November
21
 

IRISH JUDGE RULES IVF EMBRYOS NOT PROTECTED BY CONSTITUTION

Frozen embryos do not have a right to life under the Irish constitution, the Irish High Court has ruled. This was the outcome of a lawsuit brought by a 41-year-old mother of two to have three frozen embryos returned to her after her marriage had broken up.

A 1983 amendment to the Irish Constitution protects the life of the "unborn". But Justice Brian McGovern found that voters who approved it did were only thinking of a foetus in the womb. "Until the law or the Constitution is changed, this issue remains within the sphere of ethics and morality," he wrote.

Pro-life supporters were disappointed by the ruling and may appeal. "The embryo is not potential human life -- it is human life with potential, albeit fragile and dependent," objected Dr Berry Kiely, spokeswoman for the Pro-Life Campaign. "The suggestion that an embryo should only enjoy protection rights when implanted in a woman's womb is arbitrary and ignores the fact that… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
November
21
 

DISASTER TRAINING NEEDED, SAYS KATRINA DOCTOR

The experience of Hurricane Katrina shows that American doctors need training if they are to cope effectively with future disasters, says a New Orleans oncologist. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Tyler J. Curiel suggests that the doctor and two nurses charged with the euthanasia of four patients in a chaotic hospital panicked. Doctors and nurses at other hospitals, including the one in which he was working, also laboured under extremely adverse conditions, but neither medical staff nor patients ever mentioned euthanasia.

Teamwork is essential, he says. "Disaster training must include attention to the organisation of an effective administrative operation in a chaotic setting." Fail-safe communications must be installed; legal training must be given; competent staff should be identified. "Ethical decision making, professionalism, and personal integrity must be emphasised." click here to read whole article and make comments




 
November
21
 

CHINA ADMITS ORGAN TRADE

After years of rumours, the Chinese government has finally acknowledged that it has been engaged in selling the organs of executed prisoners to medical tourists from abroad. "Apart from a small portion of traffic victims, most of the organs from cadavers are from executed prisoners," said Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu "The current organ donation shortfall can't meet demand." New rules will limit transplants to Chinese citizens, which could scupper a thriving market for foreign patients.

China appears to be finding it difficult to establish a consistent policy for organ transplants. On the one hand, according to People's Daily, 1.5 million Chinese need an organ transplant every year, but only 10,000 receive it. On the other hand, the number of executions may fall by as much as a third because of tighter oversight of the death penalty. No figures are released, but estimates of the number of executions range from 1,800 to 10,000. Where the extra organs are to come… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
November
21
 

IN BRIEF: fertility; Dawkins; celebration; stem cell tumours

Fertility: A British doctor has developed a do-it-yourself fertility test so that women won't miss the last train to motherhood. Professor Bill Ledger, of Sheffield University, says that it can change women's lives because they will realise how much time is left on their biological clock. "A lot of my life is spent running a fertility and IVF practice and I see so many intelligent and well- educated women in their 40s who find that IVF cannot dig them out of the infertility trap they have fallen into by leaving it too late to have kids," he told the Daily Mail. "The double whammy is, not only are they unable to conceive naturally but IVF doesn't work well for over-40s." click here to read whole article and make comments



 
November
14
 

US ELECTIONS GIVE MIXED PICTURE     ON FUTURE OF EMBRYO CLONING

 Opponents of cloning human embryos are licking their wounds after last week's US election. Although the issue was just a straw in the gale which blew away the Republican majority in Congress, it has reshaped the politics of American bioethics. Throughout his administration President Bush has been adamant that he will not loosen restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. Now its supporters in the Senate appear to have one vote more than they need to override his veto. In the House of Representatives, however, supporters still appear to be about 30 votes short of that mark.

