June
20
 

TOWARDS A WORLD WITHOUT AUTISM

A British IVF clinic want to create autism-free babies for couples who fear that they might have an affected child. A team at University College London says that boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls, so embryos would be screened to eliminate the boys. A prospective couple would only be allowed to have the procedure if autism had inflicted severe suffering upon the family.

The proposal to the UK's fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, is a controversial one because autistic children can live long and healthy lives. A spokesman for the British Council of Disabled People said: "Screening out autism would breed a fear that anyone who is different in any way will not be accepted. Screening for autism would create a society where only perfection is valued." click here to read whole article and make comments




 
June
20
 

SEX SELECTION MARKET GROWS IN US

Overseas couples who want to choose the sex of a child are spending US$20,000 in American IVF clinics because the US is one of the few countries in the world where sex selection has not been banned. The leading practitioner is Dr Jeffrey Steinberg, of the . His websites proudly advertise that his services have been featured on CNN, Newsweek and 60 Minutes. He is obviously aiming at the Chinese market -- where sex selection is officially discouraged nowadays. A link to "sex selection" even features a Chinese flag. He says that this page generates 140,000 hits from China each month -- only from Canada is there more interest.

Even amongst IVF doctors, however, sex selection is controversial. Dr Yury Verlinsky, a Chicago specialist notorious for his radical experiments with human embryos, says "We don't do that. Sex is not a disease." However, Dr Steinberg calmly responds that people will become less alarmed as his specialty becomes more common. "It's… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
June
20
 

FERTILITY RENEWAL HOPES DASHED

A year ago, a Harvard study suggested that the medical dogma that women have a limited supply of eggs was wrong, exciting much comment in the media. Jonathan L. Tilly claimed that he could inject infertile mice with blood cells and that germ cells in the blood could become new eggs. This raised hopes that women might be able to overcome the age barrier for having children and that infertility due to chemotherapy could be overcome. Alas, a paper from another Harvard researcher disputes this in the journal Nature. In any case, many scientists had been sceptical of the revolutionary discovery. The review of Tilly's far-reaching claim found that his eggs could not develop into the mature eggs which are needed for a successful pregnancy. click here to read whole article and make comments



 
June
20
 

IN BRIEF: stem cells, cord blood, Indian euthanasia

European Parliament: The European Parliament has approved funding for embryonic stem cell research. Although the funds will only be available to the three EU members which permit research on embryos at the moment, critics fear that it will put pressure on other countries to update their legislation. The various bills authorising the funding passed by slender majorities in the 732-seat parliament and they still have to be approved by the European Council. The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano complained that Strasbourg had endorsed a "tragically utilitarian" approach towards the creation and destruction of human embryos. click here to read whole article and make comments



 
June
13
 

WE NEED NON-VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA, SAYS BRITISH EXPERT

 An ethical adviser to the British Medical Association has firmly backed non-voluntary euthanasia for patients who are too ill to ask for death. Professor Len Doyal, an emeritus professor of medical ethics and a member of the BMA's ethics committee, writes in the new Royal Society of Medicine journal Clinical Ethics that dignity in dying sometimes means that doctors should kill their patients.

Debate over euthanasia and assisted suicide has vexed the UK for months. Supporters normally deny that legalisation would shove the country down the slippery slope towards euthanasia of the non- voluntary kind. However, Professor Doyal not only backs non- voluntary euthanasia, but argues that it is "morally wrong" to be silent about it out of political expedience. There has been no disavowal or reaction from the BMA, which last year withdrew its long-standing opposition to legalisation in favour of neutrality.

The crux of Professor Doyal's argument is that withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment like food… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
June
13
 

SEX SELECTION SPREADS TO CANADA WITH MIGRANTS

 The practice of selectively aborting girls is spreading from India and China to Canada as immigrant communities take root there. Normally the ratio of boy to girl births is 105 to 100. But according to an expos?n the magazine Western Standard, in several suburbs around Vancouver and Toronto, the ratio has risen to as high as 116 to 100 in recent years. "Since the communities... have seen hundreds of thousands of live births in the last decade, the number of missing daughters may be somewhere in the thousands," writes Andrea Mrozek.

