Is ‘elderly’ an offensive and discriminatory term?

A University of Chicago neurologist says that the word “elderly” is as anachronistic and offensive as the words “imbecile” or “idiot” and should be not be used by doctors. Dr Javad Hekmat-panah argues in a BMJ opinion piece that “elderly” is nearly meaningless in an era when over-65s have a wide range of health conditions.

“[It] offers no useful information about any of this. In medicine it can evoke false ideas about the person being described as elderly in the listener’s mind, introduce unfair social biases and generalisations, and generate ill conceived policies.”

He says that… MORE

The other country where euthanasia for children is legal—Colombia

Colombia is not a nation that one associates with end-of-life debates, but it is one of the few which has legalised euthanasia – even for children over 6 years old. Because many Colombians are devout Catholics (and increasingly Evangelicals), it is not a headline topic there. But one activist doctor claims that he has “provided euthanasia" to almost 400 people, including more than 30 children.

As in Canada, Colombians did not cast ballots to approve euthanasia. Instead, its Constitutional Court declared in December 2014 that it was legal (Sentencia T-970/14). In 2017 (judgment T-544) the Court ordered the Department… MORE

Should governments overrule parents who oppose transgender puberty-blockers? Yes, says bioethicist

Parents should not be able to stop gender-dysphoric children from accessing puberty-blockers, a bioethicist argues in the latest issue of the American Journal of Bioethics. Furthermore, contends Maura Priest, of Arizona State University, government schools should publicise the case for initiating transitions from one gender to another. In a target article followed by comments from other bioethicists, she argues that:

... the law should clearly state that transgender youth (after having met appropriate diagnostic criteria) have a legal right to PBT [puberty-blocking treatment] regardless of parental approval. In addition to these legal parameters, the state should play… MORE

Young blood is probably snake oil, says FDA

Beware of unscrupulous con men selling rejuvenation through infusions of “young blood”, the US Food and Drug Administration said in a press release this week.

Simply put, we’re concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of plasma from young donors as cures and remedies. Such treatments have no proven clinical benefits for the uses for which these clinics are advertising them and are potentially harmful. There are reports of bad actors charging thousands of dollars for infusions that are unproven and not guided by evidence from adequate and well-controlled trials. 


Leading Irish hospital makes willingness to do abortions a condition of employment

Only doctors who are willing to perform abortions will be considered for two consultant posts at Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital. The hospital is advertising for a consultant anaesthetist and a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology.

According to a statement from the NMH the positions include the “provision of termination-of-pregnancy services, and are for individuals willing to contribute to the provision of these services”.

A source at the hospital told the Irish Times that conscientious objection guidelines for existing staff would remain as they were before.

Baroness Nuala O’Loan, of Northern Ireland, recently warned that the Republic would be entering… MORE

Wife who travelled with husband to Dignitas will not be disinherited

A woman who travelled with her husband to a Swiss suicide clinic will be able to inherit his £1.8 million estate, a High Court judge in the United Kingdom has ruled in an important test case.

Sarah Ninian, 63, travelled with her husband Alex, 84, to Dignitas in November 2017 after he was diagnosed with a progressive incurable disease and was unable to get there by himself.

Mrs Ninian, the sole beneficiary of her husband's will, could have been denied access to his estate, because English law bars inheritance if a beneficiary has been involved in a person's "unlawful killing".

But her… MORE

Should fat stigma be banned?

Fat stigma is pervasive in the United States (and other countries). In an era where stigma is a dirty word, “overweight people remain one of the last acceptable targets of humor and ridicule in North American television and film”. Some bioethicists who regard obesity as a serious public health issue have even defended it as a way of helping the population to slim down.

Writing in Bioethics, Rekha Nath, of the University of Alabama, argues that stigmatization is both wrong and wrong-headed. She tackles the question on two fronts.

The first defence of fat stigma is consequentialist. Stigma is… MORE

Bioethicists launch ‘Journal of Controversial Ideas’

One of the more innovative recent initiatives in academic publishing is the Journal of Controversial Ideas. Not a single issue has appeared, but already it has created a lively debate in op-ed columns. Its most contentious feature is anonymous or pseudonymous contributions.

It’s probably no accident that the three academics behind it are bioethicists. Peter Singer has been a lightning rod for controversy for decades with his views on animal rights, abortion, and euthanasia. Francesca Minerva, currently at Ghent University, in Belgium, is the author of one of the most controversial bioethics articles ever published, “After-birth abortion: why should… MORE

China may be building its massive DNA security database without citizens’ consent

China’s new high tech social credit system has garnered significant media attention in recent months. International observers are concerned by the government's Orwellian attempt to control nearly every aspect of citizens’ lives.

Yet the government’s new security measures go further than a social credit program. State authorities are also developing the world’s biggest DNA database, using samples obtained from a range of social groups from around the country. One function of the DNA database will be to allow police to infer the geographical origin of suspects from DNA found at crime scenes.


Australian doctors in firing line in stoush over asylum-seekers

Australian doctors have become an integral part of a bitter political battle over how to process asylum-seekers.

At the moment, intercepted “boat people” are not allowed to set foot on Australian soil. Instead they are brought to Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, or to Nauru, a small Pacific Island nation. It is a controversial policy, with human rights advocates denouncing it as inhumane and the government defending it as a tough policy which has saved thousands of people from drowning at sea in rust-buckets supplied by people smugglers. There are currently about 1,000 asylum-seekers in Manus Island and… MORE

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