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




 
June
13
 

AUSTRALIAN ECHO OF SCHIAVO CASE

A family dispute over the fate of a brain-damaged Adelaide man echoes the bitter controversy over Terri Schiavo. Mark Leigep, 31, a single father, was badly injured in a car smash on March 26 and is now in a so-called persistent vegetative state. His mother asked for his feeding tube to be removed, but he survived for three days before senior staff reversed the order. It turns out, however, that his mother, Joanne Dunn, had abandoned Mark and his brother Brian at an early age to their paternal grandparents and since then has had little to do with him. Brian, on the other hand, hopes that his brother will recover and says that she has no right to turn off his life support. He plans to apply to become his brother's legal guardian. click here to read whole article and make comments



 
June
13
 

CZECH WOMAN DIES IN CAGED BED

The parents of a mentally ill Czech woman are suing a hospital after she died in a controversial caged bed. An estimated 700 patients are being kept in caged beds in the Czech Republic and about 100 in neighbouring Slovakia. Until January the parents of Vera Musilova had cared for their daughter at home. When her condition deteriorated, they admitted her to the Bohnice psychiatric hospital in Prague. They were shocked to find her in a caged bed, naked, dirty, dehydrated, and with her head shaved.

The director of Bohnice, Mr Ivan David, defended the caged bed policy, arguing that they were needed to pacify extremely aggressive patients when medication did not work. However, Jan Fiala, of a Hungary-based disability rights group which is preparing a lawsuit against the hospital, says that several patients have died in the beds and other have been injured. He says that the practice is grotesque, degrading and torturous" and will only make their condition… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
June
13
 

MEDIA HYPE AND MEDICAL RESEARCH

Media accounts of medical research are often based on unpublished results at professional conferences and omit important information, say Dartmouth researchers. Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, they say that journalists often omit basic study facts, such as their size or design. Many times they overlook the limitations of studies. For example, only 6% of news stories about animal studies reported that the results might not apply to humans. And only 2 out of 175 articles about unpublished reports mentioned that they were unpublished.

However, not all the fault is the media's, say the authors. Researchers benefit from the attention because it is a mark of academic success, their academic affiliates benefit because good publicity attracts patients and donors, and research funders -- public and private -- benefit when they can show a good return on their investments. The meeting organisers benefit too; extensive media coverage attracts more advertisers, and higher profile scientists for the following year, guaranteeing more… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
June
13
 

IN BRIEF: stem cells; baby of brain-dead woman

Stem cells from testicles: Deep inside testicles lies a rich source of stem cells -- perhaps 0.3% of their tissue. Now British scientists plan to investigate whether these could substitute for embryonic stem cells and develop into different tissue types, including brain and heart cells. The research will be led by fertility specialist Lord Robert Winston. click here to read whole article and make comments



 
June
06
 

UPGRADING TO HUMAN 2.0

The powers of mutants in the recent film X-Men 3: The Last Stand may be fanciful, but not ridiculous, at least to a growing number of believers in Homo Sapiens 2.0. A recent seminar at Stanford University Law School attracted about 150 participants from Europe, Asia, New Zealand and the US who discussed enhancing human intellects and bodies. Topics ranged from improving athletes performance to uploading personalities onto a computer. It was all part of the visionary panorama of an influential movement called transhumanism.

In the words of one of the speakers, Ronald Bailey, author of the book Liberation Biology and science correspondent for Reason magazine, "As a nascent philosophical and political movement, transhumanism epitomises our most daring, courageous, imaginative, and idealistic aspirations. The transhumanist quest to liberate future generations from the immemorial curses of disease, disability and early death is a new grand narrative worthy of humanity and posthumanity."

Although most people feel uneasy about the… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
June
06
 

WILMUT BACKS CLONED EMBRYOS

 The creator of the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, says that cloning embryonic human beings is a moral imperative, even though he remains "implacably opposed" to cloning adult human beings. In a new book, After Dolly, written with the science editor of the London Daily Telegraph, Professor Ian Wilmut says that "I am extremely concerned about the effects on a child of being a clone of another person and I oppose it. However, an early embryo is not a person and I see the use of nuclear transfer to prevent a child's having a dreadful disease as far less controversial."

In fact, what Wilmut is proposing is more radical than cloning, which simply duplicates a genome. He wants to create technology which will allow him to alter the genome of an IVF embryo carrying a genetic disease, such as Huntington's disease or motor neurone disease. Such a technique could easily be used to create children with higher IQs… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
June
06
 

CHINA CRACKS DOWN ON SEX SELECTION

Since 2004 North China's Hebei Province has closed 201 clinics involved in gender selection, an official has said. The province has discovered and dealt with 848 gender selection cases in 745 hospitals and clinics. Charges have been filed against three people. In some areas of Hebei there are 134 boys for every 100 girls. The national ratio was 116.9 to 100 in a 2000 census and 108.5 to 100 in 1982. Hebei Governor Ji Yunshi said the province has introduced financial incentives to balance baby girls and boys by 2010. According to Xinhua newsagency, identifying the gender of foetuses and aborting girls for gender selection are banned in China. click here to read whole article and make comments



 

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