At the annual conference of the Bioethics Society of the English-Speaking Caribbean (BSEC) held on November 16 at St. George’s University (SGU) and hosted by SGU’s Bioethics Department, speakers delved into a wide range of topics relevant to the Caribbean, including child abuse and corporal punishment. Dr. Barbara Landon, neuropsychologist and Associate Professor at St. George’s University, along with colleague Ms. Lauren Orlando, presented on the topic.
“Even though there are all kinds of laws to protect adults against assault, the rights of children in the Caribbean are not fully protected despite the fact that every country is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Dr. Landon. Dr. Landon has taken a special interest in the effects of corporal punishment on children and cited the research supporting the negative effects child abuse has on the developing brain, her area of expertise. “The agreement is profound throughout the literature: corporal punishment has a huge effect on both mental and physical health.”
Dr. Landon and Ms. Orlando encouraged using alternative methods of discipline. “There are so many more skillful ways to raise children, discipline them, and teach them right from wrong that do not include hitting,” said Ms. Orlando. “If parents and children are not given better examples of how to discipline, the cycle of violence will continue.”
In addition to demonstrating the effects of severe corporal punishment on the brain— which include reduced executive function, decreased IQ, and increased likelihood of mental disorders, the team discussed some of the archaic laws, relics of the Caribbean’s history of colonialism, which permit corporal punishment.
Corporal punishment was only one of several topics discussed at the BSEC forum by experts in various fields. Topics included bio-similar pharmaceuticals, high-technology in medicine, climate change, conservation, clinical ethics, and student consumerism. A diverse mix of nationalities and professions were represented by presenters and audience members. Among those delivering presentations were Dr. Cheryl CoxMacpherson, BSEC President and Chair of SGU’s Bioethics Department; Dr. Derrick Aarons, consultant bioethicist and Past President of BSEC; Dr. Dale Jamieson, Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of the Animal Studies Initiative at NYU; and Dr. Sean Philpott, Director of the Bioethics Program at Union Graduate College.
Dr. Macpherson, BSEC President, was very pleased at the outcome of this year’s event. “I am always genuinely fascinated by the content and quality of the talks at our annual fora and this one as much as ever,” she commented. “The beauty of it is that although we come from so many different disciplines, we try to find a common language where we can learn from each other and provide fresh insight. This forum has brought these issues to a broad range of people so with respect to the health impacts of climate change, for example, we can all begin to think about both mitigation and adaptation.”
BSEC, established in 2006 by founding members from several Caribbean states, aims to increase knowledge and understanding of bioethics through promoting and fostering deliberations across the English-speaking Caribbean and through international collaboration. Its goal is to make a significant contribution to the overall development and implementation of bioethics in human and animal healthcare, research and policy-making. The next BSEC annual forum will be hosted in Jamaica in 2014.