US Senate committee wants to ban ‘concurrent surgeries’

Late last year, the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, which won a Pulitzer prize in 2003 for exposing sex abuse in the Catholic Church and was celebrated in the Best Picture in this year’s Oscars, turned its guns on the state’s most famous medical centre, Massachusetts General Hospital.

The issue was “concurrent surgeries,’’ two operations, managed by the same surgeon, whose critical parts occur at the same time. The Spotlight team raised alarming questions about the safety, quality of patient care, and transparency of the practice.

The existence of concurrent surgeries was startling news to nearly all lay people and politicians reacted immediately.

Now the powerful Senate Finance Committee has issued a report which calls upon government-funded hospitals to “develop a concurrent and overlapping surgical policy that clearly prohibits the former and regulates the practice of the latter”.  

According to the Globe’s report:

The committee… click here to read whole article and make comments

Doctor and nurse turn killers in Italian hospital


Doctors and nurses are the most trusted professionals, according to a UK poll earlier this year, just ahead of hairdressers and teachers, but absolutely thrashing politicians, real estate agents and journalists. This may account for the confidence with which supporters of euthanasia and assisted suicide entrust them with the lives of the elderly and terminally ill.

However, this week’s news from Italy is a reminder that not all medicos are worthy of that trust. An anaesthetist and his nurse lover have been arrested near Milan over the deaths of at least five patients and possibly dozens more between 2011 and 2014. The deaths took place at Saronno Hospital, about 30 km north-west of Milan.

Leonardo Cazzaniga, 60, and nurse Laura Taroni, 40, are also suspected of having killed his father and her husband and her mother. It appears that they tricked Ms Taroni’s spouse into… click here to read whole article and make comments

Trump’s changing views on torturing terrorists

During his campaign, President-elect Trump said that he would endorse waterboarding, a form of torture, to extract information from terrorist suspects. “Believe me, it works,” he said in February:

Torture works. OK, folks? You know, I have these guys—”Torture doesn’t work!”—believe me, it works. And waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it’s not actually torture. Let’s assume it is. But they asked me the question: What do you think of waterboarding? Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding.

As his nomination drew nearer, however, he retreated from this crowd-pleasing suggestion. He told the Wall Street Journal in May that “I will not order a military officer to disobey the law. It is clear that as president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities.”

And in his only reference to… click here to read whole article and make comments

Tom Price: Trump’s controversial pick as Health Secretary

Dr Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, has received a mixed reception. A Congressman from Atlanta, Georgia, he was an orthopaedic surgeon and was an assistant professor at Emory University. He is currently chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Inside Higher Ed reported that “higher education and medical research groups had nothing but praise for Price” this week. “I have always found him to be open to listening. And he’s very deliberative,” said Lizbet Boroughs, of the Association of American Universities. “In my dealings with him, he’s not a guy who makes snap judgments. He thinks about things. He considers the impact.”

The American Medical Association also endorsed him immediately. “Dr. Price has been a leader in the development of health policies to advance patient choice and market-based solutions as well as reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish… click here to read whole article and make comments

Pressure mounts for commercial surrogacy in Australia

As clinics offering cheap surrogacy overseas shut their doors to foreigners, pressure is mounting in Australia to permit commercial surrogacy.

In an article in this month’s Australia and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, an IVF doctor and a surrogacy broker argue that most Australians support commercial surrogacy and that the laws should be changed to permit it as long as it is carefully regulated. They report that most respondents to an online survey thought that the surrogate mothers and the intending parents should negotiate a price, although some thought that a fixed figure of $15,000 would be adequate.

Co-author Professor Kelton  Tremellen told the ABC that if legalisation were in place Australians could find a local surrogate "instead of being desperate and going to developing countries". Professional guidelines could include age restrictions on surrogates, mental health checks, mandatory cooling-off periods and adequate counselling.

click here to read whole article and make comments

Another abortion battle in Texas, this time over how to dispose of tissue

Disposing of aborted embryos has become a major political and ethical dispute in Texas. As of December 19, new regulations from the Health Department will force abortion clinics and hospitals to cremate or bury foetal tissue, no matter what the stage of development. Texas will be the first state to require this.

Until now, clinics in Texas used third-party special waste services for fetal remains. Previous rules permitted foetal remains to be combined with other medical tissue, ground up and treated as sewage, incinerated, or handled by some other approved process before being disposed of in a landfill.

The new rules are the latest battleground over abortion rights in Texas. Back in June, the US Supreme Court struck down Texas regulations which required abortions to be performed in hospital-like surgical centers and for doctors to have admitting rights in nearby hospitals. If implement, these regulations might have… click here to read whole article and make comments

Is there a last-minute hitch with 3-parent embryo trials?

Just as scientists in the UK are about to begin clinical trials with three-parent embryos, a study in Nature asserts that it may not work for some patients.

The technique is intended to help women who are carriers of mitochondrial disease to give birth to healthy children. The nuclear DNA is removed from an egg cell, leaving the diseased mitochondria behind; then the DNA is inserted into another woman’s denucleated egg to make use of her mitochondria; and then the egg is fertilised. The resulting embryo will grow, hopefully, into a disease-free infant with three genetic parents.

One hitch is that, with current techniques, some of the rogue mitochondrial DNA is dragged into the new cell along with the nuclear DNA. It was thought that this would be too small to matter. However, a paper published this week in Nature by mitochondrial geneticist Shoukhrat… click here to read whole article and make comments

The complications and practicalities of cryopreservation

Someday we might get the technique right    

The publicity surrounding the cryopreservation of the body of a 14-year-old British JS after her death from cancer has prompted more commentary.

Heather Conway, of Queen’s University Belfast, ruminated on the legal complications arising from reanimation after decades or even centuries on ice.

From a legal perspective, the problems are obvious – starting with the fact that the person has already been declared legally dead. How would, how could, the law reinstate them? Could that person reclaim assets that they owned in life, but had passed to family members on death? Could inheritance laws be undone? And if the person’s spouse is still alive but has now remarried, would that marriage still be valid when the former partner returns from the dead? Even before this happens, what is the status of the corpse… click here to read whole article and make comments

Behind US assisted suicide stats

The farewell party for Betsy Davis    

A debate in the American state of Iowa over the legalisation of assisted suicide prompted the Des Moines Register to survey how well in works.

In California, where it became legal on June 9, stories are already emerging that the letter of the law is not being observed. California multi-media and performance artist Betsy Davis died on July 23, one of the first to take advantage of the new law. She had ALS and since she was too weak to drink the lethal drugs herself, she was propped up by friends and someone, following instructions from a doctor, held the cup for her – which was probably illegal. The standard lethal drug, Seconal, was not available, so her friends mixed up a cocktail of drugs, hoping that they would work properly. She… click here to read whole article and make comments

Interview: Philip Nitschke on life in the Netherlands

Life on a Dutch houseboat   

Dr Philip Nitschke is probably the world’s best-known activist for assisted suicide. Yesterday he declared that the UK government should offer prisoners sentenced to life without parole the option of taking a lethal euthanasia drug like Nembutal. "To do less is cruel and inhumane," he told the media.

Although he is an Australian, he and his wife recently relocated to the Netherlands where he continues with his work. BioEdge asked him why he moved house and what it means for the organisation he founded, Exit International.  


BioEdge: Why have you moved to the Netherlands? When did you decide?

Philip Nitschke: I moved to the Netherlands with my wife because we needed to publish the Peaceful Pill eHandbook in multiple languages. Being in the midst of the European Union was essential for that. The need… click here to read whole article and make comments

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