US mid-term elections boost hopes of GOP, but not of pro-lifers

This week’s mid-term elections in the United States were a resounding victory for the Republican Party. It controls the Senate for the first time since 2006 and increased its majority in the House of Representatives. Less dramatic and less reported was the effect of the election on the controversial issue of abortion.

In Colorado and North Dakota, abortion opponents supported personhood amendments to the state constitution. These would have defined a foetus as a person and therefore a human being entitled to constitutional right, above all the right to life. Colorado’s amendment would have included the unborn under the definition of “person” and “child” in the state’s criminal code. North Dakota would have conferred an “inalienable right to life” at every stage of human development. But in Colorado the amendment sank by a margin of 65 to 35, and in North Dakota by 64 to 36.

“The personhood movement has fought… click here to read whole article and make comments


Brittany Maynard dies in Oregon after assisted suicide

Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old woman whose YouTube video announcing that she would choose to die on November 1 under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, died on November 1. It became one of the major news stories of the week before it was buried by the torrent of news about the US mid-term elections.

Ms Maynard had a compelling story. She was a young, attractive, recently married woman dreaming of a family when she learned that she had an aggressive brain tumour. Rather than burden her husband and mother and suffer the indignities of increasing dependency, she moved to Oregon where she could access legal assisted suicide.

She also contacted the assisted suicide lobby group Compassion & Choices and offered to promote its cause. Its video about her notched up 10 million hits in a month. In it she said that she would probably take her life… click here to read whole article and make comments


US stem cell expert questions UK plans for 3-parent embryos

The British Parliament will begin debating whether to legalise a controversial technique known to opponents as “3-parent embryos” or “3-parent babies” or, to its supporters as “mitochondrial transfer”. A prominent government advisor, Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, of the National Institute for Medical Research, summed up the view of the scientific establishment in New Scientist recently: “It is our considered view that the techniques are not unsafe and are likely to be effective.”

The prospect of creating embryos with genetic material from three persons has become an international issue. A prominent American stem cell scientist, Paul Knoepfler, of the University of California Davis School of Medicine, recently published an open letter in his blog questioning the wisdom of the move. He emphasises that he is not “a radical extremist or luddite”; he does embryonic stem cell research and supports IVF for infertile couples.

Here are some… click here to read whole article and make comments


Do restrictive abortion laws kill women?

There is no more powerful argument for legal abortion than the fear that many more women will die if they are forced to resort to underground abortion mills. However, the experience of Chile, where abortion is illegal for any reason, even rape or incest, suggests that this doesn’t necessarily happen.

From a statistical point of view, Chile is a natural experiment because abortion was legal there from 1931 to 1989, when it was banned by one of the world’s most restrictive laws.

In the current issue of the Journal of the Chilean Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (PDF in Spanish), epidemiologist Elard Koch crunches the statistics and finds that, counter-intuitively, the rate of abortion-related mortality has fallen since 1989. Even hospital discharges due to abortion have significantly decreased during the last decade.

Proof of whether abortion-related mortality rises or falls when abortion is banned… click here to read whole article and make comments


Belgian psychiatrist deregistered over abuse

Walter Vandereycken  

A Belgian psychiatrist who sexually abused a patient who subsequently sought euthanasia has been deregistered. Walter Vandereycken’s offences surfaced in 2012 when Ann G, a woman with anorexia nervosa, accused him on Terzake, a well-known current affairs program. He was suspended from his position as a professor at the Catholic University of Leuven (KULeuven), but continued in private practice. Now he has been suspended for life from the medical profession. (See original report in BioEdge.)

Vandereycken, who is now 65, was no ordinary psychiatrist. Apart from being a sexologist, he was an international expert on anorexia (with a textbook published in English). Apparently he had been abusing patients for years; colleagues suspected, but no one blew the whistle.

