US health official reminds states that triage cannot trump civil rights

The civil rights office of the US Department of Health and Human Services has issued a stern bulletin warning that doctors must not discriminate on the basis of disability, race, age or other factors if triage becomes necessary during the coronavirus pandemic.

“HHS is committed to leaving no one behind during an emergency,” said Roger Severino. “Persons with disabilities, with limited English skills, or needing religious accommodations should not be put at the end of the line for health services during emergencies. Our civil rights laws protect the equal dignity of every human life from ruthless utilitarianism.”


Iran’s coronavirus disaster compounded by fake remedy

A woman in Tehran, Iran / Reuters

Iran is one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. As of Friday, there had been 53,000 cases and 3,300 deaths. But, adding to the misery of the disease, hundreds of people have died after drinking methanol as a “remedy”.

Most of the cases have been in Iran's southwestern Khuzestan province and the southern city of Shiraz. About a thousand people are sick and between 300 and 400 have died.

“Other countries have only one problem, which is the new coronavirus pandemic. But we are fighting on two fronts… MORE

New York legalises commercial surrogacy

New York state Senator Brad Hoylman accompanied by husband David Sigal, and their daughter Silvia

The state of New York legalized commercial gestational surrogacy this week as part of a budget package affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Commercial surrogacy is either legal or not expressly prohibited, in every US state except New York, Louisiana and Michigan. This bill will allow New York residents to make paid surrogacy contracts as of February 15, 2021.

Gay and infertile couples in the Empire State can now enter into a contract and pay a woman to carry an IVF baby to term.


What does it mean to be ‘vulnerable’?  

Governments around the world are taking draconian measures to protect vulnerable groups during the coronavirus pandemic. But who are the vulnerable? An editorial in The Lancet reminds readers that a ‘cure’ for Covid-19 can create new vulnerable groups.

The strategies most recommended to control the spread of COVID-19—social distancing and frequent handwashing—are not easy for the millions of people who live in highly dense communities with precarious or insecure housing, and poor sanitation and access to clean water...

Another concern in African countries is that the response to COVID-19 will come at the expense of treating other… MORE

Has WHO blotted its copybook by being too cosy with China?

The World Health Organization is being criticised for being too close to China, one of his major funders. Director-General Tedros Adhanom has been loud in his praise of China’s management of the epidemic and has failed (in the eyes of his critics) to point out its shortcomings.

In a blistering article in Foreign Policy, a German journalist, Hinnerk Feldwisch-Drentrup, says that “while recommending China’s epidemic control policy to the world, WHO neglected the negative externalities—from economic damage to the failure to treat many non-coronavirus patients, psychological woes, and human rights costs.”

In Rolling Stone, Steven Hoffman, director of… MORE

Abortion battles continue in the fog of war on Covid-19

With hostile lobby groups immobilized by quarantines and the mainstream media obsessed with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a good time for politicians to roll out unpopular policies on abortion.

In the United Kingdom, this meant making abortion legislation more permissive. This week, a spokesperson for the UK Department of Health and Social Care confirmed that the Government was updating its guidance for women seeking abortions. Women are now allowed to take both abortion pills at home for pregnancies up to 10 weeks during the outbreak. "This measure will be on a temporary basis and must follow a telephone or e-consultation… MORE

More caution needed in coronavirus reporting

Immersed in the Covid-19 pandemic, many people are jittery and on the verge of panic. Including the media.

This is a cautionary tale about how not to report unfamiliar and rapidly unfolding events. Like the virus itself, it begins in the Netherlands, spreads to Spain and then to the English-speaking world.

In early March leading Dutch epidemiologist Frits Rosendaal called attention of his countrymen to the urgent need for measures to combat the coronavirus.

Dr Rosendaal is Chief Epidemiology of Leiden University Hospital. But he is also a visiting professor at the Policlinico of Milan, so he was well acquainted… MORE

Three political philosophies, and how they apply to the coronavirus pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic escalates, countries are facing increasingly complex ethical decisions in their bid to control the virus and save lives. 

ICU Physicians are being forced to ration healthcare resources like ventilators and medication. Governments have introduced sweeping public health restrictions that have radically altered people’s day to day lives. And as authorities seek to stop the spread of the virus, questions are being asked about our duties to prisoners, migrants, and people on sea vessels. 

These ethical dilemmas lead us to reflect on the philosophical frameworks that inform our decision making… MORE

Should we ban wet markets?

As the coronavirus pandemic escalates in Europe and North America, calls are growing for the closure of so-called ‘wet markets’ in mainland China. 

Wet markets are marketplaces that sell fresh meat, fish, produce, and other perishable goods. Novel coronavirus is believed to have first spread in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market -- a wet market in Wuhan City in the Hubei region of China. 

While in February the Chinese government said it would ban the trade and consumption of wild animals, reports have emerged that some wet markets in the country have been allowed… MORE

Is euthanasia an essential service?

Is euthanasia an essential service? That is the question that Canadian health officials are grappling with in the coronavirus epidemic.

At least two clinics in Ontario have stopped providing euthanasia (or medical assistance in dying, as it is called in Canada) to prevention transmission and to free up health-care resources. Others regard it as essential and are relaxing the rules to allow “virtual assessments of eligibility”.

“It’s not a decision that we have taken lightly,” said Andrea Frolic, of Hamilton Health Sciences, which has shuttered its program. “It’s heartbreaking for us, as it is for patients and families seeking this… MORE

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