South African judge defends assisted suicide ruling

A South African judge has defended a ruling he made in favor of assisted suicide, claiming that appeals to ‘sanctity of life’ are irrelevant to end-of-life issues.

Judge Hans Fabricius rejected a request from the Department of Justice to rescind his controversial court order, asserting that individual rights need to be respected:

“The main argument [by the justice minister] was that the right to life was paramount and that life was sacrosanct. I agree with this general submission. The provision safeguards a person’s right vis-a-vis the state and society. It cannot mean that an individual is obliged to live, no matter what the quality of his life is.”

Lesego Montsho SC, representing the director of public prosecutions and the health and justice departments, asserted that the order should be rescinded as the applicant died before the judgement took place.

Judge Fabricius rejected this claim, and said a… click here to read whole article and make comments


British woman seeks to bear dead daughter’s child

In what could be a world first, a 59-year-old British woman is seeking to fertilize the frozen eggs of her deceased daughter with donor sperm and gestate her grandchild.

The eggs were extracted in 2008 after the woman, known only as Miss A, learned that she had bowel cancer and stored at IVF Hammersmith in west London. She was 28 and unmarried when she died in 2011.

The mother, known as Mrs M, and her 58-year-old husband claim that it was A’s dying wish that embryos be created with donor sperm and implanted in her mother. An IVF clinic in New York has agreed to the procedure at a cost of about US$90,000.  

The UK’s fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, has denied the couple’s request, saying that there is not enough evidence of the deceased woman’s consent.

Mrs M claims that… click here to read whole article and make comments


Transhumanist launches campaign for US President

from Gizmodo

Transhumanism is a broad church embracing many different approaches. But it has enough followers to prompt Zoltan Istvan, founder of the Transhumanist Party, to run for President in America’s 2016 elections. He is even planning a bus tour this coming summer. The popular website Gizmodo interviewed him about his convictions and his platform.

It’s no longer a fringe movement: “The Transhumanist Party may seem fringe to some, but it’s not. It’s mainly made up of scientists, engineers, futurists, and people who love technology. And while we don’t have a formal paying membership process, my officers and I estimate—based on social media, event turnouts, and donations—we now have about 25,000 supporters in the US. We also have approximately 40 volunteers and more signing up every week. Globally, there are now almost 25 Transhumanist Parties on five different continents, each with its own rules that… click here to read whole article and make comments


Companies fight for market space inside your head

There has been a dramatic rise in the number of brain-technology patents in the US, with companies furiously researching the potential of new neuroscientific developments to revolutionise industries and influence consumer behaviour.

In 2014 1,600 neuro-technology patents were lodged in the US, up by 400% from 2009.

Fewer than 400 so-called neuro-technology patents a year had been filed between 2000 and 2009, research company SharpBrains report. But that had doubled to 800 in 2010. The 2015 figures are expected to be the highest yet.

‘Neuro-technologies’ are developments that allow one to monitor and affect brain activity and functioning. These new technologies range from strictly medical innovations to inventions that could revolutionise education, marketing and even computer-gaming.

There has been a dramatic rise in the number of companies such as Thync, a start-up working to connect to the brain sensors that can alter mood in the same way as… click here to read whole article and make comments


Training more empathetic doctors

Patients often complain that freshly-minted doctors lack empathy. But what’s the solution?

A recent comment in the New England Journal of Medicine considers this question, and offers some novel suggestions. 

Dr. Richard M. Schwartzstein of Harvard Medical School doubts that the dearth in empathic graduates is  simply the result of lax admissions criteria in med schools:

 “I believe that the causes of current problems in doctor–patient interactions are more complicated than this… we should question the assumption that we’re admitting the wrong students — and consider alternative solutions…”

Schwartzstein argues there are systemic problems in the way universities teach medicine:

“Typically, students enter medical school idealistic, eager to improve the human condition, and excited about becoming doctors. And then we do various things to change them. We have them memorize long lists of facts (or at least they perceive that as our goal), delay their involvement with patients, and expose them to frustrated and overwhelmed faculty… click here to read whole article and make comments


“Professor, do your homework,” disability group tells Singer

Utilitarian bioethicist Peter Singer has often come under fire for his views on infanticide from pro-life groups. But after a recent radio interview, he was sternly rebuked by a US government agency, the National Council on Disability.

