July
26
 

IN BRIEF: RU-486; statistics

  • RU-486: Two more women have died in California after using the abortion pill RU-486. At least five women have died in the US since the drug was approved in 2000. Four of them died of acute bloodstream infections and one from a ruptured tubal pregnancy, a dangerous condition and type of pregnancy which the drug does not terminate. Dr Steven Galson, of the US Food and Drug Administration, says that "There are no alarm bells going off because of this rate. But we are watching very closely." click here to read whole article and make comments



  •  
    July
    19
     

    Dutch doctors unanimous on non-voluntary euthanasia for children

    Dutch paediatricians have unanimously approved a set of guidelines for euthanasing incurably ill newborn children. The Dutch Paediatric Society now accepts that "in exceptional circumstances and under strict conditions... deliberate ending of life" of such newborns can be an acceptable option". The so-called Groningen protocols have been approved by the public prosecution service, but the government has not yet issued its opinion.

    The requirements for non-voluntary euthanasia of children would include: a clear diagnosis and prognosis, hopeless and unbearable suffering, the informed consent of the parents, confirmation by a second doctor and a report to the local coroner.

    A system of reporting must be set up urgently, says the society, so that there will be accountability and social and legal control. At the moment, it believes that about 15 newborn children are euthanased each year in the Netherlands, but only 3 are reported. Most of these are believed to be babies born with… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    July
    19
     

    The rich die differently

    Wealthy American die with less pain than poor Americans, researchers at the University of Michigan have found. Men and women whose net worth was more than US$70,000 were 30% less likely than poorer people to have felt pain often in the year before their death. They were also less likely to suffer from shortness of breath and depression. "The older adults we studied who lived in the community suffered as much in their last year of life as do younger people who are severely ill and hospitalised," said the researchers.

    The study was based on a survey of the deaths of about 2,600 people between 1993 and 2000. The authors speculated that poorer older people tend to skimp on medications. Wealthier people might express their symptoms more assertively and demand better care. They also have better social networks and more access to services over and above insurance plans. click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    July
    19
     

    Official Swiss ethics panel backs state-monitored suicide

    The Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics has backed assisted suicide and has called for government supervision of Swiss euthanasia clinics. So long as "no egoistic or self-serving motives" are involved, active suicide assistance should remain legal, said the head of the commission, Christoph Rehmann-Sutter. It should be open to everyone as a last friendly turn." However, people with psychological illnesses should not be allowed to take their own lives in the clinics. click here to read whole article and make comments



     
    July
    19
     

    Illinois governor listens to his conscience

    Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich The governor of the American state of Illinois has bypassed his legislature and personally authorised US$10 million for stem cell research funding, including embryonic stem cells. This makes Illinois the fourth state to support stem cell research, along with California, Connecticut and New Jersey. Governor Rod Blagojevich issued an executive order while the legislature was in recess, even though it had twice spurned funding proposals earlier in the year. My sense of morality argues strongly to not simply sit back and do nothing when children are suffering from juvenile diabetes," says Mr Blagojevich. "To simply be afraid to take a position or to act, I think, would be immoral."

    Earlier this year, the governor used his executive powers on another matter of conscience when he forced a pharmacy to sell contraceptives even though the pharmacist had a conscientious objection to supplying contraceptives. "No delays. No hassles. No lectures. Just fill… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    July
    19
     

    Kass endorses “third way” for embryonic stem cell research

    The US Senate should support funding for alternative sources of embryonic stem cells, argues Dr Leon Kass, the head of the President's Council on Bioethics. Writing in the Washington Post, he pleads with both sides in the acrimonious debate over embryo research to look seriously at the possibility of "ethically unproblematic" but scientifically useful embryonic stem cells.

    He is particularly encouraged by the recent development of a technique called cell fusion, in which an adult cell is fused with an existing embryonic stem cell. "Other avenues to adult cell reprogramming and other alternative sources are being pursued in the laboratory, though still with no concrete results. The creative search for alternatives has only just begun in earnest."

    Dr Kass believes that it might be possible to sidestep moral dilemmas with new techniques. "It may be that some opponents of embryo research are using these worthy proposals for such a political purpose. It may be that some scientists, for their own… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    July
    19
     

    Why no one is making money with stem cells

    An article in Nature Biotechnology by an venture capitalist paints a gloomy picture of commercial prospects for stem cell therapies. Lutz B. Giebel, of SV Life Sciences, says that companies developing cell therapies have disappointed investors in the past -- and stem cell therapies, especially those using embryonic stem cells, are even riskier, apart from difficult intellectual property issues.

    Amongst the hurdles to be faced are: developing a "well thought- through licensing and cross-licensing strategy"; developing off-the- shelf products, not just one-person-only transplants; and finding ways to ensure that patients will not reject the product. Giebel lists the range of risks involved: the technology risk of differentiating stem cells into fully functioning cells; the manufacturing risk of being able to create an affordable product; the risk of failure in clinical trials; the regulatory risk of facing a potentially hostile US Food and Drug Administration; the timeline risk of selling other products while the therapy is being developed; and finally the… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    July
    19
     

    Monkeying with stem cells a risky business, says panel

    Inserting human stem cells into monkey brains risks giving animals human-like qualities, says a high-level US panel after a year-long study. It agreed that this experiment was unlikely to change animals in "morally relevant ways", but felt that "the risk of doing so is real and too ethically important to ignore". Some of these experiments are currently under way and the panel was unable to agree which of them should proceed. A report from the panel of 22 experts, including primatologists, stem cell researchers, lawyers and philosophers, was published in the July 15 issue of the journal Science.

    "Many of us expected that, once we'd pooled our expertise, we'd be able to say why human cells would not produce significant changes in non-human brains," said the report's lead author Mark Greene, formerly of Johns Hopkins University and now a professor at the University of Delaware. "But the cell biologists and neurologists couldn't specify limits on what implanted human cells might… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    July
    19
     

    Spain and France may authorise therapeutic cloning

    The Spanish government plans to introduce legislation soon to authorise therapeutic cloning. In Spain, where the Socialist government has embarked upon a program of radical social reform after winning office unexpectedly in the aftermath of the Madrid bombing, stem cell research has become a major battle in a bitter culture war. Knowing that the Catholic Church is strongly opposed to the move, Health Minister Elena Salgado, was provocative in foreshadowing the legislation in an interview with the newspaper El Mundo. "The Church has always been opposed to the advances of science," she said, "but fortunately science has continued progressing. And thanks to that we live in better conditions."

    In neighbouring France, a group of leading scientists has formally petitioned the government to lift its ban on therapeutic cloning. Scientists in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, Israel are already allowed to use therapeutic cloning for research," said Dr Marc Peschanski, from the French national institute for health and medical research. "There… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    July
    19
     

    More US women freezing eggs despite risks

    The number of US IVF clinics offering egg freezing services will double this year, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The trend has the potential to rewrite the script for young adulthood, persuading women to further defer marriage and motherhood," says the Times. Female fertility peaks at age 27 and by age 40, the chance of getting pregnant is less than 10%. By freezing their eggs, women can be relatively free of their biological clock's stressful drumbeat."

    Several women explained why they were having eggs extracted and frozen in a procedure which is still largely experimental, although it has resulted in between 100 and 200 babies around the world so far. "I wanted to separate my desire to have kids with my timing for choosing to be with someone," a 36-year-old acupuncturist said. "It has helped relieve the pressure that fertility is clouding your judgment about whether to be with someone. You want to have children with the right person."… click here to read whole article and make comments




     

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