UDDA and RUDDA: uproar over possible change in brain death criteria

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA) is not an Act and is not uniform. It is a model state law agreed upon in 1981 by a number of expert bodies which gives criteria for deciding whether a severely brain-damaged person is dead or not. Most states have adopted it, but only two-thirds of them have used the complete language of the act. Further complicating the ideal of uniformity are court decisions, further legislation, and scientific technological developments. As a result, a person can be dead in one state and… MORE

IVF for over-40 UK women has risen 20-fold

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

The number of IVF cycles for women in the UK over 40 has risen more than 20-fold in the last 30 years, according to a 30th anniversary review by the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority.

HFEA chairwoman Julia Chain said there have been "many positive changes in the treatment of patients" since the regulator was set up in 1991, "with birth rates increasing, multiple birth rates falling and treatment becoming safer".

She added: "We know that family structures are changing and continue to evolve, and the fertility sector is providing more options… MORE

‘Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ – Colorado takes the ancient rubrics literally

Last month Colorado became the second American state, after Washington, to permit human bodies to be turned into compost. The process takes about a month. The body is placed in a pod with alfalfa, straw, and wood chips. The container is slowly rotated and oxygen is pumped in to promote decomposition.

The bill, which sailed through both houses of the State Legislature, also places certain restrictions on the compost, including a ban on selling it or using it to grow food for human consumption. It also prohibits the mixing of human remains without the various persons’ consent.

Representative Brianna… MORE

Building back better in bioethics

“Build Back Better” is not just a political slogan. It represents the feelings of bioethicists battered by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to an article in The Hastings Center Report by Susan D. Wolf, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota, the crisis is a wake-up call to reassess what kind of a role bioethics can play in a post-Covid world.

“What shortcomings and misconceptions has Covid-19 exposed in bioethics?” she asks – and lists four of them.

Myth 1: We will know when crisis standards of care apply.” Bioethicists had ideas that a crisis would unfold according to a… MORE

Texas’ strict new abortion law has a novel twist

Texas now has one of the strictest anti-abortion bills in the United States, after Governor Greg Abbott signed a “heartbeat bill” this week which will become operative in September. “The life of every unborn child with a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” said Abbott.

Like other such laws, the Texas legislation prohibits abortions beginning at six weeks of pregnancy. As critics point out, this is before many women even know they are pregnant.

The novelty is that state officials are forbidden to enforce the ban; instead, this is left up to private citizens. Anyone who knows… MORE

Should historic African-American remains and graves be protected?

Photo by Wendy Scofield on Unsplash

In 1990 the US Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. It requires federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American "cultural items" to lineal descendants and tribes. Cultural items include human remains.

An article published this week in Nature has called for a similar law to honour the remains of African-Americans who were enslaved or who were victims of segregation or racial violence.

Pressure for this has been mounting in recent years. Last year an anthropology museum at the University of Pennsylvania removed… MORE

Sperm donation is big business

Another chapter in the Reproductive Revolution. According to a leading market research firm, by 2027, the market for commercial sperm will be worth US$4.86 billion. Its report says that growth in revenue is being driven by a rise in male and female infertility, supportive government initiatives, and growing social acceptance worldwide.

This news coincided with yet another story about fertility fraud by an American doctor, this time in the Des Moines Register. Iowa man Mark Hansen learned at the age of 47 that his biological father was Dr Sidney Yugend – his mother’s doctor. It was a devastating… MORE

Proposal to liberalise California’s assisted suicide law after only 5 years

In 2015 California became the fifth American state to enact law permitting assisted suicide, the End-of-Life Option Act. (It is currently legal in nine jurisdictions.)

Five years later, the legislature is studying major amendments to the Act which would remove some safeguards and make it harder for doctors to refuse to participate. It would also delete a 2026 sunset clause.

According to the sponsor of SB 380, state Senator Susan Eggman, the original law is administratively burdensome and unnecessarily cumbersome. There are “too many roadblocks for many dying patients to access the law”.

SB 380 will reduce the time… MORE

Malta remains an abortion hold-out in Europe

Photo by Norbert Staudt on Unsplash / Marsaxlokk, Malta

Abortion in small Mediterranean nation of Malta is illegal, albeit rarely prosecuted. Malta has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world; it is the only country in the European Union – or in the world -- to prohibit abortion entirely, not even in cases of rape or incest. However, since abortions are available in other European Union countries, a few hundred women do travel abroad each year for abortions.

Although Malta has legalised same-sex marriage and the morning-after pill, voters remain stubbornly opposed to abortion, perhaps because… MORE

Leading US psychiatrist describes transgender medicine as “folly”

One of the most prominent critics of the tenets of transgender medicine is Dr Paul McHugh. He was Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1975 to 2001. Apart from his research, he has written a number of articles and books for the general reader. He served on President Bush’s bioethics council.

He took a stand early on the transgender debate. In 1979 he put a stop to gender reassignment surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. A couple of years ago he co-authored a 143-page article on gender and sexuality in The New Atlantis,… MORE

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