“The no jab, no pay” welfare plan, which has bipartisan support in the Australian federal parliament, will require of parents that they immunise their children against serious infectious diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and polio.
Parents who refuse to immunise their children could lose up to A$2100 per child per year in welfare payments.
Social services minister Scott Morrison, who announced the plan, said that the medical community was united in its support for universal vaccination, and that “objections” were no long acceptable.
“The overwhelming advice of those in the health profession is it’s the smart thing and the right thing to do to immunise your children.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for the disclosure of results from clinical trials for medical products, whatever the result. The move aims to ensure that decisions related to the safety and efficacy of vaccines, drugs and medical devices for use by populations are supported by the best available evidence.
“Our intention is to promote the sharing of scientific knowledge in order to advance public health,” said WHO official Marie-Paule Kieny. “It underpins the principal goal of medical research: to serve the betterment of humanity.”
According to WHO, there is increasing empirical evidence to suggest that the results of many clinical trials are suppressed from the public. One study that analysed the reporting from large clinical trials (more than 500 participants) registered on ClinicalTrials.gov and completed by 2009 found that 23% had not reported any results. These unreported trials included nearly 300,000 participants.
A series of cases in Tennessee suggests that women may be trading sterilization for reduced jail sentences in the US. According to a report by AP, Nashville prosecutors have done deals with women at least four times in the past five years.
In the latest case, a 36-year-old woman with a long history of mental illness, Jasmine Randers was charged with neglect after her 5-day-old baby mysteriously died during the night. Her lawyer alleges that the prosecution refused to discuss a plea bargain unless she agreed to be sterilized.
In conjunction with similar incidents in Virginia, West Virginia and California, lawyers think that many sterilizations may be organised out of view by the public and the courts. "It's always been more of 'If your client is willing to do this, then I might be inclined to talk about probation,'" one lawyer commented.
According to researchers at TwinsUK, a registry of identical and non-idential twins, genes are the best predictor of how people will vote. “Our choices at the polling booth may not be as free or rational as we would like to believe,” they conclude in The Conversation.
“We found that voting Conservative (or not) is strongly influenced by genetics. When it came to voting Tory, we found that 57% of the variability (differences or similarity) between people’s voting preferences were due to genetic effects,” writes Professor Tim Spector, of Kings College London. The percentages for UKIP were 51% and for both Labor and the Green Party 48%.
Only a vote for the Liberal Democrats could not be explained by genetics.
The father of modern criminology, the Italian sociologist Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) believed that criminality was genetically determined. A “born criminal” could be detected by the presence of a long list of “stigmata” such as an asymmetrical faces, sloping forehead, large ears or left-handedness. This idea has been largely discredited, but, it flowers as soon as water floods the desert sands.
However, the medical profession is far less confident. Adding to the chorus of researchers and clinicians is an article in The Lancet which calls for a more “ecumenical” and flexible approach to acceptable study designs.
David S Jones and Scott H Podolsky, both from Harvard Medical School, point out that randomized trials do not have a long history. The first one took place in 1948 and the first instance of describing them as the “gold standard” dates back to only 1982.
The Canadian Medical Association is digging in its heels to protect doctors’ right of conscientious objection to euthanasia and assisted suicide, which will soon become legal. In an interview with the National Post, CMA president Chris Simpson said recently, “we simply cannot accept a system that compels physicians to go against their conscience as individuals on something so profound as this.”
Don’t listen to him, warns one of Canada’s most prominent bioethicists. No doctor should have the right to conscientious objection, he says.
Professor Udo Schuklenk, of Queens University and editor-in-chief of the journal Bioethics, delivered a blistering attack on conscientious objection in medical practice in his blog:
The very idea that we ought to countenance conscientious objection in any profession is objectionable. Nobody forces anyone to become a professional. It is a voluntary choice. A conscientious objector in medicine is not dissimilar…
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In a target article in the latest edition of the American Journal of Bioethics, three bioethicists from the National Institutes of Health question the ethics of providing unproven interventions to Ebola victims and those at risk.
Seema K. Shah, David Wendler and Marion Danis describe the detrimental effects of providing an unproven treatment – in particular (where the treatment fails to work) decreased trust in doctors and the medical profession generally.
The ethicists conclude that it may be more beneficial to focus on other methods of stemming the spread of the disease, such as building up healthcare infrastructure and providing healthcare workers to affected areas, rather than focusing energies on distributing what are potentially unbeneficial, or worse, harmful drugs.
Concerning patient trust in medical professionals, the authors observe:
As the trial for the Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev draws to a close, experts are debating whether the accused’s age diminishes his culpability. Together with his brother, 19-year-old Tsarnaev planned and executed the devastating Boston Bombings on April 15, 2013, which killed three civilians and injured 264 others. In a subsequent manhunt the Tsarnaev brothers killed a police officer and wounded 15 others.
“The issue is not whether adolescent immaturity excuses criminal conduct — it doesn’t — but whether it diminishes someone’s responsibility for his actions, in much the same way that coercion or unusually strong emotions might…
Perhaps the most topical – considering media discussion surrounding the sentencing of Boston Bombing perpetrator Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is the role of neuroscience in the courtroom. The report catalogues the various contributions that neuroscience could potentially make to our understanding of human action and the criminal mind, and also examines ethical concerns such as the potential for misinterpretation and overstatement of the implications of neuroscientific research.
Among a number of recommendations, the authors of the report call for educational tools to help judges and lawyers grasp the rudiments of neuroscience.