Updating the Hippocratic Oath

The Hippocratic Oath seems to be evolving faster than the coronavirus. NPR highlighted a class oath written by incoming first-year medical students at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine during their orientation week.

“Their class oath, the first of its kind in our program’s history, speaks to the power and importance of clinical care and research in creating a more inclusive and just society,” said the school’s dean, Anantha Shekhar. The students also took the traditional oath, or a version of it.

What’s remarkable is the difference between the students’ oath and the traditional oath. The former addresses… MORE

New Zealand will soon have legal voluntary euthanasia

New Zealand has become the latest jurisdiction to legalise euthanasia. The issue appeared as a referendum question in the October 17 general election which swept popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern back into office with a clear majority.

The results have taken two weeks to count and the final result will not be known until November 6. However preliminary results released by the electoral commission on Friday indicated that 65.2% of eligible voters backed the legalisation of euthanasia, with only 33.8% opposed.

Although some 480,000 special votes remain to be counted, the margin is so great that they cannot affect… MORE

Poland still racked by protests over abortion

The fury on the streets about Poland’s tougher restrictions on abortion has not subsided.

Tens of thousands of protesters took part in rallies in Warsaw and other cities on Friday. The streets have been filled with demonstrators every day since last Thursday when the nation’s highest court banned abortions for unborn children who have congenital defects. According to official statistics, this is the most common reason for the 1,110 legal abortions recorded last year.

Marta Lempart, co-founder of Women's Strike, and one of the principal organisers of the protests, told Deutsche Welle: "We're prepared to fight till the… MORE

Ombudsman slams euthanasia in Canada’s prisons

Canada’s prison ombudsman has recommended an absolute moratorium on providing “assisted dying” inside a federal penitentiary.

In his annual report, Ivan Zinger acknowledged there have been three known cases of doctor-assisted death in federal prisons, two of them in the 2019-20 reporting period. His office found a series of errors and delays and the misapplication of law and policy in both.

The first case involved a “a non-violent recidivist” serving a two-year sentence. A decision to deny him full-day parole was almost certainly a factor in his request for MAiD, as medical assistance in dying is termed in Canada. “The… MORE

High cancer risk for IVF babies

Children conceived with IVF have a higher risk of developing cancer than those conceived naturally, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Network Open this week. “The increased risk was 2-fold higher for children conceived via in vitro fertilization than for children conceived naturally,” say the authors.

"IVF-conceived children are at about one-third greater risk of birth defects compared to their naturally-conceived counterparts, as well as at higher risk of childhood cancer, although in absolute terms these numbers are small," the lead author, Barbara Luke, of Michigan State University, East Lansing, told MedPage Today.

"An unresolved… MORE

Brains in a dish pose ethical problems

A recent feature in Nature opens with the following sentence: “In Alysson Muotri’s laboratory, hundreds of miniature human brains, the size of sesame seeds, float in Petri dishes, sparking with electrical activity.”

Dr Muotri, a Brazilian researcher working at the University of California, San Diego, is investigating what makes us uniquely human. The obvious answer is the brain, so he is studying it from an evolutionary and developmental perspective and differentiating stem cells to recreate "brain organoids" in his lab.

His research is quite innovative. For instance, he has compared the DNA of Neanderthals (taken from the fossil… MORE

Japan’s new PM promotes IVF to boost birth rate

Japan's biggest long-term problems are a low birth rate and a shrinking population. Incoming Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to provide insurance coverage for infertility treatments.

He will also promote paternity leave for working fathers to ease the burden on working mothers. He has promised more help for single-parent households, more than half of which are living in poverty.

Japan’s total fertility rate — the average number of children born per woman during reproductive years — was 1.36 in 2019. The government hopes to raise the rate to 1.8.

However, experts say that the policy will not be… MORE

Artificial reproduction may require redefinition of parenthood

Developments in assisted reproduction could muddle the definition of parenthood, says an Australian academic in a recent issue of the journal Bioethics. Hilary Bowman-Smart, of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, examines a number of different scenarios for creating children other than natural reproduction. “Through a series of cases involving technologies such as cloning and genome editing, we see that in lieu of the traditional two parents, there are possible beings who have no genetic parents, one genetic parent, or many genetic parents,” she writes.

Rather than the traditional mother and father, she points out that, with emerging… MORE

Poland’s high court effectively bans abortion

Protesters against Court decision fill streets

A ruling by Poland’s highest court has effectively banned most abortions in a country where there are only about 2,000 a year.

In an 11 to 2 decision, the Constitutional Tribunal declared that abortion due to foetal defects is unconstitutional. It will only be permitted in cases of rape, incest or threats to the mother’s health and life. These constitute about 2% of legal terminations in recent years -- 1,074 of 1,100 abortions performed in 2019 – and are mostly Down syndrome babies.

The decision was immediately criticised by the commissioner… MORE

‘Medical aid in dying’ saves money: Canadian report

Since Canada’s law on euthanasia and assisted suicide came into effect four years ago, health-care costs have dropped millions of dollars, according to a Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) report.

The report on assisted dying calculates that since becoming legal on June 17, 2016, Canada's health-care costs have dropped C$86.9 million. “The total net reduction in costs from current legislation plus the incremental savings from bill C-7 will add up to $149.0 million,” the report says. “While this amount may appear significant, it only represents 0.08% of total provincial health care budgets for 2021.”

Although this could sound grotesquely… MORE

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