Christian hospital system in US sacks doctor over support for assisted suicide

A Christian health system in Denver has set off a firestorm of controversy by firing a geriatrician who wanted to help a patient die under Colorado’s 2016 assisted suicide legislation.

Dr Barbara Morris planned to help 64-year-old Neil Mahoney, who is suffering from terminal cancer, end his life at his home. She was fired on August 26, after she and Mahoney asked a state court to declare that Centura Health’s faith-based policy violates the law that allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to dying patients who want to end their own lives.

Centura is jointly run by Catholic and Seventh-Day… MORE

Mini-brains created from stem cells

False color image of a slice of human brain organoid from a patient with autism spectrum disorder / Alysson Muotri 

Scientists have created miniature brains from induced pluripotent stem cells that developed functional neural networks. And despite being a million times smaller than human brains, they produced brain waves resembling those of preterm babies.

The study in the journal Cell Stem Cell, could help scientists better understand human brain development.

"The level of neural activity we are seeing is unprecedented in vitro," says Alysson Muotri, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego. "We are one… MORE

73-year-old Indian woman gives birth to twins

Mangayamma Yaramati and her husband, Sitarama Rajarao, at their baby shower 

A 73-year-old woman has given birth to healthy twins in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Her 82-year-old husband had a stroke the next day and is being treated in hospital.

Mangayamma Yaramati and her husband, Sitarama Rajarao, had the misfortune of never having children and suffered from social stigma. “They would call me a childless lady,” she told the media. We tried many times and saw numerous doctors, so this is the happiest time of my life.”

The children were conceived with a donor egg… MORE

Brain-dead Czech woman gives birth after 117 days

A Czech woman has given birth 117 days after brain death. Doctors at Brno University Hospital kept the woman alive for 17 weeks so that they could save her child. A healthy girl was delivered on August 15 by Caesarean section.

The 27-year old unnamed woman was in her 16th week of pregnancy when she was found unconscious, apparently after an epileptic fit. Shortly thereafter she was declared brain dead.

According to the hospital, this pregnancy may have set a record as the longest for a brain-dead mother. About 20 similar cases have been recorded.

After the delivery, with… MORE

Demography still on the political agenda

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Population policy was in the headlines around the world this week.

US Senator Bernie Sanders, a front-runner for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential nomination, made a gaffe which was picked up and derided by conservatives.

He responded to a question about climate change in a CNN town hall debate in New York City: “in poor countries around the world where women do not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies, and where they can have the opportunity through birth control to control the number of kids… MORE

Junk food will make you blind!!!!

Photo by Miguel Andrade on Unsplash

The headline in the sober pages of the Annals of Internal Medicine was irresistible clickbait: “Blindness Caused by a Junk Food Diet”. It was only a letter reporting the plight of a single “fussy eater”, but it was reported around the world.

Since starting secondary school, a teenager had consumed a limited diet of chips, crisps, white bread, and some processed pork. By the time the patient's condition was diagnosed at the  Bristol Eye Hospital, he had permanently impaired vision. According to a press release, “Further investigation found… MORE

Who needs ‘moral bioenhancement’ most?

Photo by Rob Curran on Unsplash

“Many supporters of ’moral bioenhancement’ (MBE), the use of biomedical interventions for moral improvement, have been criticised for having unrealistic proposals.” So begins a student essay by Gregory Mark Conan, of George Fox University (Oregon) in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Whether or not he successfully argues that MBE is realistic, his proposals are certainly thought-provoking.

Moral bioenhancement has been spruiked by some bioethicists for several years now. Despairing of humanity’s tendency to well and truly screw things up, some have suggested that solutions like doctoring the water… MORE

Farewell to the ‘gay gene’ theory

There is no single “gay gene”, according to an article in Science which analyses survey responses about same-sex sexual behaviour and correlates them with genetic data.

The researchers could not find any way to meaningfully predict or identify a person’s sexual behaviour on the basis of their genes. While they did find five genetic variants associated with same-sex behaviour (and many others which may also be involved) at best these genetic differences could only account for between 8 and 25% of variation in same-sex sexual behaviour and could not be used to predict it.

The authors, from the Broad Institute… MORE

Australia’s legislative laboratory for euthanasia

Perth, capital of Western Australia 

The Labor-majority Parliament of the Australian state of Victoria passed assisted dying legislation in December 2017. This came into effect in June and the first patient has already died. Applications from a dozen or so Victorians have already been approved. Two other Labor states are also debating euthanasia – and it appears that their legislation will be even more permissive than Victoria’s.

According to critics of euthanasia interviewed by The Australian, this is “death creep”, the slippery slope in action.

“There is serious concern about this slippage,” the chair of the… MORE

What’s to be done with America’s abandoned embryos?

How many frozen embryos have been abandoned in American fertility clinics? No one knows. But the answer is at least hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, according to an NBC News report. “Abandoned embryos are a major problem and it’s everywhere,” says Dr Christine Allen, an embryologist and IVF business consultant.

An “abandoned embryo” is one which for which a clinic’s patient has not paid storage fees and fails to respond to letters and calls from the clinic.

“The problem is, even if an embryo is considered abandoned, even if there’s a contract in place, it’s very difficult to get… MORE

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