Couples flock to Thailand for sex selective IVF

Thailand has become a top tourist destination for women seeking gender-selective IVF. The country is one of just three that permit gender selection – the other two are the US and South Africa – and it offers the most affordable procedures.

Hundreds of women from China and Hong Kong travel to Thailand each year, and that number is set to increase. Alfred Siu Wing-fung - just one of a number of Hong Kong health tourism agents - sells ‘gender selection IVF packages’ to about 200 Chinese couples a year.

Siu estimates about 10,000 gender selection cycles were carried out in Bangkok last year, at an average cost of $15,000 per treatment.

While medical equipment and drugs are imported, clinics are staffed mostly by Thai doctors and nurses trained overseas.

Around a dozen clinics in Bangkok offer the procedure.

The Medical Council of Thailand is campaigning to have the practice banned. However, in light of… click here to read whole article and make comments


Are bioethicists tools of policy technocrats?

Although bioethicists are believed to provide fearless independent advice, challenging policy-makers to make the “right” decisions, a Swiss expert in bureaucracies contends that  this is often not the case. Writing in the journal Governance, Annabelle Littoz-Monnet, of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, in Geneva, contends that bureaucrats use ethical experts to get their own way when they have to deal with controversies like GM foods or embryonic stem cell research.

“… establishing ethical experts as a new category of expertise alongside scientific experts actually bolsters the technocratic domain in areas where it is contested, thus reinforcing the authority of experts and bureaucrats in the policy process, rather than democratic control.”

After studying the decision-making process in various issues in the European Union, Littoz-Monnet concluded that “ethical experts have become a crucial tool of governance in the hands of policymakers who might wish to protect technocratic decision making in contested,… click here to read whole article and make comments


A novel idea for decreasing euthanasia rates

As the debate on assisted suicide in the British House of Lords approaches, a group of five academics from Switzerland and the UK  have come up with a novel idea to keep the incidence of euthanasia from rising rapidly: legalise assisted suicide.

In a July 12 letter to  The Lancet they observe that the incidence of “hastened deaths” in countries with carefully regulated assisted suicide is much lower than in Belgium or the Netherlands where euthanasia is legal.

The exception to this is Switzerland, where assisted suicide has been legal since 1918. But the authors point out that Swiss suicide is not tightly regulated. In the Netherlands and Belgium, where both assisted suicide and euthanasia are on the books, patients overwhelmingly choose euthanasia. Why? The authors believe that it is easier to ask someone else to kill you rather than to do it yourself.

“ …… click here to read whole article and make comments


Corrupting the peer review process

Peer review is supposed to protect us against junk science. But what happens if the peer review is junk science? The Journal of Vibration and Control, a member of the SAGE publishing group, has revealed what happens and it’s not pretty. SAGE has announced that the JVC is retracting 60 papers by a Taiwanese researcher, Peter Chen, formerly of National Pingtung University of Education, Taiwan.

According to a press release from SAGE:

“[Peter Chen] created various aliases on SAGE Track, providing different email addresses to set up more than one account. Consequently, SAGE scrutinised further the co-authors of and reviewers selected for Peter Chen’s papers, these names appeared to form part of a peer review ring. The investigation also revealed that on at least one occasion, the author Peter Chen reviewed his own paper under one of the aliases he had created.”

In the… click here to read whole article and make comments


Distelmans under fire over Auschwitz trip

Belgium’s foremost practitioner of euthanasia who is also the head of the government euthanasia regulator has become collateral damage in the debate across the Channel. As the war of words intensified in England ahead of a debate today in the House of Lords over Lord Falconer’s assisted suicide bill, the Daily Mail ran a feature about Dr Wim Distelman’s controversial plans to tour Auschwitz in September.

Although Dr Distelmans insists that the purpose of the “study tour” is a deeper understanding of human rights, suffering and palliative care, the people who responded to the Daily Mail were aghast.

A Jewish Labor member of Parliament Labour MP, Sir Gerald Kaufman, commented: “To make the notorious Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz the centre for a congenial study-trip is preposterous, if not obscene. Whatever one’s views on euthanasia – and I am against – it is abominable to describe… click here to read whole article and make comments


Transforming ethics this summer

Yes, in our on-going quest for cultural relevance, we have uncovered bioethics even in the summer blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction (Rotten Tomatoes rating of 17%). Writing in Slate, Jonathan Moreno, of the University of Pennsylvania, and a past president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities, reports that the Stanley Tucci character shout at one of the autobots, "I know you take the bioethical issues very seriously!"

