What are the issues in post-mortem sperm retrieval?

In 2010 21-year-old Niklas Evans was assaulted outside a bar in Texas. He ended up in a coma and died after 10 days. His heartbroken mother, Missy Evans, requested the hospital to retrieve her son’s sperm so that she could create a grandchild with a surrogate mother. The case was too controversial for American fertility clinics so she ended up travelling to South Africa.

Did Missy and her doctors act ethically in removing sperm from Niklas’s dead body without his consent? This is the question that Anna Smajdor, of the University of East Anglia, tackles in the Journal of Medical Ethics, based on a discussion of some cases which have occurred in England. Like many other bioethicists, she opposes it.

The dead still have interests. The logic of post-mortem sperm retrieval without explicit consent could be extended to many other issues,  like organ extraction, exhibition of… click here to read whole article and make comments


Court orders France to recognise surrogacy children

Surrogacy may be banned in France, but it must recognise children born to surrogate parents abroad, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

This may have brought to an end a long-running case brought by two French families who had both used an American surrogate mother to gestate a child conceived with the father’s sperm. The ECHR said that refusal to recognise the children’s parentage “undermined the children’s identity within French society”.

Courts in California and Minnesota had recognised the couples as the legal parents more than 10 years ago. However, French authorities, suspecting that the cases involved surrogacy arrangements, refused to enter the birth certificates in the French register of births, marriages and deaths. the register. The children were living in a legal limbo – residents of France, but not citizens or legally-recognised offspring.

An appeal to the French Court of Cassation in 2011… click here to read whole article and make comments


Last act in stem cell research tragedy

The sorry saga of yet another flawed stem cell paper riddled with fraudulent data has come to an end. Nature has retracted a paper and a letter, both published in January, which claimed that physical perturbation of cells could create genetic effects. At the time the results were trumpeted on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

However, scepticism soon set in after other scientists failed to replicate the results. Japan’s RIKEN Institute, where the principal author, Haruko Obokata, worked, launched an investigation. One after another the authors retracted the paper. It appears that several careers have been destroyed by the incident and that RIKEN itself may be radically reformed.

In a contrite editorial Nature insists that fundamentally it was not to blame for the debacle, which has placed the whole field of stem cell research under a cloud. “We have concluded that we and… click here to read whole article and make comments


Is a day of doom looming for bioethics?

Ragnarök is the day in Norse mythology when gods and men meet their doom. After three years of continuous winter, bloody battles and many natural disasters, the world will be flooded, and all but a few will die.

Predictions of a Ragnarök for bioethics surface regularly in academic journals. The latest comes from a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego, John H. Evans, the author of The History and Future of Bioethics: A Sociological View. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Ethics, he forecasts a bleak future for practicioners of bioethics when they seek to offer advice for large organisations.

Before bioethicists start claiming that "ethics" demands an action that is contrary to the interests of people with actual power, they should become clearer on the basis of their authority … Note that there are very few possible claims to authority for the… click here to read whole article and make comments


BMJ backs assisted suicide

One of the world’s leading medical journals has endorsed the legalisation of assisted suicide. An editorial of the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), says, “Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill is expected to receive its second reading in the House of Lords this month. The BMJ hopes that this bill will eventually become law… Let us hope that our timid lawmakers will rise to the challenge.”

The authors, Fiona Godlee, the editor-in-chief, Tony Delamothe, the UK editor; and Rosamund Snow, the patient editor, have given fresh comfort to the supporters of an assisted suicide bill which has failed several times before in the British Parliament.

Apart from reassuring readers that there are few dangers in legalisation, they base their argument four-square on the widely-accepted principle of autonomy.

“People should be able to exercise choice over their lives, which should include how and when they die, when… click here to read whole article and make comments


We need to redefine parenthood, say bioethicists

“And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.” This conversation from the Book of Genesis about infertility took place about 4,000 years ago, but the pain has not lessened with the centuries. Two recent articles in the Journal of Medical Ethics tackle this issue from different angles. But they concur on an important principle: “it is important not to reinforce the dogma that genetic parenthood is ‘the best kind of parenthood’”. People should be told that traditional concepts of motherhood and fatherhood are obsolete.

Heidi Mertes, of Ghent University, examines whether artificial gametes will be an adequate tool for infertile couples to create a child. Research on these is proceeding apace and it may be possible for a man to create egg cells and for a woman to create… click here to read whole article and make comments


Do prisoners have a right to participate in clinical trials?

Prisoners are being unfairly excluded from taking part in potentially beneficial clinical research, on the grounds that it would be too difficult and expensive to do so, according to research in the Journal of Medical Ethics

The pendulum of clinical research on prisoners seems to be swinging back towards participation. In a sense the origins of bioethics are to be found in research on prisoners – in Nazi concentration camps in the 1940s. Revulsion at those atrocities led to the Nuremberg code stressing the importance of informed consent. Nonetheless, prisoners were still used for trials. During the 1970s, about 85% of all US phase-1 clinical trial were conducted on prisoners. The substances to which they were subjected ranged from perfume, soap and cosmetics to dioxin, psychological warfare agents and radioactive isotopes.

In the wake of a number of scandalous abuses, attitudes have changed – so dramatically,… click here to read whole article and make comments


Can patients enjoy a life of disability?

Severe head injuries sometimes require a life-saving procedure called “decompressive craniectomy” in which a piece of the skull is removed to allow swelling in the brain to subside. The problem with this is that patients often survive with severe disabilities. Many of them are young people who had been in good health and the operation leaves them in a condition that they and their families might regard as unacceptable.

This create a problem for informed consent. It is a fundamental principle of bioethics that patients must consent to their treatment. However, patients with traumatic brain injury are in no position to give consent to a decompressive craniectomy. Would they give retrospective consent? In other words, are they happy that doctors save their life, even if it unfolds as a life of disability? What a fit and healthy person regards as “acceptable” might not match what a disabled person… click here to read whole article and make comments


Euthanasia back on the boil in France

Vincent Lambert   

Euthanasia is once more on the front page of French newspapers with two high-profile case in the courts.

The case of Vincent Lambert echoes the protracted legal wrangle over Florida woman Terri Schiavo before she died in 2005. Lambert, a 39-year-old fireman in Rheims, has been living in a “minimally conscious state” for five years after motorcycle accident. He is also a quadriplegic.

His wife, six siblings and his doctors want normal hydration and nutrition to be withdrawn so that he will die. Although Lambert had left no advance directives, family members testified that he had said that he would not want to be kept alive in such a state.

His parents, two siblings and the French state want to give him normal hydration and nutrition, thereby extending his life indefinitely. “He is not sick, he is not at the… click here to read whole article and make comments


Fish belong in our moral circle, says Australian researcher

Do you still believe that fish are dumb and cannot feel pain? That we do not have to worry much about how they are cared for or caught? Think again, says Culum Brown of Macquarie University in Australia, in a review article in the journal Animal Cognition. He claims that fish cognition and their sensory perception are generally on par with that of other animals. More consideration should be given to fish welfare and anti-cruelty issues.

The Australian researcher says that most people rarely think about fish other than as food, or as pets. However, they are second only to mice in terms of the numbers used in scientific research, and the more than 32,000 known species of fish far outweigh the diversity of all other vertebrates combined. Unlike whales, the public is indifferent to fish welfare issues. Brown believes this relates to incorrect perceptions about… click here to read whole article and make comments


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