Sufficient Scruples

Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.

May 28, 2005


by @ 8:10 PM. Filed under

So what’s all this, then, anyway?

“Sufficient Scruples” is a blog devoted to discussion of healthcare-related issues from a moral perspective. It addresses theoretical and practical issues in bioethics and healthcare policy, and a broader range of issues around the periphery of those subjects.

What “periphery”?

Health- and body-related issues central to human life, such as sexuality, LGBTQ issues, the politics of health and healthcare, and other subjects. Women’s issues more broadly are covered, in part because many “women’s issues” have a health- or reproduction-related component, and in part because much of the oppression of women is focused on, or comes through, their sexuality and biology. Because it is impossible to talk about women’s issues without talking about women’s biology, conversely we should be aware of the broader political context of health issues that affect women. General political issues are touched on because the political climate, and the ideologies of the major parties or political actors, influence healthcare issues significantly.

Who runs this thing?

“Sufficient Scruples” is blogged by Kevin T. Keith (“KTK”).

Who he?

Kevin T. Keith is an aging graduate student who, when he began his advanced education in bioethics, confidently expected to finish his PhD by the turn of the millenium, and still does. [OK, truth be told, that’s essentially a moribund project. My utter inability to grapple with the demands of a PhD program has pretty much put the kibosh on dreams of doctoral glory, such as that is. Currently I’m nursing my bitterness and pursuing a project to convince the world that “independent scholar” isn’t really a euphemism for “pathetic loser”. It’s going well, I assure you.] He has taught bioethics and done clinical ethics work at two medical schools, and until recently taught ethics and related subjects in the adult night-school program of City College, City University of New York. He hopes some day to become a real boy.

Does he have a paper trail?


Kevin T. Keith blogged at Lean Left, a group political blog run by two cool guys from Tennessee, for more than a year before launching Sufficient Scruples. He still blogs there on non-healthcare-related issues.

There’s more here.

Does he look like anything?

Kind of like this, but not really: KTK photo

Does Kevin T. Keith realize that it’s creepy, in a kind of Nixon/Kissinger way, to talk about himself in the third person?

He does.

Silly name for a blog.

Yeah, well . . .

I was trying to come up with something that referenced both healthcare and ethics, discarding – by popular request – numerous Latin puns (including, sadly, many clever variations on “ars longa”), when I happened on a description of Medieval apothecaries’ symbols. These notations, used in early medical prescriptions and formularies, were the foundation for the specialized symbols and abbreviations used by doctors and pharmacists today. Apothecaries used specialized weights and measures for the tiny amounts of material employed in medicine formulations. Apothecary weights included the “dram” (or “drachm”), “scruple”, and “grain” – representing, respectively, 1/8 troy ounce, 1/3 dram, and 1/20 scruple (thus, a scruple was also 1/24 troy ounce, and a grain was 1/60 dram or 1/480 troy ounce). Each of these weights was notated with a particular symbol; the symbol for the “scruple” is: Scruple symbol
It occurred to me immediately that “scruple” has also taken on the meaning of “moral principle” or “moral reservation” – in the sense, apparently, of “a small thing that cannot be overlooked”. “Scruple” (expansively interpreted) thus refers both to prescribed medical care and to moral judgment. There was also a standard notation: “q.s.” – meaning “quantum sufficit” (“in sufficient quantity”). Thus, “Sufficient Scruples” may mean “healthcare properly prescribed” or “moral principles of appropriate kind and degree“. A blog was born.

It should be noted that the two symbols would never actually be used together in a Medieval formulation. “Scruple” was an exact weight, while “q.s.” indicated an inexact addition of some material, added “as necessary”. Either could be used to indicate the quantity of an ingredient in a medicine, but together they are meaningless. Make of that what you will.

Who chose the color scheme?

A highly-paid team of designers, psychologists, and typographers.

But it’s all shades of gray.

Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.

What about the content?

In addition to daily posts, there is some other content on the site that I hope visitors will find worthwhile.

