Globalised bioethics

Like many other industries in India, IVF clinics are going global. Pulse, a women's hospital in Ahmedabad, has forged agreements with a hospital in Ghana to provide infertility treatment and IVF. Doctors in India will examine ultrasounds from Africa remotely. A team of gynaecologists will also visit Ghana several times a year to treat patients.

A step down on the globalisation ladder is surrogacy. According to the , women from the US, UK and Russia are travelling to India to seek cheap surrogacy. It is not difficult to find willing women. They appear to receive between US$1,000 and $2,000 for a successful birth.

And Brazil could become the world capital of cosmetic tourism, judging from a report from Ireland. Michael Moeckle, of Cosmetic Tourism, says that the Irish are now his second largest market in Europe. He flies his clients to Rio de Janeiro where they combine a holiday in the sun with a make-over -- at half the cost of having… click here to read whole article and make comments

Doctors to make millions from Australian IVF clinic sale

Although IVF is said to be a US$3 billion industry in the United States, it is seldom reported in the financial press. However, the sale of one of the world's most prominent IVF clinics, Melbourne IVF, in Australia, has brought some figures to light. Private equity firms are reportedly interested in buying the business for about A$200 million. The 20 shareholders would pocket some tidy sums, according to the Australian Financial Review. A sale would value the shares of Dr Gab Kovacs at $13.8 million, managing director Donna Howlett at $9.3 million, and biologist Alan Trounson at $8.8 million. Melbourne IVF is Australia's largest clinic, followed by IVF Australia and Sydney IVF. The three account for more than a third of Australia's authorised clinics. click here to read whole article and make comments

My brain made me do it

The "neuro-mitigation of blame" should be regarded with deep suspicion, says a British doctor. Professor Raymond Tallis says that recent developments in neuroscience appear to show that we are not as free as we once thought. Hence, American lawyers are licking their lips at new ways for their clients to plead diminished responsibility. He imagines a typical address to a jury: "The case against Mr X must be dismissed. He cannot be held responsible for smashing Mr Y's face into a pulp. He is not guilty, it was his brain that did it. Blame not Mr X, but his overactive amygdala."

However, says Prof Tallis, this view is contradictory. "My brain made me do it" presumes that the person is not the brain, but the foundation of neuro-law is that the person is the brain. Neuro-law, he suggests, is just another branch of neuro-mythology. Quoting a law academic, he says, it is people, not brains, who commit crimes and "neuroscience... can… click here to read whole article and make comments

Nurses to decide life and death in UK

British nurses are to be authorised to decide whether patients should be revived with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The new rule is aimed to prevent the "unnecessary: resuscitation of seriously ill patients. Defenders of the new regulation point out that survival rates for CPR can be as low as 5%. They argue that patients should be allowed to die in peace rather than be subjected to the indignity of repeated attempts to revive them. However, Dr Peter Saunders, general secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship, says: "There is absolutely no way this can be delegated to nursing staff. It's unfair on them to make such a call - they have neither the training nor the experience." click here to read whole article and make comments

Italians wrangle over bioethics committee

A shake-up of Italy's national advisory body for bioethics has led to bitter wrangling, especially over stem cell research, according to a report in Nature. The new Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, recently trimmed membership on the National Bioethics Committee from 52 to 40 and increased the number of women from 25% to nearly 40%. Catholic members still constituted well over half. Prodi also appointed a former president of the supreme court, Francesco Casavola, as chairman. Two secular members and one Catholic became vice-presidents.

Almost immediately, there were disputes. Many members wanted to change the voting system from a simple majority to a system that canvasses all views. Then three members criticised Casavola in an internal memo for being too chummy with Catholics, and this was quickly leaked to the press. Casavola offered to resign, but Prodi persuaded him to stay on. He then brought in a new team of vice- presidents: a rabbi, a Catholic with secular views, and a strong… click here to read whole article and make comments

New Jersey to vote on stem cell bond issue

Politicians in New Jersey want to position their state to take advantage of a glowing future for embryonic stem cell research. Following California's example, voters on November 6 will be asked to approve a US$450 million bond issue to pay for grants over 10 years. The state allocated $10 million for stem cell research grants earlier this year and is already spending $270 million to build stem cell research facilities.

