Is bioethics fading away?

The etymological roots of the word “bioethics” suggest that its subject is the principles governing the morality of dealing with life, especially human life. For a word coined to describe a new discipline in about 1970, it has had a good run. But according to a commentary in Nature by a sociologist at the University of Cambridge, it may have done its dash.

Sarah Franklin’s contribution to essays marking the 150th anniversary of Nature charts the rise and decline of the field of bioethics. It meanders through Darwinism and eugenics, and it concludes with the ominous (for bioethicists)… MORE

Medical ethics: too important to leave to doctors

In an article earlier this year in the Journal of Medical Ethics and in a book to be published next year, Rosamond Rhodes, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, argued that medical ethics is its own domain, with its own laws.

“The ethics of medicine is internal to the profession: it is constructed by the profession and for the profession, and needs to be continually critiqued, revised and reaffirmed by the profession.”

It was a controversial thesis and it has been attacked, also in the JME, by Søren Holm,… MORE

Beauchamp and Childress’s principlism turns 40

Tom Beauchamp and James Childress’s 1979 tome Principles of Biomedical Ethics (PBE) is widely seen as the most influential work of bioethics scholarship produced in the 20th Century. The four principles articulated in Beachamp and Childress’s famous textbook -- respect for autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice -- have become a touchstone for the validity and soundness of any bioethical argument. Indeed, as American ethicist Jonathan Moreno recently wrote, “it is hard to imagine what bioethics would be like without Principles of Biomedical Ethics”. 

Beachamp and Childress have written an editorial in the latest edition… MORE

Scientists grow primate embryos for 20 days

Two separate research teams in China have grown primate embryos in vitro for 20 days, in a development that has reignited debate over the 14-day limit on human embryo experimentation. 

The new studies were published this week in Science, and experts in the field are excited about the results. 

Both research groups grew monkey embryos on a gel matrix that supplied higher levels of oxygen than do cells in the womb. This culture technique was developed by researchers from California Institute of Technology in the United States, who in 2016 succeeded in… MORE

Globally, opposition to euthanasia dwarfs end-of-life movements

Jurisdictions which permit assisted suicide or euthanasia suck all the oxygen out of media coverage of this topic. To put the issue in perspective, assisted suicide or euthanasia is only legal in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and a handful of American states. Nearly everywhere else, doctors have repudiated it.

As a reminder of this, the World Medical Association has reaffirmed its long-standing policy of opposition to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. At its annual Assembly in Tbilisi, Georgia, the WMA adopted a revised Declaration on Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide. It states:

“The WMA reiterates its strong commitment… MORE

Texas divorce case opposes two views of child transgenders

James / Luna 

A bitter divorce case in Texas involving the custody of seven-year-old twin boys has turned toxic after the parents began disputing whether one of them is transgender. It has become a test case for the legitimacy of transgender medicine for children.

The father, Jeff Younger, argues that his son, James, identifies with his biological sex. The mother, Anne Georgulas, a paediatrician, argues that James is really a girl and demands that he be called Luna.

“You’ve heard of people who can’t agree if the sky is blue. These parents can’t even agree if their… MORE

When will #MeToo blow the whistle on IVF clinic pornography?

Why hasn’t the #MeToo movement protested the close connection between the pornography industry and IVF clinics? Most clinics provide pornography so that men can quickly provide a sperm sample. It is an essential, if grubby, part of the clinic’s services.

Not a lot has been written about this issue, understandably perhaps. A tell-all feature in the Daily Mail Australia, however, reported that “A computer will play a range of pornographic videos and what men choose is monitored to keep the list up to date. 'Midget porn is strangely one of the most popular styles, along with secretaries,' [a] staff… MORE

Northern Ireland gets abortion, but in a politically unconventional way

Stormont, the Northern Ireland assembly 

Abortion and same-sex marriage have both been decriminalized in Northern Ireland – but in a most unconventional way. The new law came into effect at the stroke of midnight on October 21.

Until then, Northern Ireland had the most conservative abortion policies in the UK. It was governed by a 1861 law which allowed almost no exceptions. Women who wanted abortions had to go to Ireland or across the Irish Sea to Britain.

There is a strong and noisy pro-abortion lobby in Northern Ireland which has hailed the development as long-overdue progress.… MORE

Belgian paralympian dies after euthanasia

paralympian Marieke Vervoort / ABC News

Belgian paralympian Marieke Vervoort died after euthanasia at the age of 40. Vervoort won gold and silver at the London 2012 Paralympics and another two medals at Rio 2016, had an incurable degenerative muscle disease.

Vervoort had been preparing for euthanasia for a long time. In 2008 she completed all the paperwork.

Despite her strength and competitive spirit, Vervoort's neurodegenerative disease caused constant pain, seizures, paralysis in her legs and left her barely able to sleep.

Asked about the fact she had signed euthanasia papers after the Rio Paralympics she told… MORE

Russian biologist still plans to edit human genome

Denis Rebrikov / RFE/RL

Russian biologist Denis Rebrikov has confirmed to Nature that he is preparing to edit the genetic code of human eggs to eliminate a gene causing degrees of deafness. The news earlier in the year that Rebrikov was planning to alter the human genome had caused a sensation in the scientific community.

It turns out that the biologist’s short-term plans are more modest. He wants to experiment on eggs without the deaf gene to understand how complications might arise from “off-target” mutations and not to create genome-edited babies. He has consistently vowed to… MORE

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