Iran is to ban vasectomies and female sterilization in an effort to reverse its plummeting birth rate and ageing population. A bill has passed parliament and only remains to be approved by the Guardian Council. Doctors who perform procedures such as vasectomies or tubal ligation, could face fines and prison sentences. Journalists will also be prosecuted if they publicise birth control or other family planning measures.
The bill follows years of concern by Iran’s rulers about its demography. After the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the government encouraged large families. Afterwards, however, a big population was regarded as a drag on development. The government promoted contraception, so much so that the birth rate fell from about 6.0 to less than 2.0.
Dear old Dick Dawkins is in hot water again after asserting on Twitter that it is “immoral” to allow Down Syndrome babies to be born. Dawkins, a popular genetist, campaigner for atheism and the former Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, found it a bit difficult to explain the subtler points of his thought in the 140-character limit of tweets.
However, he appears to have embraced Peter Singer’s version of utilitarianism, animal rights and veganism. He said that the central question in the abortion debate was not “is it 'human'?" but "can it suffer?”. He went on to insist that people should object to abortion if they eat meat.
who is more susceptible to euthanasia or assisted suicide?
In the on-going debate over euthanasia, there are seldom any new arguments. A favourite of those in favour of legalisation argue that the wishes of people who are competent and able to make a rational choice deserve to have their autonomy respected. A favourite of those against contend that the vulnerable – the poor, the disabled and the elderly – will be victimised.
One strand of evidence favours euthanasia supporters. In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, most of the people who take advantage of it, according to the figures for 2013 are white (94%), male (62%) and well-educated (53% with a college degree). There are no estimates of income, but well-educated white males tend to be wealthier than average and, significantly, not vulnerable.
Adoption and new reproduction technologies are placing new strains on what “parent” means in contemporary society. Because of “the evidence of family diversity and children’s views about who is a parent”, the Council has recommended that the word “parent” be replaced by “other significant adults” or “other people of significance to the child” and that references to “both” (which implies only two) parents should be omitted.
There are many kinds of parents, the Council points out: legal, adoptive, genetic, intending, psychological, social and surrogate, amongst others.
An Italian judge has settled a bitter custody battle for IVF twins by awarding them to the birth mother. The case, which has gripped Italy, is a worst case scenario for IVF clinics. Two women with similar names underwent IVF in Rome’s Sandro Pertini hospital. The embryos were switched and one couple miscarried.
Three months later the woman bearing the twins had a genetic test which revealed that they were not related to her. The genetic parents claimed the twins but the birth mother, Francesca, and her partner, Paulo, are refusing to give them up. Under Italian law, the birth mother is clearly the legal mother.
The new Thai military government is moving swiftly to crush the lucrative surrogacy industry. This week two Australian same-sex couples and two American couples were prevented from leaving Thailand with a baby. The as-yet-unwritten legislation leaves 200 more surrogate mothers and their Australian clients in legal limbo.
Until now, commercial surrogacy was banned in Australia and discouraged in Thailand. However, taking advantage of numerous loopholes, it has become an important feature of Thailand’s booming medical tourism industry.
Under a new law women will be forbidden to carry babies for commercial purposes and surrogacy will be restricted to relatives. The penalties will be severe: 10 years in jail and a fine.
However, Nandana Indananda, a Bangkok-based lawyer who helped draft the new surrogacy law, told Deutsche Welle that surrogacy as such will not be banned.
Bioethical debates about whether to administer an experimental drug for Ebola victims are interesting and necessary. But only a handful of doses are available anyway and hundreds of people are dying in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. According to the latest update from the World Health Organisation, 2,127 cases and 1,145 deaths have been reported. But it has also declared that “the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak”.
“Extraordinary measures,” are needed, it says, “on a massive scale, to contain the outbreak in settings characterized by extreme poverty, dysfunctional health systems, a severe shortage of doctors, and rampant fear.”
In view of the emergency, the three worst affected countries have taken the most drastic step possible – drawing a “cordon sanitaire” around the areas where the outbreak is most virulent. The perimeter is guarded by soldiers and no one is allowed…
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India’s child sex ratio (CSR) – the number of girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 — has deteriorated sharply over the past 20 years, dropping to 918 in 2011 from 945 in 1991, even though levels of education and wealth have risen significantly.
The report emphasises that sex-selective abortion has decreased in traditionally problematic regions, mostly in the north, but increased significantly in other areas. In the northwestern state of Punjab, where the CSR was extremely low, the number of female children per 1,000 male children rose to 846 in 2011 from 798 in 2001.
Two incidents this week show opposing responses to publicising suicides. In the US, comedian Robin Williams committed suicide, leading to an outpouring of grief by the public and horror by experts in media ethics. In Australia, controversial assisted suicide activist Dr Philip Nitschke resumed publicity for his do-it-yourself suicide kits.
The “sensational headlines” and “unnecessary detail” of media reports -- as exemplified by the New York Post's lurid page -- were slammed around the globe. Dr. Mike Jempson, lecturer at the University of the West of England, called some of the media reports “textbook examples of how not to report a suicide”:
“[Williams death] seems to have given some newspapers a green light to “go off on one” – delving into his psyche with gay abandon, detailing the precise method of his suicide, and indulging in unhelpful speculation about its causes with little regard for the grief of…
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Gennadij Raivich, a professor of perinatal medicine and neuroscience at University College London is the author of publications like “Investigation of cerebral autoregulation in the newborn piglet during anaesthesia and surgery” and “Methyl-isobutyl amiloride reduces brain Lac/NAA, cell death and microglial activation in a perinatal asphyxia mode”. There are 153 of these listed on his website.
Interestingly, 15 satisfied female “customers” from all over the country spoke in his defence, including a police officer, maths teacher and lecturer, some of whom had two and in one case three of his children via what he called “Artificial Insemination Plus”.