When should we provide life sustaining care for premature babies?

A new article in Bioethics criticises policies in neonatal care units that mandate the withholding of treatment from babies born before 25 weeks gestation.

Neonatologist Manya J Hendriks (University Hospital Zurich) and paediatrician John D Lantos (Children’s Mercy Hospital) argue that many extremely premature babies -- babies born between 22 weeks and 25 weeks gestation -- can survive and, indeed, develop healthily if given adequate treatment. Yet many neonatal intensive care units in Europe and North America have policies based on estimated-gestation age (EGA), and these units routinely withhold treatment from extremely premature infants based… click here to read whole article and make comments

Organ donation in an age of social media

A multitude of solutions have been proposed to solve the problem of chronic organ shortages in Western nations. One recent proposal, outlined in an article in the April edition of Bioethics, considers how social media might be utilised to solicit more donations.

Warwick Medical School academics Greg Moorlock and Heather Draper suggest that governments should consider utilising a social media platform akin to Facebook to solicit donations for patients in need of a transplant. Moorlock and Draper suggest that the controlled release of recipient information -- information that takes the recipient from being a “statistical… click here to read whole article and make comments

Rationing ventilators at the end of life

What do we do when we don’t have enough life support machines for critically ill patients? A doctor from Rwanda offers a unique perspective in the latest edition of The Hastings Center Report.

Noah Polzin-Rosenberg, a former Harvard academic who now runs a training program for emergency doctors in Rwanda, describes the agonising decisions that need to be made in his severely underfunded ICU ward, where only two ventilators are available for critically-ill patients. Unlike in Western countries, health care systems such as that in Rwanda cannot afford to offer wide access to critical care… click here to read whole article and make comments

Debate intensifies over Down syndrome abortions

Political commentators in the US have clashed over new state legislation that seeks to prohibit abortion on the grounds of Down Syndrome. In an op-ed in the Washington Post early last month, journalist Ruth Marcus argued that legislative moves to ban Down Syndrome abortion were “unenforceable, unconstitutional -- and wrong”. Marcus argued that the decision to terminate a pregnancy based on a Downs diagnosis should “be left to individual women, not to government officials who believe they know best”. She criticised North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana for passing legislation that prohibited abortion based solely on the… click here to read whole article and make comments

The ultimate First World problem: cosmetic surgery for my fish

Unnecessary and expensive cosmetic surgery cops a hiding in BioEdge from time to time for departing from the traditional view of medicine as restoring health instead of reinforcing body image stereotypes.

But what if the body belongs to a large-scaled fish with sage-like whiskers and an aggressive personality?

The New York Times recently ran a feature about the Asian arrowana fish, the world’s most expensive aquarium fish. The cost of a single fish ranges from hundreds of dollars per fish to tens of thousands. A collector from China is said to have purchased an albino specimen for US$300,000. With… click here to read whole article and make comments

Nuffield Council issues brief note on whole genome sequencing of babies

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has published a briefing note on whole genome sequencing of babies.

Whole genome sequencing is starting to be used in the UK’s National Health Service in the care of seriously ill babies, and will also become available through commercial companies. The technology can reveal large amounts of genetic information. But this raises questions about how this information will be interpreted, shared with parents, stored and used by others. While costs are falling, interpreting results remains difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.

Whole genome sequencing can help to diagnose a seriously ill baby with a suspected genetic… click here to read whole article and make comments

A self-driving car killed a pedestrian. What now?

A self-driving Uber vehicle has hit and killed a pedestrian in United States, raising concerns about the regulation of new autonomous vehicle (AV) technology.

Elaine Hertzberg was struck down late on Sunday night in Tempe, Arizona, after accidently stepping in front of an AV vehicle -- an Audi SUV -- travelling at approximately 60 kph.

The vehicle’s front sensor failed to detect the woman, while a safety driver present in the car was not watching the road.

Uber has announced an immediate halt on its AV trials across North America after the incident, and police are investigating. Legislation… click here to read whole article and make comments

The shadowy world of ‘euthanasia fundamentalism’

Is Stephen King looking for a new plot for a novel? How about the activities of a shadowy network dedicated to helping people commit suicide? It operates outside the law with the connivance of authorities; its reach is international; its spokesmen are well-known, but are distant from the increasing number of deaths....

Something like this exists in Australia (Philip Nitschke’s Final Exit International); the UK (ditto); and the United States (Final Exit Network). And now a similar group has emerged in the Netherlands.

The Dutch Public Prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into the Last Wish Cooperative (Coöperatie… click here to read whole article and make comments

One way to beat the ‘obesity apocalypse’

A leading doctor has called for a hundred-fold increase in government-funded bariatric surgery for teenagers as the only way to save the United Kingdom from an “obesity apocalypse”.

Professor Russell Viner, the new president of Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said that this would be the only way to save them from the “vicious cycle” of a poor diet and bad health.

He also called for a ban on TV advertisements selling unhealthy foods before 9pm and school inspections to assess how they help pupils' health.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Professor Viner said: 

click here to read whole article and make comments

The morally messy world of international NGOs

The topic of complicity, or cooperation in evil, poses a particular problem for the utilitarian ethics which currently predominate in bioethics journals. Surprisingly, but consistently, Peter Singer, the doyen of utilitarianism, ended up defending the guards of Auschwitz in his recent book The Most Good You Can Do.

“Strictly utilitarian effective altruists … would have to accept the implication that, on a plausible reading of the relevant facts, at least some of the guards at Auschwitz were not acting wrongly.”

Right or wrong, this judgement does not square with the moral intuition which led a German… click here to read whole article and make comments

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