“In the film, Tucci plays an arrogant CEO who wants to transfer the brains of deceased Transformers into his man-made Transformers. Is that ethical? And does he think that those Transformer brains are the equivalent of their minds? Is that even metaphysically possible? The warm and fuzzy autobots are understandably offended. Unlike this captain of industry, they seem to have a moral compass in their glove compartments.
“Whatever else one says about this insanely discontinuous CGI slugfest, the Tucci character’s… click here to read whole article and make comments


Lord Falconer’s assisted suicide bill under attack

Criticism of Lord Falconer’s assisted suicide bill is mounting as the proposed legislation returns to the House of Lords. Various public figures have spoken out against the bill, arguing that it would put elderly citizens at risk and may escalate to a Netherlands-style euthanasia epidemic.

Professor Theo Boer, University of Utrecht bioethicist and member of a review committee monitoring euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands, warned the UK parliament on Wednesday about legalising the procedure.

Professor Boer recounted how euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands have doubled in the past six years, and may reach a record 6000 in the year 2014.

Boer is concerned that, as in the Netherlands, the law will be manipulated and existential suffering will become a common reason for AS:

‘Cases have been reported in which a large part of the suffering of those given euthanasia or assisted suicide consisted in being aged, lonely or bereaved. 

“Some of these patients could… click here to read whole article and make comments


Dutch doctor challenges informed consent regulations

A new article in the Journal of Medical Ethics suggests that medical authorities lessen informed consent requirements for perinatal sterilization. Dr. Douwe Verkuyl of Refaja Hospital, the Netherlands, argues that tubal occlusion (TO) should be offered to women after a traumatic birth, even if they haven’t previously been consulted during pregnancy.

Under current International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) regulations doctors can provide a TO at the time of birth provided the patient has been consulted during pregnancy. If there has been no early consultation doctors are prohibited from performing the procedure.

FIGO is concerned that vulnerable women will rashly chose sterilization at the time of birth and later regret it.

Dr. Verkuyl questions the ‘vulnerability’ of women at the time of birth. He claims that there is no empirical evidence to support the belief that regret is higher in cases of ‘belated consultation’ perinatal TO. The risk, he asserts, is “possible but… click here to read whole article and make comments


Nitschke under investigation yet again

Pro-euthanasia campaigner Phillip Nitschke is being investigated for his involvement in the death of 45 year old West Australian man. The Medical Board of Australia is concerned that Nitschke advised Mr. Nigel Brayley to commit suicide without first suggesting formal psychiatric assessment. It appears Brayley was suffering from depression after the death of his wife and loss of his job in the mining industry.

In an interview with the ABC, Nitschke said Brayley was “not at the level” of severe depression.

Others are doubtful. “[Nitschke] gravely misinterprets how life events figure in depressive decision making”, said Monash bioethicist Paul Biegler. “Stresses such as job loss, money trouble, relationship breakdown and indeed criminal investigation figure in two-thirds of depressive episodes”.

At the time of Brayley’s suicide police were investigating his wife’s death as a possible murder.

Beyond Blue chairman Jeff Kennett was furious at Nitschke. “I was appalled…

what I can't understand is a… click here to read whole article and make comments


Questions over wireless-controlled contraceptives

New ethical dilemmas may be coming if a Massachusetts company succeeds in developing a contraceptive chip which could be activated and deactivated with wireless technology.

MicroCHIPS will begin preclinical testing of its device next year. If it passes safety and efficacy tests, it could be on the market by 2018. According to Technology Review, “the device would be more convenient for many women because, unlike existing contraceptive implants, it can be deactivated without a trip to the clinic and an outpatient procedure, and it would last nearly half their reproductive life.”

The chip measures 20 x 20 x 7 millimetres and would be implanted under the skin of the buttocks, upper arm, or abdomen where it would dispense daily doses of the hormone levonorgestrel. To conceive, women would turn the dosage off with a remote control. To resume contraception, they would log in to the… click here to read whole article and make comments


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 from the editor: Pointed Remarks
Bioethics and the caliphate
26 Jul 2014
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