March
21
 

23andMe branches into pharma

US-based genetic testing company 23andMe intends to use its customers’ data for ground-breaking drug research and development programs.

The company has in the past collaborated with medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies by licensing access to genetic information contained in its database. But last week it revealed it plans to set up its own pharmaceutical wing to identify new drug targets for both common and rare diseases.

Researchers believe mutations and other genetic information in the 23andMe database will reveal potential drug targets for a range of diseases. Healthy carriers of mutated genes may offer insights into why some people do not develop disease.

The announcement comes with the appointment of Richard Scheller, former Genentech vice president of research and early development, as chief scientific officer and who will lead a newly created therapeutic subdivision. Professor Scheller said that ‘human genetics has a very important role to play… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
March
21
 

IVF law to be debated in Poland

Poland’s parliament will shortly debate draft legislation about IVF – a procedure that de facto legal in the country but lacking a clear statutory framework.   

The proposed bill, put forward by the ruling Civic Platform party, would allow married and cohabiting couples access to the procedure after 12 months of trying to conceive. The age limit is likely to be capped at 35 for women.

The bill would also ban sales and destruction of human embryos, cloning of human embryos and manipulation of human DNA.

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said she was concerned about inadequate legal structures regulating IVF. “The current lack of a legal framework for IVF is morally ambiguous and, from a medical standpoint, potentially dangerous”.

The proposed legislation comes in the wake of a Polish hospital IVF mix-up that led to one woman giving birth to the child of another female patient.

click here to read whole article and make comments



 
March
21
 

50 or 60 Belgian patients euthanased annually for psychiatric reasons

At least 50 patients are euthanased each year for purely psychiatric reasons, says the leading figure in Belgian euthanasia, Dr Wim Distelmans. In an interview in the Belgian magazine Humo, he says:

Manic-depressive patients, in their manic moments, are capable of doing the most improbable things: plundering their bank accounts, staying for weeks in five-star hotels, buying several cars in a single day. At that stage they are not mentally competent, obviously. But in moments of depression, exhausted … they are certainly competent. Then they can say, for example: "I have lived through crazy highs and lows for 30 years; I've tried everything to break that infernal cycle, including psychiatric hospitals, but now I'm back on the baseline, and I know I have a few weeks left before I'm sinking into the depths or rising to heights.”

These are people who are eligible for euthanasia.

click here to read whole article and make comments



 
March
21
 

Euthanasia on the rise in Flanders region

Almost one in 20 people in northern Belgium died using euthanasia in 2013, more than doubling the numbers in six years, a study released Tuesday showed.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, drew upon the records of nearly 4000 doctors in Belgium’s Flanders region.

While a 2007 survey showed only 1.9 percent of deaths from euthanasia in the region, the figure was 4.6 percent in 2013.

Those requesting euthanasia are mainly highly educated and between 65 and 79, the study found. Terminally-ill cancer patients form the biggest group, although cases in all categories are rising. 

“This finding indicates that, after 11 years of experience, euthanasia is increasingly considered as a valid option at the end of life in Belgium”, the authors of the paper concluded.

“Euthanasia has been increasingly accepted by the patients as a valid option at the end of their life. They are… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
March
21
 

Gray Lady gives two cheers for euthanasia

The New York Times is edging to a cautious endorsement of euthanasia and assisted suicide. In an editorial this week, it highlighted the case of Diana Rehm, a well-known personality from National Public Radio, whose husband, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, chose to starve himself to death after reaching the end of his tether.

Maryland, where he died, is a state which does not allow assisted suicide.  “For him to go out that way, not being able to do anything for himself, was an insufferable indignity,” Ms Rehm said in an  interview.

Oddly, the editorial did not point readers towards action. It echoes the arguments of Compassion & Choices, the leading American assisted suicide lobby group, and averts to both the Catholic Church’s opposition and the problematic example of the late Jack Kevorkian, who killed at least 130 of his patients.

