Sean Philpott


A train-rider who was found to have contracted measles has brought that distant Disneyland outbreak of the childhood disease home for many across the Northeast.

On Friday, the New York State Health Department disclosed that a Bard College student took a 1:20 p.m. Amtrak train from New York City's Penn Station to Albany and then to Niagara Falls the previous Sunday. The media got hold of the story and - pardon the pun - the news went viral, spread with headlines like "Thousands of commuters were potentially exposed to the disease by an infected Bard College student."

Sean Philpott-Jones: (Golden) Global Change And LGBT Rights

Jan 15, 2015

I make it a tradition to watch televised awards shows like the Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys. This is not because I particularly care about the entertainment industry, but primarily because I enjoy providing a running commentary of snarky comments about the various nominee's clothes, styling and speeches on Facebook and other social media outlets.

Sean Philpott-Jones: Physician, Torture Thyself

Dec 18, 2014

Last week, the US Senate Intelligence Committee released its long awaited report describing the techniques the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used to interrogate suspected terrorists and other combatants captured during our long running War on Terror.

Sean Philpott-Jones: Cheaper By The Dozen

Nov 6, 2014

As a bioethicist, I appreciate the fact that the American public has become deeply engaged in a number of important health policy debates.

Sean Philpott-Jones: Fear And Loathing In West Africa

Oct 23, 2014

Two weeks ago, I wrote a commentary decrying the current hysteria in the US over Ebola. It was ironic, I argued, that so many people were demanding the federal government take immediate steps to address the perceived threat of Ebola while simultaneously ignoring the real public health threats that we face.

Sean Philpott-Jones: Fever Pitch

Oct 9, 2014

Public concern about Ebola reached a fever pitch this past week, no pun intended, following the revelation that a patient in Dallas was infected with this deadly virus.

Sean Philpott-Jones: Tackling The Problem Of Domestic Violence

Sep 25, 2014

The National Football League is in for a rough season, both on and off the field. In the past month, for example, America’s most popular sport has been rocked by allegations that league officials and team owners willfully ignored evidence that the Baltimore Raven’s star running back Ray Rice beat his then-fiancée unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator.

Sean Philpott-Jones: Extending The Zadroga Act

Sep 11, 2014

Thirteen years ago today, Americans watched in horror as planes hijacked by Al Qaeda-backed terrorists slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a vacant field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Sean Philpott-Jones: The Boys In The Ban

Aug 28, 2014

For over 30 years now, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned blood donations from gay and bisexual men. It is a lifetime ban. Currently, no man who has ever had sex with another man can donate blood in the US.

Sean Philpott: Taking The Icy Plunge (Or Not)

Aug 14, 2014

There's an epidemic that is sweeping this country. It's not Ebola, despite all of the hype and misinformation about that disease that has dominated the news in the past two weeks. Rather, I'm talking about the ice bucket challenge.

Anyone who has watched television in the last couple of weeks has seen this: newscasters, celebrities and athletes like Matt Lauer, Martha Stewart and Nick Swisher being doused with a bucket of ice water in the name of charity.

Sean Philpott: She Ain't Heavy, She's My Brother

Jul 17, 2014

Actress Laverne Cox made history last week when she was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress for her role on the hit show "Orange is the New Black." Ms. Cox is the first openly transgender actress to receive an Emmy nomination. While Hollywood has been increasingly open to portraying transgendered individuals in a positive light -- such as Jarod Leto's Oscar-winning turn last year a transgendered woman in Dallas Buyers Club -- even the progressive entertainment industry falls prey to the stereotype that transgendered people are just men or women in drag. That the Emmy's nominating committee made a point to nominate Laverne Cox as an actress is a welcome change.

Sean Philpott: The Curious Case Of Hobby Lobby

Jul 3, 2014

The news was chock-a-block with important health stories this week, including new evidence debunking the vaccine-autism myth and the revelation that researchers conducted a legal albeit ethically questionable study that manipulated the emotions of nearly 700,000 Facebook users. But I want to talk about the 900-lb. gorilla in the room: the US Supreme Court’s decision in the so-called “Hobby Lobby” case (Burwell et al. v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. et al.)

Sean Philpott: Banning Conversion Therapy

Jun 19, 2014

Earlier this week, the New York State Assembly overwhelmingly voted to pass a bill that would ban the use of so-called “reparative” or “conversion” therapy – treatments that aim to change sexual orientation – on minors. During the time I wrote this commentary, the New York State Senate had yet to vote on the bill. They have until the end of today, when the 2013-14 legislative session officially closes, to pass the bill. Should it pass, Governor Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law. This would make New York the third state – following California and New Jersey – to outlaw efforts to turn gay kids straight.

It went largely unnoticed by the public and the press, but last month Iowa's Senate and House of Representatives did something groundbreaking. With broad bipartisan support, that state became the first in the country to repeal and replace its existing HIV criminalization law.

We hosted a conference on Alzheimer's disease at the College last week, inviting a distinguished group of physicians, researchers, caregivers, advocates and policymakers to discuss the ethical and legal challenges of diagnosing and treating those with the disease.

