Do prisoners have a right to participate in clinical trials?

Prisoners are being unfairly excluded from taking part in potentially beneficial clinical research, on the grounds that it would be too difficult and expensive to do so, according to research in the Journal of Medical Ethics

The pendulum of clinical research on prisoners seems to be swinging back towards participation. In a sense the origins of bioethics are to be found in research on prisoners – in Nazi concentration camps in the 1940s. Revulsion at those atrocities led to the Nuremberg code stressing the importance of informed consent. Nonetheless, prisoners were still used for trials. During the 1970s, about 85% of all US phase-1 clinical trial were conducted on prisoners. The substances to which they were subjected ranged from perfume, soap and cosmetics to dioxin, psychological warfare agents and radioactive isotopes.

In the wake of a number of scandalous abuses, attitudes have changed – so dramatically,… click here to read whole article and make comments


Can patients enjoy a life of disability?

Severe head injuries sometimes require a life-saving procedure called “decompressive craniectomy” in which a piece of the skull is removed to allow swelling in the brain to subside. The problem with this is that patients often survive with severe disabilities. Many of them are young people who had been in good health and the operation leaves them in a condition that they and their families might regard as unacceptable.

This create a problem for informed consent. It is a fundamental principle of bioethics that patients must consent to their treatment. However, patients with traumatic brain injury are in no position to give consent to a decompressive craniectomy. Would they give retrospective consent? In other words, are they happy that doctors save their life, even if it unfolds as a life of disability? What a fit and healthy person regards as “acceptable” might not match what a disabled person… click here to read whole article and make comments


Euthanasia back on the boil in France

Vincent Lambert   

Euthanasia is once more on the front page of French newspapers with two high-profile case in the courts.

The case of Vincent Lambert echoes the protracted legal wrangle over Florida woman Terri Schiavo before she died in 2005. Lambert, a 39-year-old fireman in Rheims, has been living in a “minimally conscious state” for five years after motorcycle accident. He is also a quadriplegic.

His wife, six siblings and his doctors want normal hydration and nutrition to be withdrawn so that he will die. Although Lambert had left no advance directives, family members testified that he had said that he would not want to be kept alive in such a state.

His parents, two siblings and the French state want to give him normal hydration and nutrition, thereby extending his life indefinitely. “He is not sick, he is not at the… click here to read whole article and make comments


Fish belong in our moral circle, says Australian researcher

Do you still believe that fish are dumb and cannot feel pain? That we do not have to worry much about how they are cared for or caught? Think again, says Culum Brown of Macquarie University in Australia, in a review article in the journal Animal Cognition. He claims that fish cognition and their sensory perception are generally on par with that of other animals. More consideration should be given to fish welfare and anti-cruelty issues.

The Australian researcher says that most people rarely think about fish other than as food, or as pets. However, they are second only to mice in terms of the numbers used in scientific research, and the more than 32,000 known species of fish far outweigh the diversity of all other vertebrates combined. Unlike whales, the public is indifferent to fish welfare issues. Brown believes this relates to incorrect perceptions about… click here to read whole article and make comments


Supreme Court withholds judgement on assisted suicide as human right

Britain’s Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by campaigners to have assisted suicide pronounced a human right. The appeal was made by the family of Tony Nicklinson, an assisted suicide advocate who died in 2013. Nicklinson’s family asked the court to rule that the current state of assisted suicide law was incompatible with article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which stipulates that all human beings have a right to “a private life”).

The court ruled that it had jurisdiction to make the desired declaration, but that nevertheless it was more appropriate for the UK parliament to make such a statement. Lord Neuberger, president of the court, stated in his judgement, “On the basis of the arguments and evidence which have been put before the Court, there would have been too many uncertainties to justify our making a declaration of incompatibility.”

Nevertheless, Neuberger warned that… click here to read whole article and make comments


No organised organ trafficking during Kosovo War - EU investigation

The infamous 'yellow house' in Albania

An EU investigation into organ trafficking in Albania is said to have found no evidence linking the Kosovo Liberation Army to forced organ harvesting.

A Kosovar television station reported this week that the EU team found no indication of an organised organ-harvesting racket. Cases of organ theft were isolated incidents carried out by individuals and not criminal groups, the station reported.

Serbian politicians and lobby groups have long alleged that the Prime Minister of Albania, Hashim Thaci, and other senior officials were involved in the forced harvesting of organs from captured Serbian soldiers in the 1998-1999 Kosovo War.

The findings of the new investigation – if the early reports are true - run contrary to a 2011 Council of Europe report linking Albanian guerrillas to forced organ-harvesting operations. 

click here to read whole article and make comments


Lord Winston warns of unregulated IVF ‘jungle’

In a recent interview with the Independent Robert Winston warned of deception in the IVF market. Fertility companies, he believes, are exaggerating the effectiveness and safety of new techniques.

Winston, a Labour peer who helped pioneer the development of fertility medicine within the NHS, said the field is now being driven by profit. He criticized the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority for allowing companies to peddle expensive, unproven techniques.

"I think [the HFEA] is not regulating the clinical treatments, which is what it should be doing. I don't think it is competent. I think it is frightened of being sued"

Lord Winston is concerned about the way prenatal genetic screening is being marketed.

"When you do this technique, instead of improving the pregnancy rate, you reduce it by as much as 50 per cent," Winston said. "So prenatal genetic screening actually decreases the pregnancy rate, but it is still being sold as a way… click here to read whole article and make comments


Physicians under pressure in conceal-weapon permit process

A new survey of North Carolina doctors has found that many are concerned about the increasing number of requests they are receiving to assess their patients' competency to carry concealed weapons.

In particular, a majority of physicians who responded to the survey said they were worried about the potential ethical consequences in the doctor-patient relationship if they participated in the concealed-weapon permit process. 

"This is not a small problem," said Dr. Adam Goldstein, corresponding author of the study and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. "More than 20 percent of the physicians we surveyed have been asked to sign competency permits for concealed weapons, and a majority of them do not feel they can adequately assess the physical or mental competence of their patients to safely have a concealed weapons permit."

The study, published as a research letter in the June 29, 2014 issue… click here to read whole article and make comments


The big business of Australian IVF

A second Australian IVF company wil float on the stock exchange today. Investment analysts believe that Monash IVF will have a market capitalisation of about A$427 million. Its rival, Virtus Health, is capitalised at $694 million. This means that Australian IVF is at least a $1 billion business. As capital markets expert Paul Docherty explains in this interview in The Conversation, IVF is an attractive investment for institutional investors in Australia because it helps them to diversify their portfolio. 

click here to read whole article and make comments


Virginia’s compulsory vasectomy

A Virginia petty criminal has been sentenced to 20 months in prison, three years supervised probation and two years unsupervised probation – and a vasectomy. Twenty-seven-year-old Jessie Lee Herald pleaded guilty to child endangerment, hit and run driving and driving on a suspended license. But it was for none of these that assistant prosecutor Ilona L. White imposed the condition of a vasectomy as part of the plea bargain.

"It was primarily due to the fact he had seven or eight children, all by different women, and we felt it might be in the commonwealth's interest for that to be part of the plea agreement," she explained.

He has also agreed not to reverse the vasectomy – which is difficult, in any case – as long as he is on probation.

The quirky conditions of Herald’s sentence, which went viral on the internet, provoked much commentary. It was called “temporary negative eugenics”… click here to read whole article and make comments


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 from the editor: Pointed Remarks
Bioethics and the caliphate
26 Jul 2014
Yes, Minister
19 Jul 2014
California Institute for Regenerative Medicine rattles the tin again
12 Jul 2014

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