Marie Stopes abortion services suspended in UK

Government regulators have closed some services of a leading abortion provider in the United Kingdom, citing vague concerns about “corporate and clinical governance arrangements and patient safety protocols in specific areas”.

After a surprise visit from Care Quality Commission inspectors, Marie Stopes, the “UK's largest reproductive health charity”, has had to suspend terminations for under-18s and vulnerable groups of women, terminations under general anaesthetic or conscious sedation, and all surgical terminations at its Norwich centre.

The CQC announced in March that it would carry out inspections of all stand-alone abortion clinics in the UK before the end of September. It wanted to confirm that the clinics were “safe, effective, caring, responsive to people's needs and well-led”. Presumably the Marie Stopes clinics failed to meet these requirements.

The restrictions will remain in place until Marie Stopes satisfies the CQC that its concerns have been allayed. "We will… click here to read whole article and make comments

Legal heads-up on decapitation

As a Chinese doctor plans the world’s first head transplant, a renowned medical law expert has weighed into the debate. 

In a blog post on the Volokh Conspiracy, Duke University law professor Nita Farahany said that the operation – which the international medical community almost unanimously agrees has no chance of success – would likely not even satisfy the legal criteria for consent if it were performed in the US. Interestingly, Farahany contrasts an operation like a head transplant with physician-assisted dying:

…although there has been some liberalization of physician-assisted suicide laws in the United States, active euthanasia is illegal. And although the surgeon here would say that he is not attempting to end the patient’s life, it seems as if active euthanasia could be the most lenient characterization of a surgery involving decapitation. Yet, the physician does not intend for the patient to die. Instead, the physician intends… click here to read whole article and make comments

Savulescu calls for ban on doctors’ conscientious objection

As politicians in the Australian state of Queensland debate controversial abortion laws, Oxford’s Julian Savulescu is calling for a ban on “conscientious objection at the bedside”.

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday, Savulescu was quoted as saying:

“When a medical procedure, or one which doctors have a monopoly over, is desired by the patient, in the patient's interests, and is a legal and reasonable use of limited resources, then that procedure ought to be provided by doctors…There is no place for conscientious objection at the bedside in these circumstances.”

In a provocative 2006 article in the BMJ, Savulescu argued that conscientious objection could lead to “bigoted, discriminatory medicine”, and that in some cases punitive measures should be taken against conscientious objectors.

The Australian bioethicist will deliver a lecture on the topic at Queensland University of Technology's Australian Centre… click here to read whole article and make comments

Provocative new study questions the science of gender

A report on gender and sexuality released by the journal The New Atlantis has met with both praise and criticism from commentators.

Written by Lawrence S Mayer, an epidemiologist, and Paul R. McHugh, a psychiatrist, at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, it is a survey of research from the biological, psychological, and social sciences about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Outlined in the executive summary of the report are the findings that “the understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings…is not supported by scientific evidence”, and that “the hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex… is not supported by scientific evidence.”

Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, said The New Atlantis report is another instance in which Dr. McHugh espouses “his own personal… click here to read whole article and make comments

Transplant doctors clash over Chinese organ donor system

Criticism of alleged forced organ harvesting in China reached fever pitch this week as the 26th International Congress of The Transplantation Society convened for the first time on Chinese soil.

The Congress, which opened in Hong Kong on Wednesday, features a number of presentations from Chinese researchers, including former Vice-Minister for Health Huang Jiefu, and marks the end of a longstanding Transplantation Society (TTS) embargo on research from China.

Despite claims from Chinese officials that organs will no longer be harvested from executed prisoners, experts from around the world have slammed TTS for this year’s Congress, saying it implies implicit endorsement of current and past organ harvesting practices in China.

In an article published on Wednesday in the American Journal of Transplantation, a day before the Congress opened in Hong Kong, doctors and members of a non-governmental medical organization questioned the “veracity of the announced changes”:

click here to read whole article and make comments

Baby boomers will clamour for euthanasia, says Udo Schuklenk

The good ol' days of Flower Power    

How should we explain the recent success of the assisted dying lobby in the US and Canada?