Statisticians warn that the numbers are too limited to reach firm conclusions about the practice. Other factors may be contributing to the increasing skewed ratios. However, because abortion is such a politically sensitive issue, it is difficult to get access to the government statistics to establish exactly how widespread the practice is.

The magazine also claims that some hospitals do sex selective abortions. A leaked internal… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
June
13
 

HARVARD TO BEGIN EMBRYO CLONING

 Harvard University has decided to become the first non-commercial institution in the US to attempt human embryo cloning. Researchers will focus on diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and blood disorders. All funding will come from private donations because of restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research imposed by US President George W. Bush.

Although the decision was made after two years of discussion amongst eight institutional review boards at five institutions, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers anticipated criticism of Harvard's ethics. "While we understand and respect the sincerely held beliefs of those who oppose this research, we are equally sincere in our belief that the life-and-death medical needs of countless suffering children and adults justifies moving forward," he said. The New York Times praised the decision as "bold moves made after intense soul- searching".

Not everyone was so congratulatory. A stem cell biologist delivered a broadside in the Boston Globe. Associate Professor James L. Sherley, of the Massachusetts Institute… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
June
13
 

INSTITUTION REVIEW BOARDS DROWNING IN PAPERWORK

American institutional review boards are drowning in paperwork and the resulting frustration could "alienate some researchers enough to turn them into scofflaws", says an editorial in Science. IRBs were established after the 1979 Belmont report to protect human subjects in potentially risky research. But after a quarter of a century, IRBs are being "overwhelmed by a focus on procedures and documentation at the expense of thoughtful consideration of the difficult ethical questions surrounding the welfare of human subjects," writes a team from the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign.

This "obsession" with paperwork could undermine the protection of human subjects, comment the authors of the editorial, if IRBs get a reputation as "ethics police". "It will be a sad day if scholars come to see human protection in research as the source of frustrating delays and expensive paperwork." click here to read whole article and make comments




 
June
13
 

CONTROVERSIAL DOCTOR COULD BE DEREGISTERED

The British doctor who sparked an international health scare by claiming the standard measles, mumps, rubella vaccine was linked to autism may be charged with serious professional misconduct. Dr Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist at Royal Free Hospital in London, published this sensational claim in 1998 in The Lancet with 12 other doctors. His conclusions were based on a study of only 12 children. Against fierce opposition from the medical establishment, he promoted his theory and became a media favourite.

The result was a bitter controversy, a split with his colleagues, and a steep drop in UK vaccinations. In some parts of London it fell to 61%. Perhaps as a consequence, a 13-year-old unvaccinated boy died near Manchester of measles -- the first in 14 years in the UK. A minor epidemic of mumps in the US is being blamed on a Briton who visited the state of Iowa.

In 2004 Dr Wakefield's case was further clouded when it emerged that… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
June
13
 

ORGANS GO TO RICH QUEUE-JUMPERS

Some American patients get priority on organ donor lists by signing up on several lists, creating a system in which the wealthy have a better chance of getting a transplant. Critics complain that the practice, known as "multiple listing", is unfair to the poor, and expensive for Medicare, which normally pays most of the costs. People donate organs with the idea that everyone will have a fair shot at getting them," says bioethicist Arthur Caplan. "I think it diminishes people's willingness, especially the poor, to become donors."

For the purpose of organ transplants, the United States is divided into 11 regions. Organs normally stay within a region and go to patients depending on how sick they are and how long they have been waiting. But patients can better their luck by signing up on two or more lists. The poor can hardly afford this, as it involves extra air fares. Duplicating expensive blood tests and medical checkups also costs the… click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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