Internet scammers target people seeking to die

Internet scammers are using fake endorsements from well-known euthanasia campaigners to bilk gullible people. According to Derek Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society:

“At any one time there are at least 40 web sites offering to sell the drug Nembutal without the need for a doctor’s prescription. None are known to be reliable. Not only are they fraudulent but sometimes pretend to be part of genuine right-to-die organizations like ERGO or EXIT.

“The latest impersonator has stolen the colored banner and logo from ERGO’s web site. They repeat the words ‘Euthanasia World Directory – Web Site of Hemlock Society… MORE

Are IVF embryos persons? A mum and dad who lost theirs say they are

On March 3 a liquid nitrogen storage tank at the University Hospitals Fertility Center in Cleveland failed. More than 950 patients lost over 4,000 frozen eggs and embryos. The hospital attributed the tragic incident to “human error”.

More than 70 aggrieved patients have brought over 40 lawsuits against University Hospitals of Cleveland, although most of these claims have been consolidated into a single case. But one couple, Wendy and Rick Penniman, has attempted to sue on the basis of “wrongful death”. Their lawsuit seeks to establish that embryos should be treated as legal persons and that the life of a person… MORE

Croatia debates conscientious objection for pharmacists

Rows over conscientious objection (CO) in medicine are not unique to the English-speaking world. This example comes from Croatia, where a pharmacist invoked CO and refused to supply contraceptive tablets to a customer. She asked the woman to return the following day when a more cooperative colleague would be on duty.

The customer complained and the case was referred to the  The Croatian Chamber of Pharmacists' (CPP) ethics commission. This week the CPP ruled that the pharmacist had not violated its code of ethics. It declared that according to the code, pharmacists have a right to CO as… MORE

Meet the father of one thousand kids

'Louis' with a daughter, Joyce Curiere. Photo: Judith Jockel for the Guardian

Another adventure in the reproductive revolution. Last month we reported that a Dutch man may have fathered 1000 children by donating at three sperm banks over many years. The Guardian has helpfully tracked down this remarkable gentleman – who modestly estimates that the number is much smaller, around 200 -- to find out what makes him tick.

It turns out that Louis, now 68, deliberately set out to create as many children as he could in the hope that someday, somehow, some or… MORE

‘Nature’ squarely behind trans rights

To no one’s surprise, the Trump Administration takes a dim view of transgender rights. In October a memo of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was leaked to the New York Times which had drafted a definition of gender based on genetics and genitalia.

The Administration’s aim, apparently, is to create a legal framework “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable” for sex-specific government rules and regulations.

This immediately provoked a protest from Nature, the world’s leading science journal. In an editorial, “US proposal for defining gender has no basis in… MORE

Nuffield Council explores ethics of experimental treatments

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has published a briefing note on the ethics of experimental treatments. These often spark controversies in the media, with negative stories about couples feeling duped over expensive fertility treatment “add-ons”, deaths following stem cell-engineered larynx transplants, and parents wishing to access experimental treatments for their children abroad.

Meanwhile, success stories such as the compassionate use of modified immune cells in babies with leukaemia show the potential of experimental treatments to help patients who have otherwise run out of options.

The Council notes that the use of experimental treatments can raise ethical issues such as:


Belgian first: doctors to stand trial for violating euthanasia law

Tine Nys (centre) with her sisters  

For the first time in the history of Belgium’s euthanasia law, doctors have been arraigned before a court for breaking it. This week a court ruled that two doctors and a psychiatrist from the province of East Flanders had illegally assisted in the euthanasia of a 38-year-old woman suffering from autism in 2010.

Tine Nys was euthanized on April 27, 2010 on the basis of mental suffering. Her sisters complained that the doctors acted incompetently and failed to observe the letter of the law.

A court in Ghent found that there… MORE

Doctors, addicts and greed

Here’s a cautionary tale from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Not all of bioethics is as subtle and Byzantine as debates over abortion or surrogacy. The homespun virtues of being honest and law-abiding and not being greedy are part of the package, too.  

A prescribing physician at an opioid treatment pleaded guilty this week to distribution of controlled substances, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and health care fraud.

Dr Ruth D. Jones, 57, was illegally distributing prescriptions for buprenorphine, a Schedule III controlled substance. With a co-defendant, Dr Michael Cash, she also created and distributed illegal prescriptions for buprenorphine. Police found… MORE

If God is dead, where does that leave bioethics?

Religion had a significant influence on early bioethics scholarship. Many of the first ‘bioethicists’ had been theologically trained, and bioethical debate was driven in part by religious concerns about new developments in medicine and biomedical science.

A new edition of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy considers how the rise of agnosticism in Western societies has impacted on the discipline of bioethics. Several ethicists offer analyses of how the disappearance of a public Christian culture has affected both the tone and content of bioethical debate. The edition focuses in particular on the work of the late H Tristam Englehardt.


Brain organoid research needs ethical oversight

Brain organoid research is advancing at a rapid pace. These artefacts are essentially miniature human brains grown in a laboratory from stem cells. Scientists have detected brain waves in some, which might indicate the presence of consciousness. There have also been attempts to attach brain organoids to robot machines, and to implant brain organoids in non-human animals.

Yet there is growing concern about the lack of scientific oversight of this research. In an article in The Conversation this week, Julian Koplin (Monash University) and Julian Savulescu (University of Oxford) argue that such research raises… MORE

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