August
26
 

Interview: Julian Savulescu, editor of JME

Julian Savulescu / photo copyright John Robertson 

Julian Savulescu is the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, one of the world’s leading platforms for academic debate in bioethics. Australian-born, he is Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. Xavier Symons, deputy editor of BioEdge, asked him about the nuts and bolts of editing.

Xavier Symons: How did you get involved in the Journal of Medical Ethics? Editing a monthly journal must take a huge amount of time!

Julian Savulescu: I first edited the Journal of Medical Ethics in 2001. It was a fantastic career opportunity for me at that time. I began a second editorship in 2011. This time my motivation was not career -- I had more than enough to do. Rather it was because of dissatisfaction and frustration with publishing in the… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
23
 

FDA approves “pink Viagra” for women

Nearly 20 years after approving Viagra, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug for enhancing female libido. Approval was announced on Tuesday and on Thursday Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the small company which had ushered it through the regulatory process, was sold for US$1 billion in cash to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, the largest public company in Canada.

The drug, Addyi, also known as flibanserin, works on the brain, somewhat like an anti-depressant. Sprout bought it from a German company which had given up after the FDA rejected an application in 2010. Its prospects for approval were not great, because it was only modestly effective in heightening libido, but at the cost of side effects like dizziness, nausea and fainting. It is not supposed to be taken on conjunction with alcohol.

The next step for the new owners is to get health insurers to pay for the… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
22
 

India’s Jains outraged at ban on ritual suicide

While Western countries wrangle about rational suicide, India is debating spiritual suicide. The High Court of the state of Rajasthan has ruled that the Jain practice of Santhara (or Sallekhana) is illegal and not an authentic element of their religion.

The Jains, one of India’s ancient religions, believe in the sanctity of all life – so much so that they often wear face masks lest they kill gnats. But one of their practices is to fast unto death as a way of liberating the soul from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. There are about 5 million Jains in India, and each year some 300 die by santhara. Most of these are elderly or suffering from illnesses.

After a critic of this practice lodged a public interest complaint, the court ruled that santhara violated India’s ban on suicide and assisting a suicide. The court asked… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
22
 

Planned Parenthood in media crisis

Much to its chagrin, Planned Parenthood is still in the headlines of American newspapers over allegations that it is profiting from the sale of foetal tissue.

The Center for Medical Progress, a organisation of pro-life undercover investigative journalists, has released new videos of discussions with PP executives. In one of the latest ones, a woman who used to collect foetal tissue from PP affiliates describes her distress when her supervisor instructed her to cut through the face of the fetus in order to get the brain. ““She gave me the scissors and told me that I had to cut down the middle of the face. I can’t even describe what that feels like,” she said.

The CMP’s videos have become a political flashpoint, with potential Republican candidates, both state and Federal, declaring that they will strip PP of its US$528 million in Federal funding. “I think future generations will look back at this… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
22
 

Sperm donor children want answers, says Australian doco

A new Australian documentary has given voice to a small group of donor conceived Australians now trying to find their fathers.

Sperm Donors Anonymous is a cautionary tale about the effects of anonymous sperm donation on donor-conceived children, their families and on the donors. It is based around a number of real-life cases of both donor-conceived children and sperm donors, looking to connect with their kin.

In an op-ed in the Guardian, documentary producer Lisa Horler wrote: “In making our film…we are hoping to reach the thousands of men who donated sperm anonymously and say: please watch these stories of children conceived with anonymous sperm.” Horler encourages anonymous donors to take steps to attempt to contact their donor children.

Ross Hunter, a Melbourne man, discovered he was donor conceived at age 33. Hunter has created a new website, RUDC? (Are You Donor Conceived?), encouraging children to ask their parents this question.

click here to read whole article and make comments



 
August
22
 

Legal test for new surrogacy law in Thailand

A gay couple who commissioned a Thai surrogate mother to bear their child are fighting for the right to take their newborn out the country. Gordon Lake and his partner, Manuel Santos, are currently stranded in Bangkok with their newborn Carmen as the girl’s surrogate mother refuses to sign the relevant immigration agreement.  

