‘Resistance fighters’ against Belgian euthanasia publish anthology of behind-the-scenes observations

This book would be a bargain at any price, but it is free to download from the website of Springer, the publisher of many medical journals: Euthanasia: Searching for the Full Story: Experiences and Insights of Belgian Doctors and Nurses.

Euthanasia, though legal in Belgium, is opposed by some healthcare professionals. This collection of essays contains insights and thought-provoking stories from the authors’ professional experience. As the author of one of the book’s forwards puts it:

The testimonies reported in this book are forward-thinking and prophetic: they are the words of “Resistance fighters” and watchers who do not… MORE

Another go at refuting the “famous violinist” argument for abortion

SRF Kultur / screenshot 

One of the most famous bioethics papers of all time was published 50 years ago, in 1971, by Judith Jarvis Thompson, an American philosopher. It was a defence of a woman’s right to abort a foetus, even if the foetus is acknowledged to be a person from the moment of conception.

In her paper, Thompson imagines that a woman wakes up to find that her circulatory system has, without her consent, been connected to that of a famous violinist with kidney failure whose life she must sustain for nine months. To remain… MORE

An Irish doctor fails in attempt to be a conscientious objector to Covid-19 policies

An Irish general practitioner who described the Covid-19 pandemic as a hoax, refused to refer sick patients for testing and refused to administer vaccines was suspended by the Medical Council in March.

Dr Gerard Waters was vocal in his criticisms of government policy. “My problem primarily is that I don’t think the pathogenicity of Covid is sufficiently severe to (a) cause lockdowns or (b). use a messenger RNA [vaccine],” he said.

His defence against suspension was that he was a conscientious objector – an interesting argument which is more familiar in connection with abortion, sterilisation or euthanasia.

The case went… MORE

The zig-zag history of surgical treatment of spinal bifida

A brief history of surgical treatment of spinal bifida in newborns in The Lancet raises interesting questions about the objectivity of medical judgements.

As the authors point out, spinal bifida is less common nowadays in developed countries for several reasons. The simple remedy of folic acid supplements has decreased its incidence and prenatal tests followed by abortion have decreased its prevalence.

However, when treatment became possible early last century, influential surgeons opposed it, partly for eugenic reasons. “In 1927, Edinburgh surgeon John Fraser, for instance, argued that many of the patients with spina bifida he had operated on were… MORE

Researchers discover how to help paralysed patients with brain to text communication

F. Willett et al./Nature 2021/Erika Woodrum

Scientists are exploring a number of ways for people who are unable to speak or move to communicate with their thoughts. The newest and fastest turns back to a vintage means for communication: handwriting.

For the first time, researchers have deciphered the brain activity associated with trying to write letters by hand. Working with a participant with paralysis who has sensors implanted in his brain, the team used an algorithm to identify letters as he attempted to write them. Then, the system displayed the text on a screen -- in real time.


If standard IVF works, why all the expensive add-ons?

“Standard IVF is fine for most people. So why are so many offered an expensive sperm injection they don’t need?” That is the question posed by two Australian IVF specialists. They claim that many expensive IVF add-ons rest on very shaky evidence.

Take, for example, ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection. First developed in 1992 (without clinical trials) as a way of treating male infertility, it has become the most popular method of IVF – even though the rate of birth defects appears to be a bit higher.

“In the United States, between 1996 and 2012, ICSI use increased from… MORE

‘Uterine morality’: feminist eugenics in China

Like the coronavirus, eugenics keeps morphing and mutating to adapt to new environments. In China, for instance, the government has been accused treating women “as the reproductive agents of the state, as instruments of implementation for its eugenic development agenda.”

“The approach’s eugenic undertones are unmistakable,” declared foreign policy expert Leta Hong Fincher last year. “Even as officials urge college-educated, Han Chinese women to marry and get pregnant, they are discouraging, sometimes through coercion, ethnic minorities with high birthrates — particularly Uighurs in the northwestern region of Xinjiang — from having more children.”

But the government is not necessarily… MORE

South Carolina may replace lethal injections with firing squads for capital punishment

Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, Barcelona, site of executions during the Spanish Civil War

The American state of South Carolina has not executed anyone for ten years. Back then, prison authorities used lethal injections. In the meantime, because of supplier boycotts and legal and ethical misgivings about whether lethal injections are a “cruel and unusual punishment”, this option may not be available.

So the state’s upper house has approved the use of firing squads, which are said to provide a quicker and painless death.

The electric chair is another option, but some people do not die instantly… MORE

New Zealand super heavyweight weightlifter could become first openly transgender Olympic athlete

Forty-three-year-old transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will almost certainly represent New Zealand in the women’s super heavyweight category at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Hubbard won a silver at the 2017 world championships and is currently ranked 16th in the world in her category.

If she attends, she will be the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics.

Hubbard lived as a man for 35 years and never qualified for international weightlifting competitions. But since transitioning in 2012 she has won several titles including two gold medals at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa and a gold at the Roma… MORE

US birth rate is the lowest since records began

The birth rate in the United States fell 4% in 2020. It was the largest single-year decrease in nearly 50 years, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rate dropped for mothers of every major race and ethnicity, and in nearly every age group. It has declined to the lowest point recorded in US history.

Amongst younger women, births have been declining for years, because of postponed motherhood and smaller families. But that was partially offset by slightly higher birth rates for women in their late 30s and in their 40s. But not in… MORE

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