The most famous clinical trial of all time was Edward Jenner’s experiment with a smallpox vaccine. He had a hunch that exposure to cowpox would protect humans against smallpox. So he immunised James Phipps, the son of his gardener, and then deliberately infected him with smallpox after six weeks and later on as well, another 20 times. “Poor Phipps” did not die, at least not of smallpox, and his cooperation saved hundreds of millions of lives.
This is a milestone in modern medicine, but Jenner’s experiment would not pass an ethics review nowadays. For one thing, Phipps hardly gave his informed consent. However, unknown to most people, Jenner’s methodology is still used. Healthy people are being infected and observed to see whether they become ill (or die). Nowadays the technique is called a Human Challenge Study (HCS).
Commentators have clashed over the US Supreme Court’s decision not rule on a case involving the forced provision of contraceptives by Catholic order Little Sisters of the Poor.
On May 16 SCOTUS announced, in a unanimous decision, that it would not decide the case on its merits but instead sent the case back down to the lower courts for opposing parties to work out a compromise. The court said that in the course of litigation both parties had clarified their position and that they should be able to “arrive at an approach”.
Supporters of the plaintiffs saw the decision as a victory.
Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journalsuggested that the case represented a direct attack on religious groups in society:
Doctors have clear ethical obligations to patients in an end-of-life situation. But what if those patients don’t realise they’re at the end of their lives?
A new study by US researchers suggests that advanced cancer patients have a very poor understanding of their own condition, and that they are typically in need of regular updates on their prognosis from doctors.
Dr. Holly G. Prigerson of New York Presbyterian Hospital worked with a team of three researchers to investigate how much terminal cancer patients understand about their own illness. The team interviewed 178 patients with advanced cancers whom oncologists expected to die within 6 months. Illness understanding scores were taken based on the patient’s acknowledgement of their terminal and advanced condition, and their expectation that they would live months instead of years. The results, published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology on Monday, were quite alarming.
In a landmark decision, the High Court in the UK has ruled that it is discriminatory to prevent single men or women from becoming the parents of babies born to surrogate mothers. The government will probably have to update its legislation to make it compatible with the ruling.
Until now, only couples in a stable relationship could become parents of a child born to a surrogate mother. Single people could adopt children, but they were not automatically entitled to be regarded as a parent if their child was born to a surrogate.
In this case an unnamed man used his sperm, a donor egg and a surrogate mother in Minnesota to create a child, who is called “Z” in court documents. But when he brought the baby back to the UK, he was not regarded as a parent, but rather the surrogate mother. (Ironically, in the US, the…
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Here’s an interesting promotional video for a Ukranian surrogacy clinic, BioTexCom. The company’s website advertises in Ukranian, Chinese, Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, Arabic and Romanian, which gives an idea of the breadth of its market. The promotional blurb declares, “There is no absolute infertility! We treat even the most hopeless infertility cases.”
BioTexCom is the epitome of commercial,not altruistic, surrogacy. There are three levels of service: economy (29,900 Euros), standard (39,900 Euros), and VIP (49,900 Euros). The “standard” service offers pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of embryos, a 4-hour babysitter, paediatric consultation, a hotel and gourmet lunches. For “the most fastidious customers” who enrol for the VIP package there is limousine transport, a 9am-6pm babysitter and on-call paediatric advice. Its marketing on the web and social media is professional and energetic.
“There is great potential in germline therapy. There are clearly diseases that you could help by editing the germline. This is a case of a new technology where there are significant potential benefits, but also significant ethical implications.”
A protest against sexual violence in Jakarta earlier this month.
Chemical castration will be a sentencing option for judge in Indonesia. President Joko Widodo has signed a decree authorizing this penalty for convicted child sex offenders. Those who have been released on parole must wear electronic monitoring devices.
The announcement follows outrage over the gang rape of a 14-year-old girl in Sumatra when she was on her way home from school. Mr Joko said that:
“The inclusion of such an amendment will provide space for the judge to decide severe punishments as a deterrent effect on perpetrators”.
“These crimes have undermined the development of children, and these crimes have disturbed our sense of peace, security and public order. So, we will handle it in an extraordinary way.”
Focusing specifically on the case of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, the researchers argue that extreme beliefs need not entail psychotic disorder. “… some people without psychotic mental illness feel so strongly about their beliefs that they take extreme actions.”, lead author Tahir Rahman said in an interview. “Our suggested term for criminally violent behavior when psychosis can be ruled out is ‘extreme overvalued belief.’”
The articles in the edition are the product of a Symposium on the Definition of Death held at The Catholic University of America in June 2014. That Symposium brought together scholars from a variety of disciplines— law, medicine, biology, philosophy, and theology—who all share a commitment to the dead-donor rule and to a biological definition of death, but who have differing opinions regarding the validity of neurological criteria for human death.
Significant figures in Catholic bioethics in the North America – including Maureen Condic, Melissa Moschella, Patrick Lee and E. Christian Brugger – offer their views on what sort of conditions signal the death of a patient.
Legalisation of physician-assisted suicide in four American states left out one thing: a name for what happens. The laws in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California specify only that what happens is not suicide. An English name for this phenomenon was a topic raised at the 2016 Conference World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies in Amsterdam earlier this month.
Members of the Alt-Suicide group, an American-based internet forum which includes some of the leading names in “choosing an early exit at the end of life”, considered 31 words and phrases in 2014. These included Cathartic Death, Deliberate Life Completion, Exiting, Rational Life Termination, Non Adscititious [sic] Death, Consensual Murder, and Rational and Loving Suicide. “Dying with Dignity” was the favourite in a small survey.