October
31
 

OREGON CHANGES NAME OF “PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE”

Just as cloning has been rebadged as Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer to shake off its negative connotations, Oregon has decided to rename physician assisted suicide". Its official name is now "physician- assisted death". Compassion & Choices, a euthanasia lobby group, suggested the change to Oregon's Department of Human Services, to be more consistent with the wording of the legislation which allows it. Polls show that people are more likely to approve legalising the practice when the word "suicide" is not used.

Kathryn Tucker, of Compassion & Choices, says "This will be a sea change because how you speak of things strongly influences how you think of them." Gayle Atteberry, of Oregon Right to Life, criticised the move. "They have changed it to a euphemism to make it more palatable," she said. "Do they think it is going to make it easier for people to kill themselves?" click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
31
 

IN BRIEF: Kass, Singapore, custody, euthanasia

Kass: Just in time for Halloween Dr Leon Kass, the former chairman of the US President's Council on Bioethics, has been nominated as one of the Thirteen Scariest People in America by the progressive website AlterNet. Kass is "an intelligent, articulate and passionate guy", writes Clive Thompson, but his world view is "so medieval it would have embarrassed C.S. Lewis". His baneful influence has ensured that the US will not have a "big, sprawling debate on stem- cell research". click here to read whole article and make comments



 
October
24
 

STEM CELL TUMOURS: THE THREAT IS REAL

Although only this month renowned stem cell expert Alan Trounson, of Monash University in Melbourne, told the media that transplanted embryonic stem cells do not cause tumours in animal tests, he appears to be wrong. A fast-tracked on-line article in Nature Medicine by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York brings deeply disappointing news for supporters of embryonic stem cells and therapeutic cloning.

Steven Goldman and his colleagues experimented with rats which had a condition mimicking Parkinson's disease. When treated with mature neurons which had been created from human embryonic stem cells, they recovered all their lost motor function. So far, so good.

However, ten weeks after the transplant, the rats' brains were examined. To the dismay of the researchers, only about one-fifth of the transplanted cells were now producing dopamine (the chemical lacking in patients with Parkinson's). The rest had begun dividing uncontrollably into benign brain tumours.

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




 
October
24
 

NONETHELESS, SIGNS OF PROGRESS

Despite the discouraging news from New York this week, there have been some small advances towards clinical applications of embryonic stem cells. Novacell, a small San Diego biotech, has developed a process which turns human embryonic stem cells into pancreatic cells which could cure diabetes. The company says that it hopes to begin animal tests in 2008 and human clinical trials in 2009. According to the New York Times, however, "such timeline projections by companies often prove overly optimistic".

And at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, researchers have found that transplanting human embryonic stem cells into the spinal cords of rats bred to duplicate Lou Gehrig's disease delays the start of nerve damage and slightly prolongs their lives. Their study was published in the journal Transplantation. The lead researcher cautioned that clinical applications are still distant. click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
24
 

SUICIDE RISK WITH COSMETIC SURGERY

 Ethical storm clouds hover over cosmetic surgery at the best of times. Is it consistent with a doctor's ethic of healing to turn his skills into a consumer product? Is it right to use surgery to treat psychological problems? But the latest news on this front is even more disturbing. It suggests that one outcome of cosmetic surgery is not just changing your appearance, but ending your life. According to a special report in New Scientist, women with breast implants are two to three times as likely to kill themselves as those who have not. And this could be an underestimate, as these women also have a higher risk of road accidents, and some of these could be suicides.

What's going on? The first explanation is that nothing is. Dr James Wells, of Long Beach, California, told the magazine that most of the women who committed suicide all had their implants decades ago. "It's a very different world now,"… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
24
 

METHUSELAH MUMS OK, SAYS UNIVERSITY STUDY

Are quality mothers younger or just more dedicated? Researchers from the University of Southern California say that age is no bar to being a perfectly good mother. After studying the mental and physical health of 150 women, of whom about 50 had become IVF mothers in their 50s, they found that there was no significant difference in the health or stress levels of the older women. "If we look from the perspective of stress and mental functioning, it doesn't seem we can restrict parenting based on these reasons," says lead researcher Anne Steiner.

A British specialist disputed the results. "The problem I have is not what happens to mothers at 50 to 55. What worries me is what happens when their children are 18 and they are in their 70s and 80s," said Bill Ledger, professor of obstetrics at the University of Sheffield. "I am not in favour of banning things, but I am concerned for the welfare of… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
24
 

SPENDING IN MISSOURI CLONING CAMPAIGN SHATTERS RECORDS

Are backers of therapeutic cloning buying support in Missouri? An article in the St Louis Post-Dispatch has analysed the spending in a vigorous campaign for an amendment to the state constitution which would legalise cloning. Those in favour have outspent those against by 14 to 1 -? US$28 million to $2 million.

Nearly all of the funds for the Coalition for Lifesaving Cures have come from a single philanthropic couple, Jim and Virginia Stowers, who have bankrolled the Stowers Institute, a first-class new medical research facility in St Louis. Support is broad for the initiative, claim supporters, even though the Stowers have given 97% of the funding so far. But opponents complain that it is not a broad-based citizen's initiative. "This isn't grass roots," says a political scientist at the University of Missouri at Columbia. "This is Astroturf."

By Missouri standards, the sums are staggering. The stem cell campaign is already more than twice as costly as any campaign for… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
24
 

DROPPING THE WORD “CLONING”

The word "cloning" gives the public bad vibes, say biologists who support cloning of the therapeutic variety. They are trying to substitute the clumsier technical term "somatic cell nuclear transfer". The word "cloning" would be reserved for attempts to create a human baby and not a human embryo.

And the change works. Kathy Hudson, of the Genetics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC found that while only 29% of people surveyed approved of "cloning", 46% approved of "SCNT". But the change doesn't work altogether as expected. When people were asked whether they approved of creating babies with cloning, only 10% agreed. But when asked about creating babies with SCNT, the approval rating more than doubled, to 26%. click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
24
 

AMERICA’S CELEBRITY BIOETHICIST, ARTHUR CAPLAN

 Let's say you're an American journalist whose editor has just tossed you a controversial medical story. Whom to ring? The first name in your rolodex will almost certainly be that of Arthur Caplan, chairman of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. Because Caplan is quoted almost daily in the American press, he may be shaping the framework of ethical debates in the media more than anyone else.

So an interview with Caplan in the latest Technology Review, a magazine published at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, helps to understand the forces shaping bioethical debates. "I'm a consequentialist," Caplan tells interviewer David Ewing Duncan. "I'm looking at outcomes. I'm trying to decide if a particular policy -- such as allowing surgeons to do face transplants -- would do more harm than good."

Fellow consequentialists include Princeton philosopher Peter Singer, but Caplan regards him as too rigorous in his logic. "He says… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
24
 

MIT’S PLUG FOR EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS

While we're still at MIT and Technology Review, take a look at on the magazine's website featuring an MIT professor who is one of the leading figures in the field, Rudolph Jaenisch.

This persuasive production gives the impression that all scientists are in favour of embryonic stem cell research -- and presumably therapeutic cloning -- although the word cloning is, significantly, never mentioned. There were no interviews with another stem cell specialist at MIT who strongly opposes destructive embryo research and who insists that it will never work, James Sherley. click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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Journalistic ethics at work
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Supreme Court fall-out
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Creating memories.
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