Victoria has launched “assisted dying”

A Melbourne tram passes Flinders Street station 

Euthanasia and assisted suicide became legal in the Australian state of Victoria on Wednesday. A bill authorising “assisted dying” was passed by the State Parliament in November 2017; it took 18 months to set up the regulatory and administrative framework.

The first death under the law could occur in the next few days.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos describes the law as “the safest and most conservative in the world”. She said that its 68 safeguards include the following:

  • Only adults with decision-making capacity, who are… MORE

Trump Administration turns the screws on abortion

It has been a bad week for legal abortion in the United States. Two developments have kept abortion and Planned Parenthood in the headlines.

In the first, a decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco handed at least a temporary victory to the Trump Administration’s campaign against abortion.

In March the Administration issued rules which banned taxpayer-funded clinics from referring for abortions and banned taxpayer-funded clinics from sharing office space with abortion providers. This makes many clinics unworkable. The measures were widely interpreted as an attack on Planned Parenthood.

The rules… MORE

‘Hypoactive sexual desire disorder’: a diagnosis looking for a drug

The controversial disorder known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is back in the news. Pharmaceutical companies have been accused of exaggerating the importance of  HSDD so that they can sell anxious customers a lucrative drug, but sexual health experts counter that it is wrong to deny women a product which can help their mental health.

The latest development is that the US Food and Drug Administration has approved injections of bremelanotide to treat HSDD. The chief medical officer at AMAG Pharmaceuticals, which owns the drug, described HSDD as “largely under-recognised” and “most common female sexual dysfunction condition”.

Critics contend that… MORE

Our greying planet

Population growth can have an impact on controversial bioethical issues like abortion, contraception, aged care and euthanasia. That’s why a projection of world population trends from United Nations, released this week, should be of great interest.

There are no big surprises, but the UN has revised its projections downward. Two years ago, it predicted that global population in 2100 would be 11.2 billion. The 2019 projection is only 10.9 billion.

Below are the UN’s 10 take-aways from the report.

The UN’s figures are not definitive. In fact, there are dissidents who believe that the UN is seriously overstating… MORE

Sperm donors can be parents, says Australia’s High Court

Australian sperm donors are slightly more hopeful or slightly more wary or slightly more perplexed after a landmark case was settled in the High Court this week. In Masson v Parsons & Ors, the court ruled that “Robert Masson”, a sperm donor, is the legal father of the daughter of “Susan Parsons” and her wife, a lesbian couple.

The story begins in 2006 when Masson, a long-time friend of Parsons, agreed to provide semen for artificial insemination so that she could have a child. Masson was listed as the father on the girl’s birth certificate and played an… MORE

New York’s surrogacy bill fails at last minute

Last week BioEdge reported that New York State was on the brink of legalising commercial surrogacy with the strong support of Governor Andrew Cuomo. But the proposal has fallen off the brink, stymied by opposition from a loose coalition of feminists and religious groups who argue that surrogacy exploits women.

“Many members, including a large majority of women in our conference, have raised important concerns that must be properly addressed before we can move forward,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

A furious Cuomo bitterly blamed three women legislators for stymieing the legislation. He has framed surrogacy as a gay-rights issue.… MORE

Russian scientist plans to edit human germline

A Russian biologist has announced that he plans to create gene-edited human embryos. Molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov told Nature that he wants to reprise the experiment carried out by disgraced Chinese scientist He Jiankui last year –- with some modifications.

The news has sparked horrified reactions amongst well-known stem cell scientists who fear that cowboys in their field could badly damage its reputation. Echoing the consensus of bioethicists, Alta Charo, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Nature that using CRISPR to edit the human genome is irresponsible, given the current state of the science.

Like He, Rebrikov plans to disable… MORE

New York legislature in heated debate over surrogacy 

Gloria Steinem / Gage Skidmore flickr

A New York State bill to legalise commercial surrogacy has hit an unexpected road block: Gloria Steinem. The 85-year-old icon and other feminists have joined hands with Christian and conservative groups to lobby against the proposal.

New York is one of three US states which ban paid surrogacy. However, a strong LGBT lobby and its allies have backed a new, profit-motivated approach. A bill, which is strongly supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has already passed in the Senate. With the 2019 session of the State Legislature winding up on June 19, the… MORE

In times of climate crisis, how many children should you have?

“There is no more any prophet,” is the bitter lament of the Psalmist. We are more fortunate. Sixteen-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg has been out-Jeremiah-ing Jeremiah and lecturing the great and the good about the looming catastrophe caused by climate change. Here’s how she excoriated the chardonnay set at Davos: “Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” … MORE

AMA sticks to a policy of opposing assisted suicide

The American Medical Association voted this week by 71% to 29% to reaffirm its opposition to physician-assisted suicide. 

Testimony yesterday by medical students and residents on the dangers of the practice to both patients and the physician-patient relationship appear to have carried the day in a reference committee. The committee strongly recommended that the voting body accept an ethics council’s recommendation to reaffirm the AMA’s opposition to assisted suicide.

The AMA’s official position is that legalized assisted suicide is contrary to the physician’s role as healer, puts vulnerable patients at risk, and would be difficult or impossible to control. … MORE

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