Britain’s first IVF paternity case

Another dispatch from the Wild West of assisted reproductive technology. A British academic has been awarded £100,000 in damages and costs because his former wife tricked into believing that a son conceived with IVF was his, when the real father was her long-time lover. It is thought to be Britain’s first paternity suit involving IVF.

In 2004 the unnamed couple sought IVF in a Barcelona clinic. But instead of using her husband’s sperm, the wife used her lover’s. Over the next six years she continued with the charade, placing his name on the birth certificate, securing a generous maintenance payment after their divorce in 2010, and registering him as the father at the child’s school. Only in 2011 did she reveal the fraud. He said in the London Telegraph:

“It has deeply affected me and my family but importantly their own son – and my… click here to read whole article and make comments


After Germanwings: more psychological tests for pilots?

With French prosecutors saying that the Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew flight 4U9525 into a mountainside, there have been calls to introduce new and potentially ‘intrusive’ psychological testing procedures for pilots.

Former US aviation regulator Ken Quinn has called for more robust background screening and mental checks of new and experienced pilots. This may mean  “more intrusive checks of psychological history” than labour groups have historically accepted.

Psychologist and author Terry Lyles suggested that pilots undergo routine psychological testing after their initial exam.

“We test people here in [the US] for all kinds of things, for just CEO positions and president positions. So someone who has the lives of 149 people behind them, they should be tested every way possible to make sure that they are competent, healthy, sane, alert. All those things should be taken into account, and that's why we do it… click here to read whole article and make comments


The growing sperm bank industry

The sperm bank industry has been rapidly growing with profits to boot, according to an article published in the Financial Times this week.

There are a number of sperm bank clusters around the world, but one of the biggest is in Denmark, where sperm bank companies turn over huge profits each year in exchange for providing women from around the world with the opportunity to bear children. 

Danish sperm banks earned US$152 million in 2012 alone, according to the consultancy Copenhagen Economics. The multinational giant Cryos International has its headquarters in Demark.

Sperm banks around the world have been thriving due to certain sociological trends, such as the “delayer boom” — the trend for women to put off having children until they reach an age at which their fertility is reduced — and the growing acceptance in many Western societies of single-parent or same-sex families.

Most sperm donors… click here to read whole article and make comments


Iran debates birth control restrictions

Iran plans to introduce major restrictions on the availability of birth control methods in a bid to stop rapid population decline. 

The government is currently considering two related bills intended to aid an increase in the birth rate.

One proposed law, bill 446, would curb women's use of modern contraceptives, outlaw voluntary sterilization [including vasectomies], ban the provision of information on contraceptive methods and dismantle state-funded family planning programs.

Another, bill 315, would mandate that organizations prioritize married men and women with children when hiring for specific jobs. 

International observers have decried the proposed reforms. Amnesty International warned that the bill could have "devastating consequences" for single women or women in abusive relationships. A spokeswoman for the Middle East and north Africa said:

“The authorities are promoting a dangerous culture in which women are stripped of key rights and viewed as baby-making machines rather than… click here to read whole article and make comments


In defence of state-mandated eugenics

The notion of a state-organised eugenics programs is enough to unsettle the most indifferent in our society. 

The idea, however, may be gaining traction in academic circles. In a recent article in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, sociologist Tim Fowler defends hypothetical state-run eugenics initiatives.  

Fowler speculates about a world in which human enhancements are cheap and readily available.

The temptation in this situation is to put enhancement decisions in the hands of parents. Fowler, however, believes that entrusting parents with the ability to modify their kids as they wish could be ethically problematic. Such a move could allow “parents to reduce the real freedom of their children”, and “allow them to act in such a way that they directly contribute to the creation of social problems.”

Rather than repudiating the idea all together, Fowler considers a state-run alternative. He argues that the same justification given for… click here to read whole article and make comments


US think tank publishes report on risks of assisted suicide

For friends and foes, it’s hard to go past this succinct summary of arguments against assisted-suicide and euthanasia by Ryan T. Anderson, of The Heritage Foundation in Washington DC. Here’s the abstract:

Allowing physician-assisted suicide would be a grave mistake for four reasons. First, it would endanger the weak and vulnerable. Second, it would corrupt the practice of medicine and the doctor–patient relationship. Third, it would compromise the family and intergenerational commitments. And fourth, it would betray human dignity and equality before the law. Instead of helping people to kill themselves, we should offer them appropriate medical care and human presence. We should respond to suffering with true compassion and solidarity. Doctors should help their patients to die a dignified death of natural causes, not assist in killing. Physicians are always to care, never to kill.

click here to read whole article and make comments


The bioethics of Googling

Is it ethical to Google your patients? A recent article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine examines this question, with Penn State College of Medicine researchers contending that professional medical societies must update or amend their Internet guidelines to address the ethics behind it.

“Many physicians would agree that seeking information about their patients via Google seems to be an invasion of privacy, violating trust between patients and their healthcare providers,” explain the researchers. “However, it may be viewed as ethically valid, and even warranted under certain circumstances.”

The article examines two scenarios in which ‘googling’ a patient is taken to be ethically permissible. One involves contacting patient whose genetic results are reassessed after many years and revealed to contain a deleterious mutation. The other involves a patient whose genetic counsellor suspects is lying about her family history of cancer. 

Abstracting from these two fictional scenarios, the researchers suggest a number… click here to read whole article and make comments


Dolce & Gabbana spark internet frenzy over IVF

Dolce & Gabbana's latest show celebrates maternity 

The marquee bioethics story of the week comes from the catwalks of Milan. In an interview in the Italian magazine Panorama, gay luxury fashion designers Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce attacked same-sex marriage, IVF and surrogacy. Twitter and Instagram instantly became incandescent with indignation over a few score of words by the billionaire designers.

Dolce and Gabbana lived as a couple for 20 years, but split up amicably in 2005, although they remain prodigiously successful business partners. When asked if they would like to be fathers, Dolce replied, “I’m gay, I cannot have children.” He added that he feels that “you are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be. I call them children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalogue.”

That’s not all.… click here to read whole article and make comments


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


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


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