Rachel Haliburton

Time Travel and the Black Death

Time Travel and the Black Death

May 26, 2021 at 12:18 pm

Author’s Note: In this series of columns (see the first one here and the second here) I am using various works of science fiction and fantasy to consider some of the ethical issues generated by our current situation.   As I write this, the weather is warming and the pandemicRead More

What If This Is A Computer Simulation?

What If This Is A Computer Simulation?

April 14, 2021 at 12:49 pm

There’s a wonderful pair of linked episodes in Star Trek: The Next Generation which, together, raise some deep and interesting philosophical questions with deep ethical implications. Both episodes take place within the confined space of the holodeck (a place in which the computer simulations are so real that crew members…Read...

(Clockwise from top left): René Descartes, Ursual K. Le Guin, J.S. Mill, Margaret Atwood, J.R.R. Tolkien, Immanuel Kant.

Distorted Mirrors: Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Philosophy

March 10, 2021 at 11:47 am

As I write this month’s column, Ontario, where I live, is still in the grip of the COVID pandemic. The government issued a stay-at-home order on Boxing Day, which closed restaurants for in-person dining, university classes remain virtual, and we have been told that we should only leave the houseRead More

COVID and the Meaning of Apocalypse

COVID and the Meaning of Apocalypse

February 10, 2021 at 12:45 pm

I recently had a strange dream. In it, I was moving through the crowded food court at my local mall. In my dream, I had visited my favorite haunts — the tea store and the bookshop — and was on my way out to the parking lot. Suddenly, the sleepingRead More

Defining Madness

Defining Madness

December 9, 2020 at 12:45 pm

A few years ago, one of my colleagues told me a funny story. One of his students had said to him, “It’s a good thing that someone invented universities. Otherwise, there would be no place in the world for people like you to fit in.” I was thinking about thisRead More

The Case of the Designer Baby

The Case of the Designer Baby

November 11, 2020 at 10:19 am

I have recently been working on a bioethics textbook. Bioethics is a discipline largely driven by case studies – short narratives intended to make the ethical issues under discussion clear, real and urgent. Consequently, many bioethics textbooks include case studies. I want to do something different in this month’s column,Read More

CRISPR-Cas9 is a customizable tool that lets scientists cut and insert small pieces of DNA at precise areas along a DNA strand. This lets scientists study our genes in a specific, targeted way.
Credit: Ernesto del Aguila III, National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH (Public Domain)

Genetic Scissors: Thoughts on Gene Editing

October 14, 2020 at 1:49 pm

Jennifer A. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier were recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on the gene-editing tool now known as CRISPR/Cas9. This award has drawn the public’s attention to a technique that has been of interest (and concern) to bioethicists for several years — certainly sinceRead More

When MAID Meets Organ Donation

When MAID Meets Organ Donation

September 9, 2020 at 4:17 pm

Last month, I wrote about the ethical issues generated by the euphemistic and imprecise term Medical Assistance In Dying (or MAID) and the way in which the change in the law which led to the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia had avid supporters (whom I have labelled “optimists”) andRead More

B0NNRP Syringe and a bottle of morphine

Assisted Suicide: A Slippery Slope?

August 19, 2020 at 2:49 pm

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada decriminalized the prohibition on assisted suicide, a decision which led to the legalization of assisted suicide (when an individual ends her own life with the help of another, usually a physician) and voluntary active euthanasia (when someone gives permission to another person –Read More

Impossible Whopper. (Photo by Sarah Stierch, CC BY 4.0 Missvain / CC BY https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Can You Have Your Meat and Eat It Too?

June 10, 2020 at 1:04 pm

When I was young, there was a saying that was often used to describe someone who wanted to do two incompatible things simultaneously: “She wants to have her cake and eat it too!” The moral of the saying was that we often have to make difficult choices: we can’t preserveRead More