Ontario doctors preparing for battle over conscience rights

A draft policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario demands that physicians must provide services to prevent imminent “harm, suffering and/or deterioration,” even if doing so is contrary to their moral beliefs. Critics of the new policy fear that they will be forced to violate their conscience.

The draft policy says:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) protects the right to freedom of conscience and religion. Although physicians have this freedom under the Charter, the Supreme Court of Canada has determined that no rights are absolute. The right to freedom of conscience and religion can be limited, as necessary, to protect public safety, order, health, morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. Where physicians choose to limit the health services they provide for moral or religious reasons, this may impede access to care resulting in a violation of… click here to read whole article and make comments


A transhumanist in conversation

Zoltan Istvan is an American writer, futurist and philosopher. He is also perhaps the best-known proponent of transhumanism movement. He spoke with BioEdge earlier this week. 

Q. The latest news in transhumanist circles, I gather, is that you will be running for President of the United States in 2016. What do you have to offer that the other candidates don’t?

A: Transhumanists are often seen as a strange group of people, and despite some of my radical ideas, I manage to remain very normal in daily life. I'm married, have two sweet kids, am an entrepreneur, and have worked for notable companies before, such as National Geographic. I think I can share the positive possibilities of transhumanism with the general public quite well. I think that's my greatest asset as a candidate--being a normal guy with futurist ideas. 

Q. If elected, what are some key… click here to read whole article and make comments


UK may offer free weight-loss surgery to fight epidemic

The UK government should offer free weight loss surgery to thousands more people in order to tackle an epidemic of type 2 diabetes, according to expert advice.

A quarter of Britons are obese, fuelling a rise in cases of type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease, fatty liver disease and cancer. Last year, 6,500 weight loss procedures were performed. Another 5,000 weight loss surgeries will be carried out each year if the government accepts the advice of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Dr Rachel Batterham, Head of Obesity and Bariatric Services at University College London Hospital Trust, says “The health benefits of weight loss surgery are so great that it should be considered as part of the treatment for obese diabetics. The earlier you have the surgery in your diabetes course, then the more likely you are to have remission or a… click here to read whole article and make comments


Remembering the dark story of Peru’s population control campaign

The Quipu Project is an interactive documentary about women and men who were sterilised in Peru in the mid-1990s by population controllers, often without informed consent. Using VOIP telephone lines and a web interface, researchers are gathering testimony from women in isolated communities high in the Andes. Many are illiterate and speak only Quechua, the principal indigenous language.

In the video above Francisca Quispe Pontenciano recalls the circumstances which led to her sterilisation. It makes painful listening.

This horrific story is hardly known outside of Peru. “I was working for Amnesty International in Peru in the 1990s and nobody knew this was going on,” Matthew Brown, of the University of Bristol, in the UK, told Prospect. “Awareness has been growing in the last three years, partly because of our project and partly because of the efforts of victims groups. These women were sterilised at 20 and now they are… click here to read whole article and make comments


Should severely disabled infants be euthanased?

Two of the leading voices in bioethics have a fascinating head-to-head confrontation on the euthanasia of severely disabled infants in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. Udo Schuklenk, of  Queen's University, in Canada, the  co-editor of the journal Bioethics, and Gilbert Meilaender, of Valparaiso University, in Indiana, discuss the ethics of, in Schuklenk’s words, “what would amount to postnatal abortion”.

The arguments of both men are familiar, but succinct and quotable.

Arguing from a quality-of-life standpoint, Schuklenk writes that “Once we have concluded that death is what is in the best interest of the infant, it is unreasonable not to bring about this death as painlessly and as much controlled in terms of timing by the parents as is feasible.”

After dismissing arguments drawn from human dignity, sanctity-of-life, and the principle of double effect, Schuklenk still has to explain… click here to read whole article and make comments


Thai parliament votes to ban the surrogacy trade

Thailand’s interim parliament has voted in support of a bill to ban commercial surrogacy in the country.

