Canada laying groundwork for child euthanasia

Euthanasia, or “medical aid in dying”, was authorised by Canada’s Supreme Court in June 2016. It was a controversial decision and the controversy is far from over. Three issues were left hanging: euthanasia for “mature minors”, euthanasia for people with mental illness, and advance directives for euthanasia. The government asked the Council of Canadian Academies to produce a report on these issues by December this year.

Euthanasia for mature minors is a particularly sticky issue. In the Journal of Medical Ethics, several Canadian paediatricians and bioethicists construct an argument supporting it.

First of all, they frame euthanasia (MAID)… MORE

Affirm transgender kids, says American Academy of Pediatrics

Transgender children should be affirmed by their doctors, their families and society, says the American Academy of Pediatrics in an official policy statement.

The AAP’s policy is to validate all “gender identities” in children without questioning them. It ignores the possibility of children being temporarily or pathologically confused. However, it acknowledges at a number of points in the report that the scientific evidence for gender affirmation is scant. It blames this, in part, on inadequate funding for research:

“Professional understanding of youth that identify as TGD is a rapidly evolving clinical field in which research on appropriate clinical management… MORE

The digital smart pill is not a magical answer, say researchers

Enthusiasm for an emerging digital health tool, the smart pill, is on the rise but a paper in the American Journal of Bioethics cautions health care providers and policymakers to slow down when it comes to allowing this technology in patient care settings.

Smart pills, or digital pills, are prescription medications equipped with edible electronic sensors that send wireless messages to devices, like patches and smartphones or tablets, outside the body when they are ingested. The first of its kind, which is used to treat patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder, was approved for use in humans… MORE

Woman can use sperm donor without husband’s consent

A woman in the Australian state of Victoria does not need the consent of her husband for IVF treatment, according to a judgement by a justice of the Federal Court. The woman, known only as EHT18, is 45 and is desperate to have a child with her own eggs.

According to an article in The Guardian, she is currently married but she has been separated since late last year and claims that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Under Australian law, divorce is granted only after 12 months of separation and under Victorian law the consent of a… MORE

Where does palliative sedation become euthanasia?

A special issue of the journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics is devoted to the controversial issue of palliative sedation. As the editor, bioethicist Daniel Sulmasy, points out, palliative sedation has special relevance for Christians. For them, the relief of unnecessary suffering is a duty, but euthanasia is wrong. Identifying the right response to suffering at the end of life is often perplexing, especially since some doctors use palliative sedation as terminal sedation – rendering patients unconscious and withdrawing hydration and nutrition until they die.

Sulmasy says that the articles in the June issue bring to the topic “an almost… MORE

Would you pay to participate in a clinical trial?

Imagine this scenario. You are terminally ill with cancer when you hear about a clinical trial with a miracle drug. You make inquiries and discover that you can participate but it will cost you $10,000.

This is the controversial “pay to play” model for funding clinical trials. While it sounds completely unconventional, it is already being used in allied health fields like sleep clinics, physiotherapy, and weight management. A couple of years ago bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel and colleagues argued that it should not be considered as a funding model in times of shrinking budgets. They believed that it would… MORE

Should all newborns receive genome sequencing?

As the cost of genome sequencing decreases, doctors are debating whether all newborns should be sequenced, facilitating a lifetime of personalized medical care.

A report from The Hastings Center, The Ethics of Sequencing Newborns: Recommendations and Reflections, examines the pros and cons. It concludes that while sequencing the genomes of some infants may sometimes be appropriate, genome-wide sequencing of all newborns should not be pursued at this time. Health professionals should tell parents not to use direct-to-consumer genetic sequencing to diagnose or screen their newborns.

"Genomics is a powerful tool, but the results it returns are still not fully… MORE

Another step closer to legal abortion in Ireland

On Tuesday, Ireland’s president, Michael D. Higgins, signed into law legislation amending the Constitution to remove constitutional protection for the unborn, following May’s constitutional referendum. A couple of predictably ineffectual legal challenges had delayed this.

The way is now open for abortion legislation. Minister for Health Simon Harris says that the government will aim to enact a law by the beginning of 2019 at the latest.

Medical Council guidelines will reflect the new law in due course. 

The government’s draft legislation is currently being discussed in the parliamentary Health Committee. Apparently the proposed three-day waiting period is going… MORE

13-year-olds given mastectomies at California clinic

How old does one have to be to consent to a mastectomy? Only 13, it appears. An article in JAMA Pediatrics on “Chest Dysphoria in Transmasculine Minors and Young Adults” at a US clinic was based on a survey which included 2 girls (transmale) who were 13 years old and had both breasts removed and 5 who were only 14.

According to the authors, who are based at the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, “All postsurgical participants (68 of 68; 100%) affirmed the statement, ‘It was a good decision to undergo chest reconstruction.’”


British grandparents use dead son’s sperm to create child

Another fascinating chapter in the unfolding history of the Reproductive Revolution, this time about posthumous sperm extraction.

A few years ago an unnamed 26-year-old unmarried man was killed in a motorcycle accident in the UK and his body was not discovered for two days. His wealthy parents, who are in their 50s, immediately set to work. He had been their only son and they desperately wanted a male heir.

They engaged a urologist to extract sperm from their son’s corpse. This was frozen and a year later couriered to the California IVF clinic of Dr Jeffrey Smotrich. The man’s parents… MORE

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