Israel evacuates babies of surrogate mothers from devastated Nepal

Nepal’s devastating earthquakes in recent weeks have brought to light its little-known surrogacy industry. Aboard an Boeing 747 repatriating Israeli citizens after the first quake on April 25 (in which an estimated 8,000 people died) were 15 babies born to surrogate mothers there. Eventually 26 babies arrived – and none of the mothers. Another 100 women pregnant with babies for Israeli clients remained behind.

After the May 12 quake, another four babies were evacuated.

In Israel surrogacy for homosexuals and single parents is illegal, so they have turned to surrogacy agencies abroad. India and Thailand had well-developed surrogate-mother networks. But after scandals both countries recently imposed onerous restrictions on overseas clients. So the Indian agencies have moved their clinics to Nepal. Surrogacy is against the law in Nepal, but this only applies to Nepalese citizens. So Indian women have been going to Kathmandu clinics to bear babies for Israeli clients.

click here to read whole article and make comments


What’s so philosophical about bioethics?

The latest edition of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics contains a stimulating series of articles on the nature and usefulness (or lack thereof) of philosophical bioethics.

The special section is the work of Nordic bioethicists Tuija Takala and Matti Häyry, who recently collected a series of essays representing different perspectives on the role of philosophy in bioethical enquiry. Takala and Häyry also offer their own opinions.

According to Hayry, genuinely philosophical work in bioethics eventually comes down to unearthing and exposing the assumptions and presuppositions that underlie our ideas and assertions about moral, social, and political realities.

“The soundness of arguments for and against real-life views and judgments depends on the correctness of their underlying theories… It is my conviction that [philosophers] can expose the presuppositions of these views and present them for all to see, in the hope that people can then make informed… click here to read whole article and make comments


Brace yourself, humanity!

With rapid developments in artificial intelligence technology, academics and industry leaders are warning of the existential threat posed by autonomous AI systems. 

Cosmologist Stephen Hawking, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Microsoft CEO Bill Gates have all recently cautioned against developing AI entities that have ‘interests that conflict with that of homo sapiens’.

At the 2015 Zeitgeist conference in London last week, Hawking warned that “Computers will overtake humans with AI at some within the next 100 years.” “When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours”, he said.

“Our future is a race between the growing power of technology and the wisdom with which we use it”, he added.

Elon Musk fears that the development of artificial intelligence, or AI, may be the biggest existential threat humanity faces. And in a Reddit Q and A session earlier this year, Bill… click here to read whole article and make comments


Hands off my DNA!

A New Orleans man has accused police of an invasion of privacy after he was arrested in relation to a ‘cold’ homicide case.

Michael Usry Jr., a young filmmaker, was arrested by police last year based on supposed DNA links to the 1996 murder of a young woman. Police obtained the arrest warrant after conducting a ‘familial searching’ DNA test using data from a genealogy company, the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation.

Police were using genetic information from semen specimens found at the crime scene and then obtained a court order to access the Sorenson database.

The DNA search found that a sample from Usry’s father, Michael Sr., bore significant similarities to the specimen obtained at the crime scene. Following typical familial searching procedures, the police obtained information on all relatives of Ursy Sr., and narrowed down the list of potential suspects to his son.

Police claimed that… click here to read whole article and make comments


A donor or a father?

A Virginia man has been granted custody and visitation rights after changing his mind about the relationship he wanted with his genetic child. The man had supplied sperm to a friend seeking to have a child without a partner.

Robert Boardwine agreed In mid-2010 to provide sperm for his friend Joyce Bruce, who in turn impregnated herself using a turkey baster. Joyce wanted to raise the child on her own, and Boardwine agreed to this. By the time the child was born, however, Boardwine had changed his mind and wanted to be a part of the child’s life. Bruce refused, and the matter ended up in a Virginia appellate court. 

In their ruling, the three appellate judges found that Boardwine was entitled to custody and visitation rights, as the conception “did not result from artificial insemination or any intervening medical technology”. Commenting on the statutory terminology, the judges… click here to read whole article and make comments


A “revolution” in IVF technology?

