India and China are not the only countries with lop-sided sex ratios due to sex-selective abortions. Georgia, a former member of the USSR in the Caucasus with a population of about 4.5 million, has a distorted sex ratio at birth of 114 boys to 100 girls. One-third of the 36,000 abortion performed last year in Georgia were for sex selection. The natural ratio is about 105 to 100.
"Those figures really took demographers by surprise. No one had expected sex selection to spread to that area, but as in much of East Asia, the abortion rate is quite high," Mara Hvistendahl, author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, told Radio Free Europe.
Euthanasia claimed its most famous victim last Saturday. At the age of 95, Belgian Nobel laureate Christian de Duve was killed with a lethal injection. He died in his home, surrounded by his four children.
He had planned his death for weeks and even explained his reasons and his philosophy of life in a long interview with the Belgian newspaper Le Soir. This was published immediately after his demise. Apparently de Duve had cancer, but he had also fallen down on April 1 and spent several humiliating hours on the floor. He took it as a sign of worse to come and decided to set a date for his euthanasia – which is legal in Belgium.
Controversy continues to rage over whether or not to establish a market in organs to shorten steadily growing waiting lists. One objection is that applying a market model will result in exploitation and moral corruption.
Armin Falk, of the University of Bonn, and Nora Szech, of the University of Bamberg, claim that in comparison to non-market decisions, people’s moral standards are significantly lower if they participate in markets.
In a number of different experiments, several hundred subjects were confronted with the moral decision between receiving a monetary amount and killing a laboratory mouse versus saving the life of a mouse and foregoing the monetary amount.
Like many women, she felt that she was exempt from age-related fertility decline. When she marries in her mid-30s, she was shocked to discover that she had endometrial cysts on her ovaries. Then she turned to IVF treatment. When that failed after four cycles, she turned to two egg donors. These both failed.
Drawing on her own experience, Zoll has written an eye-opening memoir. As a professional human rights and health advocate, she is well-qualified to investigate the fertility industry. It is not a cheerful story. She writes:
The concept of 'wrongful birth' has suffered another defeat, this time in Australia. A New South Wales couple has lost a case in which they sued an IVF specialist for failing to indicate their child's chance of a disability.
Lawrence and Debbie Waller lodged the claim against Dr Christopher James, a gynaecologist who helped them conceive their son by IVF. They claim that Dr. James did not inform them of the 50% chance that their son would inherit a rare blood-clotting condition, antithrombin deficiency.
A few days after birth in August 2000, their son Keeden had a stroke which left him disabled for life. The Wallers claimed the stroke occurred partly because of a blood-clotting condition inherited from his father.
Poland's Justice Minster was sacked this week after accusing German scientists of importing Polish embryos for experiments. Jaroslaw Gowin, a well-known conservative figure in Poland's centre-right Civic Platform party, was dismissed on Monday by Prime Minister Donald Tusk. In an interview on Polish television last week, Gowin claimed that "German scientists are importing embryos from other countries, probably also from Poland, and conducting experiments on them".
Tusk claimed that he sacked Gowin not for his opposition to IVF but rather because of his abrasive style: 'I have no time to comment every week on a minister's behaviour only because he goes too far in politicising the issues which are in the realm of his public activity', he told Polskie Radio. Gowin has defended his comments, citing information from Polish doctors working in IVF clinics.
A media firestorm broke out last week after Harvard’s celebrity economic historian Niall Ferguson offered a crude assessment of the key to Keyesian economics. At a conference in the US last week, he said Keynes did not care about future generations because he was a homosexual and therefore childless. Subsequently Ferguson made an “unqualified apology” on his blog.
Instead of baying about homophobia in the media pack, London columnist Brendan O’Neill ran down a different angle on Keynes: that he was a eugenicist zealot. A number of commentators have recalled that Keynes was director of the British Eugenics Society from 1937 to 1944. Keynes called eugenics "the most important, significant and, I would add, genuine branch of sociology which exists." In one of his unpublished essays, he endorsed the legalisation of birth control because of the irresponsibility of working-class Britons:
For A$12,000 Global Health travel is offering 11 days in a luxury Bangkok hotel while couples undergo IVF treatment to choose a baby boy or girl. Cells are taken from the three-day-old embryo for gender screening, and a boy or girl is implanted before the pregnant woman flies home a few days later.
''Some people bring their whole family and make a holiday of it,'' Global Health Travel managing director Cassandra Italia said yesterday. ''It isn't something just the wealthy are doing, and we get 10 to 20 inquiries a month.''
Remember the battle over what brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo would have wanted if she were conscious? The case for removing life support rested on the claim that she had said that she would have wanted a feeding tube to be removed. With more cases like hers coming before the courts, lawyers are advising people to make living wills. But how valid are statements, oral or written, made in the past about present preferences?
A recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics tackles this difficult topic. In “Significance of Past Statements: Speech Act Theory”, Joanne Gordon contends that past utterances do not always express a person’s preferences for how she would like to be treated. They can only be intended to provoke a psychological reaction in her listeners.
In late February last year, two Italian academics working at Monash University in Australia flicked a match into a highly combustible pile of old abortion debates, caricatures of pointy-headed academics, news-hungry journalists and recycled Go-Home-Peter-Singer posters.
Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva’s article in the UK-based Journal of Medical Ethics was “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” It wasn’t a very original argument for the morality of infanticide – Peter Singer and Michael Tooley had made the same point decades ago – but the arresting title tossed even more petrol on the blaze. The authors contended that the same reasons which justify abortion are also sufficient to justify killing a child up for an unspecified time after birth.