Sean Philpott: The Ethics Of A Botched Execution

May 8, 2014

Clayton Lockett died last week, but few will mourn his death. A four-time convicted felon, Mr. Lockett was executed by the State of Oklahoma for shooting and then burying alive a 19-year-old girl. Following his death, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin proudly stated that, "justice was served".

The issue of income inequality has been in the news a lot lately. The gap between rich Americans and poor Americans has grown considerably since the 1970s. The United States now ranks first among the developed nations of the world in terms income inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient, a way of describing the distribution of wealth in a society. Globally, we're fourth overall, surpassed only by Lebanon, Russia and the Ukraine.

Sean Philpott: Grieving for Fred Phelps

Mar 27, 2014

Fred Phelps, one of the most reviled men in the United States, died last week. Mr. Phelps was the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, a virulently homophobic organization known for its 'God Hates Fags' slogan.

Sean Philpott: Reefer Madness

Mar 13, 2014

While I was on the phone with a colleague from Denver last week, our conversation turned inevitably to the topic of marijuana. Colorado legalized recreational use of drug via popular referendum in 2012, creating the world's first fully regulated recreational marijuana market. The first commercial sales occurred this past January, with $15 million in sales reported in the first month alone.

Sean Philpott: Opening The Black Box

Feb 27, 2014

In a study published earlier this week, researchers found that pregnant women who take acetaminophen -- a widely used drug found in such over-the-counter painkillers as Tylenol and Excedrin -- are at increased risk of having children with hyperkinetic disorders like ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Sean Philpott: Buying Into The Club

Feb 13, 2014

I’ve never been a big fan of actor Matthew McConaughey, but his recent award winning performance in The Dallas Buyers Club might change my opinion of him. In that movie The Dallas Buyers Club, Mr. McConaughey plays the role of Ron Woodroof, a real-life Texas cowboy who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1985.

Sean Philpott: Keep Your Head In The Game

Jan 30, 2014

My hometown 49ers will not be playing in this Sunday's Big Game. Despite my disappointment, I nevertheless will be joining millions of my fellow Americans in the hallowed tradition of watching the Super Bowl. I will put my feet up on the coffee table, drink a beer or two, and cheer on the Denver Broncos as they face off against the Seattle Seahawks. I will also cringe every time the quarterback is sacked or a wide receiver is brutally tackled, imagining the lasting damage caused to both body and mind.

Sean Philpott: Rage Against The Dying Of The Light

Jan 16, 2014

Until last week, most people had never heard of Lisa Bonchek Adams. A devoted wife and mother to three young children, Ms. Adams has been battling end-stage cancer for the last seven years.  This 44-year-old Connecticut woman has chosen to fight her disease tooth and nail, including enrolling in a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City.

Last week, I got into an argument with a friend of mine about the flu vaccine. He felt that the vaccine was unnecessary and unsafe. In fact, he claimed, every time he'd been vaccinated, he came down with the flu.

Sean Philpott: We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us

Dec 5, 2013

This past Sunday marked the 26th annual World AIDS Day, which is held every year on December 1st to remember the nearly 30 million people who have died from the disease since it was first identified in 1981.

Sean Philpott: Media Myths About Mammography

Nov 21, 2013

Like most married couples, my husband and I have a morning routine. I tend to get up first, shower, get dressed, get a cup of coffee, and make lunch. Dan is a little slower to get started, and likes to listen to a program like Good Morning America or the Today Show while ironing our shirts.

Normally the television is just background noise to me, but last week I actually stopped and listened in disbelief as ABC News correspondent Amy Robach revealed publicly that she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy later that week.

Sean Philpott: Punishing The Promoters

Nov 7, 2013

Earlier this week, the US Justice Department announced that pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay more than $2 billion in fines and penalties for illegally marketing the drug Risperdal to doctors and patients.

Sean Philpott: Drug Pushers

Oct 24, 2013

Like many academics -- and contrary to the image of college professors as lazy scholars that take sabbaticals every other year and have their summers off -- I about have four or five full-time jobs. I direct a graduate program in bioethics, teach six courses (including two summer courses), and supervise four students each year as they complete their Masters projects.

Sean Philpott: Safely Shutdown

Oct 10, 2013

Unless a miracle happens, but the time this commentary airs the US federal government will enter its tenth day of shutdown. Nearly 800,000 workers will remain furloughed, important social service and educational programs will remain unfunded, national parks and monuments will remain closed, and the National Zoo's panda cam will remain offline.

Do Androids Smoke Electronic Cigarettes?

Sep 12, 2013

Many of my friends, family and co-workers smoke cigarettes. They, like the other 20% of Americans who smoke, do so despite the known health risks and the fact that a pack of cigarettes now runs over $12 in New York. That they continue to smoke given the physical and financial cost demonstrates just how powerful nicotine addiction can be. In fact, some studies suggest that nicotine is more addictive than alcohol, cocaine or heroin. So it's really no surprise that nicotine addiction is the most common form of chemical dependence globally.