August
16
 

“Cordon sanitaire” drawn around Ebola victims

Bioethical debates about whether to administer an experimental drug for Ebola victims are interesting and necessary. But only a handful of doses are available anyway and hundreds of people are dying in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. According to the latest update from the World Health Organisation, 2,127  cases and 1,145 deaths have been reported. But it has also declared that “the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak”.

“Extraordinary measures,” are needed, it says, “on a massive scale, to contain the outbreak in settings characterized by extreme poverty, dysfunctional health systems, a severe shortage of doctors, and rampant fear.”

In view of the emergency, the three worst affected countries have taken the most drastic step possible – drawing a “cordon sanitaire” around the areas where the outbreak is most virulent. The perimeter is guarded by soldiers and no one is allowed… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
16
 

A disturbing study of gendercide in India

A major report on sex-ratios and abortion in India gives detailed background information on the scourge of gendercide. Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates and Future Directions has been published by UN Women and covers the history, the figures and the debate about the causes of gendercide.

India’s child sex ratio (CSR) – the number of girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 — has deteriorated sharply over the past 20 years, dropping to 918 in 2011 from 945 in 1991, even though levels of education and wealth have risen significantly.

The report emphasises that sex-selective abortion has decreased in traditionally problematic regions, mostly in the north, but increased significantly in other areas. In the northwestern state of Punjab, where the CSR was extremely low, the number of female children per 1,000 male children rose to 846 in 2011 from 798 in 2001.

However, in… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
16
 

Media ethics 101: How not to report suicide

Two incidents this week show opposing responses to publicising suicides. In the US, comedian Robin Williams committed suicide, leading to an outpouring of grief by the public and horror by experts in media ethics. In Australia, controversial assisted suicide activist Dr Philip Nitschke resumed publicity for his do-it-yourself suicide kits. 

The “sensational headlines” and “unnecessary detail” of media reports -- as exemplified by the New York Post's lurid page -- were slammed around the globe. Dr. Mike Jempson, lecturer at the University of the West of England, called some of the media reports “textbook examples of how not to report a suicide”:

“[Williams death] seems to have given some newspapers a green light to “go off on one” – delving into his psyche with gay abandon, detailing the precise method of his suicide, and indulging in unhelpful speculation about its causes with little regard for the grief of… click here to read whole article and make comments



 
August
15
 

UK father of 58 children sentenced

Gennadij Raivich, a professor of perinatal medicine and neuroscience at University College London is the author of publications like “Investigation of cerebral autoregulation in the newborn piglet during anaesthesia and surgery” and “Methyl-isobutyl amiloride reduces brain Lac/NAA, cell death and microglial activation in a perinatal asphyxia mode”. There are 153 of these listed on his website.

But the achievement for which he will go down in history is siring 58 children by women desperate to become pregnant by donor insemination. He was convicted late last month only of the assault of one woman, although two others had laid complaints against him.

Interestingly, 15 satisfied female “customers” from all over the country spoke in his defence, including a police officer, maths teacher and lecturer, some of whom had two and in one case three of his children via what he called “Artificial Insemination Plus”.

The details of Professor… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
15
 

WHO endorses use of untested Ebola treatments

The WHO has endorsed the use of untested Ebola interventions on patients infected with the disease.  

A 12-member panel of bioethicists convened by telephone on Monday to discuss the issue.

In a press conference following the discussion, Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general of the WHO, said there was consensus about the compassionate use of the drug on those infected with the virus:  “[There has been] unanimous agreement among the experts that in the special circumstances of this Ebola outbreak it is ethical to offer unregistered treatments”.

The panel believed that the extent of the outbreak and the high case-fatality rate outweighed concerns about the side effects of untested treatments:

“In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.”

The two American victims of… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
15
 

Serbian soldiers were killed for organs - EU task force

An EU investigation into criminal activity during the 1999 Kosovo war has found that a “handful” of Serbian soldiers were killed by Albanian militants for the purposes of organ trafficking.

Special Investigative Task Force chief Cliff Williamson announced the findings at a news conference in Brussels late last month.

Williamson said that “less than ten” soldiers were killed and their bodies smuggled to Albania for organ harvesting.

The fact that there were only a few victims, Williamson remarked, does not diminish the savagery of the crime: “even one person was subjected to such a horrific practice, and we believe a small number were, that is a terrible tragedy”.

He did say, however, that accusations of widespread organ harvesting have caused unnecessary trauma for families of missing soldiers.

The investigative committee does not currently have enough evidence to initiate prosecution but will continue its investigation.

click here to read whole article and make comments



 
August
15
 

Edinburgh to host bioethics film festival

Is the human embryo just a pile of cells or is it a human person like us? What are the ethical consequences of each position for society? Will a consensus ever be found? But what is a person anyway?

These are some of the questions which film-goers will be invited to explore and debate at the 10th International Biomedical Ethics Film Festival on the moral status of the human embryo in November in Edinburgh.

The Festival will feature a range of films and documentaries. If the Walls Could Talk (1996) is a revealing trilogy of stories about unexpected pregnancies set in the same house, but with different occupants spanning over 40 years. In the teenage classic Juno (2007) an adolescent discovers she is pregnant after a one-off event with her best friend. (See trailer below.)

Following each screening there will be a discussion with an expert panel including Dr Trevor Stammers, of St Mary's University, in London, and Professor… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
09
 

Ebola outbreak prompts ethical questions

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak has prompted bioethical discussion on two fronts. The viral disease has killed about 1,000 people in West Africa, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. A few cases have been diagnosed in Nigeria. The chances of dying in this outbreak are about 50%. Newspapers in Western countries like the US, the UK and Australia are highlighting the possibility of their own epidemics. The World Health Organisation has declared it an international public health emergency, although it has not suggested general bans on travel or trade.

The first issue, as bioethicist Arthur Caplan points out, is that developed countries only worry about exotic diseases like Ebola when it threatens them:

“The harsh ethical truth is the Ebola epidemic happened because few people in the wealthy nations of the world cared enough to do anything about it. We do need headlines about Ebola. They should ask how… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
August
09
 

The world of Chinese surrogacy

This New York Times video sketches the burgeoning Chinese surrogacy industry. Although it is technically illegal, there are many loopholes and the country now has an estimated 1,000 surrogate mother brokers. The Times interviews the CEO of Baby Plan Medical Technology Company who says that his business has four branches and a track record of 300 babies.

The children are expensive: US$240,000. The Times features a surrogate from the impoverished countryside who hopes to solve her financial problems with the pregnancy. Baby Plan provides her with good medical care but sequesters her in a flat for the duration of her pregnancy. “Our liaison staff tells them every day that the baby in your stomach isn’t your baby,” says the CEO. “A nice way of putting it is emotional comfort; less nice is brainwashing.”

An extraordinarily thought-provoking article. 

click here to read whole article and make comments



 
August
09
 

Should governments pay for sex for the disabled?

Most social work students probably do not imagine that their career might require them to play the pander. But finding prostitutes for disabled clients is sometimes part of the job description, even though both the legality and morality of this practice are disputed. Another voice was added this week to long-simmering debate in the pages of the Journal of Medical Ethics over this issue.

Back in 2009 Dr Jacob M. Appel, a New York psychiatrist with a flair for controversy, argued that “sexual pleasure as a fundamental right that should be available to all”. Hence, if the disabled were unable to experience this, the government should step in and provide subsidised prostitution. “As a society, we also provide food for those who cannot feed themselves—even delivering it to their homes, when required. Sexual pleasure ought not be viewed any differently.”

Dr Appel acknowledged that he supports neonatal euthanasia for severely disabled… click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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