Trump Administration’s ‘conscience rule’ blocked by federal judge

A federal judge this week voided the Trump administration’s “conscience rule,” which had made it easier for health care workers to avoid helping with abortion or other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.

"Wherever the outermost line where persuasion gives way to coercion lies, the threat to pull all HHS funding here crosses it," said US District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan.

He said that the rule would have let the Department of Health and Human Services to withhold billions from healthcare providers that did not comply.

Engelmayer also wrote that the “stated justification for undertaking rule-making in the… MORE

US researchers trial deep brain stimulation for opioid use

Gerod Buckhalter being wheeled into surgery  

A West Virginia-based research team has launched the first American clinical trial of deep brain stimulation for patients suffering from treatment-resistant opioid use.

They successfully implanted a Medtronic DBS device in the addiction and reward centre of the brain of Gerod Buckhalter, a 33-year-old man who has struggled with substance use disorder, specifically excessive opioid and benzodiazepine use, for more than a decade. He has had many overdoses and relapses.

West Virginia has the highest age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving opioids. In 2017, drug overdose deaths involving opioids in… MORE

Who ‘pulls the plug’ for an abused child?

Gabriella's parents, Brittany Rodriquez and Andrew Lamorie 

The question of who is authorised to “pull the plug” on severely brain-damaged patients is always controversial. A case in Arizona shows how complex and unsettling it can be.

In January 2018 two-year-old Gabriella Lamorie died from blunt-force head and neck trauma. She was also suffering from severe malnutrition and weighed less than half the standard body weight for a child of her age.

Doctors told police that Gabriella was brain-dead and unlikely to survive. Even if she did, “she would not lead a normal life.” An official from… MORE

We need a national male reproductive health policy, say researchers

“Of the 193 United Nations states, only one – Australia – has developed an effective national male reproductive health policy,” observe three reproductive health scientists in the journal Reproductive Biomedicine Online.” It is time for other countries across the globe to rise to this challenge.”

It may come as news to most people, that male reproductive health needed any tinkering at all, let alone a government health policy.

However, some scientists are even describing the situation as a “crisis”.

What situation?

First, there has been “ a decline in sperm total counts of around 1.6% per year between 1973… MORE

Major gaps persist in knowledge of the practice of assisted suicide and euthanasia

On November 8, 1994, the citizens of Oregon voted in favour of a Death With Dignity Act. It took a couple of years for the initiative to be implemented, but since 1997, according to official statistics, prescriptions for lethal medications have been written for a total of 2,217 people; 1,459 people have actually died.

Even though assisted suicide has been legal in Oregon for 25 years, there are big gaps in our knowledge of how assisted suicide and euthanasia work.

An article in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care by two Belgian physicians outlines the shortcomings in research. Here… MORE

Savulescu interviewed on ‘procreative beneficence’

Should we use genetic testing to choose which children to bring into the world? How should we choose them? Is it acceptable deliberately to choose to create a deaf child? Should we choose children on the basis of traits such as intelligence or fitness, if we can? Does genetic selection put too much pressure on prospective parents?

In this YouTube podcast with Katrien Devolder, of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Professor Julian Savulescu, the Centre’s director, defends his view that we should select those children, from among the children we could have, who will have the best chance… MORE

Researchers criticise IVF ‘add-ons’

IVF experts have criticised fertility clinics for selling expensive additional therapies to women receiving IVF treatment, arguing that many fertility add-ons have little or no scientific support. 

Two new papers in the journal Fertility and Sterility argue that “clinical adjuncts” used during IVF treatment are being introduced into routine clinical practice in a hurried manner without any clear evidence of benefit in most cases. The authors — a team of international fertility specialists based in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, India, and the Netherlands — argue that strong evidence should be required before add-ons… MORE

In defence of conscientious objection

A newly released edition of the journal Perspectives in Medicine and Biology focuses on the theme of conscience in healthcare, and seeks to provide a deeper analysis of how conscience relates to good medical practice. The themed issue of Perspectives comes in the wake of two other themed editions of major bioethics journals that criticised conscientious objection in medicine.

The editors of the special issue, Dr Farr Curlin (Duke University) and Dr Kevin Powell (a pediatrician based in St Louis), argue that debate on conscientious objection has failed to address deeper questions about the nature… MORE

Brain-damaged woman given permission to have IVF baby to get ‘more meaning and purpose in life’

The Court of Protection, in London, has to deal with head-spinning cases about people who are incapable of looking after their own interests.

In the latest decision, Mrs Justice Nathalie Lieven gave a severely brain-damaged woman in her 30s permission to pay for IVF treatment, even though she is not married and lives in China with her parents.

Judge Lieven observed that the unnamed woman "feels that having a baby will give more meaning and purpose to her life". 

The judge has not met the woman, but said "it seems that she can communicate quite clearly, including in English, and… MORE

Could the threat of lawsuits rein in gender dysphoria doctors?

Critics of transgender treatment for children have been making heavy weather of persuading people that it could be medically dangerous. However, a well-documented feature in The Australian warns that transgender doctors could face class action suits if they continue to ignore research which claims that children are being harmed.

University of Queensland law dean Patrick Parkinson, commented that doctors could be charged with medical negligence. He told The Australian:

“Are all of those risks being spelled out in words of one syllable to parents and children before prescribing puberty blockers, let alone cross-sex hormones? Hospital ethics committees… MORE

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