January
17
 

US SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS OREGON SUICIDE LAW

The US Supreme Court has upheld Oregon's controversial assisted suicide law and declared that the Bush administration exceeded its authority in trying to undo the statute. In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that the Federal Attorney-General did not have the power to declare illegal "a medical standard for care and treatment of patients that is specifically authorized under state law".

The Oregon law became effective in 1997 and is supported by the electorate. The most recent statistics show that 326 patients had received medications to help them end their lives and 208 had actually killed themselves.

, Justice Antonin Scalia observed that "If the term 'legitimate medical purpose' has any meaning, it surely excludes the prescription of drugs to produce death... Virtually every medical authority from Hippocrates to the current American Medical Association confirms that assisting suicide has seldom or never been viewed as a form of 'prevention, cure, or alleviation of disease'".

The… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
January
17
 

HWANG IN DISGRACE

 Investigators have confirmed that stunning advances in embryonic stem cell research by a team of South Korean researchers were fraudulent. Stem cell researchers around the world were dismayed. "This has set us back several years," said Chris Shaw, a neurologist at King's College London who has a UK licence to clone human embryos. "It was as if Dr Hwang had sent us a picture of him on top of Everest, but it happened not to be Everest. He lied to us about that and Everest is still there to climb."

Hwang Woo-suk's work has not been thoroughly discredited. found that he had indeed cloned a dog, as he reported in a paper in Nature last year. However, much of the data which he used to support claims that he had cloned human embryos and produced stem cell lines was fabricated. False, too, was his claim to have used only 427 human eggs. In fact, he used 2,061 eggs and… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
January
17
 

UK CLONING RESEARCH TEAM SPLITS UP

The only other research team to have successfully cloned human embryos has quarrelled and split up in a dispute about unprofessional self-promotion. Two professors at the University of Newcastle, Professor Miodrag Stojkovic, a stem cell biologist, and Professor Alison Murdoch, an IVF specialist who is head of the British Fertility Society, have fallen out over her orchestration of the announcement of their breakthrough research last May. She ensured that it would coincide with the day that Hwang's paper was published.

The Newcastle team's announcement was criticised at the time by the journal Nature as "contrary to good scientific practice". It had breached convention by publicising results before its research had been peer-reviewed and published in full in a scientific journal. An incensed Professor Stojkovic claims that he had not agreed to this plan.

Professor Stojkovic also claimed that he deserved the lion's share of the credit for their research. "There are plenty of people dissatisfied with Professor Murdoch taking the… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
January
17
 

USE RABBIT EGGS, SAYS BRITISH STEM CELL EXPERT

After Professor Hwang failed to derive embryonic stem cell lines from more than 2000 human eggs, it is obvious that cloning human embryos will not be achieved easily. If it is to happen, an enormous quantity of hard-to-obtain eggs will be needed. British scientists, therefore, are calling for the creation of hybrid embryos made by inserting human genetic material into rabbit eggs. "We have to think about alternative sources of eggs," says Professor Chris Shaw, of King's College London. "The fertility of rabbits is legendary. There may be opportunities to use human cells for nuclear transfer to rabbit oocytes (eggs). Legally the position is not clear, but that's something we'd like to discuss with the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority)."

Although Chinese researchers claim to have created hundreds of these hybrid embryos back in 2003, in no country has this procedure actually been legalised (although a government committee recently proposed it in Australia). "I think it is right to… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
January
17
 

CLONING BAN UNCONSTITUTIONAL, SAYS CALIFORNIA ACADEMIC

Although nearly everyone in favour of therapeutic cloning swears that reproductive cloning is unethical and unsafe, very few are able to explain exactly why it is unethical. Now an American law professor argues vigorously in a new book that cloning should be legalised. Kerry Lynn Macintosh, of Santa Clara University, in California, says that a ban violates the US constitution and that fear of cloning is irrational. The most quoted bioethicist in the US, Arthur Caplan, praises as "a courageous and important book".

