New South Wales debates decriminalisation of abortion

Politicians in the New South Wales State Parliament are about to commence debate on a controversial bill that would decriminalise abortion and provide a legislative framework for terminations throughout pregnancy. 

The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 has been described by supporters as an “update” to an “archaic” section of the state's Crimes Act. Section 82 of this 119-year-old Act states that abortion is a criminal offence liable to 10 years imprisonment. The bill would remove this section from the Crimes Act and would allow women to access abortion for any reason up to 22 weeks gestation.… MORE

Facebook is developing wearable brain-to-computer glasses

An early research kit of a wearable brain-computer interface device, built by Facebook Reality Labs.

Facebook is funding research into translating brain signals into speech. In an article in Nature Communications, scientists from the University of California San Francisco say that they are working towards “real-time decoding of speech in an interactive, conversational setting, which has important implications for patients who are unable to communicate”.

The ultimate goal for Facebook is to create a wearable headset which allows users to control music or to interact in virtual reality using their thoughts.

Facebook itself seems MORE

Our expanding circle should include chimpanzees

July 14 was World Chimpanzee Day / photo Nick Riley

As foundational principles of bioethics go, it’s pretty hard to go past personhood. It’s the issue which underlies debates about abortion, stem cell research, genetic engineering, euthanasia, and, of course animal rights. As Peter Singer and other philosophers argue, as humanity advances, some animals should be included in the “expanding circle” of our altruistic instincts.

One example of this is a manifesto of chimpanzee liberation which has just been published in the Italian journal Human Evolution by several specialists on evolution and primatology,… MORE

Nitschke keeps on pressing those buttons

Philip Nitschke in front of a marquee advertising "A Time to Die", a documentary about his work 

The ever-controversial Australian Dr Philip Nitschke, has ratcheted up his reputation for ghoulish euthanasia activism, by offering live-streamed suicides for members of his association, Exit International.

He told the media that he is trialling a new, easily-obtained lethal medication which people can use to kill themselves. In the past he has normally recommended the barbiturate Nembutal, but this is difficult to obtain legally and supplies from illegal suppliers are sometimes contaminated or under-strength.

His life-streaming service gives him an… MORE

Is killing the disabled ‘eugenics’, or just a merciful release?

Eugenics is not a word to be trifled with. It evokes the horror of Nazi atrocities during World War II as well as widespread human rights violations in the early part of the 20th Century in the United States, Canada and some European countries.

But, contend the authors of a special issue of the Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, killing the disabled because they are disabled must be called eugenics. The authors cover a number of areas, too numerous to summarise. But here are few memorable points:

Yes, euthanasing the disabled is eugenics.

“… a… MORE

Transgender treatment for kids finally under ethical scrutiny

More and more young people believe they were born in the wrong body. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, about 1.8% of American high school students (grades 9-12) identified as transgender in a survey.

In 2008 that the Endocrine Society approved puberty blockers as a treatment for transgender adolescents as young as 12 years old. Many parents feel that it is a matter of life and death for their children. As one San Francisco mother told NBC, “At first…it’s hard to swallow. But really it’s this child’s happiness. I would rather have a transgender daughter… MORE

More surrogate mothers jailed in Cambodia

Children in Phnom Penh / by Ronny Sison on Unsplash

Cambodia is continuing to jail surrogate mothers. Three women were charged with human trafficking last week. After being detained in Vietnam they had been handed over to Cambodian authorities, allegedly carrying babies for foreign nationals. If convicted, they could be jailed for as long as 20 years.

One of the women has already delivered her baby.

Cambodia hastily outlawed surrogacy in 2016 after Thailand also banned it. Since then, dozens of women and some surrogacy agents have been arrested.

But the rewards are high for women who are… MORE

Victoria issues first assisted suicide permit

Melbourne / Raj Eiamworakul on Unsplash

The Australian state of Victoria has issued its first "voluntary assisted dying" permit under its 2017 euthanasia legislation, according to The Age.

The permit has not been used, but it will allow an unidentified terminally ill person to obtain a lethal medication to end his or her life when desired.

The state government has refused to confirm or deny the approval, saying that the privacy of the patients and their families needs to be respected. It expects that only about a dozen Victorian will end their lives in… MORE

Indian authorities investigate extraordinary story of sex-selective abortion

Authorities are investigating a possible epidemic of sex-selective abortions in Uttarkashi, a province in the remote northern Indian state of Uttarakhand state. Alarm bells went off after figures in a government database showed that none of the 216 children born across 132 villages over three months were girls.

Since 1994, sex-selective abortion of girls has been outlawed, but the practice continues. In 2013, the UN reported that 919 girls were born for every 1000 boys; in 2017, a government survey put that figure at 896. Last year an Indian government report found about 63 million women… MORE

Many women give birth naturally after IVF failure

A Scottish study looking at conception rates whose IVF procedure was unsuccessful found that 17% (about 1 in 6) of women went on to have a live birth, without treatment, within five years.

The study, funded by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office and published in Human Reproduction, is thought to be one of the biggest of its kind. The University of Aberdeen team studied data from 2,133 women who received IVF treatment between 1998 and 2011 at an IVF unit in Aberdeen. They were followed up for a minimum of one and a maximum of 15 years.


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