Ireland sidesteps ‘assisted dying’ debate – for now

Gino Kenny in a debate over 'assisted dying'  / screenshot Newstalk 

“Assisted dying” is a live issue in Ireland – unsurprisingly, perhaps, after the electorate repudiated traditional Catholic beliefs on divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage in several referenda.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny recently proposed a Dying with Dignity Bill. But the Justice Committee of the Oireachtas, Ireland’s parliament, ruled that it is not workable in its current form. However, the bill was dismissed on technical, not ethical, grounds. The chair of the Committee explained that it was simply not detailed enough:

"The bill itself wasn't… MORE

Kodokushi: Japan’s problem with the old and isolated


One consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic in Japan appears to be an increase in kodokushi or solitary deaths. An article in BMC Medical Ethics describes the problem and reviews possible solutions and ethical complications.

With its low birth rate, small families, and rapidly ageing population, Japan has a serious problem with social isolation of the elderly. Reliable statistics are scarce, but in 2003 in Tokyo, there were 1,451 cases of kodokushi; by 2018, that figure had nearly tripled to 3,882.

The new Japanese Prime minister even appointed a “minister for loneliness”, Tetsushi Sakamoto, in… MORE

Policy shift in Finland for gender dysphoria treatment

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The international activist group SEGM, the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, has published a review of a radical shift in the standards of care for gender dysphoric children in Finland.

A year ago, the Finnish Health Authority issued new guidelines which back psychotherapy, rather than puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, as the first-line of treatment. It took this step after a systematic review of the evidence which found the evidence for paediatric evidence “inconclusive”. Here are a few excerpts from SEGM’s summary.

Although pediatric medical transition is… MORE

A cyborg future may come earlier than we think

Surpassing the biological limitations of the brain and using the mind to control electronic devices may sound like the distant cyborg future, but it could come sooner than we think.

Researchers from Imperial College London have reviewed commercial brain-computer interface (BCI) devices in the journal APL Bioengineering. The most promising is electroencephalography (EEG), a method for monitoring the brain noninvasively through its electrical activity.

However, EEG-based BCIs, or eBCIs, raise social, ethical, and legal concerns.

Though it is difficult to understand exactly what a user experiences when operating an external device with an eBCI, a few things are certain.… MORE

Another solution for dementia: ‘advance directive implants’

No doubt you have heard of “advance directives” – guidelines for carers, guardians or doctors on what do to in the event that you are not competent to instruct them. Right-to-die associations often promote them as a way of avoiding life with dementia.

But what if the people with the power to “pull the plug” refuse? Advance directives are not legally enforceable in most jurisdictions.

Two bioethicists, Margaret Battin and Brent M. Kious, writing in The Hastings Center Report, one of the leading bioethics journals, have proposed a solution: an implant which automatically triggers a lethal drug at the… MORE

WHO gives in-principle endorsement to human genome editing

Two reports released this week by the World Health Organization (WHO) offer a pathway to establish human genome editing as a safe, effective and ethical tool for public health.

The reports were commissioned after the shocking 2018 announcement that Chinese scientist He Jiankui had used CRISPR to modify embryos that led to the birth of two girls. This was treated as an outrageous scandal by scientists around the world and He was jailed.

However, it is not the principle of He’s experiment that was repudiated, but only the practice. It was clearly not safe and he had not followed… MORE

Right-to-die in Scotland: People in glass houses, etc

The argumentum ad hominem is widely regarded as the worst of arguments, but, you know, it’s fun. It’s also dangerous, as the riposte, tu quoque – what about you?—can be painful.

This takes us to the media in Scotland, where a bill for assisted dying is gathering momentum in Holyrood. An evangelical Christian multi-millionaire, Sir Paul Souter, has pledged nearly nearly £90,000 (US$125,000) to the anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing. This irked the political editor at the Daily Record, Paul Hutcheon, who interpreted this as a Christian plot to thwart progress in Scotland.

This in turn prompted a… MORE

Male mice give birth in bizarre Chinese experiment

We missed this one during the BioEdge editor’s break. Scientists in China have conducted a bizarre experiment which allowed male rats to give birth – immediately raising a host of ethical challenges.

Researchers at the Naval Medical University in Shanghai created a heterosexual parabiotic pair by surgically joining a castrated male rat to a female one. After eight weeks, they transplanted a uterus into the male. Then they transplanted blastocyst-stage embryos into the both the male uterus and the female uterus. Finally, on embryonic day 21.5, they performed a Caesarean section.

Out of 842 embryos introduced into 46 pairs,… MORE

Secular bioethics threatens human dignity, says US bioethicist

Medicine detached from a transcendent dimension is increasingly a threat to human dignity, argues a bioethicist and theologian at Fordham University. In his new book Losing Our Dignity: How Secularized Medicine is Undermining Fundamental Human Equality, Charles Camosy predicts that the lives of millions of people with dementia will be at risk. Here are a few excerpts from an interview with the Catholic news website Crux.

The central thesis of the book is that as medicine became secularized it rejected the idea that fundamental human equality comes from sharing a common human nature which reflects the image… MORE

Gift vouchers for egg freezing

Here’s a quirky angle to the Covid pandemic – gift vouchers for egg freezing. OVA, an egg freezing c ompany in Illinois, is offering OVA gift cards on its website. A US$500 card cover the cost of a test. It’s commodification of gametes at its commercial best. The company’s slogan is “Buy now, freeze when you want!”

The company also offers “SPECIAL Freeze with a Friend PRICING” and group rates for “bffs or favorite work teammates”.

Earlier this year NBC News surveyed fertility clinics and found that there is a modest boom in the egg freezing business.  “We… MORE

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