October
25
 

Drug tests in East Germany get “conceded pass”

Respect for informed consent is not regarded as one of the greatest virtues of East German medicine in the 1980s. Elite athletes in East Germany (GDR) were routinely given drugs to enhance their performance, even to the point of endangering their health. With such scandals in mind, no one was surprised when reports surfaced in the German media last year that the GDR had leased out patients as guinea pigs to Western pharmaceutical firms to support its failing health care system.

However, researchers at the Institute for the History and Ethics of Medicine, in Erlangen, Germany, have concluded that these sensational claims were “tendentious” and “distorted”. In an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics they say the GDR attempted to conduct trials according to international ethical standards and that there was no evidence to suggest the trials systematically and intentionally damaged patients.

Nonetheless, the surviving records do… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
November
02
 

A sceptical look at synthetic biology

Here's a sceptical look at a controversial subject: synthetic life (or synthetic biology). It's already a multi-billion dollar industry which has immense social and environmental implications. "Governments don’t yet know how to assess synthetically modified organisms for safety and so most are supposedly being kept contained, but now a new wave of SynBio organisms are being developed that are intended for environmental release," says one of the organisers of SynBioWatch, the lobby group which produced the video below: 

click here to read whole article and make comments



 
October
25
 

British right-to-die campaigner starves herself to death

A leading right-to-die campaigner in Britain has starved herself to death. Jean Davies, 86, passed away on October 1, five weeks after she stopped taking food and two weeks after she stopped taking water. She did not have a terminal illness. She was afraid that the other alternative, a drug overdose, would not work and she wanted to die at home, not in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal. 

Ms Davies was president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies from 1990 to 1992 and had been the chair of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society UK (which has been renamed Dignity in Dying).

The process took much longer than she expected. “She hadn’t realised that it would take her so long to die after she stopped drinking,” he daughter told the media. “She thought it might take three days. It took a fortnight.” Before dying her mother… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
25
 

Is conflict of interest a real problem for doctors?

In this YouTube video Aaron E. Carroll, a paediatrician at Indiana University School of Medicine and a blogger at The Incidental Economist, explains why it is important for doctors to be aware of potential conflicts of interest.

“This ‘magical thinking’ that somehow we, ourselves, are immune to what we are sure will influence others is why conflict of interest regulations exist in the first place. We simply cannot be accurate judges of what’s affecting us.”

An excellent introduction to an important topic. (For the related New York Times blog post, click here.)

click here to read whole article and make comments



 
October
25
 

Bioethics consultancies: the way of the future?

Informal bioethics consulting has been common in many countries for decades. But ethicists in the US are attempting to formalise the practice, creating independent ‘ethics consulting’ services for healthcare professionals and scientists. 

Ethics committees such as institutional review boards (IRBs) tend to have a narrow focus and their guidance is often binding on healthcare professionals.

Ethical consulting services can provide important advice that goes beyond the jurisdiction of IRBs. They provide “an open space for talking about research ethics in a way that is not driven by the regulatory environment”, says Marion Danis, chief of the bioethics consultation service at NIH Clinical Center, a research hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. The can also provide valuable ‘second opinions’ to IRB’s, Danis said.

Benjamin Wilfond, director of the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children's Hospital in Washington, has set up the Clinical Research Ethics Consultation Collaborative, a group… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
25
 

Should all Ebola volunteers be quarantined?

Hundreds of foreign healthcare workers have been shuttling in and out of Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. They are altruistic, generous and brave. Should they be burdened with a 21-day quarantine when they return even if they do not have any symptoms of the disease? If so, fewer might go at a time when Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea need all the help they can get.

An example of the case for strict quarantine measures in the United States is Dr Craig Spencer, a 33-year-old physician who returned to New York City after working in Guinea. He felt fine, boarded a subway, went bowling with his fiancée and friends, and used a taxi. Then he developed a fever, which turned out to be Ebola.

Irresponsible, says Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan, in The New Republic, but characteristic of energetic young physicians. who have a “sense… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
25
 

Radical measures to prevent the spread of Ebola in hospitals

At least three US hospital systems are currently considering whether they withhold certain treatments from Ebola patients, in a bid to protect their doctors and nurses.  

The move comes after two nurses from Dallas were infected with the virus whilst treating a patient who had recently returned from West Africa.

Executives at University of Chicago Medicine are considering whether procedures such as inserting a breathing tube or putting a ventilator on a patient should be avoided due to the potential of exposure to the virus.  

“We have very little experience with [those procedures] except for Mr Thomas Duncan, who didn’t do well,” said Dr Emily Landon, a bioethicist and epidemiologist from the hospital. 

Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Health System is also considering whether certain ‘risky’ procedures could be avoided, as are managers from Intermountain Healthcare, which runs facilities in Utah. 

Geisinger is paying close attention to directives from the Centre for Disease Control… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
24
 

Assisted suicide debate intensifies in Scotland

British Anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing (CNK) has launched a major online campaign intended to derail a new assisted-suicide (AS) bill being debated in the Scottish parliament.

The proposed legislation, due to be discussed by the parliamentary justice committee next Tuesday, would make assisted suicide legal for people as young as 16 who suffering from “a terminal or life shortening illness”. 

The bill was originally moved by Margo MacDonald, an MSP who died in April following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. 

CNK’s online petition labels the proposed changes “unnecessary, unethical and uncontrollable”. Extant penalties, the petition states, “act as a strong deterrent to exploitation and abuse whilst giving prosecutorial discretion in hard cases.”

CNK spokesperson Dr Gordon MacDonald said that a change to the law would “place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives for fear of being a financial, emotional or care burden… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
24
 

Nasal cells allow paralyzed man to walk again

Scientists who developed a treatment to allow a paralysed man to walk again have spoken of the possibility of healing other debilitating nervous system conditions.  

Prof Geoffrey Raisman, of University College London’s Institute of Neurology, said the successful operation on paralysed fire-fighter Darek Fidyka opened the door to treating nervous system damage throughout the body.  

Thirty-eight-year-old Mr. Fidyka has regained feeling in his lower limbs after doctors transplanted olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) from his nose into his spinal cord. OECs are what allow the sense of smell to return when nerve cells in the nose are damaged. A few months after the transplant, Fidyka’s thigh muscles began to grow, and two years on he can walk with the help of a Zimmer frame. 

The ability to trigger nervous system repair has massive implications, says Professor Raisman. “There’s no reason to restrict this to spinal cord. We have… click here to read whole article and make comments




 
October
18
 

Italian nurse may have killed 38 nursing home patients

A 42-year-old Italian nurse has been arrested over one death in a nursing home in the northern city of Lugo. But she is suspected of killing as many as 38 because they annoyed her. According to Italian media Daniela Poggioli even took selfies with some of the dead patients. “In all my professional years of seeing shocking photos, there have been few like these,” said Alessandro Mancini, the chief prosecutor of Ravenna.

The police investigation will be difficult, as the alleged method was an injection of potassium chloride, which is undetectable after a few days.

Some of Ms Poggioli’s colleagues suspected that something was wrong because so many patients were dying, far more above the average. She was also uncooperative and gave some patients laxatives just before the next shift to inconvenience other nurses. She also used to give patients sedatives to ensure that they… click here to read whole article and make comments




 

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Drug tests in East Germany get “conceded pass”
25 Oct 2014
A sceptical look at synthetic biology
2 Nov 2014
British right-to-die campaigner starves herself to death
25 Oct 2014
Is conflict of interest a real problem for doctors?
25 Oct 2014
Bioethics consultancies: the way of the future?
25 Oct 2014