UK Parliament to study freedom of conscience for doctors over abortions

A new UK Parliamentary Inquiry into conscientious objection was launched this month, focusing specifically on the participation of healthcare professionals in abortion. 

The Parliamentary Inquiry into Freedom of Conscience in Abortion Provision, commissioned by Tory MP and outspoken abortion opponent Fiona Bruce, will consider the scope and import of section 4 of the UK Abortion Act (1967).  The so-called “conscience clause” of the act requires that “no person shall be under any duty, whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement, to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection”.

A call for ‘written evidence’ has been published on the Inquiry’s website, with submissions by July 16. The Inquiry committee is particularly interested in submissions regarding “good and bad practice in the use of the Conscience Clause”.

Christian Medical Fellowship Chief Executive Peter Saunders welcomed the announcement… click here to read whole article and make comments

The ‘joy’ of fathering 22 donor kids

The American tabloid media was abuzz this week with news that a New York mathematics lecturer had fathered 22 children through informal sperm donation.

Ari Nagel, a 42-year-old Kingsborough Community College academic, proudly told the New York Post about his exploits – including details of how he donates sperm in public toilets to desperate women who contact him over the internet.

Nagel said he finds satisfaction in helping families realise their dream of having children. “I get a lot of joy from seeing so many happy families that I was able to play a role in creating”, he told reporters.

Nagel says he sometimes fathers children by donating at fertility clinics, though others are conceived through informal sperm donation or intercourse.

Subsequent to his interview with the New York Post, papers revealed that Nagel himself is married with three kids. When questioned by the media Nagel’s wife said she was… click here to read whole article and make comments

Facing a moral dilemma over driverless cars

Driverless cars pose a quandary when it comes to safety. These autonomous vehicles are programmed with a set of safety rules, and it is not hard to construct a scenario in which those rules come into conflict with each other. Suppose a driverless car must either hit a pedestrian or swerve in such a way that it crashes and harms its passengers. What should it be programmed to do?

An article in Science this week shows that the give contradictory responses to scenarios like these. Researchers found that people generally take a utilitarian approach to safety ethics: They would prefer autonomous vehicles to minimize casualties in situations of extreme danger. That would mean, say, having a car with one rider swerve off the road and crash to avoid a crowd of 10 pedestrians. At the same time, they would be much less likely to use a vehicle programmed that way.

click here to read whole article and make comments

Who’s telling the truth about China’s bioethics?

Somebody must be telling porkies about the state of ethics in China’s medical profession.

In Nature this week the head of the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health Duanqing Pei and former Nature journalist Douglas Sipp claim that China’s reputation as a “wild east” of stem cell therapies is undeserved. They paint a picture of a disciplined and ethical scientific fraternity.

“ … all too often the intimation is that Chinese scientists are free to do anything and are a step away from making designer babies. What is more, commentators, both in China and outside it, often assume that scientists and others in China have little concern about the fate of early human embryos. Even a cursory review of China's existing regulations, as well as its research and social norms, shows that this picture is fundamentally inaccurate.”

The authors say that China’s regulations are… click here to read whole article and make comments

Interview: Dissecting the age of ‘do harm’ medicine

Wesley J. Smith is one of America's leading commentators on bioethical issues, especially assisted suicide and euthanasia. His columns are published in the National Review and he is the author of 14 books. BioEdge interviewed him about his latest, Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine.


BioEdge: This is a thoroughly revised edition of a book you published 16 years ago. In your view, is there less respect for life in American medical culture now? Are there any bright spots?

Wesley J. Smith: There is less respect for human equality and the sanctity of life in healthcare generally, I fear, and not only in the U.S. Indeed, I changed the subtitle of the book to “The Age of ‘Do Harm’ Medicine” because it now grapples with developments outside the United States as well as in my own country. We are… click here to read whole article and make comments

Should psychiatrists tell voters what they think about Trump?

Despite Hilary Clinton’s recent claims that Donald Trump is temperamentally unsuited to be president and her suggestion that he may be unhinged – clinicians have steered clear of volunteering their professional opinion in the public forum. There is a reason for this.

According to an American Psychiatric Association regulation known informally as The Goldwater Rule, psychiatrists are not allowed to volunteer their opinion on the mental health of a public figure without having had a private consultation with the individual, and, what’s more, received their authorization to make a public statement. There is provision, however, for psychiatrists to comment on more general issues of mental health (and this often happens). A very similar rule applies to psychologists.

The advantage of this is, according to Susan H. McDaniel, president of the American Psychological Association, that psychiatrists and psychologists don’t give the impression of having “a professional… click here to read whole article and make comments

Bioethicists clash over death of 5-year-old

Julianna Snow and her family   

Julianna Snow, a terminally ill five-year-old girl who captured the worldwide attention with the CNN program Heaven Over Hospital, has died in her family home in Portland, Oregon.

Snow suffered from a common inherited neurodegenerative condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease – a condition that damages the nerves affecting certain muscles. In most cases, the effects of the disease are confined to the arm and leg muscles, but in Julianna’s case it affected muscles needed for chewing, swallowing and even breathing.

After undergoing painful medical, Julianna expressed to her parents a desire to forgo treatment even if it meant her death. “She made it clear that she doesn’t want to go through the hospital again,” her mother Michelle explained in a CNN documentary. “So we had to let go of that plan because it was selfish.”

Snow’s… click here to read whole article and make comments

When will transgender women deliver babies?

from Scientific American / Getty Images    

If we welcome transgender women, are transgender mothers a big deal? Although surgeons are still mastering the technique of transplanting wombs, patients are already asking when this will become possible.

At the moment, the only team which has succeeded in transplanting a uterus into a woman who later gave birth is in Sweden. Dr Mats Brännström developed the operation to help women who had been born without a uterus or who had to have hysterectomies. But elsewhere in Europe and in the US doctors are attempting the daunting surgery and it has been widely publicized. Scientific American spoke to several doctors who said that a handful of their transwomen patients were interested, even though it is still far from successful.

“A lot of this work [in women] is intended to go down that road but… click here to read whole article and make comments

Orlando massacre signals a public health crisis – AMA

In the wake of the Orlando massacre, the American Medical Association has labelled gun violence a “public health crisis” and called on Congress to fund research into gun related crime.

At the Association’s Annual Meeting this week, delegates passed a motion that called for “a comprehensive public health response and solution” to gun crime. Additionally, the AMA resolved to actively lobby Congress to overturn legislation that for 20 years has prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from researching gun violence.

“With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence," said AMA President Steven J. Stack, M.D..

The AMA has adopted strong positions on gun control and licensing since the late 1980s.

Republicans in Congress… click here to read whole article and make comments

Chinese surgeon is planning a body transplant

Another Chinese scientist is stretching medical ethics to the breaking point. According to the New York Times, Dr. Ren Xiaoping of Harbin Medical University, is planning to do a body transplant. Several patients have already volunteered for the daring experiment, which involves attaching the head of a live person to the body of a cadaver.

At the moment the procedure seems impossible, as it seems almost impossible to reconnect the nerves in the spinal column.

But Dr Ren is eager to try. “I’ve been practicing medicine in China and overseas for more than 30 years,” he told the Times. “I’ve done the most complicated operations. But compared to this one, there’s no comparison … Whether it’s ethical or not, this is a person’s life. There is nothing higher than a life, and that’s the core of ethics.

Leading medical experts, even in China, have condemned the… click here to read whole article and make comments

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