A new IVF technique is being touted as the “next big thing” in fertility after it apparently contributed to the birth of a baby in Canada. Zain Rajani was born in April to 34-year-old Natasha Rajani, a woman with poor-quality eggs.

The new technique, developed by a Boston company, OvaScience, injects mitochondria from a woman’s own egg stem cells taken from the ovary into her eggs. This supposedly improves egg health by increasing the eggs’ energy levels for embryo development. “Mitochondria from egg precursors rejuvenate the egg to bring it back to a high quality state,” says Dr Jonathan Tilly, of Northeastern University, who developed the technique.

“We could be on the cusp of something incredibly important,” Dr Owen Davis, president of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine told Time magazine. “Something that is really going to pan out to be revolutionary.”

The technique,… click here to read whole article and make comments


Journal editor comes under fire

The Journal of Medical Ethics received some unwelcome publicity last week when one of its nine associate editors announced that she was “unfriending” Conservatives after they won a majority in last week’s British election.

Rebecca Roache, a lecturer at a lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London, delivered a blistering attack on the Tories in a post on Oxford University's Practical Ethics blog.

One of the first things I did after seeing the depressing election news this morning was check to see which of my Facebook friends ‘like’ the pages of the Conservatives or David Cameron, and unfriend them. (Thankfully, none of my friends ‘like’ the UKIP page.) Life is too short, I thought, to hang out with people who hold abhorrent political views, even if it’s just online. … I’m tired of reasoned debate about politics—at least for a day or two. I don’t… click here to read whole article and make comments


Examining the last taboo

It’s hard to think of an activity with stronger moral taboos than paedophilia. Seeking sexual intimacy with children is popularly regarded as one of, if not the worst, possible crime. Other sexual activities, even bondage or bestiality, might even provoke ribald humour, but paedophilia is feared and loathed.

But a Norwegian bioethicist has just published a call to examine the ethics of paedophilia more coolly and rationally. “Pedophilia is bad only because, and only to the extent that, it causes harm to children, and that pedophilia itself, as well as pedophilic expressions and practices that do not cause harm to children, are morally all right,” contends  Ole Martin Moen in the latest issue of the Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics.

Let’s be clear about what his aims are. Dr Moen, who teaches at the University of Oslo, has not written a manifesto for paedophilia. But he… click here to read whole article and make comments


Drug giant appoints bioethicist to head compassionate use panel

In an effort to cope with controversies over “compassionate use” of experimental drugs, Johnson & Johnson has appointed America’s best-known bioethicist to head an independent panel to assess requests.

Art Caplan, of New York University School of Medicine, will head a company panel examining cases of desperately-ill patients who believe that a drug which has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration will help them.

Dr Caplan compares the Johnson & Johnson panel to what the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) has achieved with its allocation process. "We want to establish a model that will create a structured policy of allocation based on equality, need and efficacy to ensure that the utility of our scarce resources are maximized," he said. "If successful, [it] will serve as a model for others in industry and in government to follow."

In recent years, these requests have become more common.… click here to read whole article and make comments


Leading bioethicists back euthanasia for mentally ill

Many believe in euthanasia for the terminally ill. But why not legalize it for those suffering from an untreatable mental illness?

In the Journal of Medical Ethics, two influential bioethicists argue that we should allow euthanasia for patients suffering from ‘treatment-resistant’ depression. Udo Schuklenk, of Queens University in Canada, and Suzanne van de Vathorst, of the University of Amsterdam, claim it is discriminatory to allow euthanasia or assisted suicide for terminally ill patients but to deny it to those who suffer from incurable mental illness. Professor Schuklenk is co-editor of the journal Bioethics.

The authors see no relevant difference in the quality-of-life of patients in these situations:

“…Those who support acceding to assisted dying requests made by competent adults (and possibly mature minors) for irreversible conditions that render a patient’s life permanently not worth living to them have good reason to support the availability of assisted dying for competent… click here to read whole article and make comments


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