August
30
 

On the front line of the war on Ebola

The war on Ebola is creating heroes. The media have focused on Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) in Sierra Leone, where the country’s first case was diagnosed. More than two dozen of its doctors, nurses and support staff have been infected and died. Science, one of the world’s leading journals, published an early online paper on the Ebola virus on Thursday. Six of the authors are already dead, five from Ebola, all from KGH.

The New York Times highlighted the work of Josephine Finda Sellu, the 42-year-old deputy nurse matron, a brisk, cheerful and courageous  woman. “There is a need for me to be around,” she told the New York Times. “I am a senior. All the junior nurses look up to me.” If she left, she said, “the whole thing would collapse.”

“There are times when I say, ‘Oh my God, I should have chosen secretarial,’ ” she says. But nursing “is… click here to read whole article and make comments



 
August
30
 

Is fear of nursing homes a reason for Dutch euthanasia?

A Dutch euthanasia clinic is being investigated for helping an elderly woman to die because she did not want to live in a nursing home. This is the second time in four months that the Levenseindekliniek (End of Life Clinic) in The Hague has been reprimanded.

Even in the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, the clinic is controversial. It was set up to cater for patients whose own doctors refused to perform euthanasia and is financed by private health insurance. (Click here for the Leveneindekliniek FAQ.) In the two years after it opened in March 2013, 322 people were killed there.

The official euthanasia monitoring committee says that the clinic had not observed the formal guidelines for euthanasia. In the latest case, a woman in her 80s had been partially paralysed after a stroke. Twenty years ago she declared that… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
30
 

More surrogacy abandonment stories emerge

An Australian couple has copped a media bashing over their alleged abandonment of a Down syndrome twin born to a Thai surrogate mother. But with the enormous publicity given to the case, similar cases are beginning to emerge elsewhere. Aussies are not the only “heartless bastards” in the world of surrogacy.

In the UK, the tabloid press described the case of Amy, a child with congenital myotonic dystrophy, a rare inherited condition which causes babies to be “floppy” and developmentally delayed. She was the twin of a healthy boy. Both were born to “Jenny”, a British woman who had entered into a non-legally-binding contract with a couple.

But when the commissioning woman learned about Amy’s disability, she refused to take her. She told Jenny over the phone: “She’d be a ****ing dribbling cabbage! Who would want to adopt her? No one would want to adopt a disabled… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
30
 

What’s the real issue with commercial surrogacy?

In the wake of the recent Thai surrogacy scandals, commentators are debating how the practice of surrogacy should be reformed.

Many say that we should make commercial surrogacy legal in Western countries. In Australia, researchers from Surrogacy Australia, the Canberra Fertility Centre and Monash University are campaigning for compensation for Australia surrogates.

Fertility specialist Dr. Martyn Stafford-Bell says that overseas surrogacy arrangements expose both surrogates and babies to serious health risks. “Such adverse outcomes could be avoided if access to surrogacy was facilitated within Australia”, he commented in a recent interview. Australian Surrogacy lawyer Stephen Page agrees:

“The reality is if Australians are going in such great numbers to developing countries, such as India and Thailand, with the possibility of exploitation, sure it’s much better to have it here, where it can be regulated”.

But others are questioning the very practice of commercial surrogacy. Feminist Renate Klein… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
30
 

“Medicinal marijuana is bad medicine” - CMA president

The debate surrounding Canada’s marijuana laws has intensified, with the president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) labeling medicinal marijuana “bad medicine”. 

Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti is skeptical about the benefits of the controversial treatment. He voiced his concerns at the CMA’s annual meeting in Ottawa on the 18th of August: “It’s just plain bad medicine to prescribe a product when we don’t know how it works, we don’t know when it works, who it works for, how it interacts or how much to prescribe….”.

Under current Canadian law, patients wishing to purchase medicinal marijuana need to obtain a prescription from a doctor. Many doctors are unsure about the treatment and hence reluctant to issue a prescription.

Dr. Francescutti is concerned about the effect of current legislation on doctor-patient relations:  “It puts physicians in a very awkward situation and it strains the physician-patient relationship”.

