IN BRIEF: Hwang-gate…

Hwang-gate: Hwang Woo-suk, the disgraced Korea stem cell researcher, has been fired from his post at Seoul National University. Six of his colleagues were also disciplined by the university. The Korean government has also revoked Hwang's licence to work in human cloning research. click here to read whole article and make comments



 Cloning researchers seem to have a knack for coming up with embarrassing surprises. First the South Korean government ended up with egg on its face for pinning its dream of becoming a major biotech player on the fraudulent experiments of Hwang Woo-suk. Now the German government has come under fire for giving its most prestigious scientific prize to the wrong man.

It turns out that Professor Ian Wilmut, internationally famed as the creator of the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, played second fiddle in the landmark experiment. This has emerged in an improbable venue, an employment tribunal where Wilmut is being accused of racial harassing and bullying an Asian colleague, Prim Singh.

He was asked by a lawyer whether the statement "I did not create Dolly" was accurate and was forced to reply, "Yes". Sixty-six per cent of the credit, said Wilmut, should go to another colleague, Professor Keith Campbell; he had only had a supervisory… click here to read whole article and make comments



 The fate of frozen embryos hit page one in Britain last week with a sobbing woman begging her former boyfriend to allow their 5-year-old IVF embryos to be implanted in her womb. Natallie Evans accused Howard Johnston of despicable pettiness after she lost her appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. "He knew what he was going into when we first went into IVF," she said. "He chose to become a father the day we created embryos. He's being very mean. He's stopping me becoming a mother." After a battle with ovarian cancer, she can no longer have children.

But Mr Johnston, who broke up with Ms Evans about four years ago, looks at the situation differently: "I did not want a child of mine growing up not knowing who I was and in an environment I have no control over." In Strasbourg, the judges expressed "great sympathy" for Ms Evans's plight, but stated that the male donor's… click here to read whole article and make comments



And across the Irish Sea in Dublin, a divorced couple is locked in a custody battle over embryos also created and frozen in 2001. A former wife wants to have the embryos implanted; her husband, now in a new relationship, refuses. The unnamed couple, who have already had one child from these embryos, originally agreed that joint consent was needed on all decisions relating to the embryos. Now that they have fallen out, the embryos are in limbo.

Resolving the deadlock will be tricky. No Irish statute covers the fate of IVF embryos and the Irish constitution guarantees the right to life of unborn children. "These embryos are joint property of the couple, although even using the word property is unsavoury," says Frank Martin, a law lecturer at University College Cork. "Irish and English laws differ in that we have a written constitution, which makes this case distinctly Irish. The issue then is to determine if the embryo is synonymous… click here to read whole article and make comments



The force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay detainees has again come under attack by doctors. In a widely publicised letter in the British journal The Lancet, 263 doctors from seven countries claimed that force-feeding and the use of restraint chairs are specifically forbidden by the World Medical Association's code of ethics. They also question whether the American Medical Association is taking seriously allegations of torture by its own members.

The details of what is happening at Guantanamo Bay is not known. The military admits that six detainees are on a hunger strike and that three of them are being force-fed. Of the 490 terrorist suspects who have been held there for four years without indictments, as many as 130 went on a hunger strike in September, but by January this had fallen to six.

Their lawyers accuse the military of brutal treatment in administering the force-feeding, a charge which the Pentagon denies. The policy of the department is unchanged,… click here to read whole article and make comments



Alarmed by a birth rate which is amongst the lowest in the world, the South Korean government has decided to turn to IVF. President Roh Moo-hyun recently vowed spend his last two years in office tackling the problems of a rapidly ageing society and a birth rate which has fallen far below replacement level to 1.16. About 16,000 childless couples will now be able to obtain a government subsidy for half the cost of IVF treatment.

An editorial in the Korea Times argues that while promotion of IVF raises no ethical issues, it may not in fact encourage women to bear more children. It recommends that "More emphasis... be given to improving and expanding childcare facilities... so women would not be forced to make unwanted choices between a career and raising children." click here to read whole article and make comments



Disgraced Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk is trying to clear his name by challenging the results of an investigation into his research by Seoul National University. SNU found that he had never really created a true clone in his 2004 paper in Science. But now one of Hwang's associates, Professor Kang Sung-keun at SNU, says that the investigators were wrong. "Although the line seems to have suffered damages or mutations, we are sure that it was established through cloning, and tests prove this," he told the Korea Times. click here to read whole article and make comments



Radical feminists and pro-life women have linked arms to create an unlikely coalition against egg harvesting for stem cell research. Hands off our ovaries" will highlight the short and long-term risks involved in egg harvesting and its significance for the health and dignity of women.

"Egg extraction as currently practiced poses inadequately understood, yet clearly significant, risks to women's health. It is unconscionable to encourage young women to take these risks purely for research purposes," says Diane Beeson, a California sociologist.

"Women must quickly come together so that these life -threatening concerns for our health and safety are heard," says Jennifer Lahl, a Christian bioethicist. And Paola Tavella and Alessandra Di Pietro, authors of "Untamed Mothers: Against Techno-rape of the Female Body", comment that "current bio-politics are separating men and women from natural reproduction and are robbing women of their biological tissues for experimental techno-science."

A London Times journalist denounced the coalition for its abhorrent" tactic of undermining public confidence… click here to read whole article and make comments



The blogging bug has bitten the bioethics community. The American Journal of Bioethics was the first to launch a blog. is run by Glenn McGee, the editor of AJOB, and Arthur Caplan, who is probably the bioethicist most often cited by the American media, is a frequent contributor, along with occasional guest bloggers. Commentary tends to be caustic, comic, utilitarian, and broad-ranging. It has quickly become a must-read for anyone interested in front-page bioethics.

Now the Hastings Center, a major centre for bioethics discussion and research, has just launched its own blog, . It is a bit more staid and formal, but has a diverse range of contributors, including such well-known American bioethicists as Thomas Murray, the president of the Hastings Center, Daniel Callahan and Carl Elliott, as well as an Australian who is a professor of bioethics at Oxford, Julian Savulescu.

The anti-euthanasia campaigner Wesley J. Smith also has his own blog, run by Linda Glenn which tackles issues… click here to read whole article and make comments



A group of 60 scientists, doctors, philosophers, lawyers, editors and others have put forward a proposal for international guidelines for stem cell research. "Inconsistent and conflicting laws prevent some scientists from engaging in this research and hinder global collaboration," the Hinxton Group complains. The thrust of the declaration is very supportive of cloning for research and embryonic stem cell research. This is described as "an immense promise for good" which will increase knowledge of human biology and which may lead to new treatments for disease and injury.

The group's steering committee is largely British, and overwhelmingly skewed toward utilitarianism. It includes the controversial ethicists John Harris, of the University of Manchester, and Julian Savulescu, of Oxford University. The committee argues that restrictions on research should be minimal and flexible enough to accommodate rapid change. Scientists should be free to do work abroad which is banned in their own countries. (German scientists, for instance, can be prosecuted for working on… click here to read whole article and make comments


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