Is the antibiotic apocalypse nigh?

In practice contemporary bioethics assumes a constantly increasing standard of medicine. The challenge is to ensure that healthcare resources are distributed equitably.

But that could change with an “antibiotic apocalypse”. If bacteria develop a resistance to antibiotics, common infections and diseases would once again become killers and surgery and cancer therapies would be far less effective. Medicine would be set back a hundred years.

Unfortunately, that day may not be too far away. This week Chinese scientists announced that they had found a new mutation, the MCR-1 gene, which makes bacteria resistant to colostin, the antibiotic of last resort. A report in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases found colostin-resistant bacteria in a fifth of animals tested, 15% of raw meat samples and in 16 patients.

Prof Timothy Walsh, of the University of Cardiff, told BBC News:

"All the key players are now in place to make the post-antibiotic world a reality. If… click here to read whole article and make comments

The underground Dutch system for do-it-yourself euthanasia

The leading Dutch right-to-die society is seeking talks with the Dutch medical association (KNMG) for approval of a “peaceful pill” which will allow its members to kill themselves without the help of a doctor.

As usually happens in the progress of euthanasia, supporters are now telling the media that this already occurs illegally on a vast scale and that legislation is essential to guard against abuses.

People who believe that their lives are “complete”, need a pill, says the Dutch Association for a Voluntary End of Life (NVVE) in a recently-published policy paper. The details have yet to be worked out with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Security and Justice and the KNMG. As the NVVE acknowledges, the peaceful pill could be used to murder people, or taken impulsively by otherwise healthy people, or used by young people with mental health issues. Therefore the… click here to read whole article and make comments

Nitschke tells medical board to go to blazes

It took only a month for Australia’s leading right-to-die activist to tire of life without being able to teach people how to kill themselves. Philip Nitschke, who retained his medical registration last month only by agreeing not to promote suicide, has reneged.

In a dramatic press conference, he burned his medical practising certificate and announced that he would aggressively promote rational suicide. He said in a press statement:

30 years ago I left the Territory to study medicine in Sydney, 5 years later I returned and began my medical career here in this city, in Darwin Hospital. Today, and with considerable sadness, I announce the end of that 25 year medical career. I confirm this decision by burning my medical practicing certificate…..

However, he also asserted his right to use the title “doctor”, which medical authorities are likely to contest. He said defiantly:

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Indian doctor sues husband over pressure to abort twin daughters

A woman doctor in India has sued her husband and a hospital for pressuring her to abort twin girls. In a first-of-its-kind case, Mitu Khurana, a 39-year old doctor from Delhi, claims that her husband, Dr Kamal Khuran, secretly obtained an ultrasound of her daughters when she was pregnant with the collusion of the hospital. He then insisted that she should abort them, sometimes violently.

“If, despite all the evidence I have, the accused are allowed to escape then no other women will ever try to prosecute for this type of crime,” Mita Khurana told The Sunday Telegraph. “Ultrasounds in India always happen behind closed doors because every doctor knows it’s a crime and will never give the results in writing. If I lose this case it will close the door to any women who want to file complaints in the future”.

According to the Telegraph:

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Should British surrogates be paid?

Sydney Morning Herald /Simon Bosch    

There appears to be significant support for an overhaul of UK surrogacy laws. Earlier this week the UK Working Group on Surrogacy Law Reform published a report with various recommendations. Interestingly, these did not include a US style commercial model of surrogacy. According to a press release published with the report,

“The existing [legislative] model is not perfect, but it does provide a workable basis from which improvements can be made, and there are aspects of the existing law which should be retained. The retention of altruistic surrogacy in the UK is also aligned with public policy governing other areas of assisted reproduction in the UK, including gamete donation.”

In an article in the Guardian this week, a woman who used a surrogate mother to have her twins four years ago spoke of… click here to read whole article and make comments

Run that past me again: forced-feeding is not OK in Guantanamo, but is OK in nursing homes?

A US medical academic has made a scathing attack on the practice of force feeding elderly patients. Writing in the New York Times, Dr. Haider Javed Warraich of Duke University Medical Center compared the practice to the force feeding of patients in Guantanamo Bay:

“The practice of forced feeding has been highlighted by its use on hunger strikers in Guantánamo Bay… But you don’t have to be in prison to have a feeding tube jammed up your nose. Millions of elderly Americans are fed through tubes despite a lack of substantial evidence pointing to any clinical benefit.”

According to Haider, tube feeding is often administered as a result of family who refuse to accept that a disease has progressed beyond the possibility of remedy. But doctors are often just as much to blame, he writes.

“Doctors are known to be an overly optimistic bunch, and a… click here to read whole article and make comments

Victoria’s sperm donor anonymity overhaul

The government of the Australian state of Victoria may overhaul sperm donor anonymity rules, to give all donor conceived children access to information about their fathers.

Under proposed legislation, the identity of men who donated sperm anonymously in the 1970s and 80s will be made available to their offspring. At present, access depends on when a child was born, with those conceived before 1988 having no right to identifying information, unlike those conceived in subsequent years. The government's reforms will mean that details will now be provided to all donor-conceived children regardless of when they were born – and more importantly, regardless of whether their donor agrees.

Victorian health minister Jill Hennessy has described the current legislation as promoting  inequality "based simply on arbitrary time frames".

"Whether it's to know more about their heritage, to learn their medical history, or so that they can try to connect… click here to read whole article and make comments

Concerns over proposed changes to consent in US research

Concerns have been raised about proposed revision of  US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) human research ethics regulations. The HHS is suggesting changes regarding the regulation of the use of biospecimens for research, the supervision of multicentre studies, and the need for ethics oversight for trials not involving invasive interventions.

Specifically, the HHS would require scientists to obtain explicit consent from patients before using their blood or tissue for research. The new protocol is designed to prevent issues like the case of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose tissue was used without permission in cancer research for decades.  

But a number of specialists are concerned that the new rules would add unnecessary red tape to research.

"It's now going to be much more onerous to get this tissue that otherwise would just go in the trash," says Dr. Luis Garza, a Johns Hopkins… click here to read whole article and make comments

CRISPR-mania in China

The new CRISPR as a technology only really came into the public spotlight last year. But already dozens, if not hundreds, of Chinese research hubs are using the technique on a range of animals.

CRISPR research is being supported in China via grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Science and Technology as well as provincial governments.

In the past year alone, numerous articles have been published in leading journals documenting the use of CRISPR by Chinese scientists to create genetically enhanced goats, sheep, pigs, monkeys and dogs, among other mammals. In a September edition of Nature’s Scientific Reports, for example, geneticists Xiaolong Wang and Yulin Chen from Northwest A&F University published the results of study into enhancing goat muscle and hair growth. In early-stage goat embryos the researchers had successfully deleted two genes which suppress both hair and muscle growth.… click here to read whole article and make comments

Medicos a ‘military target’ in Syria

The war in Syria has taken a massive toll on the country’s healthcare system – 95% of doctors have fled, been detained or killed in the besieged eastern city of Aleppo.

A new report released by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) this month gives detailed insight into the grave effects of the war on Aleppo medicos. Some of the more striking findings of the report include:

- The ratio of physicians to Aleppo residents is eight times less than what it was in 2010. Currently there is one doctor for every 7,000 residents, compared to one doctor for every 800 residents in 2010.

- Only 10 hospitals – 30% of the 33 functioning hospitals in 2010 – were functioning as of August 2015.

- There are only 80 physicians working in Aleppo (approximately 5% of Aleppo’s pre-war physician population).

- To date, the Syrian government has launched 45… click here to read whole article and make comments

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