If fake medical news is dangerous, its authors should be jailed, says Polish lawyer

As vaccines for Covid-19 are rolled out across the world, fake medical news is becoming a bigger issue than ever. Disseminating false information could lead to vaccine hesitancy, lower levels of vaccination, less protection for the general population, and the deaths of vulnerable people.

A Polish legal expert, Kamil Mamak, of Jagiellonian University, has suggested in the journal Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy that it may be necessary to criminalise fake medical news. “Whoever publicly disseminates information evidently discrepant with medical knowledge [will be] subject to a penalty,” is his proposal.

Criminal sanctions for spreading false and mischievous information… MORE

Doctors need to study the lessons of the Holocaust, says ethics journal

The illustration for the editorial of the January issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics comes from the “doctor’s trials” at Nuremburg in 1947. A young and sullen-looking young woman wearing earphones stands between two helmeted soldier in the dock. She is Dr Herta Oberhauser, the only woman in the trials, and she was being sentenced to 20 years imprisonment (of which she served only five) for crimes against humanity. She experimented on women at the Ravensbruck concentration camp – deliberately creating gangrenous wounds to test the efficacy of sulpha drugs. She also gave lethal injections to several of… MORE

London newspaper reveals ‘shocking evidence’ about transgender treatments

After a legal battle The Mail on Sunday has published what it called “shocking evidence” about transgender medicine which led a High Court judge to ban a government gender clinic from prescribing puberty-blockers.

The Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) clinic in London, also known as the Tavistock Centre, began prescribing these for children under 16 in 2011. In December the clinic was forced to stop after the Court ruled that it was “very doubtful” that youngsters could give informed consent.

Swedish psychiatrist Christopher Gillberg testified that the use of puberty blockers is basically “a live experiment” on vulnerable children.… MORE

Examining the thorny moral problem of foetal reduction

It is a truth universally acknowledged that defending an opinion on abortion will make at least half of one’s readers unhappy. But Joona Räsänen, a Finnish bioethicist at the University of Oslo, defends an opinion on abortion in the Journal of Medical Ethics which is bound to make all of them unhappy.

He tackles the controversial question of foetal reduction: killing one or more foetuses in a multiple pregnancy. This may happen when one of them is diseased or has a birth defect or when the mother feels incapable of caring for more than one child. It often… MORE

NEJM proposes change in birth certificates to accommodate transgender concerns

The Australian census will begin asking questions this year about gender diversity. It plans to ask people what is their "sex recorded at birth" as well as their declared gender. Changing the information recorded on birth certificates is even more radical – but that was proposed recently in a commentary article in the New England Journal of Medicine (December 17).

American birth certificates should be revised to make ticking a box for male or female optional. Legally identifying information should be reported “above the line” because that is publicly available. To avoid stigma and allow self-identification, fields like… MORE

Retiring Scottish politician links IVF with euthanasia

Perhaps we should update that proverbial expression for brutal honesty, “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings”, to include “and retiring politicians”. After ten years in the Scottish Parliament, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is moving to the British House of Lords as a Life Peer.

She used the occasion to write an op-ed for The Telegraph (London) in support of assisted suicide.

In ten years of elected politics, I have made more mistakes than I can ever hope to remember some through overreach, some by omission, others by nothing more than blunder. But the mistake that eats… MORE

The number of Down syndrome births in Europe has been halved

The growth of prenatal screening in Europe has reduced the number of babies being born per year with Down syndrome (DS) by an average of 54%, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

The same researchers, from Massachusetts General Hospital, found in 2016 that 33% fewer babies with DS per year were born in the United States as a result of pregnancy terminations.

"People with DS were being counted sporadically, inconsistently, or not at all, depending on the country," says Brian G. Skotko, senior author of the study. "But without an accurate… MORE

The Pope’s homeland, Argentina, has legalized abortion

Abortion activists celebrate in Buenos Aires

After a marathon debate, on December 30, the Argentine Senate voted to decriminalise abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The dramatic legal change could have a domino effect on abortion access in South and Central America.

The law sailed through, with 38 votes for, 29 votes against, and one abstention.

The new law legalises abortion for any reason during the first 14 weeks of a pregnancy. Thereafter it will be allowed if the pregnancy is the result of a rape or if the mental health of the mother is at risk,… MORE

Ethicists propose standards for Covid-19 triage

With a second wave of Covid-19 sweeping through Europe and the United States, threatening to overwhelm hospital ICUs, discussion of triage is again coming to the fore.

"A lack of intensive care ventilation units owing to rapidly increasing infection rates numbers among the most significant nightmare scenarios of the corona pandemic," says Mathias Wirth, of the University of Bern (Switzerland), because: "Shortages of supply can result in triage of patients suffering from severe cases of COVID-19 and thus force a life or death decision."

Together with experts from Yale University, King's College London, Charité Berlin and Essen University Hospital, Wirth… MORE

Triage according to standard tests of frailty, says Oxford bioethicist

If triage becomes necessary, what criteria should be used? Bioethicists seem reluctant to put a finger on a particular characteristic which exclude people from potentially life-saving treatment. It shouldn’t be age, or disability, or mental capacity, or social status, or race, or ability to pay…. What, then?

Dominic Wilkinson, of the University of Oxford, argues in the American Journal of Bioethics, that it should be frailty. “Frailty is relevant to resource allocation in at least three separate ways, through its impact on probability of survival, longevity and quality of life (though not a fourth—length of intensive care stay)”.

Frailty… MORE

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