But it failed… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
March
21
 

Fake Australian doctor runs IVF clinic for more than 10 years

A dispatch from the Let’s-Hope-This-Doesn’t-Happen-Too-Often Department. Australian health authorities are investigating an Italian man who practiced as a gynaecologist and IVF expert in Melbourne for more than a decade. He had offices in posh suburbs and advertised his better-than-average pregnancy rates.

Unfortunately Raffaele Di Paolo was only a Mr and not a Dr who appears to have attracted patients by adding a dash of homeopathic medicine to his treatment. He claimed to be a member of the “European Society Human Reproduction Endocrinology” which sounds like, but is not, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

One of his duped clients told the Sydney Morning Herald that Di Paolo told her that he had turned to homeopathy because conventional fertility clinics were "money hungry IVF factories that herd women like cattle". Over two years she spent A$30,000 on his services, some of which were extremely bizarre.… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
March
14
 

Organ trafficking in UK on the rise

Organ trafficking is often though to be a phenomenon of the developing world. A number of recent UK cases have indicated otherwise. A recent report by the UK’s National Crime Agency stated that there were two cases of organ trafficking in the country in 2014 – one involving a woman in her 30s, and another involving a boy as young as 12. Very little is known about the cases, other than that the organ traffickers were stopped before they could operate on the individuals. A spokesman for the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) stated that authorities had alerted them to the incidents. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as many as 7,000 kidneys are illegally obtained by gangs each year around the world.

The first reported case of human organ trafficking in the UK was in 2012. In 2013 a girl was brought from Somalia with the intention… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
March
14
 

France divided over deep sleep bill

France’s parliament is set to debate a ‘deep sleep’ bill which, if passed, will allow terminally ill patients to be put into an irreversible comatose state and have life sustaining treatment withdrawn.

The bill, proposed by centre-right politician Jean Leonetti, aims to give patients with ‘hours or days to live’ the right to be placed under general anesthetic until the moment they die. “The patient has to be at the end of their life and suffering despite the treatment given,” Leonetti said. “When these elements are present, I [the doctor] am obliged to start sedation that is deep and continues until death.”

The sedation provided would be titrated such that there would be no chance of the patient regaining consciousness. Life sustaining treatment – such as artificial nutrition and hydration – may also be withdrawn.

Pro-life groups have criticised the proposed legislation, claiming it would authorize a passive form… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
March
14
 

UK woman wins right to refuse life-saving amputation

 

A dramatic example of the prominence of informed consent in medico-legal comes from Britain. A 62-year-old woman who has suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for most of her life has refused to allow doctors to amputate a gangrenous leg. Her instructions were upheld by a judge who said that choice is “a part of what it means to be human” and that an unwanted operation would be “criminal assault”.

The story of the unnamed woman began with a superficial foot infection in December. The wound swiftly became gangrenous and eventually the foot “fell off”. Doctors wanted to amputate her leg, but the woman refused. They appealed to the Court of Protection to order an operation which would save the woman’s life.

Despite her psychological disability, the woman was living a reasonably independent life and held down a responsible job. Mr Justice Peter Jackson said that she was intellectually… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
March
14
 

Swiss assisted suicide group notches up 27% rise in deaths

NOTE: an earlier version of this story exaggerated the increase in deaths, citing a 34% rise, because of a calculation error. Sorry. 

Exit, the assisted suicide group for German-speakers in Switzerland, recorded a 27% increase in deaths last year, rising from 459 in 2013 to 583. Membership grew by 20% to 86,000.

Bernhard Sutter, the CEO of Exit told Newsweek: “We are very happy that we are an organisation that is gaining members and that is now bigger than some political parties in Switzerland. It is quite a movement now, which gives us more political weight.” He hopes that Exit will reach 250,000 members within 10 years.

The rise in membership seems to be due to increased attention by the media says Mr Sutter. Applications surged last year after the highly publicized death of 62-year-old This Jenny, a popular politician with the Swiss People’s… click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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