If a ban is such a mistake, Caplan asks how cloning could have become "one of the most widely outlawed activities on the planet". He identifies abortion politics as the answer. Outlawing cloning, he says, is a backdoor way for pro-life activists to push for granting human embryos full legal rights from the moment of conception.

click here to read whole article and make comments



 
January
17
 

CHINESE EMBRACE COSMETIC SURGERY

As the economy becomes more competitive and personal income rises, more and more Chinese are taking up cosmetic surgery. In a marked change from the puritanical days of Maoism. Chinese TV is even screening its own extreme makeover show, "Lovely Cinderella", in which 14 contestants compete for US$6,000 in cash and trip to Hawaii. According to Xinhua news agency, there are now 1 million plastic surgery clinics which employ 6 million people. Plastic surgery is a US$3 billion industry.

As people become richer, they start to strive for more beyond the basic needs of filling their stomachs and looking for a roof over their heads," says plastic surgeon Zhang Wei, in Shanghai. "Now people will proudly admit they had done plastic surgery as it's perceived as a sign of affluence and sophistication."

But lack of regulation is a problem. According to the China Consumers Association, there are about 20,000 complaints each year about botched surgery. "Chinese doctors tend to learn… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
January
17
 

IN BRIEF: Spain; France; Congo; tissue theft racket

  • A Spanish stem cell researcher has come under fire for developing human embryonic stem cells without proper consent from patients. Carlos Sim?n, of the Valencian Infertility Institute, created two stem cell lines from IVF embryos and claims to have differentiated them into cells resembling the pancreas, heart and brain. However the Spanish health ministry alleges that he did the research without proper authorisation. Sim?n says that his work has become a political football, with the provincial government supporting it and the central government denouncing it as a violation of current laws. click here to read whole article and make comments



  •  
    January
    10
     

    REPORT ON HWANG STEM CELL FRAUD DUE TODAY

    Seoul National University is due to release the results of its investigation into the Hwang Woo-suk stem cell debacle today. At the moment, all of his achievements are under suspicion, even the cows he cloned in 1999 which first made him famous in Korea. Government funding for the World Stem Cell Hub, which was to have made Korea a world biotech leader, has been withdrawn.

    The report is sure to be a crushing blow to Korean pride, as Hwang had been designated the nation's "supreme scientist". With his 365- day-a-year working habits, he was held up as a role model for Korean children. More than 10 cartoon biographies for children were published after he announced in May that he had created 11 embryonic stem cell lines.

    Most despondent could be the 14,000 people who had registered themselves or their children with the Hub in the hope of cures. "I had pinned all my hopes on Dr Hwang… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    January
    10
     

    SOUL-SEARCHING BEGINS

    The audacious fraud has raised questions about government involvement in research, the celebrity status of scientists, the viability and regulation of human embryonic stem cell research and public understanding of therapeutic cloning. But the peer-review system for vetting articles is at the centre of the controversy. Science, the journal which published Hwang's landmark paper in which he claimed to have created 11 stem cell lines, has acknowledged that the paper was reviewed quickly -- in 58 days, far less than the average 81 days. However, its editor, Donald Kennedy, says "peer review cannot detect [fraud] if it is artfully done". The journal may adopt some reforms already used by other journals like requiring each contributor to detail his contribution or performing independent analyses of images. Some critics of stem cell research contend that Science gave Hwang's research an easy run because it supported embryo research in the face of the restrictive US policy.

    Where peer review failed, journalists and bloggers… click here to read whole article and make comments




     
    January
    10
     

    KASS LASHES HWANG’S BOOSTERS

    In an interview in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal, Dr Leon Kass, the former chairman of President Bush's Council on Bioethics, expressed his scorn for the legion of Dr Hwang's former supporters.

    "Scientific fraud is always revolting, but it is fortunately rare and, in the end, truth will out. But in this case, American scientists and the American media have been complicit in the fraud, because of their zeal in the politics of stem-cell and cloning research and their hostility to the Bush funding policy. Concerted efforts have been made these past five years to hype therapeutic cloning, including irresponsible promises of cures around the corner and 'personalised repair kits' for every degenerative disease. The need to support these wild claims and the desire to embarrass cloning opponents led to the accelerated publication of Dr Hwang's 'findings'... We even made him Exhibit A for the false claim that our moral scruples are causing American science to fall… click here to read whole article and make comments




     

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