The ethics of running scared

It’s all very well to sit in an armchair and bloviate about Ebola. If you are a doctor or a nurse or a hospital cleaner with a dying patient in the next room, it is an altogether different question. If you help the poor soul, you and your family could die.

As one Liberian nurse told Associated Press, “We are not equipped to face the situation ... When you go through this and return home, you lie in bed asking yourself: I am still safe? Or I have contracted the disease?”

An article in the Journal of Medical Ethics by four Nigerians and two Americans argues that healthcare workers are not obliged to risk their lives if their government cannot provide adequate safeguards.

“In the absence of clear guidance, healthcare workers face a moral dilemma. Their conscience urges them to treat all patients, but a… click here to read whole article and make comments


Pistorius verdict - disability is not a defence

Oscar Pistorius is set to be convicted of negligence but not murder, following a six-month trial obsessively followed by the international media.  

Judge Thokozile Masipa found that prosecutors had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Pistorius intended to kill his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. “There just aren’t enough facts to support such a finding”, she said. She did, however, find that Pistorius had been negligent in firing four shots into the bathroom of his house. “I am of the view that the accused acted too hastily and used excessive force,” Ms. Masipa said. “It is clear that his conduct was negligent.”

Judge Masipa rejected Pistorius defence that disability-induced anxiety had led him to overreact to the situation. "The accused isn't unique in this respect. Women, children the elderly and all those with limited mobility would fall under the same category," Ms. Masipa said, one of several admonishments she delivered to Mr. Pistorius. "Would… click here to read whole article and make comments


Should we criminalise scientific misconduct?

Scientific misconduct is bad, but should it be a crime? One high profile academic says yes.   

In a recent interview with New Scientist, Dr. Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, argues that the criminalisation of research fraud is a necessary measure.

Smith suggests that scientists found guilty of misconduct “can’t be trusted” and yet many “have simply carried on with their careers.”

“Science itself has failed to adequately deal with misconduct”, he said.

Smith argues that scientific fraud causes serious social harm, citing as an example disgraced autism researcher Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield’s now discredited study on the link between vaccination and autism caused a massive drop in the number of childhood vaccinations.

Smith also argues that the nature of science means scientists should be held to a higher standard than the general public.

“The temptation to ignore, undermine, or even falsify the offending data is huge. Only those with… click here to read whole article and make comments


Executed prisoners may be part of cadaver exhibition

A human rights group is calling on Canadian authorities to investigate the possible use of executed Chinese prisoners in an exhibition of ‘plastinated’ corpses. 

Bodies Revealed, an exhibition open in Niagara Falls, contains 20 preserved full human bodies, displayed in various positions, as well as 200 specimens of body parts. The specimens are preserved using a technique know as ‘plastination’, in which water and fat from the body are replaced with reactive resins and polymers.

Choose Humanity, a group that aims to draw attention to human rights abuses in China, claims that the bodies may come from Chinese prisons without individual consent. “We’re concerned that the presenter of these exhibitions does not have any form of consent whatsoever to show these bodies,” said Joel Chipkar, spokesman for Choose Humanity. “If these bodies do not have consent to be shown, these bodies are being shown illegally in Canada.”

Premier Exhibitions, the owners of… click here to read whole article and make comments


Having a laugh at euthanasia

A new Israeli film attempts to offer a humorous look at euthanasia. The Farewell Party, directed by young auteurs Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit, is a dark comedy about a group of Jerusalem retirement-home residents who create a euthanasia machine to put a dying friend out of his misery — and then face a moral dilemma when others come seeking the same service. Maymon and Granit say that want to teach people how to “laugh about death”.

“We really believed in this movie, what it says. It's very important for us to raise these questions”, Maymon said.

