After 70 years, lessons from the Nuremberg Code

Karl Brandt, Hitler's personal doctor, on trial at Nuremberg 

On August 20, 1947, an international tribunal which investigated the crimes of 23 Nazi doctors and bureaucrats involved in concentration camp medical experiments issued its verdict. As part of its judgment (seven of the men were sentenced to death) the tribunal also set a 10-point set of rules now known as the Nuremberg Code.

This called for the “voluntary consent” of the human research subject, an assessment of risks and benefits, and assurances of competent investigators. As an essay in JAMA by experts from the US and… click here to read whole article and make comments

Help us turbocharge bioethics debates

Dear BioEdge reader, 

First of all, thank you for being one of those more than 20,000 people who read our articles every month. When we started BioEdge more than 15 years ago, we never thought that it would have such a huge impact around the world.

Like everyone else, we do have a bias. We are trying to promote human dignity as a foundation for bioethics. With issues like euthanasia, surrogacy, gene editing, and organ markets in the headlines, we cannot afford to forget the ethical dimension of medical decisions. 

The mainstream media don't have enough time or patience… click here to read whole article and make comments

If you get a ‘do not resuscitate’ tattoo, will doctors pay attention?

Doctors at a Florida hospital’s emergency department were startled to discover the words “do not resuscitate”, together with a signature, tattooed to an unconscious man’s chest. Should they respect the request or not?

The 70-year-old man had no identification and no next-of-kin could be found. His blood alcohol was high. His health was very bad, with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and an irregular heart rate.

The doctors decided to keep him alive, invoking the principle of not choosing an irreversible path when faced with uncertainty. In a case report in the New England Journal of… click here to read whole article and make comments

Rohingya face population control pressure on both sides of the border

One strand in the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar government is population control. Since 2005, the government has tried to enforce a two-child policy. Back in 2015, Physicians for Human Rights complained that Millennium Development Goals were being used by the government to force the Rohingya to have fewer children.

And now, in the squalid camps across the border in Bangladesh which are now home to more than 600,000 Rohingya, the Bangladesh government is trying to sell the same message -- with no more luck than their Myanmar counterparts. Public health official Dr Pintu Bhattacharya… click here to read whole article and make comments

Some Canadian doctors are refusing to treat attempted suicides

Canada’s new euthanasia laws are perplexing doctors who have to deal with suicide attempts. According to the National Post, there have been a number of reports of doctors who refused to treat people who had tried to kill themselves. In the case of poisons, remedies were readily available.

Quebec’s College of Physicians has issued an ethics bulletin which says that last year, “in some Quebec hospitals, some people who had attempted to end their lives through poisoning were not resuscitated when, in the opinion of certain experts, a treatment spread out over a few days could have saved them… click here to read whole article and make comments

Should doctors comply with all patient requests?

American doctors are increasingly being paid according to patient satisfaction. According to a report in Forbes, 2% of primary care physicians’ pay is now based on “patient satisfaction metrics” and 1% of specialist physicians’ pay.

Does this mean that doctors should agree with every request from a patient? The authors of a recent article in JAMA Internal Medicine respond with a qualified No. “Clinician denial of some types of requests was associated with worse patient satisfaction with the clinician, but not for others, when compared with fulfillment of the requests. In an era of patient satisfaction-driven compensation, the… click here to read whole article and make comments

This is what happens when no one says No to a patient with anorexia nervosa

The death of a young Australian wife and mother raises the question of whether healthcare workers should always comply with the wishes of their patients.

A coronial inquiry is investigating the death in 2014 of a 28-year-old Adelaide woman, Claudia La Bella. It turns out that she was spending A$500 a week on laxatives, sometimes consuming as many as 800 tablets a day.

Mrs La Bella was a complicated woman. Skeletal and weak from the laxatives, she concocted a story for her family and friends that she was suffering from ovarian cancer. She had also embezzled $374,000 from her employer… click here to read whole article and make comments

South Korea debates the privacy of a patient’s intestines

Dr Lee Cook-jong during a press conference about the wounded soldier  

The escape of a defector from North Korea has ignited a bioethics controversy in South Korea.

Earlier this month, a low-ranking soldier posted in the border truce town of Panmunjom commandeered a jeep and rushed toward the heavily guarded border. He crashed the vehicle and ran through a park towards South Korea. North Korean soldiers shot at him, hitting him several times. South Korean soldiers pulled him over the border and he was rushed to a hospital.

Defections across the demilitarised zone are rare, so the… click here to read whole article and make comments

Cephalosomatic anastomosis forges ahead

Ren Xiaoping and Sergio Canavero

Head transplantation is back in the news again. Controversial Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero has claimed at a press conference in Vienna that a team from Harbin Medical University led by Dr Ren Xiaoping has carried out the world's first head transplant (aka Cephalosomatic anastomosis) experiment.

During an 18-hour operation, the surgeons transplanted a head onto a corpse. Dr Canavero says that the Chinese team would soon use this experience to move to a living human paralysed from the neck down.

The announcement was greeted with great scepticism by other scientists. “If someone’s making grand… click here to read whole article and make comments

Oral contraceptives linked to suicide

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has found a positive association between the use of oral contraceptives and suicide attempts and suicide.

The study, conducted by researchers based in Denmark, involved a review of nationwide registers that provided individually updated information about use of hormonal contraception, suicide attempts, suicide, and potential confounding variables. Using data from nearly half a million women, the study analyzed prescriptions and filled prescriptions for contraceptives, as well as deaths and causes of death, and compared women taking this type of birth control to women who did not… click here to read whole article and make comments

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