Triage according to standard tests of frailty, says Oxford bioethicist

If triage becomes necessary, what criteria should be used? Bioethicists seem reluctant to put a finger on a particular characteristic which exclude people from potentially life-saving treatment. It shouldn’t be age, or disability, or mental capacity, or social status, or race, or ability to pay…. What, then?

Dominic Wilkinson, of the University of Oxford, argues in the American Journal of Bioethics, that it should be frailty. “Frailty is relevant to resource allocation in at least three separate ways, through its impact on probability of survival, longevity and quality of life (though not a fourth—length of intensive care stay)”.

Frailty… MORE

Why do the elderly request euthanasia in the Netherlands?

Most requests for euthanasia in the Netherlands come from people suffering from cancer. But the number of patients who have dementia, psychiatric disorders, or multiple geriatric syndromes (MGS) is growing steadily.

An article by Dutch physicians in JAMA Internal Medicine examines the kind of geriatric syndromes which motivate a person to ask for euthanasia.

They found that an accumulation of geriatric syndromes alone is insufficient to explain the unbearableness of suffering that leads to a request for euthanasia. All of the patients they studied had been suffering from MGS for several years. But then came a tipping point –… MORE

Did Neanderthals bury their dead?

Was burial of the dead practiced by Neanderthals? It’s an important issue, as the existence of funerary rites would suggest that, like us, the Neanderthals had spiritual intuitions.

For the first time in Europe, scientists have found strong evidence of burial around 41,000 years ago, at the Ferrassie rock shelter in the Dordogne. Their study is published in Scientific Reports.

Dozens of buried Neanderthal skeletons have been discovered in Eurasia, leading some scientists to deduce that they buried their dead. But most of the best-preserved skeletons were not excavated using modern archaeological techniques.

After six Neanderthal skeletons were discovered… MORE

Could surrogacy contracts work?

The complications involved in commercial surrogacy are leading lawyers and legislators to considering regulating what they cannot forbid. As a Dutch minister cited put it:

Surrogacy is a legal twilight zone; I think we have to end that. This also means that we have to come to a neat arrangement, managing surrogacy in a decent way. So no more abuses in faraway countries that we don’t want, but surrogacy in the Netherlands on a non-commercial basis.

So  pre-conception authorization of surrogacy agreements (PASA) is being studied in the Netherland and the UK. Two Dutch researchers critique this in… MORE

New doco chronicles sperm donor abuse by US doctor

Dr Quincy Fortier, the subject of Baby God. Photograph: HBO

Another revelation of a super-stud doctor, this time in Nevada. Dr Quincy Fortier was named Nevada’s doctor of the year in 1991. Practicing as an obstetrician and fertility doctor for 40 years, he may have impregnated hundreds of women. So far only 26 people have been confirmed as his offspring from his patients.

His career is sketched in a just-released HBO documentary, “Baby God”. The director, “Hannah Olson, told The New York Post that Fortier was an “extreme” example of a “widespread phenomenon” in the fertility… MORE

Japan tries AI matchmaking

The phrases “artificial intelligence” and “high hopes” are yoked together in many headlines. AI promises a bright future in nearly everything, from medicine to manufacturing to transport to public services.

And now the Japanese government plans to use it for matchmaking. According to a BBC report, it will subsidise local government projects that use AI to pair people up.

Last year the number of births in Japan fell below 865,000, a record low. The population is projected to decline from a peak of 128 million in 2017 to under 53 million by the end of the century. Its fertility rate… MORE

China uses AI to create facial recognition surveillance of Uyghurs

According to leaked documents revealed in the Washington Post, Huawei, China’s giant telecom, has helped to develop an AI system to identify Uyghurs, its oppressed Turkic minority in the province of Xinjiang.

Allegedly the facial recognition system is programmed to send “Uyghur alarms” to the police when Uyghurs are spotted by security cameras.

The documents say that Huawei worked with a company called Megvii in 2018 to develop a facial recognition system that could determine the ethnicity of all the people in a crowd, with special flags for Uyghur faces.

A Huawei spokesman told WaPo that the document was… MORE

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine gets a second lease on life

California, the state of sun, sand, surf, Botox, tech and stem cells.

Like the tense national election, the stem cell field also saw deep divisions among Californians. Proposition 14, the Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative (Prop 14), was on the ballot in an initiated state statute. This ballot initiative the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to borrow US$5.5 billion. Taxpayers will repay this with interest over the next 30 years. Not surprisingly, Californians were divided on the measure. But, on the day, it passed, 51 to 49 percent.


The 27-year-old infant

Molly Gibson / National Embryo Donation Center

When Molly Gibson celebrates her first birthday on October 26 next year, she will be 28 years old. That’s nearly the age of her mother, Tina.

She was adopted as an embryo by her parents, Tina and Ben, through the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her genetic sibling Emma was born three years ago.

Molly now holds the record for the longest life as a frozen embryo, 27 years. Her sister was the previous record-holder, at 24 years.

According to the NEDC one million human embryos… MORE

UK High Court bans transgender puberty blockers for under-16s

Keira Bell, a 23-year-old activist, has won a stunning victory in the English courts over the conventional wisdom on gender dysphoria.

Keira had a very bad start in life. Her father walked out when she was four, leaving her and her sister in the care of her alcoholic mother. At 14 she was a miserable tomboy who didn’t fit in with the girls or the guys.

“I just stayed at home, locked in my room, playing video games,” she told the London Times. “And on the internet I read lesbian bloggers, but felt something else was wrong with me because… MORE

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