With Iraq and terrorism uppermost in voters' minds, it is difficult to discern what they feel about a boutique issue like therapeutic cloning, or, to use the woollier term preferred by supporters, somatic cell nuclear transfer. Six Democratic senatorial candidates who clearly supported it were victorious. Three governors who campaigned vigorously in favour of it won. But in the House, the results were… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
November
14
 

ISRAEL’S COUNTDOWN TO DEATH FOR THE TERMINALLY ILL

On December 15, a technology-driven advance directive for dying patients will come into effect in Israel. People will be able to record their wishes on how to be treated if they are terminally ill on a computerised national register accessible by all health funds and hospitals. They will be able to specify that they do not want to placed on a respirator.

The novel feature of this system, which was approved by the Knesset last year, is a delayed-response timer which can turn the respirator off automatically at a pre-determined time. The timer would operate for 24 hours at a time and set off a red light or alarm after 12 hours as a reminder to reset it. The patient or his representative could at any time request an extension, but if the dying person were to insist, the timer would turn off the respirator at the end of the cycle.

This unique system was created by the 59-member Steinberg… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
November
14
 

BRITISH RESEARCHERS NEED HYBRID EMBRYOS

 British scientists have applied to create human-animal hybrids in an effort to clarify a gap in existing legislation. Two teams of researchers say that they want to use rabbit, cow and goat eggs to create hybrid embryos, which would be destroyed before reaching 14 days. This appears to be technically possible, as Chinese scientists have already harvested stem cells from such creations.

Under existing legislation, it is illegal to mix human and animal eggs and sperm. (There is already one major exception in IVF clinics, when the quality of human sperm is tested by using it to fertilise hamster eggs.) But it is unclear whether hybrids fall under the remit of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority as these embryos will originate from cloning, not from fertilisation.

The scientists argue that they need animal eggs to practice cloning techniques. Dr Stephen Minger, of King's College, London, told the Telegraph: " "We are concerned that the current state… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
November
14
 

NAZIS’ LOW-TECH GENETIC ENGINEERING REMEMBERED

 For the first time, children raised in a Nazi program to breed blond, blue-eyed Aryans have met together as adults. Children from the Nazis' "Lebensborn", or "Font of Life", project gathered in the German town of Wernigerode to reflect on their origins.

Although the project has been well documented, many of the children never knew that they were part of it. Between 6,000 and 8,000 illegitimate children were placed in the home of Party members to create a breed of people that fitted the Nazis' physical ideal and could manage a future empire. The children were frequently selected for qualities the Nazis regarded as typically Aryan.

"This is the opposite example of the Holocaust," says Gisela Heidenreich, from Bavaria, whose mother was unmarried and whose father was a senior SS officer. "The idea was to further the Aryan race by whatever means were available." The first of these children to write a first-person account of Lebensborn, Ms… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
November
14
 

NY DOC READY FOR WOMB TRANSPLANT

A New York hospital has given the green light for a womb transplant -- even though the only human transplant a few years ago failed and the only successful transplant on a non-human primate was monitored for a mere 20 hours. Dr Giuseppe Del Priore, of New York Downtown Hospital, plans to do another monkey transplant, but he says "if a person walked in tomorrow and requested a uterine transplant, I am cautiously optimistic that we could be successful". He feels that enough experimental work has been done to show that a womb transplant is safe for women. In any case, some surgeons bypass animal experiments to work on humans. A face transplant, first done in France last year, was not performed on a primate first.

Other experts disagree. In September, Richard Smith, of London's Hammersmith Hospital, said that he was two years away from succeeding. And Mats Br?nnstr?m, of Sweden, says: " we have to do a lot more… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
November
14
 

GOTHAM CITY’S FLUID IDENTITIES

Maintaining its reputation for cutting-edge social reform, New York City is soon to allow people to alter the sex on their birth certificate without sex-change surgery. Applicants will have to change their names and show that they have lived in a new gender for at least two years, but they will not be required to undergo a medical check.

The New York Times says that, "It is an outgrowth of the transgender community's push to recognise that some people may not have money to get a sex-change operation, while others may not feel the need to undergo the procedure and are simply defining themselves as members of the opposite sex. While it may be a radical notion elsewhere, New York City has often tolerated such blurring of the lines of gender identity."

The Big Apple has already moved to accommodate transsexuals. Beds in city shelters can be allocated according to appearance and people are allowed to self-define their gender when… click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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