  1. Podcasts
    I hope to begin podcasting soon. You see what effect the words themselves have . . . what could be finer than to hear them in my very own voice?! I will begin posting podcasts on their own page, linked to the “Podcasts” box in the right column, within a few weeks months years of blog launch (1 June, 2005).
  2. White Papers
    I tend to write long posts, and occasionally one of them turns into a mini-treatise on some general issue relevant to the subjects of this blog. I have decided to make these available permanently, as “white papers” or background reports on issues that will likely be relevant to other posts in the future. I hope they will find favor as a resource or a kind of reference library. The “White Papers” also will be gathered into a separate page, linked through the “White Papers” box in the right column.
  3. Blogrolls
    I have set up just two blogrolls: one of specialized bioethics-related links (usually to institutions or organizations interested in the field, or to reference resources), and the other a general roll of blogs of all kinds (at some point I may try to subdivide this into categories, but for now it is a catch-all).
  4. Stegosaurus of the Week
    As of June 2006, a weekly award has been established to recognize the most annoying or merely wrong-headed blogger on bioethics issues for that week. It’s named for Stegosaurus because the extreme size of the sacral spinal ganglion in those dinosaurs once gave rise to a belief that they actually had a “second brain”, located near the pelvis and presumed responsible for controlling locomotion due to the animals’ apparently dim cerebral brains and slow neural response times. (This belief has been discarded – the sacral ganglion is common in reptiles and birds, and may serve as both a lipid storage point and a nerve plexus, but at any rate is not a brain; Stegosauridae and some other dinosaurs simply had a larger one than usual.) The rumor of the existence of creatures who had measurably larger brains in their asses than in their heads was too good to pass up. Stegosaurus has thus been adopted as the official mascot of ethics bloggers who suffer from the same affliction. No prize accompanies the award other than the priceless opportunity for self-examination.

UPDATE: The Stegosaurus of the Week Award was discontinued shortly after being instituted, because it seemed kind of mean-spirited and childish. It was fun, though.

What is your linking policy?

“Linking policies” are nonsense. The Web consists of links. That’s what it’s for. You cannot control people linking to your site any more than you can control them looking at you on the street. I do not acknowledge “linking policies” on other sites, and anyone is free to link to anything on this site.

As for blogrolling, I am delighted to add anyone to my blogroll, though I would ask that your blog have at least some consistent focus on at least one of the topics listed in the “Categories” box on this blog, or on the subjects described as topics of this blog at the top of this FAQ. If you find this site interesting, and often write on topics related to what you see here, drop me an e-mail and let me know – I’d like to see your site, and probably link to it. Similarly, anyone is welcome to blogroll this site, and thanks for the compliment!

What are your commenting and moderation policies?

As of the launching of this blog, commenting is unmoderated and does not require registration. It is conceivable that this could change, most likely in response to uncontrollable problems of one or the other of two kinds: “comment spam” and uncivil discourse to the point that productive discussion becomes impossible.

“Comment spam”, comments consisting primarily of links to other sites (in a way not obviously relevant to an ongoing discussion), or comments clearly made only for the purpose of promoting other sites or commercial activities, are prohibited. They will be deleted without warning. IP blocking may be implemented against spammers if the need arises.

As of the launching of this blog, there are no rules for language, discursive behavior in the comments sections, or other questions of civility. I have a wide tolerance for language and argumentation style myself (i.e., I’m an asshole, so I guess you can be one, too), but not everyone does. I will not intrude into commenters’ posting styles or behavior, for the most part, but I ask that commenters try to contribute to a cooperative and productive exchange on whatever topic is of interest. This requires, I think, a willingness to focus on facts and issues as much as possible (a challenge for me more than for most, I admit), to default in the direction of restraint rather than offense, to assume (often against contrary evidence – I know!) that one’s opponent in debate is both intelligent and sincere, and to keep a sense of perspective about what is, after all, only a communicative exercise, and rarely an actual threat to one’s well-being. I hope that the inherent maturity of most of the posters I have seen on most of the blogs I visit will be enough to keep even heated exchanges within the bounds of productive discourse, and without those of overt offense. At the same time, I expect adults engaged in intelligent discourse have both the ability and willingness to moderate their own behavior appropriately, and the fortitude to withstand the excesses of those who do not. If things get really out of hand, I reserve the right to develop, announce, and implement some sort of comment policy, but as yet the only policy is “Play Nicely”.

