Switzerland will hold a constitutional referendum on June 14 to decide whether to legalize preimplanation genetic testing. Swiss law currently only permits three embryos to be created in IVF treatment because this is the number which can be immediately implanted. If the constitution is altered, it will be possible to create 12 embryos, some of which could be tested for genetic diseases and the others can be frozen.
While nearly all the political parties support the amendment, it faces a substantial opposition. Marco Romano, a parliamentarian for the centre Christian Democrats, was in favour of it until he spoke to doctors in a clinic:
“I spoke at length with a professor and I had the impression that the specialists want to use anything that technology makes possible, to the point of playing with life, reducing it to a point that is almost banal …
Italian celebrity surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who created artificial windpipes with cadaver-derived scaffolding and stem cells, has been found guilty of scientific misconduct by an investigator from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.
Dr Macchiarini’s operations were widely reported and seemed to bring almost miraculous relief to three patients. But the post-operative reality was different. Two of the patients have died, and the third has been hospitalized in intensive care for nearly three years.
The investigation was prompted by doctors caring for the patients who found that their condition was not nearly as good as Dr Macchiarini described in his publications. According to the investigator, the surgeon “omitted some data and also fabricated or falsified some data regarding the postoperative state of patients”.
A woman at the centre of a debate over euthanasia in India has died after 42 years in a minimally conscious state. In 1973 Aruna Shanbaug, a 25-year-old nurse in Mumbai, was brutally assaulted and strangled by a contract cleaner. She did not die, but was left severely brain-damaged.
In 2010 journalist Pinki Virani applied on her behalf for euthanasia. The case went all the way to the Indian Supreme Court which decided that while “passive euthanasia” by withdrawing nutrition and hydration might be permitted, the decision was up to her surrogate decision-maker. In Aruna’s case it was King Edward Memorial Hospital and it adamantly supported on-going palliative care.
Do we really need ever-more accurate tests to detect Down syndrome in unborn children? This is the question posed by Canadian bioethicist Chris Kaposy in the Impact Ethics blog. He questions “a ‘corporate arms race’ to develop prenatal tests for Down syndrome that are accurate and less invasive, cheaper, easier to administer, and that can be administered earlier in pregnancy than previous methods of testing.” Most of the time – some estimates are as high as 90% -- women who test positive undergo an abortion.
“The larger ethical question,” he writes, “is whether this pursuit of profit is good for people who have Down syndrome or even good for the rest of us.”
The fear of a miserable death in a hospital bed rather than at home is driving public support for mercy-killing law in the UK, a Birmingham City University academic has warned.
Responding to a report published on Wednesday by The UK Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, listing some of the worst cases in recent years of terminally ill patients dying without dignity, Timothy James, senior lecturer in Medical Law and Ethics at Birmingham City University, said: "For most people, dying at home isn't about autonomy, it's about dealing with the fear of dying in a hospital with poor end of life care. The fear of dying in misery in a hospital is what is driving the assisted dying debate."
Victorino Chua, 49, described by detectives as a narcissistic psychopath, injected insulin into saline bags and ampoules while working on two acute wards at Stepping Hill hospital, Stockport, in June and July 2011.
In addition to two patients who died from the insulin overdose, another patient suffered severe brain damage and dozens of others grievous bodily harm.
Chua took the insulin from unlocked fridges in Stepping Hill’s treatment rooms.
When a forensic scientist examined some of the saline bags, it was noticed that there was a small v-shaped cut to the rubber septum of the resealable bung and two puncture holes to the inner membrane of the bung consistent with a hypodermic needle.
Regulators in the United States and Australia are examining the burgeoning field of stem cell therapies. Using patients’ own stem cells extracted from fatty deposits in their bodies, doctors are treating dozens of conditions ranging from sports injuries to multiple sclerosis to dementia to hair loss.
However, the doctors don’t know how the stem cells work and there often is no evidence that they do work, other than optimistic anecdotes. According to a report by AP, more than 190 clinics in the United States are offering stem cell therapies. "It's sort of this 21st century cutting-edge technology. But the way it's being implemented at these clinics and how it's regulated is more like the 19th century. It's a Wild West," says Dr. Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher at the University of California at Davis.
About 70% American women who resort to IVF to have a child go into debt. According to a small survey reported in the Wall Street Journal, 44% borrow more than US$10,000.
“Why all this debt? IVF is expensive. Each treatment can cost $15,000 to $20,000, and for most women, health insurance doesn’t cover it. More than 80% of the women in Prosper’s survey underwent at least two IVF treatments, or ‘cycles.’”
The imperative to have a child is so great that women are deferring other important expenditure, including buying a home, to pay for fertility treatment.
“If treatment costs don’t fall, they could become a big source of financial stress for the growing ranks of Americans putting off families to achieve some modicum of security. Before saving for Junior’s college education, couples may need to save up to have Junior himself.”
Daniel P. Sulmasy is the Kilbride-Clinton Professor of Medicine and Ethics in the Department of Medicine and Divinity School at the University of Chicago, where he serves as Associate Director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics and as Director of the Program on Medicine and Religion. He is also a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (PCSBI). Professor Sulmasy has written numerous books on topics related to bioethics, and published many articles in bioethics and medical ethics journals.
In this exclusive interview with BioEdge, Professor Sulmasy shared his thoughts on the complex notion of informed consent.
Xavier Symons: Some academics deride the ‘fetishization’ of informed consent or the ‘cult of consent’. What's going on? Most of us see it as our greatest safeguard.
Somewhere between 6,000 and 20,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are drifting in the Andaman Sea while neighbouring countries take turns to deny them entry.
“What we have now is a game of maritime Ping-Pong,” Joe Lowry, of the International Organization for Migration in Bangkok, told the New York Times. “It’s maritime Ping-Pong with human life. What’s the endgame? I don’t want to be too overdramatic, but if these people aren’t treated and brought to shore soon, we are going to have a boat full of corpses.”
Why are they fleeing? “It’s a combination of things,” says one observer. “Their lives have become worse and worse.”
One reason is probably old-fashioned population control. The parliament of Burma (officially known as the Union of Myanmar) recently passed a new “population control” bill that could represent a serious setback for the country’s maternal health advances if implemented in…
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