Debate about the legalization of marijuana has become a central… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
30
 

Jimmy Savile meets bioethics

As details continue to emerge of Jimmy Savile’s horrific crimes, a bioethicist is questioning the complicity of healthcare workers in allowing for the abuses. Writing in the journal Bioethics, Professor Ruth Chadwick inveighs those who gave Savile access to vulnerable patients:

“Even if wrongdoing was not suspected, however, (and even the parents of abused individuals did not believe them, in the case of some celebrities who have now been exposed), patients should have a right to protection from the intrusion of non-healthcare personnel.”  

When Savile died in 2011, he was fondly remembered as one of Britain's best-loved entertainers. For half a century he had been a slightly eccentric, but popular DJ, media personality and charity fund-raiser. Not long afterwards, however, allegations of sexual abuse began to emerge. It turns out that the manipulative Savile had used his position to rape and molest hundreds of people, mostly young girls.… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
29
 

When do we lose our human life?

The academic conversation over brain death continues, with the American journal of Bioethics publishing a special issue on the status of death determined by neurological criteria (DDNC).

The issue contains 20 articles offering different perspectives brain death. Most of the papers refer a recent legal battle in Texas over Marlise Munoz, a brain dead woman carrying a second trimester foetus.

The papers are highly technical and difficult to summarize in a short post. There are, however, a number of clear themes:

- The academics argue over the philosophical definition of death: is it the cessation of mental processes, the end of what is know as the ‘organism as a whole’, or the end of functions such as respiration, metabolism, and growth?

- They consider whether it is problematic to have a legal definition of death distinct from a ‘real’ (i.e. philosophically justifiable) conception of death.

- They discuss the need for… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
29
 

Tough sanctions for a blind eye

Doctors who failed to raise concerns about colleagues could be struck off, under new guidance being considered by the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC).

The GMC has launched a public consultation on the proposed changes. Current guidance for the fitness to practice panels of the Medical Practioner Tribunal Service (MPTS) states “it may be appropriate to remove a doctor from the medical register when their behaviour is fundamentally incompatible with being a doctor.”

The proposed changes would augment the MPTS’s scope for disciplinary action. New scenarios covered include cases where a doctor has “failed to raise concerns where there is a reason to believe a colleague’s fitness to practice is impaired” and cases where a doctor has failed to raise concerns “where a patient is not receiving basic care to meet their needs”.

The MPTS will also impose more serious sanctions where doctors have “used their professional position to pursue a sexual or improper… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
23
 

Swiss suicide tourism doubles in four years

The numbers of ‘suicide tourists’ going to Switzerland to take their own lives has doubled in four years, reports a study published online in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Germans and British make up the bulk of the numbers, with neurological conditions, such paralysis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis, accounting for almost half of the cases, the findings show.

611 non-residents had been helped to die between 2008 and 2012, all but four of whom had gone to Dignitas. Their ages ranged from 23 to 97, with the average being 69; over half (58.5%) of the ‘tourists’ were women, who were 40% more likely to choose assisted suicide in Switzerland than men.

In all, residents from 31 different countries were helped to die in Switzerland between 2008 and 2012, with German (268) and UK (126) nationals making up almost two thirds of the total.… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
23
 

Divergent approaches to treating Ebola

How to deal with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa seems to be splitting bioethicists. Some applaud the World Health Organisation's recent decision to allow experimental drugs to be released "for compassionate use". For Arthur Caplan, of New York University Langone Medical Center, this seems to be the right decision:

"In a plague that kills 90% of its African victims complaints about unwarranted exploitative research seem a bit ridiculous even against a long history of misuse and abuse of poor desperate persons in poor African nations."

However, bioethicists Ezekiel Emanuel, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Annette Rid, of King's College London, want to be a bit more restrictive about "compassionate use" and believe that experimental drugs are not the main way to beat the disease. In an article in The Lancet, they write:

"Adoption of containment measures with a view to… click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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On the front line of the war on Ebola
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“Medicinal marijuana is bad medicine” - CMA president
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