reported that some helpers were slandered as “trouble-maker” by the wounded or their relatives. Sometimes this was because the real trouble-maker could not be found and the wounded lost consciousness that time, so the helpers became the largest suspect just because of his/her timely helps in an accident. But in some cases, people live for pretending hurt and ask money from the helper by making a trick. Although these were few to happen, it was spread quickly after report and no one dare to help the others.

 However, there are also positive social influences on people’s behavior. Also happened in China, there was a serious train crash in July 2011. After hearing the big sound, nearly all the local residence of that small town came out and sent the wounded to the nearest hospital by car, by bicycles or simply by human. The hospital also called back most of their doctors and saved people’s live for free. Soon the hospitals of nearest city also actively participated in this emergency. The next morning all the big hospitals nearby were full of people who came to donate blood. I don’t know the local residence only follow the first one who gives a help or there was a tradition there to help people selfless. But they really influenced other peoples around them to help each other.

 It depends on you whether to construct an ethical/moral standard of yourself and keep it while surviving in this complex society. However, once you insist your rules, you may find that people around you also follow that rules.

The experiment of feeding genetically modified rice to children

In the class of last week, we have learned some unethic cases in the real world. The most impressive one to me is the experiment of feeding genetically modified rice to children in China.

According to the lead author of this study (Tang Guangwen,Tufts University), this experiment was designed to detect whether the “golden rice”, which is one of the genetically modified rice, could be a effective rescource of providing vitamin A to humman. As known, genetically modified plant is still a new scitific product and each of them need  researches for generations to prove its safty. What’s more, the certain “outstanding” properties presented by genetically modified plant was resulted from its unnatural gene consequences, which might be changed one’s normal structure in molecular level and lead to unknown harm.  It was learned that there was no animal or human safty test of this kind of rice. Instead, they do their study directly on human body, which even 6-8 years old young children whose brain and body was still developing. It is really terrible to hear that scientists sacrifice the health and future of the young children only for the development of their own research. It hard to believe they do not think about the children and their parents when they made such decision.

However, the scientists are not the only one who should be blamed for unethics. Dave R. Schubert, professor of Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, said ” the test was done among Chinese children most likely because they could not pass the review process required for doing this type of clinical trial in the US”. So it is reasonble to question that, how this experiment on Chinese children could be passed? How can an unsafty experiment on human could be published on a scitific journal? Isn’t it a mislead to other scientists and fundings which support such kind of research?

What’s more, the related Chinese organization should also responsible for this unethic research. The information from Hunan province, where the experiment had done, clared that such experiment was agreed by both students and their parents and they signed the agreement to the school. The Chinese media was doubt that whether the school had clarified every potential dangers to parents. Part of co-authors of this paper were from Hunan province and they attend this experment.  I can not believe they do not know the danger of this experment. The only answer for them to do so might be the desiration of their own benefits, such as have more publications or obtain finacial support.

Thus, if when scientists, acdemic journals, universities and related govenment officers all failed to take the ethic responsibility of our society, who could stand out to protect the order and the original inspiration of science? It is true that the peers of scientists could oversee each other, like Schuber, one of 22 scientists who wrote an open letter to warn this experiment in this case. Also the public could reflect their opinions on scientific research. However, the scientists should still build their own professional ethic as soon as possible, and think through every step of their research based on this criterion.

In addition, scientists should try to find out other possible ways when the present one obey the ethic standard. As I am a student of food science, I know the rice is defenitely not the only way to provide vitamin A. There are numerous fruits and vegetables cotain vitamin A and we acturally do not need a genetically product. Although genetically product may be more economic ones, it is not a practical method to solve the shortage of plant in the long run.

Interesting press conference

I feel today’s press conference in our class is really exciting. Each of us represent one organization in the case of exceeding lead level of drinking water in DC and I am belong to EPA. Acturally, EPA had a direct reponsibility of the safty of drinking water in DC. At first, EPA started to notice this problem through an investigation from DCOIC which was about the irreglarities in sampling. It is true that EPA accepted this investigation and provide the report from WASA of 2000-2001 monitoring year, and stated that ” EPA had not appoved to exclued samples which exceed EPA limit”. However, EPA never get alert from this investigation and never doubt the report from WASA.

Also, the materials make me feel EPA even support WASA or at least trust WASA. This simply because the number of the report WASA submitted. During 2000-2001 monitoring year, EPA received 78 samples from WASA which was “much more” than the required number. In addition, the WASA had educated public how to protect theirselves through distributing the brochure approved by the EPA. Thus, it seems that WASA completed their task very well and EPA, which is designed to oversee it, also fulfill its responsibility as well. Neverthless, EPA never care about the quality of the sample they received, do not mention the way of getting sample and dealing with the data. What’ more, the effec of the method on preventing contamination from lead water publicized by WASA was also questioned in today’s press conference. It showed that EPA did not have a research on its effect and influence before approving and publicizing such solutions.

What’s more, when refering the suggestion to WASA or any other related organization or public who worried about the lead contamined water, EPA did not give out either clear or pratical answer. Both two “corrosion control” methods were objected by other dapartments from finacial and safty perspectives. Instead, EPA just make a compromise that only adjust PH of water without adding any chemicals. No datas or researches have shown that this could still resolve the lead proplem without trigging new problems.

At last, EPA suggested to investigate the real primary reason which leading to the elevated lead level in blood, since some other sources such as car exhaust and paint could be the main culprits. This kind of investigation was did worth to do, however, EPA should also keep on detecting the water quality and make clear its lead level in drinking water before taking any further actions.

I think EPA should have a lesson from this case and have alert about its oversee system. In the future, it is better for EPA to make a rule about water quality report such like, where to get the sample, who should be involved, the step of dealing with the samples and the way of analyzing datas. Try every effort to preven cheating on samples.  In addition, EPA should take its responsiblity in making policy or advice to other deparments or public, and behave actively in response to any question about the quality of drinking water.