US psychologists to revisit ban on participation in interrogations

US psychologists are returning to the debate over participating in military interrogations. After humiliating revelations that members of the profession had colluded in abusive techniques during the “war on terror” after 9/11, the American Psychological Association (APA) banned participation in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and other national security facilities.

But some psychologists feel that the new rules went too far. “It was the first time I can recall that APA outlawed a setting rather than a behavior,” says Mark Staal, president of APA’s Division of Military Psychology. “Nobody is in favor of illegal interrogation techniques, and [the ban] may… MORE

South African bioethicist David Benatar explores the human predicament

For about four years, it seemed likely that Cape Town would become the world’s first major city in modern times to run out of water. Fortunately, that danger was averted by about March this year, but not before millions of words were spilled about the hopelessness of its plight.

Whether or not this bleak situation influenced David Benatar’s latest book, The Human Predicament, it certainly is an emblem of his pessimism. Professor Benatar, the head of the bioethics centre at the University of Cape Town, became a kind of intellectual celebrity with his 2006 book, Better Never to Have… MORE

Bioethicist says conscientious objection may be murder

Conscientious objection has been a hotly debated topic in bioethics for several years. Yet recent contributions to the literature have been particularly strident. A series of new articles in the American Journal of Bioethics strongly criticise healthcare professionals and institutions who object to abortion, effectively telling them to exit the profession or face punitive measures.

The target article for the edition -- a legal perspective on the conscientious objection written by Santa Clara University philosopher and legal scholar Lawrence Nelson -- argues that conscientious objectors may be guilty of no less than murder if they fail to help… MORE

China is struggling to undo a one-child culture

In January 2016, the Chinese government formally abandoned its one child policy in favour of a two child law. And recent reports suggest that authorities are now considering abandoning population control policies all together.

Yet despite the government’s sudden change in outlook  -- precipitated by an ageing population and dire economic forecasts -- authorities are struggling to encourage families to have more than one child. High living costs, long work hours and surging child-care expenses mean that many couples feel that they can only afford to have one child -- or none. In 2017,… MORE

Three children euthanised in Belgium

Three minors have been euthanised in Belgium since euthanasia for children was legalised in 2014. According to the latest report from the government agency (PDF in French) which tracks euthanasia deaths, the children were 9, 11 and 17 years old. Two died in 2016 and 1 last year.

Under the existing law, their request for death has to be voluntary and well-considered and the patient must be suffering unbearably, with no prospect of improvement.

"There is no age for suffering," said Professor Wim Distelmans, chairman of the Federal Commission for Euthanasia Control and Evaluation. "Fortunately, euthanasia among… MORE

Only 7% of social egg freezers return for fertility treatment at Belgian clinic

Darren Hester /, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Despite dramatic uptake in the numbers of women electing to freeze their eggs as insurance against an anticipated age-related fertility decline, few may be taking advantage of it. At one of Europe's biggest fertility centres, the Brussels Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Belgium, only 7.6% of women have returned to thaw their eggs and try for a pregnancy. And only one-third of those have been successful.

The information was released at the… MORE

UK bioethics thinktank endorses germline modification

The UK’s leading bioethics institute has given a green light to intergenerational modification of the human genome. In a major study of the ethical and practical issues (PDF) involved in genome editing and human reproduction, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics has concluded that it is “morally permissible”, provided, of course, that it is safe.

“It is our view that genome editing is not morally unacceptable in itself,” said Professor Karen Yeung, the chair of the working group which produced the report. “There is no reason to rule it out in principle.”

Professor Jackie Leach Scully, of Newcastle… MORE

Enhancement, disease, and compulsory gene editing

Media outlets were in a frenzy this week after the Nuffield Council on Bioethics released a new report stating that gene editing of embryos for desirable traits was “not in itself unacceptable”.

Despite the interest that the report has generated, the idea of enhancement is not a novel one. Several bioethicists have argued that we have a moral imperative to select for the best traits when implanting embryos produced in vitro. The foremost proponent of this view, Oxford University bioethicist Julian Savulescu, has argued that the biomedical principle of beneficence should apply to our reproductive… MORE

Canadian man who killed disabled daughter seeks pardon

A Canadian man who was convicted of second-degree murder after killing his disabled daughter has asked Canadian Prime-Minister Justin Trudeau for a pardon or a retrial.

Sixty-five-year-old Robert Latimer received a life-sentence (including ten years without parole) after killing his daughter Tracy Latimer in 1993; Tracy suffered from severe cerebral palsy, and was allegedly in “chronic pain”. In October 1993, Latimer propped the girl’s head up against the front seat of his truck and connected a hose from the truck’s exhaust pipe to the cab.

Latimer told the courts that he was… MORE

Israel legalises surrogacy for single mothers, not gay couples

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire for failing to support an amendment to a bill that would have allowed access to surrogacy for gay men.

On Wednesday the Knesset voted 59 to 52 in favour of the law to extend access to surrogacy to single women, but stopped short of including single men in the reforms.

An amendment to the bill was proposed by Likud party member Amir Ohana, who is himself gay, that would have allowed LGBT couples to access surrogacy. But Mr Netanyahu failed to support the… MORE

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