Embryo research: why not make it the “one month rule”?

Since the 1980s, research on embryos in vitro has been governed by what is known as the “14 day rule”. The 14 day rule is a legal and regulatory precept  -- based on the consensus of experts from a range of academic backgrounds -- according to which embryos should not be grown in vitro for longer than two weeks. The notion of a 14 day limit on embryo research was first proposed by committees in the UK and the US, and later adopted in Europe and other countries such as Australia and Canada.

While… MORE

Capital punishment stumbles ahead in US

Three news items this week illustrate the patchwork of capital punishment legislation in the United States.

On Thursday, a 59-year-old man, Billy Irick, was executed in the state of Tennessee for the rape and murder of a 7-year-old, a crime he had committed in 1985.

Tennessee, whose last execution took place in 2009, uses a cocktail of drugs to sedate and then kill the prisoner. Lawyers for prisoners on Tennessee’s death row described this as inhumane, but the challenge was dismissed by the State Supreme Court. A last-minute challenge on grounds of mental incapacity failed in the US Supreme Court… MORE

Argentina narrowly rejects abortion bill

Argentina’s upper house this week narrowly rejected a bill that would have legalised abortion up to 14 weeks. The 38 to 31 vote means that the country will retain its tight restrictions on abortion. Currently, abortion is only permitted in cases of rape, when the mother is mentally disabled or if there is serious risk to her health.

An estimated two million protesters gathered outside of of Congress in Buenos Aires as politicians debated the proposal on Wednesday and Thursday, and groups of protesters clashed with police following the announcement of the result.


Is death by dehydration in a patient’s ‘best interest’?

The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that court orders are not necessarily needed before withdrawing hydration and nutrition from a comatose patient. If doctors and the patient’s family agree that on-going treatment is not in his best interests, it may be stopped without applying for a court order.

Lady Black, a Supreme Court justice, said:

“Having looked at the issue in its wider context as well as from a narrower legal perspective, I do not consider that it has been established that the common law or the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights), in combination or separately,… MORE

Abortion activists unveil strategy for attacking conscientious objection

An “expert group” of abortion activists has launched a strong attack on the concept and practice of conscientious objection (CO) in healthcare. “The practice of refusing to provide legal and essential health care due to a doctor's personal or religious beliefs is a violation of medical ethics and of patients' right to health care,” says the International Women's Health Coalition in conjunction with Mujer y Salud en Uruguay.

A 46-page report, Unconscionable: When Providers Deny Abortion Care, argues that “the practice of refusing to provide legal and essential health care due to a doctor's personal or religious… MORE

UK cosmetic surgery ads criticised as ‘unscrupulous”

ITV, a commercial TV channel in the UK, will review its policy of screening advertisements for breast enlargement and diet pills during its wildly successful show “Love Island”.

It has been roundly criticised by the head of the National Health Service and feminists.

Love Island is a reality TV show in which attractive singles wander around, mostly in swimwear. Critics claim that advertisers are exploiting the insecurities of young women.

The companies whose ads were criticised include MYA Cosmetic Surgery, which offers loans for tummy tucks, breast enlargements and nose jobs, and Skinny Sprinkles, a diet supplement which describes itself… MORE

Doctors’ well-being is suffering because of ‘moral injury’

In trying to understand post-traumatic stress disorders amongst soldiers, psychologists have developed the notion of “moral injury”. This is an injury to an individual's moral conscience after a moral transgression which leads to deep shame. In war, this might happen after soldiers have killed civilians or child soldiers.

In a recent article on Stat, two doctors argue that something similar is happening to American doctors. “Failing to consistently meet patients’ needs has a profound impact on physician wellbeing — this is the crux of consequent moral injury.” With the increasing complexity of medical practice, the potential for moral injury… MORE

No privacy in a transhumanist future, says former presidential candidate

What would life be like in a transhumanist future? Upgrading from Humanity 1.0 to Humanity 2.0 would involve unpredictable changes in social life, some of them major. In a recent interview one transhumanist who has thought more deeply about this speaks about the antiquated notion of privacy. Zoltan Istvan, who ran for US President in 2016 for the Transhumanist Party, said in an essay last year that there won’t be any need for it:

Privacy is a relatively new concept in history, and while it might have served the wealthy for a few thousand years, it’s… MORE

British IVF clinics on a “gravy train”: Robert Winston

The 40th anniversary of the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first IVF baby, on July 25 has been the occasion for cracking champagne bottles and congratulatory media features. But a British IVF pioneer, Professor Lord Robert Winston, contends that celebration should be much more subdued.

In an interview with The Irish News, he said that “people are being sucked into IVF without a full recognition of exactly how low the success rate is”. Private sector fertility clinics, he says, are on a “gravy train” in the UK. Mixing the "desperation" of couples for a child and the… MORE

Another reason why cloning probably won’t work

Human cloning – illegal around the world -- is just a glimmer on the horizon of some rogue scientists. However, there are reasons why it might not work, in any case, says Dr Paul Knoepfler, on his blog, The Niche.

The popular supposition is that cloning will produce an exact physical duplicate of the person cloned. The Boys from Brazil, a novel and film from the late 70s, expresses this perfectly. In the 60s Dr Mengele cloned Hitler 94 times and sent the babies around the world to be adopted.


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