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




 
October
24
 

ARTIFICIAL SPERM AND EGGS ADVANCING SLOWLY BUT SURELY

A special feature in this week's New Scientist reviews progress towards the creation of eggs and sperm from embryonic stem cells. In the short term, it's unlikely, despite headline-grabbing stories about the birth of mice from artificial sperm. But in the long term, it's clearly possible, especially as many groups around the world are working on producing fertile eggs and sperm.

The social implications could be immense, especially for infertile couples. Artificially produced eggs would mean more choice, says the New Scientist. "A limitless supply of eggs could be used to produce hundreds of embryos for any one couple, making it feasible for would-be parents to use genetic screening to choose several desirable traits as well as ensuring embryos are free from disease- causing mutations." It would also be possible for gay and lesbian couples to have their own genetically related children (although lesbians could not have boys.)

Progress is slow. So far, few artificial eggs have developed far after… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
24
 

UK MAN HELPS WIFE TO DIE AND WALKS FREE

A husband has walked free from a British court after helping his seriously disabled wife to commit suicide. He was given a nine-month suspended jail sentence. A "devoted husband", David March found one day last year that his wife had taken Valium and had placed a plastic bag over her head. She was suffering from multiple sclerosis. He tightened the string around the bag and she died half an hour later.

Predictably, the decision was controversial. The UK's euthanasia lobby, Dignity in Dying, welcomed it, but a spokesman for the British Council for Disabled People asked: "what kind of message is this sending out to society where it is perceived to be easier to kill a disabled person rather than support them to live with dignity?" click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
17
 

ISRAELI SCANDAL OVER ILLEGAL EXPERIMENTS

Four senior doctors have been arrested in Israel for experimenting illegally upon thousands of elderly patients without their consent over several years. According to Haaretz, they have been accused of "wrongful death through negligence, abuse of helpless victims, aggravated assault, fraud, violation of a statutory obligation and interference in an investigation." At least one patient died as a direct result of an experiment and another 12 died during or shortly after another one. At least four doctors at two hospitals became renowned geriatric experts after publishing articles based on the experiments.

The Health Ministry has released a report on the scandal which found that some of these experiments had no medical or scientific benefit. Some were conducted over the protests of other doctors. The report also blasted ethics committees at two hospitals, Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot and the Hartzfeld Geriatric Hospital in Gedera, for approving inappropriate experiments, and the hospitals' administration for failing to act on complaints.

click here to read whole article and make comments



 
October
17
 

UK BISHOP TO HEAD FERTILITY AUTHORITY

 The Blair government has appointed a controversial retired Anglican bishop as temporary head of its fertility authority. Lord Harries of Pentregarth, formerly Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, replaces Suzi Leather as chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority until it disappears in a merger with Human Tissue Authority next year.

Lord Harries has been in the line of fire before, as the man who sparked the debate about homosexual bishops by nominating a gay priest as an Anglican bishop several years ago. More relevant to his current responsibilities is the fact that he has no qualms about tinkering with embryos. "I don't feel troubled in my conscience about it because, as I say, I don't regard that very early embryo, which is just a small bundle of multiplying cells, as having the rights of a human being," he told the London Times in a wide-ranging interview. He also supports abortion, although he is troubled by abortion on demand.… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
17
 

MIT STEM CELL EXPERT SLAMS THERAPEUTIC CLONING

A stem cell scientist from Massachusetts Institute of Technology visiting Australia last week made a vigorous attack upon the science and ethics of therapeutic cloning. Associate Professor James Sherley spoke with several MPs ahead of a vote in Canberra about legalising cloning. He minced no words: "adult stem cell research is a viable and vibrant path to new medical therapies. Even calling them an alternative to embryonic stem cells misinforms the public. Why? Because embryonic stem cells provide no path at all."

Although Sherley also regards human embryos as human beings, with a right not to be experimented upon, he supported his ethical concerns with scientific arguments. First, if cloned animals notoriously have serious birth defects, cloned embryos must also have them, making tissues derived from them dangerous and ineffective.

Second, cloned embryonic stem cells normally form tumours when transplanted into adult tissues. Third, the continuous renewal and repair of tissue is the work of adult stem… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
17
 

WOMEN WITH DISEASES SHOULD DONATE EGGS, SAYS RESEARCHER

Women with diseases like diabetes and cystic fibrosis should be encouraged to donate their eggs for experiments in therapeutic cloning, according to an Australian scientist. Professor Bob Williamson, of the University of Melbourne, says "it is totally appropriate ethically to look to people who have a disease in their family as the first person to participate in research. Who is more logical to participate in research in type one diabetes than young women who have type one diabetes?" Professor Williamson said that collecting eggs for research could become a problem and that eggs from disease-bearing women might help bridge the gap. The lobby group Women's Forum Australia commented that egg collection posed serious risks to women's health. click here to read whole article and make comments



 
October
17
 

NORTH KOREAN ENFORCING EUGENICS

In the wake of North Korea's claim to have exploded a nuclear bomb, articles featuring criticism of the cruel and secretive government have again flooded Western newspapers. The London Sunday Times reports that North Korea's obsession with racial purity has led to the killing of disabled infants and the forced abortion of women who bore children to Chinese men. Refugees paint a picture of a regime which is less a Communist workers' state than a monarchy based on notions of racial superiority.

A North Korean refugee doctor, Ri Kwang-chol, says that deformed babies are killed soon after birth. "There are no people with physical defects in North Korea," he told a seminar in Seoul.

Women who escape over the border into China are often sold by traffickers. If they are pregnant when they are caught and returned to North Korea, soldiers abort the foetus and the babies are suffocated or tossed into bins. The Korean Bar Association says that 58%… click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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 from the editor: Pointed Remarks
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Creating memories.
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