Fallout from Chernobyl continues 30 years on

Does environmental ethics form part of bioethics? If yes, then surely one of the world’s worst environmental disasters – Chernobyl – is of grave significance.  

30 years ago this year, the Soviet Union scrambled to contain the fallout of a reactor meltdown in the town of Pripyat, the Ukraine. 31 people were killed directly by the incident; it is unclear how many have been affected by the radioactive waste released into the atmosphere.

Three decades on authorities are still working to stabilizing the collapsing reactor. It is unclear just how long it will take until the Chernobyl area can be reinhabited; most estimates are in the hundreds of years.

A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment appears to indicate the evacuated region is not as toxic for animals as was previously thought.  The study, which attempted to correlate radiation… click here to read whole article and make comments

Illegal organ trade burgeoning in Iraq

In the face of continuing economic hardship Iraqis have turned to the illegal organ trade.  

According to a BBC report, gangs in the country are offering up to $10,000 US for a kidney, and have been increasingly targeted the country's poor. Almost a quarter of the country’s population live in abject poverty – according to World Bank statistics – and some destitute families are actively seeking out organ traders.

"The phenomenon is so widespread that authorities are not capable of fighting it," said Firas al-Bayati, a human rights lawyer, told the BBC.

"I have personally dealt over the past three months with 12 people who were arrested for selling their kidneys. And poverty was the reason behind their acts," he said.

Under Iraqi law only relatives are allowed to donate organs their organs to one and other. The trafficking of organs is strictly prohibited, with… click here to read whole article and make comments

IVF experts divided over mosaic embryos

Debate is intensifying among fertility specialists about the use of mosaic embryos in IVF.  

Mosaic embryos – embryos that are characterized by irregular numbers or arrangements of chromosomes in some cells – have typically not been used by fertility specialists (at least in the US) due the likelihood that any resulting foetus will suffer from genetic disorders.

Yet some experts believe the embryos are safer than popular opinion suggests; others are going as far as to advocate the routine use of mosaic embryos in IVF clinics.

One reproductive medicine expert recently claimed that preimplantation genetic screening processes used to detect abnormal embryos are inaccurate and that many of what are known as ‘mosaic embryos’ are actually gametes that will lead to healthy babies.

Dr. Norbert Gleicher, the director of the Center for Human Reproduction in New York, recently tested PGS by tranferring seemingly abnormal embryos… click here to read whole article and make comments

Nascent concerns about womb transplants

Bioethicists have sounded a note of caution about womb transplants after a failed attempt at the procedure in a US fertility clinic.

In late March a participant of an American trial had to have her recently transplanted womb removed. Ironically, the reverse-transplantation was necessitated by a common uterine infection unrelated to the initial operation.

Still, Some have used the failed operation as an opportunity to question the merits of the research. Southampton Law School lecturer Natasha Hammond-Browning doubts that the procedure has a net benefit for the women involved:   

“…I do not deny that for women without wombs who desire a uterus transplant, and receive one as part of one of the clinical trials that are happening, may well argue that their quality of life has been improved through the ability to experience one or two pregnancies. However, I believe that we need to ask: at… click here to read whole article and make comments

Horrific abuse case raises questions over international surrogacy

An Australian case of sexual exploitation of infants has raised questions about international surrogacy. An unnamed 49-year-old man in rural Victoria has pleaded guilty to abusing not only two young nieces, but twins whom he fathered with the help of a donated egg from a woman in Ukraine at an IVF clinic in Asia.

The case came to the attention of police when they were alerted to images which were circulating on the internet.

His abuse of his daughters began when they were 27 days old and continued for seven months. Amongst the 13,000 images and videos in his possession when he was arrested were 300 of his own daughters.

The man has been married for 26 years but his wife was unaware of his illegal activities. The court was told that he had asked his wife to have an abortion in the early 1990s and… click here to read whole article and make comments

Where to publish your bioethics articles

Two Swedish bioethicists have compiled a list of the English-language bioethics journals which are “reputable, trustworthy and have real impact” – together with a companion list of journals by predatory publishers which sound reputable, but probably aren’t. It appears on The Ethics Blog, a publication at Uppsala University.

