September
19
 

TEXAS DEBATES FUTILE CARE LAW

Legislators are having second thoughts about a controversial futile- care law in Texas. This stipulates that if a hospital review committee feels that further treatment of a patient is futile, it must give a patient's family 10 days to find another facility to care for them. Otherwise the hospital can end treatment -- even if family members object. Texas Right to Life, the state's leading pro- life group, originally supported the law as a compromise between the rights of families to protect their loved ones and the right of doctors to withhold treatment which will not benefit patients. However, several high-profile cases have turned the law into a battleground.

Recently, legal action kept Memorial Hermann Hospital from pulling the plug on a severely brain-damaged woman, Kalilah Roberson-Reese. Now she has regained some consciousness, responds to familiar voices and can sit upright in a chair. "Nobody has the right to determine whether my daughter should live or not," says her mother,… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
September
19
 

DESIGN BRIEF FOR DESIGNER BABIES

The well-educated are significantly more open to the idea of "designing" babies than the poorly educated, according to a new study by psychologists at the University of East Anglia in the UK. They also found that there are gender, age and socio-economic class differences in what is deemed desirable and that many prospective parents would be prepared to manipulate their babies in ways that are at odds with moral orthodoxy.

Although the study was based on several small surveys, the results are intriguing:

  • The better educated prospective parents are, the further they are prepared to go to improve their children's IQ.
  • Women interpret certain interventions in child rearing as "design acts" more readily than men and people over 50 more readily than people under 25.
  • Because of "parental uncertainty" -- the idea than women know for certain if a child is their's whereas men do not -- men show a significantly greater preference than mothers for their… click here to read whole article and make comments



 
September
19
 

“SLIPPERY SLOPE” MAY BE REAL IN EMBYRO SELECTIONS

Slate's biotechnology columnist William Saletan has suggested that there really is a "slippery slope" in bioethics -- at least for designer babies. He points out that parents have moved from screening embryos which will certainly have terrible and incurable diseases at birth to screening them for genes which might possibly predispose a person to a curable disease late in life. Some clinics urge screening to prevent not just the disease but "cancer predisposition syndrome". The idea is that no child should be required to go through life burdened by the fear of developing cancer at some stage later in life.

A survey by the Genetics and Public Policy Center has found that of the American IVF clinics which offer pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, 28% have used it to target genes which do not strike until adulthood. And 42% have used it for non-medical sex selection. "If PGD were evil, it would be easy to head off such abuses by banning it,"… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
September
19
 

IN BRIEF: Dignitas; Vatican

Dignitas: Four Britons have ended their lives in Switzerland, with the help of the Zurich's Dignitas clinic, in the past six weeks. So far, 54 people from the UK have died there. The head of Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) said that she was shocked and saddened by these deaths in a distant country, but the ultimate cause was the UK's failure to legalise assisted suicide. click here to read whole article and make comments



 
September
12
 

VEGETATIVE PATIENTS MAY HAVE AWARENESS

Severely brain-damaged and apparently unresponsive patients may be conscious, British researchers have discovered. In a startling study published in the journal Science, brain imaging techniques detected clear signs of awareness in a woman who was in a vegetative state after a motor vehicle accident. When she was asked to imagine herself playing tennis and walking through her house, the motor control areas of her brain flared up. "If you put her scans together with the other 12 volunteers tested, you cannot tell which is the patient's," Dr Adrian Owen, of the UK Medical Research Council, told the New York Times.

Scientists are divided on the significance of these findings. First of all, most experts told the media that this woman's injuries were far less severe than Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who died last year. Wary of arousing false hopes of recovery amongst relatives, they stressed that they could not generalise from a single intriguing case. Dr Nicholas… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
September
12
 

STEM CELL COMPANY HAMMERED FOR MISRESPRESENTATION

 A company accused of misleading the media and the public with claims of creating "ethical" embryonic stem cells was hammered by politicians, the media and bioethicists this week. Journalists who probed the credentials of Advanced Cell Technology found that its share price spiked 500% in two days in the wake of the publication of a paper in the prestigious journal Nature. The company also announced that had raised US$13.5 million from its existing investors.

The controversy prompted Robert Bazell, the chief science and health correspondent of NBC News, to write: "In the world of biotechnology, hype and hyperbole are the norms. Most companies lack products so they are constantly scrounging for money to stay in business. There is a saying in biotech that before companies have something to sell 'news flow drives valuations'. So headlines, even if the claims prove groundless, can push up the stock price long enough -- or nudge deals forward -- to keep the company… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
September
12
 

THE LAST FRONTIER IN PRISON REFORM?

A campaigner for prisoners' welfare in the UK has called for voluntary euthanasia for prisoners. Mark Leech, a former prisoner and the editor of the Prisons Handbook, was commenting on the attempted suicide of child murderer Ian Huntley in a British jail.

Mr Leech said that he would favour a system of assisted suicide like the one offered by the Swiss organisation Dignitas in Zurich. "There will have to be checks and balances. I would like to see a high court judge involved. The court would have to be convinced he knew exactly what he was doing, that his mental state was fine, his decision was irreversible, that this was his life and this was what he wanted to do," he said. "We have one life, it is our own life and prisoners should be able to end it with dignity if that is what they want."

Although voluntary euthanasia for prisoners is not a popular cause,… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
September
12
 

ARE WOMB TRANSPLANTS AROUND THE CORNER?

A British doctor has claimed that his team is only two years away from being able to transplant a womb so that women who lack a uterus can have the experience of having children. Dr Richard Smith, of Hammersmith Hospital, says that the transplant would be temporary, as otherwise the woman would be obliged to take immunosuppressant drugs to prevent rejection of the uterus for the rest of her life. This is not a new idea, but up to now, it has not succeeded. In 2002, doctors in Saudi Arabia carried out a womb transplant, but its blood supply failed.

Although this news may have given heart to the 15,000 women in Britain who lack a uterus, the science editor for the London Times, Mark Henderson, derided it as "junk science". "Bold predictions about experimental medical technologies are always best handled with care," he said. "They often suit both journalists and scientists, who can enter into a kind of tacit… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
September
12
 

FREEZE EGGS FOR POST-CAREER MOTHERHOOD, SAYS FERTILITY EXPERT

A fertility expert in the UK has urged career women to freeze their eggs if they want to have children later in life. Dr Gillian Lockwood, of Midland Fertility Services, one of the few clinics in the UK to offer egg freezing facilities, says that if women in their 30s set eggs aside, it will be easier for them to conceive later on.

The older you are, the more difficult it becomes to get pregnant and the greater the chance of a miscarriage or abnormality," she told the London Times. "It's the age of the egg, not the age of the womb, which determines the miscarriage rate. Women in their thirties should be encouraged to consider freezing their eggs," she said.

"The last thing I want to do is to discourage any young woman who wants to be a mother from starting a family because she thinks technology will save her," she said. "But it's important that she knows this… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
September
12
 

ANOTHER SOURCE OF ETHICAL STEM CELLS

Another promising method of producing embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos is being studied at Michigan State University. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Professor Jos? Cibelli says that his team has identified 66 genes which may be responsible for reprogramming an adult cell in the cloning process.

When an adult cell is fused with an egg, the egg somehow manages to shut down the genes which specify it as a certain kind of tissue. Then it activates the genes which turn the cell into an embryo. What Cibelli is searching for is a way of creating stem cells by reintroducing these genes into cells of normal tissue. This would make it unnecessary to obtain eggs for the cloning process or to destroy embryos. Cibelli used to work with the controversial company Advanced Cell Technology, but left the company several years ago to work in Michigan. click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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