Victory through exhaustion? Once again, Tasmania’s parliament will debate assisted suicide

Tasmanian rainforest 

This week the parliament of the Australian state of Tasmania will once again consider assisted dying. Sponsored by upper house member Mike Gaffney, an independent, this bill will be the fourth to be debated in ten years. Previous bills failed in 2010, 2013 and 2017.

There are powerful voices on both sides of the debate. A former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Governor, William Cox, and a legal academic, Jeremy Prichard, pointed out in an op-ed in The Mercury that from a criminal law perspective, a punishment of five-years in jail for coercing… MORE

Anorexia patient should not be force-fed, says UK judge

A tragic case in the UK Court of Protection illustrates some of the ethical issues involved in refusing burdensome treatment.

AB is a 28-year-old woman who has struggled with anorexia nervosa since she was 13. She now weighs about 26 kilograms and is so weak that she could easily die of starvation or a cardiac arrest.

At this stage the only way to save her life is naso-gastric tube feeding. But AB finds this abhorrent. She would have to be restrained or sedated during the procedure to keep her from ripping the tube out. “The only purpose of such an… MORE

Belgium: the inescapable duties of paternity

Delphine Boël, out-of-wedlock daughter of King Albert II of Belgium, at a book-signing in 2008

This is the paternity suit of the century. After a DNA test confirmed that he was the father, the love child of Albert II, the former King of Belgium, is seeking the same rights as his three other children -- Philippe, now King of Belgium, Prince Laurent and Princess Astrid.

In January Albert acknowledged Delphine Boël as his daughter after he was forced to take a paternity test. For more than a decade he had been fighting a claim by the 51-year-old artist.… MORE

“Stop having these stupid parties,” says gender-reveal originator

Oooops! The beginning of the San Bernadino fire 

Last year American blogger Jenna Karvunidis apologised for creating the “gender reveal” party craze. Guests assemble and celebrate noisily when the sex of the baby is revealed after an ultrasound. She regretted the gender stereotyping that these parties foster.

“Pink for a girl and blue for a boy? Why is this still happening in 2019, when some of us have realise how reductive and harmful this kind of gender stereotyping is?”

Just to remind readers that craze still hasn’t gone away, here’s the latest news from… MORE

Maltese doctors appeal for recognition of conscientious objection

Valletta, Malta 

Malta may be small but political battles there are just as heated as everywhere else. The country is debating an equality bill which would ban discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics, such as creed or religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and political opinion, amongst others.

Church schools believe the Equality Act could prohibit them from employing teachers of their choice, even on subjects in which faith itself is not a genuine requirement, for example, the teaching of languages or sciences.

Doctors are also worried about the bill and have called for recognition… MORE

Assisted dying explodes in Victoria

Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria, has been under fire from all directions recently over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Andrews, a social progressive who until recently seemed almost indestructible electorally, has been severe in administering a lockdown to protect vulnerable citizens.

The latest chink in the Teflon is a progress report from the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board for deaths for the first full year under legislation passed late in 2017. According to The Age:

Ten times more people than expected have chosen to end their lives under Victoria's landmark voluntary assisted dying legislation in… MORE

Nova Scotia euthanasia case reveals complexities of law

A case in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia exemplifies the complexities of legalised euthanasia. An 83-year-old man and his 82-year-old wife of 48 years have split up over his plans to seek euthanasia. She is seeking an injunction to prevent him from being given a lethal injection.

The husband says that he is suffering and near the end of his life because of advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, his wife claims that his wish to die is not based on physical illness but on anxiety and mental delusions. 

The matter has risen through the courts. Last week… MORE

Elon Musk unveils plans for brain implants

Billionaire and tech visionary Elon Musk unveiled a mind-reading brain implant at an event in California last week.

Several pigs are now walking around with a “neuralink” in their brains, enabling their brain activity to be transmitted wirelessly to a nearby computer.

Musk believes that the neuralink technology can help people cope with brain injuries and other disorders. 'The neurons are like wiring, and you sort of need an electronic thing to solve an electronic problem," he said.

“In a lot of ways, it’s kind of like a Fitbit in your skull, with tiny wires.”

He has said that… MORE

Let’s make amends for the ethical lapse in creating HeLa cells, says Nature

Henrietta Lacks 

The year 2020 marks the centenary of the birth of Henrietta Lacks, the African-American woman who achieved a measure of immortality when some of her cells were used to create the first immortalized human cell line and one of the most important cell lines in medical research.

The story is well known. Ms Lacks, a mother of five, died in 1951 of an aggressive cervical cancer. Doctors at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, had used samples of her tissue while diagnosing and treating her. And they gave some to a researcher without her knowledge… MORE

CRISPR-edited embryos should not be used. Not for the moment, that is

CRISPR-edited human embryos should not be used to create a pregnancy until it is safe says a new report by an international commission of the US National Academy of Medicine, US National Academy of Sciences, and the UK’s Royal Society.

Heritable genome edits can be passed down to future generations, raising scientific, medical, ethical, moral, and societal issues. Extensive societal debate is needed first, the report says. Initial uses should be limited to the prevention of serious monogenic diseases, like cystic fibrosis, thalassemia, sickle cell anemia, and Tay-Sachs disease.

At the moment, it is not possible to define responsible translational pathways… MORE

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