Recovering a universal bio-ethic

Etymologically, the word “bioethics” means the ethics of life. But in practice, it has become the application of ethical principles to clinical work and research on humans. Writing in the American Journal of Bioethics, Lisa Lee, of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, calls for a return to the distant origins of bioethics.

The word “bioethics” was first used by the German pastor and theologian, Fritz Jahr in 1927. However, an American, Van Rensselaer Potter, re-coined the term in 1971 to express the need to bridge the gap between the humanities and the sciences. “Ethical values… click here to read whole article and make comments





Dancing with the star: suicide enthusiasts celebrate Nitschke’s 70th birthday

Australian euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke has a knack for public relations. To celebrate his 70th birthday recently an elderly flash mob assembled on the beach in Surfer’s Paradise, in the state of Queensland.

In an impressive display of geriatric choreography, the purple-clad crowd danced to the Bon Jovi hit, “It’s my life”. The lyrics were treated as a kind of anthem for rational suicide: “It's my life / It's now or never / I ain't gonna live forever / I just want to live while I'm alive.”

“We don’t want to waste away like vegetables in a nursing home,” one participant… click here to read whole article and make comments





China rushes into embryo selection

Gene-editing with CRISPR has been in the headlines over the past month and touted as a way of eliminating genetic diseases. But the cruder and cheaper technique of preimplantation genetic diagnosis does the same. And it is exploding in China. According to a feature in Nature, fertility doctors there “have been pursuing a more aggressive, comprehensive and systematic path towards its use there than anywhere else”.

The government’s current five-year plan for economic development has made reproductive medicine, including PGD, a priority. In 2004, only four clinics in the whole country were licensed to perform PGD; now there are… click here to read whole article and make comments





Can genetics refute white supremacist theories?

This week’s headlines were filled with news from Charlottesville, Virginia, after a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of people opposing a march of supremacists and noe-Nazis, killing one woman and injuring many others. Which leads one to ask: how white are American white supremacists?

For most of them, the most convincing way to prove their “whiteness” is DNA tests from companies like 23andMe.com and Ancestry.com. To their consternation, the results are often not what they expected. White supremacist Craig Cobb was outed on daytime TV in 2013 as “86 percent European, and … 14 percent Sub-Saharan… click here to read whole article and make comments





Managing the worsening opioid epidemic

Policy analysts are deeply concerned about the worsening opioid crisis in the US, and some are proposing radical measures to fight it.

A recently released study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine paints a grim picture of overdose and dependency among opioid users. Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston and the University of Chicago report that opioid-related overdose deaths in the US have doubled since 2000 -- a result of addiction to both prescription painkillers like oxycodone and illegal drugs like heroin. Alongside this worsening trend, opioid overdose admissions requiring treatment in… click here to read whole article and make comments





Dutch couple choose euthanasia together

The latest husband-and-wife euthanasia in the Netherlands took place on July 4. Nic and Trees Elderhorst, both 91, died in their home town of Didam, surrounded by family members. Neither was terminally ill, but both were in failing health. Nic, the husband, had a stroke five years ago, and Trees, the wife, was declining into dementia.

The couple had made advance directives in 2012 but they needed the euthanasia before Trees became unable to give her informed consent.

The couple applied to the Levenseindekliniek, a clinic which handles euthanasia requests when other doctors refuse. “They gave each other a big… click here to read whole article and make comments





Stand-off with Catholic hospitals as euthanasia gains traction in Canada

As euthanasia rates increase in the Canadian province of Ontario, pressure is mounting on Catholic Healthcare providers to abandon their blanket opposition to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD).

Over 630 Ontarians have received MAiD since the procedure was legalised in Canada in 2015, according to data from the provincial coroner, yet none of these cases has taken place in a Catholic healthcare facility.

Lobby groups are now calling for sanctions on Catholic healthcare providers, particularly in light of the public funding these providers receive.

Dying With Dignity Canada CEO Shanaaz Gokool told CBA News that her organisation is… click here to read whole article and make comments





Pope demands that Belgian Catholic hospitals stop euthanasia

Earlier this year a group of Catholic hospitals and clinics for the mentally ill in Belgium announced that it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia on its premises. The group is linked to a religious order, the Brothers of Charity.

Earlier this month Pope Francis issued an ultimatum: this must stop by the end of August. He also ordered the three Brothers who serve on the 15-member board to sign a letter stating that  they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in… click here to read whole article and make comments





Is there a link between suicide and irreligion?

There is significant debate about the link between religion and psychological well-being.

University of California Irvine psychiatrist Aaron Kheriaty recently weighed into the discussion, arguing that higher rates of suicide in the US are linked to declining religious participation and a sense of fractured identity among younger Americans. In an opinion editorial published this month’s edition of the Catholic intellectual journal First Things, Kheriaty warns of a “rising plague of melancholy”:

“In recent times, America has experienced both a weakening of social connections and rapid forms of cultural change...Too many people today have lost… click here to read whole article and make comments




Psychiatry becomes political weapon in US

Congressional Democrats have approached outspoken Yale University psychiatrist Dr Bandy Lee about forming an expert panel to offer advice on President Donald Trump’s mental health.

Dr. Lee – who told the media earlier this year that psychiatrists have “an obligation to speak about Donald Trump’s mental health issues” – says she has talked with several members of congress or their staff about convening psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals to review the president’s health.

Lee told a STAT reporter that she would meet Democratic representatives in September to discuss the proposal. Democratic senators have already tabled click here to read whole article and make comments




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