National Legislative Assembly member Chet Siratharanon said the parliament approved the draft bill after a preliminary reading on Thursday. A finalised version of the bill is expected within the next 30 days.

The decision comes in the wake of a number of international scandals involving Thai surrogate mothers paid to carry the babies of foreigners.

In August, a Thai mother who carried twin babies for an Australian couple accused them of abandoning a baby boy with Down's syndrome while taking his healthy sister.

Following this scandal, a separate police investigation began into a Japanese man who authorities believe fathered at least 15 babies with different surrogate mothers.

Commercial surrogacy was… click here to read whole article and make comments


An eloquent defense of euthanasia by organ removal

The notion of death by organ removal is sullied by its association with Aztec human sacrifices and the pleasant little English practice of hanging, drawing and quartering for treason. But the practice may make a come back, albeit in a more humane and respectable form.

In an influential article published in the journal Bioethics, Oxford bioethicists Julian Savulescu and Dominic Wilkinson present a rational defence of what they label ‘organ donation euthanasia’. The practice, as they describe in the article, involves the steady removal of a patients’ organs after they have been put under anaesthetic. “Death”, the authors write, “follows the removal of the heart”.

In contrast to previous precedents, the process is – in theory – relatively pain free. Patients are under a total anaesthetic while their vital organs are harvested. And furthermore, it… click here to read whole article and make comments


Harvesting of executed prisoners’ organs will cease by 2015 - Chinese government

The head of China’s organ donation committee, Dr. Huang Jiefu, has announced that the harvesting of executed prisoners’ organs will end at the start of next year.

Speaking at a conference in the southern city of Kunming on Wednesday, Dr. Huang said that only voluntary donation of organs will continue:

"From the 1st of January 2015, there will be a cessation in the use of organs from executed prisoners; voluntary donation following the death of citizens will be the only means used for organ procurement”.

Dr. Huang said that an organ shortage would ensue following the end of this controversial practice. China currently has one of the lowest rates of voluntary organ donation in the world – a mere 0.6 per 1 million people.

Nevertheless, the rate of donation has increased in the past year. “I believe the organ donation… click here to read whole article and make comments


Raise your hand if you are a courageous, individualistic thinker

A couple of years ago, one of the stories in BioEdge was titled: “Conservatives more likely to be psychopaths, says Florida prof”. It was a terrific, popular and completely accurate headline. The academic’s message was that conservative political views were associated with Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy. There was only a 1 in 100,000 chance that his findings are wrong, he said.

What about conservatives applying for positions in universities, then? If the interviewing panel regards them as psychopaths, they are unlikely to land a job. Universities have enough problems without filling desks with wannabe Hannibal Lecters.

While the Florida prof’s findings might seem absurdly exaggerated, it appears that his view of conservatives is widely shared by social psychologists. And this, says the famous liberal social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, is a serious problem.

In the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences (pre-print PDF), Haidt and several colleagues,… click here to read whole article and make comments


Super surgeon who uses stem cells accused of unethical conduct

Has the stem cell jinx struck again? A world-famous Italian researcher has been accused of failing to obtain ethical approval for operations and misleading medical journals about the success of his research. Paolo Macchiarini, an Italian with a global reputation for building new windpipes with scaffolding constructed with stem cells, appears to be facing serious allegations.

“Since the accusations against Dr Macchiarini are serious and detailed, I considered that they should be thoroughly investigated,” said Anders Hamsten, vice chancellor of Sweden’s famous Karolinska Institute.

Dr Macchiarini denies the allegations. “We have never ever manipulated data,” he told the New York Times, nor did he ignore regulations about informed consent. ,

Dr Macciarini is a colourful character whose experimental windpipe operations have been on the front page of major newspapers around the world over the past few years. “I'm like a wild animal that does not need to be in a cage, I… click here to read whole article and make comments


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