The surrogate mother told National Public Radio in the US that she is refusing to allow the baby to leave Thailand because Mr Lake and Mr Santos are "not natural parents in Thai society".

"They are same-sex, not like male and female who can take care of babies," she said. She is also concerned that she will never be able to see baby Carmen if she is taken to America.

"…I was begging them to see the baby but they didn't allow me to see her … they treated me very badly and… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
22
 

Policy analysts criticise non-medical sex-selection

Leading bioethicists have criticised the practice of non-medical sex-selection in American IVF clinics.  Non-medical sex-selection via IVF involves a woman producing embryos which are genetically tested before implantation.  The process is known as “family balancing”.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal LINK, bioethicist Arthur Caplan warned that this could easily become a smoke screen for families who want boys.  “When you are treating the fertile in order to produce something that they prefer as opposed to a disease, I do think you’re really opening the door to a potential slope toward eugenics,” he said.

The head of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Ethics Committee, Sigal Klipstein, said that the practice involved a dangerous transition from medical treatment to a kind of wish-fulfilment: “We don’t want people to use technology that’s really intended to help couples with medical needs for nonmedical reasons”.

Family-balancing services are… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
22
 

New resource about euthanasia

As debate over end-of-life issues intensifies in the UK, the Anscombe Centre has released a comprehensive ‘evidence guide’ on the issue of euthanasia. The aim is “to help people assess – and judge for themselves whether they are reassured or whether they are alarmed by – the experience of countries where euthanasia or assisted suicide are legal.”

The guide gives direct links to official data from the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the states of Oregon and Washington. It also includes links to relevant UK parliamentary reports and to empirical research published in journals. 

A 2014 Comres/CARE poll found that almost three-quarters of Britons (70%) support a change in current UK assisted-dying legislation.  Interestingly, this number dropped to 43% after certain arguments against euthanasia were heard.

David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Centre, says that “the evidence from all these countries [where assisted dying has been legalised]… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
16
 

Israeli doctors refuse to feed hunger-striker

Bioethics intersects with national security in Israel. An imprisoned Palestinian lawyer, Mohammad Allan, has been on a hunger strike since June 18.

Yesterday he was placed on  artificial respirator and given intravenous fluids after his lungs stopped working and he had seizures. Allan’s death would be a setback for Israel. Prisoners have promised “a day of rage” and the Al-Quds Brigade, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza, has threatened to break the ceasefire.

At this stage, only forced feeding can save Allan’s life – but he has declared that he does not want any medical intervention at all. And Israeli doctors are respecting his wishes. The government has not been able to find doctors who will cooperate. A hospital in Beersheva refused to carry out blood tests without his consent. The government then transferred him to Barzilai Medical Centre, but its doctors… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
15
 

Progressive US bioethicist warns of euthanasia slippery slope

“Of all the arguments against voluntary euthanasia, the most influential is the ‘slippery slope’: once we allow doctors to kill patients, we will not be able to limit the killing to those who want to die. There is no evidence for this claim.” So wrote Professor Peter Singer in an article in 2009.

Some more recent reports agree. A group in the UK which called itself the Commission on Assisted Dying declared in 2010 that there was no evidence of a slippery slope. Earlier this year the Supreme Court of Canada explicitly rejected the idea of a slippery slope when it legalised assisted suicide.

So it is surprising to find America’s most quoted bioethicist, Art Caplan, warning that euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands is a slippery slope to abuse of vulnerable groups. In a comment in JAMA Internal Medicine on reports from… click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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Interview: Julian Savulescu, editor of JME
26 Aug 2015
FDA approves “pink Viagra” for women
23 Aug 2015
India’s Jains outraged at ban on ritual suicide
22 Aug 2015
Planned Parenthood in media crisis
22 Aug 2015
Sperm donor children want answers, says Australian doco
22 Aug 2015