Controversy dogs ‘assisted dying’ poll of UK doctors

A controversial poll by the Royal College of Physicians, in the UK, is expected to result in a change in its position on “assisted dying”. Polling ends on March 1 and the result will be announced later in the month.

If the email poll fails to reach a supermajority of 60% who oppose a change from the status quo of opposition, the official position of the College will change to neutrality.

On the face of it, the procedure for the poll is bizarre. If 59% of the RCP’s 35,000 members support opposition to “assisted dying”, which in any democratic… MORE

Singer and Savulescu back germline editing

The debate continues over the ethics of genetically editing the genome and making it possible to pass on changes to future generations. In the latest contribution, Peter Singer and Julian Savulescu, two of the most notable names in bioethics, contend in the journal Bioethics that modifying the genome could be ethical.

What sparked the controversy, of course, is “the recent gene editing of two healthy embryos by the Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui, resulting in the birth of baby girls born this month, Lulu and Nana”. Singer and Savulescu point out that “He Jiankui's trial was unethical, not because it… MORE

Embryo profiling could be a short-cut to ‘designer babies’

While genome modification for complex traits like IQ may be the stuff of science fiction, not science fact, at least with current technology, another path to children with higher IQs is not. “Embryo profiling” compares features in embryos to determine which is more likely to have a higher IQ or more musical ability or more sporting ability.

A company called Genomic Prediction is already promising that it can detect the risk factors for intellectual disability, short stature and diseases ranging from hypothyroidism to coronary artery disease. According to its website, “GP offers IVF parents a cost-effective means to evaluate genetic… MORE

Latest revelations about sperm donation secrets

It may be hard to wind up our readers’ interest in abuses of sperm donation after the news late last year that a Dutch man may have fathered a record-breaking 1000 children. However, here are the latest scandals in the media.

The Netherlands: a court has ruled that the DNA of Jan Karbaat, a fertility doctor who died in 2007, can be analysed to check if he fathered children without seeking consent from his patients. Until now, Dr Karbaat’s family had successfully maintained that his privacy had to be protected. However, a judge decided that: “If he did… MORE

Consent not a defence, court tells body modification artist

Dr Evil 

Dr Evil, a British body modification artist, has been found guilty of three counts of grievous bodily harm for tongue-splitting and nipple removal despite the fact that his clients consented to the procedures.

The argument put forward in court by Dr Evil, aka Brendan McCarthy, was strongly supported in the community. A petition with 13,400 signatures argued "for the right to express ourselves in whatever modified manner we wish in a safe environment".

Judge Amjad Nawaz ruled that the kind of radical procedures in which Dr Evil specialised were not analogous to tattoos and… MORE

34 elderly are dead. Why haven’t you read about it?

Abuse of the disabled and elderly is a vile crime. That’s why the alleged rape of a 29-year-old woman in a Phoenix, Arizona, healthcare facility made news around the world when she gave birth to a baby boy. The New York Times ran at least four articles on the stomach-churning scandal.

But, astonishingly, the involuntary euthanasia of possibly as many as 34 elderly patients in two Catholic hospitals in the city of Columbus has been almost ignored outside of Ohio.

According to Mount Carmel Health System, one of its doctors, William Husel, ordered overdoses of powerful painkillers for at… MORE

‘Ethics dumping’ taints organ transplant research

In the Age of The Donald, “dumping” is amongst the vilest of epithets. Countries like China have driven, the President claims, US companies out of business by flooding the market with cheap products. And in research it’s also a useful term, which, as The Economist pointed out recently, applies to the world of science and medicine as well.

Ethics dumping is the carrying out by researchers from one country (usually rich, and with strict regulations) in another (usually less well off, and with laxer laws) of an experiment that would not be permitted at home, or of… MORE

You’ve heard of the Wild East of bioethics? What about the Wild West?

In the wake of China’s gene-editing scandal, Chinese bioethicists have tried to correct mistaken impressions of an ethical “Wild East” in their country. Writing in The Hasting Center Bioethics Forum, Xiaomei Zhai, a professor at the Center for Bioethics, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Peking Medical College and a Hastings Center Fellow and three colleagues argue that He Jiankui “committed grave wrongdoing without regard for international ethical norms and national regulations” but that there is no ethical divide between East and West.

They make five points.

(1) In principle, despite He’s rash experiment, germline genome editing for the prevention… MORE

Countdown: one year to a complete cure for cancer

In the Just-for-Fun Department: a team of Israeli scientists has claimed in the Jerusalem Post that they have developed a drug which will cure cancer for ever with minimal side effects. “We believe we will offer in a year’s time a complete cure for cancer,” said Dan Aridor, of Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd (AEBi). “Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market,” Aridor said. “Our solution will be both generic… MORE

Indian man sues parents for giving birth to him

There is a well-developed philosophical movement supporting voluntary childlessness. The most extreme exponent may be the South African ethicist David Benatar. His book Better Not to Have Been: the Harm of Coming into Existence created quite a stir in the media.

Now an Indian man is drawing personal and legal consequences from abstract utilitarian theories. According to a report in the BBC, Mumbai businessman Raphael Samuel is suing his parents (both lawyers) for bringing him into the world. He claims it is wrong to have children knowing that they will be exposed to a lifetime of suffering.


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