UPDATE: I have begun moderating posts by filtering keywords to deal with comment spam. I am also investigating spam-blocking plugins. If your comment is delayed in appearing on the blog, it may have conflicted with the spam-blocking measures. Sorry for the inconvenience.


6 Responses to “FAQ”

  1. Sufficient Scruples » Blog Archive » Dawn Eden Reads Your Mind Like Bill Frist Reads Terri Schiavo’s Says:

    […] So, congratulations, Dawn Eden. In recognition of your onging, though by now long overdue for extinction, tendency to pull nonsensical crap out of your ass, you are the second-ever Official Stegosaurus of the Week. Thanks for playing, and next time try thinking with the cerebral ganglion, not the sacral one. […]

  2. Sufficient Scruples » Blog Archive » Blinded by Non-Science Says:

    […] The “Vital Signs Blog” earns the just-established “Stegosaurus of the Week” award with this post noting that the Mayo Clinic Web site explains (in response to a reader’s question) that there is no scientifiically verifiable link between abortion and risk of later breast cancer. This perpetual fantasy being a mainstay of right-wing propaganda, Vital Signs is concerned, weighs the issues . . . and concludes that the Mayo Clinic is wrong. Because, after all, what do they know about medicine or anything? […]

  3. Sufficient Scruples » Blog Archive » Anti-Choice Tool Confirms Stereotype (One in a Continuing Series . . .) Says:

    […] So, Pete, even though it’s not yet the end of the week, you take the prize. For being an unbelievable moron, for sanctimoniousness above and beyond the call of decency, and for confirming in hilarious detail the sheer boneheaded idiocy of the pro-life movement, you are officially the Stegosaurus of the Week. Next time try thinking with the cerebral ganglion, not the sacral one. […]

  4. Sufficient Scruples » Blog Archive » Holy Third Wave, Batman! . . . Says:

    […] I know this sounds pathetic, but I’ve been trying to build readership for a year, and can’t seem to find the formula. As both my regular readers know, my penchant is for longer-form essays on more theoretical issues in healthcare policy and ethics. This is not to say I don’t frequently take time out to rip some right-wing dipshit a much-deserved new one, but many of my posts are more discursive than brief commentary. And I don’t do “Friday Random Ten”. That’s just me. (See the FAQ for some light on why.) Maybe it’s not what blog-readers want. But I can’t help thinking there’s some sort of an audience for me out there. And if there is, that audience will be one with progressive values, strong feminist leanings, science-literate, with an eye for detail and a respect for argumentation. And I suspect much of that audience is already at the blogs I read and respect, such as the ones in my (very selectively chosen) blogroll. I think I’m posting things they (you) would find worthwhile, and I wish I could get the out to that wider audience. […]

  5. Sufficient Scruples » Blog Archive » I’ll Be Glad to Help You Do What I Say Says:

    […] So, Jacque, for being the most childish self-described “professional” in easy sight, for asserting your standing in an autonomy-centered, non-directive, healing profession for the explicit and admitted purpose of directing those who come to you into a choice of actions you personally have made for them ahead of time, for spreading long-discredited anti-choice propaganda as fact, for using bizarre, false, and ideologically based definitions of ordinary factual terms like “pregnancy”, “abortion”, and “birth control”, for explicitly refusing to reveal your ideological biases and schemes when asked directly about them while citing as justification professional codes that require the exact opposite, and for demeaning your own profession with these immature antics and your display of childish rancor at a total stranger on two public Web sites, you are officially (albeit belatedly – I had a rough weekend) the Stegosaurus of the Week. Next time try thinking with the cerebral ganglion, not the sacral one. […]

  6. Sufficient Scruples » Blog Archive » The Extinction of the Stegosaurus Says:

    […] After¬†barely a ¬†month, I’ve decided to retire the “Stegosaurus of the Week” award. I’ve begun feeling uncomfortable about it, and decided it wasn’t the right thing to be doing. […]


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