Professor Singer was promoting his book, The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically, on Aaron Klein Investigative Radio, a show broadcast in New York and Philadelphia.

Klein elicited from Singer the claim that government-funded health care should include rationing and that we should acknowledge the necessity of “intentionally ending the lives of severely disabled infants.”

This, says the NCD, is “a return to eugenics”.

Singer went on to say, “I don’t want my health insurance premiums to be higher so that infants who can experience zero quality of life can have expensive treatments.”

Should severely disabled infants be killed… click here to read whole article and make comments


Outsourcing embryos in India

A recent Vice documentary for HBO, Outsourcing Embryos, explored the well-trodden path to shady surrogacy practices in India. Proposed legislation has languished in a Parliamentary committee since 2010 so there is little effective regulation. Investigative journalist Gianna Toboni described what she found in an interview with New York Magazine.

She says that American clients are often unaware of exploitative practices:

There are cases where American couples feel a little strange about what is happening, and the ethics of it, but turn a blind eye because they don’t want to pay the higher rates in the States. Many couples don’t want to know what’s behind the scenes, they want their baby fast, and they want it done cheaply. At the same time, there are couples who have an ongoing relationship with the surrogate and are very involved in making sure she’s making a choice and not simply being exploited.

Although a… click here to read whole article and make comments


Nita Farahany: Neuroscience and the law


The US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues recently released the second volume of its two-part report Grey Matters. The report considered ethical issues attendant to the rapid development of neuroscience, and the second volume had a particular focus on the ethical implications of neuroscience research.  

One of the authors of the report was Duke University Professor Nita Farahany. Professor Farahany is leading scholar on the ethical, legal, and social implications of biosciences and emerging technologies, particularly those related to neuroscience.

In an exclusive interview with BioEdge, Professor Farahany shared her thoughts on the complex relationship between neuroscience and the law.


Xavier Symons: According to your own study of US legal proceedings, over 5 percent of murder trials and 25 percent of death penalty trials feature criminal defendants using neuroscience to argue for lesser responsibility or punishment. Do you think neuroscientific evidence is… click here to read whole article and make comments


Scotland’s assisted suicide bill whacked by committee

A bill which would legalise assisted suicide in Scotland contains “significant flaws”, according to a report by a parliamentary committee. Although most of the committee opposes the principle of the bill, they have decided to allow it to pass to the whole Scottish Parliament for a final decision.

The bill was introduced by former MSP Margo MacDonald, a doughty campaigner for assisted suicide. She died in April 2014, but the bill was taken forward by another MSP.

The language of the committee’s report is restrained but tough.

Compassion: “there are other ways of showing solidarity and compassion with those suffering distress, short of helping them to commit suicide.”

Respect for autonomy: “the principle of respect for autonomy is a qualified principle which is usually limited by the rights of others, by public safety considerations, and by the need to consider other principles and values.”

Withdrawal of… click here to read whole article and make comments


South African court authorises assisted suicide

On Thursday a South African court ruled that a 65-year-old man should be allowed to undergo assisted suicide, setting a precedent that could influence broader law reform in the country.

The case involved Pretorian man Robin Stransham-Ford, a retired barrister, who was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2013. Pretorian High Court Judge Hans Fabricius ruled that Stransham-Ford’s doctor be immune from prosecution when assisting him to die. Stransham-Ford died the shortly after the court order was issued.

Judge Fabricius noted that is currently no law prohibiting assisted suicide in the country; he argued that he was legally obliged to rule on the case and the man’s rights.

Dignity SA, a pro-euthanasia lobby group, say the ruling is potentially a watershed moment in their push to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia:  “We hope that Mr Stransham-Ford's case will set a precedent for the whole country”, said… click here to read whole article and make comments


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