Let death be didactic

The old Jewish cemetery, Prague / National Geographic

The burning issues of bioethics are euthanasia, abortion, the reproductive revolution, organ donation and brain death, animal welfare and the like. But other topics, although they also deal with respect for the body and death, are almost completely ignored. Cremation, for instance, is a burning issue, but not one which often appears in bioethics journals.

A recent article in The New Bioethics by Toni C. Saad, however, questions increasing acceptance of the practice of cremation on philosophical grounds.

Christianity has deprecated cremation as a symbolic denial of… click here to read whole article and make comments

German serial killer nurse may have killed at least 106

Neils H in court in 2015 with his lawyer

As a reminder that you don’t need semi-automatic rifles to be a mass murderer, German prosecutors have raised the death toll at the hands of a male nurse to about 106. “Niels H”, 41, had already been convicted on two counts of murder and four of attempted murder in nursing homes in the northern German cities of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst between 1999 and 2005.

However, investigations have continued after his conviction and the total is rising. In August, police said that they suspected that he may have… click here to read whole article and make comments

Should Facebook have its own chapter in a bioethics text?

Why hasn’t bioethics taken on the challenge of social media? After all, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other products are changing the way that we interact and how we think. If gun control is a bioethical issue, why not the seductive power of products scientifically tailored to weaken autonomy and exploit human weakness?

Without lingering on this immense topic, here are some widely reported remarks by Sean Parker, a young billionaire who was Facebook’s founding president and the co-founder of Napster:

“When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me… click here to read whole article and make comments

Is human gene editing around the corner?

The development of CRISPR gene editing technology has quickly led to calls for modifying the human germline. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Stanford medical researcher Henry I. Miller declared that the time had come. It was wrong to deprive desperate parents who are carriers of genetic diseases of their chance to have healthy children. “The technology is arguably at the stage where clinical trials could be undertaken to see whether gene-edited human embryos can develop into healthy babies.”

However, stem cell expert Paul Knoepfler disagreed strongly on his popular blog, “The Niche”. He… click here to read whole article and make comments

Choice and non-choice in an organ market

Several ethicists have argued in favour of legalising the sale of human organs. Some claim that a commercialised organ market will help to solve the organ shortage currently facing many countries, while others argue that every individual has the right to decide what happens to their own body parts.

In a new article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Monash University bioethicist Julian J. Koplin challenges some of the liberal presuppositions built into the organ trade literature. Specifically, Koplin argues that an organ market will potentially limit people’s choices rather than increase them.… click here to read whole article and make comments

Woman in minimally conscious state should be allowed to die – UK court

A British High Court judge has ruled that an elderly woman in minimally conscious state should have artificial feeding withdrawn. Justice Anthony Hayden asserted that it would be in the woman’s “best interests” for nutrition to be discontinued.

The 72-year-old woman was admitted to hospital after a fall last November, and lapsed into a minimally conscious state following an acute haemorrhage from a brain aneurysm.

She had been on life-support for months, and doctors and family were unable to agree about whether artificial feeding should be continued. Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust recently… click here to read whole article and make comments

Japanese grant residency to AI chatbot

Last week BioEdge reported that Saudi Arabia had become the first nation to grant citizenship to a robot. This week, a chatbot programmed to be a seven-year-old boy has been granted residency in Tokyo, Japan.

The chatbot, dubbed “Shibuya Mirai”, received a special residency card for Shibuya Ward in a ceremony last week, coinciding with a conference about children living in the ward.

“His hobbies are taking pictures and observing people,” Shibuya Ward said in a statement seen by AFP. The boy’s face is a digital amalgamation of profile photos of… click here to read whole article and make comments

Is euthanasia for psychological suffering changing Belgian medicine?

Belgium’s debate over euthanasia for psychological suffering is heating up. On Tuesday 42 psychiatrists, psychologists and academics published an open letter calling for a national debate on euthanasia and mental illness.

Euthanasia because of unbearable and futile psychological suffering is very problematic. It is about people who are not terminal and, in principle, could live for many years. Therefore, extreme caution is appropriate both clinically and legally. The essence of the case seems to us that in estimating the hopelessness of one's suffering, the subjective factor cannot be eliminated ...

The current law, the signatories say,… click here to read whole article and make comments

New Hippocratic Oath for doctors approved

A modern successor to the Hippocratic Oath for physicians around the world has been approved by the World Medical Association. This is the first revision in a decade and reflects changes in the climate of medical ethics.

First of all, the “Declaration of Geneva” is to be called, not an “oath”, but a “pledge”. The most striking change is the emphasis on patient autonomy. A clause has been inserted into the 2017 version which says, “I will respect the autonomy and dignity of my patient”.

A somewhat unusual new clause requires doctors to look after their own health: “I… click here to read whole article and make comments

New study casts doubt on effectiveness of euthanasia regulation in the Netherlands

“Strict”, “scrupulous” and “rigid”. These are some of the words that have been used to describe the regulation of euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) in the Netherlands. But how closely are doctors actually monitored?

A new study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that the Dutch euthanasia review committees (RTE) struggle to judge whether doctors have correctly applied EAS criteria, and are ultimately dependent on the transparency with which physicians report cases of EAS.  

The study, authored by David Miller and Dr Scott Kim from… click here to read whole article and make comments

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