Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Understanding physician-assisted death [excerpt]

When it comes to end-of-life treatment, patients currently have a few different options available to them. One option, refusal of treatment, is when a decisionally capable patient is put in the driver’s seat with respect to medical treatment under the doctrine of informed consent. Another option is pain management, where palliative medicine is administered to entirely eliminate, or reduce pain to a level that the patient finds tolerable.

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Understanding Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth status [excerpt]

Acquired by the United States from Spain in 1898, Puerto Rico has a peculiar status among Latin American and Caribbean countries. In the excerpt below, author Jorge Duany provides the necessary background for understanding the inner workings of the Commonwealth government and the island’s relationship to the United States. How did Puerto Rico become a US Commonwealth?

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How a failed suicide affects the brain

The numerous factors that induce someone to think about suicide, the “ideators,” are often different from those who actually attempt suicide, the “attempters.” For example, the traditional risk factors for suicide, such as depression, hopelessness, many psychiatric disorders, and impulsivity, strongly predict suicide ideation but weakly predict suicide attempts among ideators.

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How private are your prescription records?

Urgent public health crises generate pressures for access to information to protect the public’s health. Identifying patients with contagious conditions and tracing their contacts may seem imperative for serious diseases such as Ebola or SARS. But pressures for information reach far more broadly than the threat of deadly contagion. Such is the situation with the opioid epidemic, at least in Utah,

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Is science being taken out of environmental protection?

In 1963, dying of breast cancer and wearing a wig to cover the effects of radiation treatments, Rachel Carson appeared before a congressional committee to defend her indictment of pesticides. She had rattled the chemical industry with Silent Spring, which urged caution at a time when Americans were buying dangerous products that the scientific community had itself made possible.

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Optimism in economic development

There is much discussion about global poverty and the billions of people living with almost nothing. Why is it that governments, development banks, think-tanks, academics, NGOs, and many others can’t just fix the problem? Why is it that seemingly obvious reforms never happen? Why are prosperity and equity so elusive?

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Brinksmanship does little to resolve crisis in Venezuela

For over eighty days, the opposition has challenged the government of Nicolás Maduro and sought his ouster through direct street actions. Dramatic images of masked protestors violently clashing with the Venezuelan National Guard or the Bolivarian Police dominate western media reporting on the country. The mainstream US media creates the impression that the entire country is in open revolt and Maduro only holds on to power through the use of sheer repression.

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Puerto Rico in crisis

The US territory of Puerto Rico is currently experiencing its most severe and pro­longed economic downturn since the Great Depression (1929–33). Between 2006 and 2016, the island’s economy (measured as Gross National Product in constant 1954 prices) shrank by 15.2%, while total employment fell by 28.6%. The elimination of federal tax exemptions under Section 936 of the Internal Revenue Code in 2006 dealt a serious blow to the island’s manufacturing industry.

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Corruption: are you an expert? [quiz]

Headlines regularly focus on political scandals and corruption. From public officials embezzling government monies, selling public offices, and trading bribes for favors to private companies generate public indignation and calls for reform—corruption, it seems, is inevitable. But what really is corruption, and who is responsible for its continuation?

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Why do I wake up every morning feeling so tired?

The alarm rings, you awaken, and you are still drowsy: why? Being sleepy in the morning does not make any sense; after all, you have just been asleep for the past eight hours. Shouldn’t you wake up refreshed, aroused, and attentive? No, and there are a series of ways to explain why. The neurobiological answer: During the previous few hours before waking in the morning, you have spent most of your time in REM sleep, dreaming.

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Business as usual in Washington?

While these behaviors may be no more troubling to a large swath of the electorate in the United States than revolving door lobbyists or campaign finance run amok, they should be. Some legal scholars contend that cumulatively, Trump’s actions may well violate the emoluments clause of the US Constitution. Taken individually, however, none of his actions seem likely to be illegal or corrupt.

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What everyone needs to know about Russian hacking

Hackers working on behalf of the Russian government have attacked a wide variety of American citizens and institutions. They include political targets of both parties, like the Democratic National Committee, and also the Republican National Committee, as well as prominent Democrat and Republican leaders, civil society groups like various American universities and academic research programs.

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The historical roots of Iran: an interview

In April 2017 Bridget Kendall, former BBC diplomatic correspondent and now Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, interviewed Michael Axworthy, author of Iran: What Everyone Needs to Know® about the history of Iran, the characterization of Iran as an aggressive expansionist power, and the current challenges and developments in the country today. Below is a transcribed version of part of the interview.

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The less mentioned opioid crisis

You’ve probably seen the dramatic photo of the Ohio couple slouched, overdosed, and passed out in the front seats of a car, with a little kid sitting in the back seat. Even if you haven’t seen that picture, images and words of America’s opioid overdose epidemic have captured headlines and TV news feeds for the last several years. But there’s a different image seared into my mind, a mental picture of a different little kid and two adults.

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Why are we all so frightened?

Knowing what you should fear, and quickly recognizing the biological changes in your body that indicate fear, can save your life. This critical task is processed by a small almond-shaped structure, the amygdala, which lies deep within the bottom of the brain, not far from your ears. The amygdala receives information from many brain regions, your internal organs, and external sensory systems, such as your eyes and ears.

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What has happened to environmental protection?

Fast forward to 2017: with a few possible exceptions, Congress hasn’t addressed any significant environmental problems for over a quarter century and has blocked important environmental legislation; President Trump has promised to gut the EPA; and its new administrator, Scott Pruitt, as Attorney General of Oklahoma, sued the Agency over and over again to kill major environmental regulations.

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