Assisted suicide goes down in Hawaii

Hawaii’s House of Representatives have “deferred” a medical aid in dying bill, just weeks after it was overwhelmingly approved in the Senate. The state’s seven-member House Health Committee said the bill lacked appropriate safeguards details about clinical oversight.

"We're concerned about safeguards, the record-keeping, the physician training to be able to do this prescribing for aid in dying," said Democrat Della Au Bellati, the chair of the committee.

Republican Andria Tupola, also a member of the committee, said the measure was poorly written. “It literally said you could pick it up from the pharmacy, do it at home, and it didn't even mandate that someone had to be present and you had to do it in a private place,” she said.

The bill would have allowed would have allowed terminally… click here to read whole article and make comments

Is it ethical to Google your patients?

A significant minority of doctors will “Google their patients” at some point, according to several recent studies. But is this ethical?

In an article in The Conversation, Merle Spriggs, a researcher at the University of Melbourne’s Children’s Bioethics Centre, argues that there are several serious ethical problems with Googling one’s patients.

First and foremost, Spriggs suggests that this is a breach of trust: “When a doctor searches online for information about a patient without consent, their role changes from someone who works with the patient to someone who observes and spies on them.”

Spriggs also suggests that unreliable online information can obscure a doctor’s judgement of patients and their conditions: “Doctors, like the rest of us, also cannot be sure online information is accurate. For instance, more than 50% of adolescents admit posting… click here to read whole article and make comments

Surrogate ‘slave’ scandal in US


A 47-year old Florida woman has been jailed after holding a Mexican surrogate “captive” in a bid to get her pregnant.

Esthela Clark stands accused by authorities of physically abusing a 26-year-old surrogate woman and forcing her to have sex with strangers.

Clark met the woman in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2012, where she promised her $4000 in exchange for acting as a surrogate.

Clarke arranged for the woman to be brought from Mexico to Jacksonville, Florida, and then attempted to inseminate the woman herself rather than seek medical help.

Initially Clark’s boyfriend provided sperm which Clark used to inseminate the woman, but she failed to fall pregnant after repeated attempts. Clark turned to strangers to help the surrogate conceive a child.

Clark… click here to read whole article and make comments

Dutch health council authorises the creation of human embryos for research

The Dutch Health Council (Gezondheidsraad) has recommended that scientists be allowed to create embryos specifically for research purposes, in a move that will pave the way for embryo gene editing research in the Netherlands.

In a report submitted Tuesday to Minister for Health Edith Schippers, the Health Council recommended that the government abandon the current regulations that only allow research scientists to use embryos left over from procedures such as IVF.

Instead, the Council suggests that government develop and “updated legal and moral framework” that allows for the creation of embryos specifically for research. The exact ethical framework is yet to be developed, and Council spokesman Eert Schoten said that the initial experimentation should only take place under “strict conditions”.

If the regulations are changed, scientists will be able to edit embryos in a way that are unable to with excess… click here to read whole article and make comments

Canadian surgeons harvesting organs from euthanised patients

Taking advantage of the country’s new law, Canadian transplant surgeons have harvested organs from dozens of euthanasia patients. According to the National Post, 26 people in Ontario who died by lethal injection have donated tissue or organs. This involved mostly corneas, skin, heart valves, bones and tendons.

The National Post’s report only covered Ontario. Bioethicists, Transplant Quebec and an ethics committee of the Quebec government in Quebec argued last year that euthanasia could be a good source of organs, so it is quite possible that similar procedures have been carried out in that province as well.

“If we accept people can make decisions to end life, and we accept the idea of cardiac death being sufficient for organ donation, this should be acceptable,” Dr James Downar, of Dying with Dignity Canada, told the Post, to allay fears that patients could be pressured into donating organs.

Oddly… click here to read whole article and make comments

Is the 14-day limit on growing embryos out of date?

Both in the US and UK, growing human embryos more than 14 days in a laboratory is banned. Recent developments suggest that it may be possible to grow them for longer and a number of scientists are lobbying to extend the limit. They contend that the limit is out-of-date and too restrictive.

But what if they could create embryo-like structures without creating complete embryos? This possibility is completely unregulated.

This is why John D. Aach and George Church and others from Harvard Medical School say that ethical guidelines for synthetic human entities with embryo-like features (SHEEFs) are needed. It might be possible to create a human heart and a rudimentary human brain, for instance. What if the brain is conscious, or could feel pain?

Research limits designed for embryos will not work for SHEEFs because “it will soon become possible to generate SHEEFs that can bypass canonical… click here to read whole article and make comments

Cambodia bans exports of breast milk to US

Cambodia has banned exports of breast milk to the United States. Ambrosia, a Utah company, has been shipping breast milk to American mothers (and possibly some body builders). Cambodian authorities say that the business endangers the health of babies.  

UNICEF is adamantly opposed to the sale of breastmilk by poor women in developing countries. “Breast milk banks should never be operated by exploiting vulnerable and poor women for profit and commercial purposes,” Iman Morooka, of UNICEF in Cambodia, told The Guardian.

“Breast milk could be considered as human tissue, the same as blood, and as such its commercialisation should be banned. Malnutrition remains a threat to children’s wellbeing in Cambodia, and proper breastfeeding is one of the key factors contributing to a child’s good health and nutrition.”

There are ethical objections, as well. "It treats the women as a tool for producing things for other people who… click here to read whole article and make comments

Redefining gender roles: hubbie gives birth

Another dispatch from the Wild West of assisted reproduction. “Husband Gave Birth To His First Child After Wife Was Unable To Fall Pregnant” was the irresistible headline in the Huffington Post UK.

However, it turns out that instead of being a pregnant truck driver, a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1994 film Junior, the husband is a transgender man. The couple are actually lesbians, who married in 2013 in Ohio: Chris Rehs-Dupin and Amy.

After Amy’s five failed attempts at artificial insemination, Chris volunteered to carry the baby. Although she was living as a man, she had not had sex-change surgery and still had her reproductive organs. “We were fortunate enough to have two uteruses,” they told the Daily Mail. Their daughter Hayden was born in December 2014. (No mention was made of the biological father.)

The pregnancy shook Chris’s decision to live as a man.… click here to read whole article and make comments

Making eugenics acceptable again

Gene editing technology will inevitably lead to eugenics – and that’s a good thing, says Adam Cohen, the author of ”Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck”.

Cohen’s book relates the tragic story of a young woman from Virginia who was forcibly sterilised. Her case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which concluded, in the notorious words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” That case marked the highwater mark of the American eugenics movement. But Nazi atrocities almost completely discredited the idea.

However, writing in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Cohen, like an increasing number of bioethicists, distinguishes between “bad eugenics” and “good eugenics”. The former is totalitarian and involuntary; the latter is individual and discretionary. He strongly supports the idea of “embryo editing”: “This time around, eugenics could be a force… click here to read whole article and make comments

Experts alarmed by MD suicide rate in Australia

Australian doctors are calling for a campaign to fight mental illness in the medical profession, after it was revealed that four junior clinicians had taken their lives in the past six months.

Writing in The Guardian this week, doctor and author Ranjana Srivastava described the heart wrenching experience of attending the funeral of a colleague who took her own life. Srivastava called on doctors to make a concerted effort to support colleagues who were suffering:

“As a profession, we must do more than lament our dead colleagues. Dealing effectively with mental illness and halting suicide among doctors requires curiosity, compassion and practical support.”

In addition to four deaths across the country in the past half year, New South Wales Coroner Michael Barnes revealed that 20 doctors have committed suicide in his State alone in the past decade.

AMA NSW president… click here to read whole article and make comments

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