Fatherhood: superannuated or evergreen?

Has sperm donation made the status of fathers obsolete? Several items popped up in the media this week which give different answers.

NOPE: fatherhood is a primal urge. Hollywood identity Jason Patric has won a two-year legal battle to become the legal father of the child of former girlfriend and massage therapist Danielle Schreiber. The pair separated acrimoniously after Ms Screiber had conceived an IVF son with Mr Patric’s sperm. She then claimed that as a sperm donor he had no parental rights. He fought this in the courts, in the media, in the state legislature and on the internet. Now he has won.

NOPE: fatherhood is overwhelming. In an extraordinary story from Australia which was reported around the world,… click here to read whole article and make comments


Distinguished doctor arrested over Indian sterilisation tragedy

Thirteen women have died following a series of unhygienic sterilization operations in an Indian birth control clinic.

The women, who attended a sterilization camp in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, were operated on in a poorly maintained operating theatre with unsterilized equipment, authorities said.

Dr R.K. Gupta, who once received a state honour for his sterilization work, has been arrested on charges of negligence. Gupta denies any misconduct and has blamed authorities for the tragedy. “It is the administration which is responsible for this incident”, he said. "If they kept in that place 83 women, it is my moral responsibility to operate (on) all the women.”

Gupta sterilized all the women in the clinic within three hours, taking between two to five minutes per operation.

India regularly conducts sterilization drives, and mass sterilization camps are most common in the poorest Indian states. The Chhattisgarh tragedy is not… click here to read whole article and make comments


Disabled children kept in cages in Greek childcare centre

Disability rights groups have condemned the inhumane treatment of disabled children in Greece, after it was revealed that at least one disability-care facility is keeping its residents in cages. 

Current and former volunteers at KEPEP Childcare Centre, a facility in the southern town of Lechaina, recently spoke out about the mistreatment of residents.

Some 60 children in the home are kept in ceiling-high cages, routinely given sedating medication and sometimes strapped to their beds. In a damning report published in 2010, Greece’s ombudsman for the rights of the child labelled the practices “violations of human rights”. 

It is unclear whether any other facilities in Greece use these methods.

The staff of KEPEP say they lack the funds to improve conditions. “We are doing everything we can but we do not have the resources to give anything else”, said Gina Tsoukala, the director of the centre.

But… click here to read whole article and make comments


Where do we draw the line on bioehancement?

A new American documentary examines the ethical issues surrounding human enhancement for people with disabilities. The documentaryFIXED, contains interviews with a range of physically impaired people, as well as specialists in bioehancement. It presents an exciting picture of technological advance, while at the same time giving voice to scepticism and concerns. Overall the documentary presents the bioehancement project in a favorable light. Some may disagree with its conclusions, but it is a resource for understanding the ethical issues surrounding emerging enhancement technologies. 

click here to read whole article and make comments


Is it ethical to grow human organs in pigs?

Recent experiments with growing chimerical organs in animals have delivered favourable results. Japanese researchers recently managed to grow different nascent rat organs in mice using pluripotent stem cells. Researchers believe it could soon be used to grow human organs. 

Amidst the enthusiasm of the scientific community, four bioethicsts from the Universities of Maastricht and Basel have explored the bioethical complexities of the matter. In a Journal of Medical Ethics article released this week, they consider whether the process is comparable to the creation of complete human/non-human chimeras.  There has been significant moral debate over the latter, and similar arguments could be used against the former. As the authors state,

“Injecting human PSCs into animal embryos could theoretically risk the resulting animal itself developing human physical or mental features such as human limb development or neuronal development.”

Ultimately, they claim, such concerns are unfounded. There is a morally relevant… click here to read whole article and make comments


IVF and depression: a long discussion continues

There has been much debate about the impact of IVF on a mental health. A recent article in the Guardian considers this question in a personal context.

In a letter to lifestyle columnist Annalisa Barbieri, an anonymous reader anxiously describes the situation of her daughter (in her “early 40s” and single) who is considering IVF treatment.

The reader’s daughter is a busy professional who has battled depression for some time. The reader asks Barbieri about the potential impact of her daughter’s decision, considering the various psychological factors at play.

In a direct reference to woman’s depression, Barbieri wonders whether her mental state is a motivating factor for considering IVF. Trivially, Barbieri remarks: “depending on the cause of the depression, having a baby could have an impact on your daughter’s mental health.” In rather non-committal response, Barbieri comments: “Some decisions have no right or wrong answer and take a… click here to read whole article and make comments


US mid-term elections boost hopes of GOP, but not of pro-lifers

This week’s mid-term elections in the United States were a resounding victory for the Republican Party. It controls the Senate for the first time since 2006 and increased its majority in the House of Representatives. Less dramatic and less reported was the effect of the election on the controversial issue of abortion.

In Colorado and North Dakota, abortion opponents supported personhood amendments to the state constitution. These would have defined a foetus as a person and therefore a human being entitled to constitutional right, above all the right to life. Colorado’s amendment would have included the unborn under the definition of “person” and “child” in the state’s criminal code. North Dakota would have conferred an “inalienable right to life” at every stage of human development. But in Colorado the amendment sank by a margin of 65 to 35, and in North Dakota by 64 to 36.

“The personhood movement has fought… click here to read whole article and make comments


Brittany Maynard dies in Oregon after assisted suicide

Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old woman whose YouTube video announcing that she would choose to die on November 1 under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, died on November 1. It became one of the major news stories of the week before it was buried by the torrent of news about the US mid-term elections.

Ms Maynard had a compelling story. She was a young, attractive, recently married woman dreaming of a family when she learned that she had an aggressive brain tumour. Rather than burden her husband and mother and suffer the indignities of increasing dependency, she moved to Oregon where she could access legal assisted suicide.

She also contacted the assisted suicide lobby group Compassion & Choices and offered to promote its cause. Its video about her notched up 10 million hits in a month. In it she said that she would probably take her life… click here to read whole article and make comments


US stem cell expert questions UK plans for 3-parent embryos

The British Parliament will begin debating whether to legalise a controversial technique known to opponents as “3-parent embryos” or “3-parent babies” or, to its supporters as “mitochondrial transfer”. A prominent government advisor, Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, of the National Institute for Medical Research, summed up the view of the scientific establishment in New Scientist recently: “It is our considered view that the techniques are not unsafe and are likely to be effective.”

The prospect of creating embryos with genetic material from three persons has become an international issue. A prominent American stem cell scientist, Paul Knoepfler, of the University of California Davis School of Medicine, recently published an open letter in his blog questioning the wisdom of the move. He emphasises that he is not “a radical extremist or luddite”; he does embryonic stem cell research and supports IVF for infertile couples.

Here are some… click here to read whole article and make comments


Do restrictive abortion laws kill women?

There is no more powerful argument for legal abortion than the fear that many more women will die if they are forced to resort to underground abortion mills. However, the experience of Chile, where abortion is illegal for any reason, even rape or incest, suggests that this doesn’t necessarily happen.

From a statistical point of view, Chile is a natural experiment because abortion was legal there from 1931 to 1989, when it was banned by one of the world’s most restrictive laws.

In the current issue of the Journal of the Chilean Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (PDF in Spanish), epidemiologist Elard Koch crunches the statistics and finds that, counter-intuitively, the rate of abortion-related mortality has fallen since 1989. Even hospital discharges due to abortion have significantly decreased during the last decade.

Proof of whether abortion-related mortality rises or falls when abortion is banned… click here to read whole article and make comments


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