Here is the list of reputable journals from Stefan Eriksson, at Uppsala, and Gert Helgesson, at the Karolinska Institute. The number in parentheses is the journals’ five-year impact factor.

  • Accountability in Research
  • American Journal of Bioethics (4.0)
  • Bioethics (1.5)
  • Biology & Philosophy (1.2)
  • BMC Medical Ethics (1.7)
  • Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics
  • Clinical Ethics
  • Developing World Bioethics (1.7)
  • Ethics (1.8)
  • Ethics and Information Technology (1.1)
  • Hastings Center Report (1.4)
  • Health Care Analysis (1.2)
  • Journal of Academic Ethics
  • Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics (1.1)
  • Journal of Clinical Ethics
  • Journal of Empirical Research on Human… click here to read whole article and make comments

Summer school in bioethics

A Manhattan-based NGO, Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI), has organized two bioethics summer schools, one in New York City and one in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in July and August.

The program in NYC is open to everyone from senior high school students to professionals. The program in Dubrovnik is aimed especially at undergraduates and post-graduates planning to work in academia, biomedical and health-related industries.

The lectures and discussions deal with the ethics of contentious issues ranging from end-of-life care, to organ donation, to mental illness and addiction and to HIV surveillance.

Both programmes include a series of lectures and seminars by notable faculty, field trips, film screenings, evening events with guest speakers open to public and a mini conference prior to the graduation ceremony.

Partial scholarships for low-income country residents and Continuing Medical Educatiom credits are available.

Students can apply to intern with GBI this summer… click here to read whole article and make comments

Chinese scientists modify human embryos in second experiment

A year after the first genetically-engineered human embryos were created in China, a different Chinese team has repeated the experiment, with much the same results: failure.

Researchers from Guangzhou Medical University gathered 213 surplus IVF embryos which were not viable because they had an extra chromosome. Using the CRISPR–Cas9 technique, they spliced into the genome of 26 embryos a mutation that protects people against the HIV virus. After three days they destroyed the embryos.

The experiment was published in an obscure outlet, the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics.

The results were by no means spectacular. The technique only worked in 4 embryos. And the modification was not present in all of the chromosomes and in some cases, other mutations were introduced.

Harvard stem-cell scientist George Q. Daley told Nature, “This paper doesn’t look like it offers much more than anecdotal evidence that it works… click here to read whole article and make comments

Gendercide becomes an issue in Canada

The problem of gendercide has spread from India to Canada, researchers claim in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). A statistical analysis of births in Ontario found that the male-to-female sex ratio at birth -- which ranges between 1.03 to 1.07 naturally -- is as high as 1.96 if an Indian-born woman already had two daughters.

The researchers believe that over the past 20 years, there are 4,472 “missing” girls in Canada as a result of a preference for males amongst Indian immigrants. This happens mostly when both parents were born in India.

Researchers looked at data on more than 1.2 million births in women with having a third child in Ontario between 1993 and 2012. Of these, 153,829 (12.6%) were immigrant women from Asia.

Among women born in India who already had two girls, the ratio of male to female babies for the third birth… click here to read whole article and make comments

‘Genetic sexual attraction’ could become issue for kids of sperm donors

The British press is a fathomless mine of lurid but thought-provoking, strange-but-true explorations of the dark side of the human condition. Last week's revelation was published in a magazine called The New Day -- a passionate incestuous romance between a 51-year-old British woman and her 32-year-old American son.

Kim West was studying in California when she had a child out of wedlock. She gave him up for adoption and turned to England. Nearly 30 years later she learned that her son Ben Ford wanted to contact her. When they met, they immediately felt an overwhelming sexual attraction. Ben ended up abandoning his wife and moving in with his mother. They live together and are considering having children.

Post-adoption romance is a poorly-understood but well-documented phenomenon. In 1980s an American adoption counsellor, Barbara Gonyo, coined the term “genetic sexual attraction”(GSA) for these passionate feelings. Two British psychologists interviewed several… click here to read whole article and make comments

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