When Ann G appeared on Terzake, she had apparently already requested euthanasia. Going public gave her a brief respite from "the… click here to read whole article and make comments


Eugenics making a comeback as a respectable policy

After hibernating for 60 years, eugenics is making a comeback, both in academic and popular spheres. Nazi enthusiasm for eugenics, as well as sterilisation campaigns throughout the Western world in the 1920s and 1930s, gave eugenics a bad name. However, In the Huffington Post recently, Joe Entine of the Genetic Literacy Project made the case for Eugenics 2.0:

“Modern eugenic aspirations are not about the draconian top-down measures promoted by the Nazis and their ilk. Instead of being driven by a desire to "improve" the species, new eugenics is driven by our personal desire to be as healthy, intelligent and fit as possible--and for the opportunity of our children to be so as well. And that's not something that should be restricted lightly.”

Entine argues that we should legalise screening technologies, as most people want them and they are ultimately of great social and economic benefit… click here to read whole article and make comments


Are mothers who drink heavily poisoners?

A tragic case in England has highlighted the contested status of unborn children. A municipal council in the north-west of the country is seeking funds to cover the medical costs of a 6-year-old girl affected by foetal alcohol syndrome. The girl’s mother drank half a bottle of vodka and eight cans of strong lager a day during her pregnancy even though social workers warned her that this might harm the child.

Now the council wants the girl to be awarded criminal injuries compensation for “growth retardation”. It describes the mother’s action as a "crime of violence" against her unborn child.

In the High Court, the council’s barrister said that the mother had poisoned her child: “It’s not disputed that the mother administered a noxious thing, it could be described as a destructive thing, to her daughter and it inflicted grievous bodily harm on her. The child was born… click here to read whole article and make comments


OPINION: Britanny’s sudden change of heart

Did Brittany Maynard die freely and without coercion of any kind? This is the question that must be asked after this attractive 29-year-old woman with a brain tumour announced earlier in the week that she would probably postpone the assisted suicide she had planned for Saturday, November 1.

"I still feel good enough, and I still have enough joy — and I still laugh and smile with my friends and my family enough — that it doesn't seem like the right time right now," she said in a YouTube video.

Sometime, yes, but not as scheduled.

Early in October Brittany had appeared in a YouTube video in which she announced that she would take advantage of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. She would end her life with a lethal dose of barbiturates which had been prescribed by her doctor. It was a stunning piece of cinematography… click here to read whole article and make comments


The world’s most controversial bike-ride

An American nurse recently returned from Liberia has defied government quarantine measures. Thirty-three-year-old nurse Kaci Hickox refused to abide by voluntary isolation guidelines provided by authorities in Maine, venturing out of her house two days in a row, the second time to take a bike-ride with her boyfriend. A judge has ruled in her favour. Governor Paul LePage was upset. "As governor, I have done everything I can to protect the health and safety of Mainers," he said. "The judge has eased restrictions with this ruling and I believe it is unfortunate. However, the state will abide by law."

Hickox says US quarantine requirements are “inhumane” and unreasonable. She tested negative to Ebola on Saturday, and has exhibited no symptoms of the disease. 

There is a clear division between politicians and medicos on the issue of quarantine. Maine Governor Paul Le Page and New Jersey Governor… click here to read whole article and make comments


Ethical issues multiply for Ebola

Volunteers! Volunteers! World Bank president Jim Yong Kim has appealed for thousands of volunteer medical workers to fight the epidemic in West Africa. Many were too frightened, he said. "Right now, I'm very much worried about where we will find those healthcare workers. With the fear factor going out of control in so many places, I hope healthcare professionals will understand that when they took their oath to become a health care worker it was precisely for moments like this," he added.

Do doctors have a duty to help? Yes, because medicine is a vocation, says Professor Stephen G. Post, of Stony Brook University School of Medicine. “So do professionals have a duty to treat Ebola patients? I say yes for physicians and nurses who are infectious disease specialists so long as they have ample experience. They accepted their duty when they chose their specialty,

click here to read whole article and make comments


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