New Jersey's multimillionaire governor, Jon S. Corzine, is a strong supporter -- so strong that he has donated $150,00 of his own money to New Jersey for Hope, a stem cell lobby group. He believes that the bond issue will help attract top scientists and research companies and help develop cures for many ailments.

The proposition faces fierce opposition from a coalition of fiscal conservatives and pro-life groups. Foes of increased state borrowing are sceptical of claims that stem cell research will revitalise the state's economy. And pro-life advocates point out that… click here to read whole article and make comments

Nobel laureate becomes pariah after allegedly racist comments

James Watson's colleagues at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York have scuttled for cover after the Nobel Prize laureate was accused of making racist remarks. "Bewildered and saddened" by his remarks in the London Times, they have dismissed him as Chancellor, even though Watson had served as its director or president for 35 years. The 79-year-old Nobel laureate has cancelled a tour of the UK to promote his book Avoid Boring People and returned to the US.

Although Watson's belief that Africans have lower IQs on average was inflammatory in itself, CSHL had another reason for distancing itself from Watson. The research institute was once the centre of the American eugenics movement. Its shameful association with scientific racism and compulsory sterilisation ended in 1940 and it has been trying to distance itself from its past ever since. In a press release, it stressed that it did not "engage in any research that could even form the basis of… click here to read whole article and make comments

Getting rich is in your genes

The burgeoning enthusiasm for genetic explanations of everything has emerged in economics. In one of the year's best-sellers, A Farewell to Alms, economic historian Gregory Clark argues that it is not changes in institutions but changes in people which determine the course of history. "The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality," he says.

One of the key questions in economic history is why the Industrial Revolution took place in England. Clark bases his answers on his research into the reproductive success of wealthy Englishmen. After 1250, rich commoners had more surviving children than the rest, and their children, too, had higher-than-average reproductive success. This meant that the distinctive values which had made them prosperous percolated throughout society, eventually leading to Britain's economic take-off in the late 18th century.

What was being inherited was not necessarily intelligence, but a whole spectrum of desirable character… click here to read whole article and make comments

Italy’s Terri Schiavo

Italian courts are grappling with their own Terri Schiavo, a 34- year-old woman, Eluana Englaro, who has been in a coma for 15 years after an automotive accident. Her elderly father, Beppino, wants to turn off her feeding tube because she is living in an "inhuman and degrading condition".

The case has been working its way through the courts. A year ago, a court in Milan refused to authorise removal of nutrition and hydration. But earlier this month, Italy's highest appeals court ordered a retrial. The Cassation Court declared that a person's right to decide what medical treatment they receive should be respected even if doing so would cause their death.

Doctors say Eluana will never regain consciousness. Otherwise, however, she is healthy and has never required life-support systems. Her father asserts that she said plainly during her conscious life that she would not wish to live in a vegetative state. He has often compared her situation… click here to read whole article and make comments

NIH chief snubs Bush stem cell policy

Can President Bush's weakening hold on Washington bureaucracy be detected in its bioethics? The head of the National Institutes of Health, Elias Zerhouni, has again contradicted his boss's stand on stem cell research. In the latest issue of a popular magazine published by the NIH, Medline Plus, Dr Zerhouni argues strongly for expanding research on human embryos. "All avenues of research need to be pursued. We must continue the research at all levels, or there will be no progress," he writes.

Dr Zerhouni told a Congressional committee in March that current restrictions on embryonic stem cell research ought to be lifted. A White House spokesman responded that the President had to take a "broader view" than a scientist, including "moral and religious views". click here to read whole article and make comments

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