Bioethicist and euthanasia advocate Udo Schuklenk suggests the baby boomer generation has played a particularly important role in challenging ‘antiquated’ social conventions about death and end-of-life issues.

In an editorial in the journal Bioethics, Schuklenk suggests that assisted dying is a very relevant issue for the ageing baby boomers (aged between 52 and 70 years), and it now seems to have become a focus for their “revolutionary sentiments”:

“It is not terribly surprising, with baby boomer finding themselves – perhaps to their greatest surprise - at the levers of power of the system that they rebelled against in the 1960s and 1970s, that the number of jurisdictions that have decriminalised assisted dying is steadily increasing. Many legislators and judges are… click here to read whole article and make comments

More donating their bodies to science

Funeral homes are earning more through cremation of bodies donated to science   

More and more people are leaving their bodies to American medical schools as subjects for dissection, according to an article from Associated Press. The surge in donation has been a bonanza for medical schools, which use the cadavers for anatomy classes or for practicing surgical techniques.

"Not too long ago, it was taboo. Now we have thousands of registered donors," said Mark Zavoyna, operations manager for Georgetown University's body donation program. Other universities also report increases, although some have actually declined in recent years. ScienceCare, which describes itself as "the world’s largest accredited whole body donation program", now gets 5,000 cadavers a year, twice as many as it did in 2010.

ScienceCare’s sales pitch appeals to generosity and altruism: “By providing a vital service and a pathway to greater knowledge… click here to read whole article and make comments

Bioethicist alleges “publication bias” at NEJM


For a fascinating behind-the-scenes view of how a major medical journal can stifle heterodox views, it is hard to beat Ruth Macklin’s saga in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (IJME).

Dr Macklin, a prominent bioethicist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York, disagreed strongly with a battery of articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine about treatments for extremely premature newborns.

The medical issue is complex. Basically the so-called SUPPORT study compared oxygen levels given to newborns in order to determine the optimal level. A lot is at stake; wrong levels can result in blindness and death. One vocal critic of the SUPPORT study, Peter Aleff, has a brain-damaged and blind son whose disabilities he attributes to problematic oxygen levels. He has described the SUPPORT study as “even more unethical than the syphilis studies… click here to read whole article and make comments

Australia urges Cambodia to crack down on surrogacy services

With commercial surrogacy now outlawed in Thailand, India and Nepal, desperate couples are turning to agencies in Cambodia.

Although many surrogacy agencies have shifted their operations to Phnom Penh over the past two years, Cambodian authorities are yet to issue a law regulating or prohibiting surrogacy in the country.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, surrogacy agencies based in the capital boast of high success rates on their websites, and several babies are believed to have been delivered to Australian couples.

Sam Everingham, the founder of the organisation Families Through Surrogacy, warned of the dangers of entering into surrogacy arrangements in Cambodia:

“We have to be aware that surrogacy is a foreign concept in Cambodia. No laws are in place to regulate the process, leaving both parents and surrogates unprotected”.

Surrogacy is not socially condoned or widely understood in Cambodia, and many of the surrogates in… click here to read whole article and make comments

The pain of Indian surrogate mothers

from the BBC  

It’s only anecdotal evidence, but a BBC story from the Indian city of Chennai shows that surrogate mothers feel emotionally traumatized by the wrench of surrendering a child whom they have carried for nine months. The money they earn does not compensate them for this pain. There are a dozen or more clinics in Chennai which broker surrogate babies, employing about 150 surrogate mothers.

S Sumathi, 38, mother of four

I never met the real parents and have no idea who they are. I was still under sedation when they removed the baby. I never set eyes on it. I have no idea whether it's white or black, whether it's Indian or foreigner, I don't even know whether it's a boy or a girl!

When I gained consciousness, my first words to my husband were, 'Did you see the… click here to read whole article and make comments

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