The film has met with significant criticism both within Israel and abroad, and it has been difficult for its producers to find distributors. Nevertheless, it received positive reviews at the Venice Film Festival and has been selected for screening at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival. 

click here to read whole article and make comments


Women risk lives for IVF

Women are putting their lives in danger by purchasing illegal IVF drugs from the online auction site EBay. Drugs can be bought off the website for a third of the normal market price, and many desperate women are turning to it as a last resort.

The fertility drugs include brand names Suprecur, Cetrotide and Menopur. They are hormone treatments used to stimulate the ovary to produce more eggs to increase fertility and as part of IVF procedures.

One British woman, 26-year-old Lorraine Davy, almost died after taking the ovulation stimulation drug Clomid. “I got rushed into A&E and they did an ultrasound and the doctor said I had a massive cyst on my ovaries”.

The British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has contacted EBay to have the drugs removed from auction. 

click here to read whole article and make comments


At long last, a follow-up study of “cytoplasmic transfer”

The United Kingdom is debating the merits of “three-parent embryos” to alleviate the burden of serious mitochondrial diseases. Scientists have reassured the public that this procedure will produce healthy children.

These assertions are largely speculative. However, something similar has happened before. About 30 children conceived from this technique have been born, 17 of them from an American IVF clinic between 1996 and 2002, when US government authorities put a stop to it. At the time the Saint Barnabas Medical Center, in New Jersey, called it “cytoplasmic transfer” and billed it as a way of jump-starting tired eggs. Twelve years after the US Food and Drug Administration recommended a retrospective study to see how these children have fared, the clinic is finally doing one.

Thirteen-year-old Alana Saarinen (pictured above with her parents) is one of those children. A godsend to her mother, who had a history of infertility, she… click here to read whole article and make comments


British MP blasts “three-parent embryos”

A British politician has blasted proposals for “three-parent embryos”. In a terse summary of objections to the practice of mitochondrial transfer to prevent serious diseases Sir Edward Leigh, a Conservative MP, told the House of Commons this week.

He points out that despite strong support from UK scientists and bioethicists and generally favourable treatment in the media, no other country in the world has authorised modification of the human genome. “Do we really want to become a rogue state in terms of bioethics?” he asks.

He also argues that the procedure “cures” no one. It simply prevents the birth of handicapped children. But this comes at the cost of destroying a human embryo for its “useful parts”. “There is no way that that can be considered ethical,” he says.

“… we are dealing with entirely separate issues when we talk about genetically modified food and what… click here to read whole article and make comments


The ethics of transgender fertility

This month’s issue of LGBT Health contains a fascinating interview with two Boston fertility specialists who cater for gays and lesbians who want to become parents. Dr Samuel Pang, one of the first doctors to help gays have biological children through gestational surrogacy, says that his passion “is to get the word out to the LGBT communities that there are options available if people want to have genetically related children”.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of their work is provisions for the fertility of boys and girls who are transitioning to the opposite sex. “For children and young adolescents, it is often the parents who are thinking about future reproductive capacity, because they would like the possibility of grandchildren, and because they are looking after the future interests of their children,” says Dr Anderson Clark, a reproductive biologist.

The problem is that puberty-suppressing treatment also impairs… click here to read whole article and make comments


Let’s chill: New York’s egg freezing party

Commercialisation of IVF is crossing new frontiers in New York with “egg freezing parties” for career women who want to keep their options open. A company called EggBanxx will retrieve and store eggs – for about US$7,000 to $8000 per cycle. The first year of freezing is free. Here’s the pitch:

“EggBanxx is the affordable egg freezing solution created by women for women. We believe egg freezing should be easy, affordable and stress-free!   Through EggBanxx, women can preserve their fertility by freezing their eggs for later use at a fraction of the cost and at a reputable clinic. This elective procedure is becoming increasingly popular today with women who are holding off having children while furthering their education or career, or waiting to meet the right partner.” 

To promote its product, EggBanxx is organising “Let’s Chill” (what else could it be called?) parties in New York to… click here to read whole article and make comments


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