Victorian euthanasia bill one step closer to passing

Victoria’s euthanasia bill has passed a major hurdle, with the upper house voting to progress the bill to a committee stage before a final vote.

The Members of the Legislative Council voted 22-18 in favour of the bill after a second reading, and will now debate a range of proposed amendments aimed at strengthening safeguards and tightening eligibility criteria.

Parliament sat for two days as members gave impassioned speeches both for and against the proposed euthanasia scheme.

Labor MP Harriet Shing brought the chamber to tears as she… click here to read whole article and make comments

Is there any difference between euthanasia and palliated starvation?

While euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently illegal in most countries, the practice of voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED) is seen by some as an ethically and legally permissible alternative. VSED refers to seriously-ill patients refusing to eat and drink for a sustained period of time with the intention of bringing about their own death.

Yet a new paper published in BMC Medicine argues that VSED is ethically indistinguishable from assisted suicide, and should be subject to the same legal regulations as more salient cases of assistance in dying.

The paper,… click here to read whole article and make comments

Stem cell superstar crashes and burns

Macchiarini at a 2008 press conference  

Italian surgeon Paolo Macchiarini was once one of the world’s most feted doctors after creating artificial tracheas which gave new life to his patients. He was a poster boy for regenerative medicine.

However, his achievements have crumbled into dust after three of his patients died and many of his claims could not be supported.

According to a recent report in The Scientist, an Expert Group on Scientific Misconduct at Sweden’s Central Ethics Review Board (CEPN) has found evidence of scientific misconduct in six of his synthetic trachea transplantation publications.… click here to read whole article and make comments

The Eleanor Rigbys of the world are health timebombs

Our crowded, lengthy commutes are making us more lonely than ever”. “Eating alone is BAD for your health - especially if you're a man, study shows”. “Japan’s solution to loneliness: virtual wives.” “Loneliness: a silent plague that is hurting young people most”.

There is no lack of interest in the topic of loneliness, as these headlines indicate. But there’s less agreement amongst researchers about what can be done about it.

"Loneliness is a major social, educational, economic and health issue that will reach epidemic proportions by 2030," says Prof Stephen Houghton, of  the University of… click here to read whole article and make comments

Vic euthanasia bill hangs in balance as World Medical Association intervenes

The debate over euthanasia in the Victorian Upper House will be “mean” and “protracted”, according to one proponent of the government’s assisted dying scheme.

After a fairly swift passage through the Victorian Lower House, the government sponsored Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 is set to meet fierce opposition among members of the Legislative Council, and it is possible that the bill will be significantly amended or even defeated.

While the expectation among political pundits was that the bill would pass the Upper House with little resistance, the past week has seen at… click here to read whole article and make comments

Ectogenesis: the end of the abortion debate?

Ectogenesis, or the gestation of fetus in an environment ex utero, was once an idea confined to the realm of science fiction. But research involving the incubation of premature lambs in artificial gestation bags has made pundits think that fetal development ex utero may soon be possible.

The possibility of ectogenesis raises significant ethical questions, such as this: “will ecogenesis allow us to reconcile pro-choice and pro-life positions on abortion?”

Some ethicists say “yes”. In theory, the new technology will mean that we no longer have to argue about the burden that… click here to read whole article and make comments

Groundbreaking surgery may prevent worst effects of spina bifida

A team of American surgeons have pioneered a groundbreaking surgical technique that may prevent many of the severe health problems caused by spina bifida.

Spina bifida is congenital defect involving an abnormal development of the spine. It is caused by an incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord, and can lead to serious health problems such as impaired mobility, incontinence, and an accumulation of fluid in the brain. Many parents chose to terminate their pregnancy when they discover their child has the condition.

Yet surgeons from Baylor College… click here to read whole article and make comments

Belgium: euthanasia doctors split over psychiatric illness

Psychiatrist Dr. Lieve Thienpont, right, speaks with a patient who received approval for euthanasia about a year ago,

Even the controversial head of Belgium’s euthanasia commission is concerned that a well-known Belgian psychiatrist is allowing too many of her psychiatric patients to be euthananised.

Dr Wim Distelmans, an oncologist and the chair of the country’s euthanasia commission has also helped to found a number of end-of-life clinics. He is euthanasia’s most prominent defender in Belgium. However, even he is alarmed at the policies followed by psychiatrist Lieve Thienpont. According to an investigative report by Associated Press,click here to read whole article and make comments

ShanidarCare: Neanderthals cared for their own

Kurdistan is a dangerous place today, but 50,000 years ago, Neanderthal hunter-gatherers had to keep a weather eye open, too. There were bears, cheetahs, lions, leopards, hyenas, and jackals, not to mention snakes and scorpions. An unwary step and you were literally dead meat.

Which makes it all the more surprising that a man named (by scientists) Shanidar 1 survived into his 40s or 50s – perhaps the equivalent of about 80 nowadays. He must have had the late Pleistocene equivalent of top-drawer Obamacare from his tribe.

A technical, but very significant, article in PLOS One, examines the skeleton… click here to read whole article and make comments

If you want to be a surrogate, make sure you have a lawyer

Another chapter in The Reproductive Revolution, this time (as so many other times) from California via a report by Jane Ridley in the New York Post. Jessica Allen, 31, already had two sons with her partner and decided to give the gift of life to another couple as a surrogate mother. Through a surrogacy broker, Omega Family Global, they were introduced to Mr and Mrs Liu (a pseudonym), a Chinese couple. Commercial surrogacy is illegal in China and the Lius had come to California for a baby.

Things began smoothly. The Liu embryos were implanted in April 2016… click here to read whole article and make comments

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