Elon Musk and his neurotech start-up are trialling brain-decoding implants

US entrepreneur Elon Musk and his tech start-up Neuralink have unveiled a new brain monitoring device that could one day enable paraplegics to use their thoughts to operate computers and smartphones. 

The new technology is based around a "sewing machine" robot that will be used to implant thousands of electrodes into the brain to monitor and stimulate neural activity.

Musk hosted an evening event earlier this month at the California Academy of Sciences where he and his team provided an overview of their research.

In theory, the new device could allow a… MORE





Planned Parenthood fires its president

Leana Wen addressing a conference   

As the 2020 election season approaches, Planned Parenthood, America’s most influential abortion lobby group, is having the jitters. The Trump Administration is trying to choke off its funding. In 2019 nine states have passed laws restricting abortion. Roe v Wade could be overturned in the Supreme Court if the President gets a chance to appoint a pro-life justice.

There is a lot at stake. Planned Parenthood needs to prove that it will go mano a mano with its pro-life foes. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg recently made a US$1 million… MORE





What the world needs is more surrogacy. ASAP!

Feminism is fracturing. The noisiest debate is between feminists who welcome transwomen into the sisterhood and the so-called TERFs, the trans-exclusionary radical feminists, like Gloria Steinem and Germaine Greer.

But simmering away is a debate over surrogacy. Some feminists argue à la The Handmaid’s Tale that it is exploitation; others that it expresses bodily autonomy and choice.

No better example of the latter can be found than Sophie Lewis, a British theorist living in Philadelphia. She has just published Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family, a blistering attack on the family from a Marxist perspective.

The… MORE





Lancet editor calls global health groups ‘ethical cowards’

The activist editor of The Lancet has launched a blistering attack on global health organisations for “ethical cowardice”. Richard Horton writes that “the global health community seems comfortable associating itself with regimes that commit appalling human rights violations”. He cites Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, accepting a donation from Saudi Arabia; the World Health Organization giving an award to Turkey’s President Erdoğan; UNICEF working with Myanmar. He asks:

“Do those who virtue signal their moral credentials in global health not consider their responsibilities to judge nations more broadly than merely their stated commitments to, for example, universal health… MORE





‘The last frontier in prison reform’: assisted suicide?

Photo by Larry Farr on Unsplash

Activist Philip Nitschke once described euthanasia as the “last frontier in prison reform”. His idea has still not caught on. A Belgian prisoner was allowed to take advantage of euthanasia, but it never happened. But the idea refuses to die.

The author of an article in latest issue of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology argues that assisted suicide should be allowed in American prisons.

Kathleen S. Messinger observes that assisted suicide is becoming increasingly acceptable in the US. “The autonomy, self-determination, and pain that a terminally… MORE





California’s stem cell institute may close doors

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has announced that it can no longer accept grant applications. There is no more money in the cookie jar.

The CIRM was set up in 2004 after 59% of California voters approved a US$3 billion bond issue to support human embryonic stem cell research. The victory for supporters of the CIRM came after a long and bruising battle over the ethics and effectiveness of doing research on human embryos.

As it turned out, critics of human embryonic stem cell research were right. Nearly all of the progress came from adult stem cell research… MORE





Daniel Callahan, bioethics pioneer, dies at 88

Bioethics pioneer Daniel Callahan -- co-founder of The Hastings Center -- has died aged 88. 

Callahan was a prolific author and commentator who wrote or edited 47 books on topics ranging from abortion and euthanasia to healthcare resource allocation and climate change. 

Some of his better known works include Abortion: Law, Choice and Morality (1970) -- an early study of abortion that argues for a compromise between the pro-life and pro-choice positions on pregnacy termination -- and Setting Limits: Medical Goals in an Ageing Society (1987) -- and essay arguing for radical limits on healthcare expenditure on older Americans. 

Callahan… MORE





Vincent Lambert died on Thursday at 8.24am

Vincent Lambert, the brain-damaged French man who was in a state of impaired consciousness for 11 years while his family fought over his medical care, died on Thursday at 8.24am. After getting approval from a court, doctors stopped giving him food and water. It took him nine days to die.

Although his wife claimed that Lambert had said that he would not wish to live in such an impaired state, there were no written instructions with his end-of-life wishes.

French media have reported that his parents plan to sue his medical team. While euthanasia is illegal in France, doctors… MORE





Is euthanasia the only way out if you can’t afford your medication?

A Belgian man with a serious degenerative blood disease has told the media that he has applied for euthanasia because he cannot afford the expensive medication he needs to live a normal life.

Christophe (no surname was given) has four children, aged 4 to 10, but he separated from his partner two years ago. He is living alone and can no longer work. When his children visit on the weekends, his parents need to accompany them in case he falls or faints.

He suffers from a rare disorder, paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, which destroys red blood cells. Patients have a life… MORE





Global epidemic of doctor burnout must be confronted, says The Lancet

There is a world-wide epidemic of physician burnout, according to an editorial in The Lancet. “The need for health system reform in response to physician burnout cannot be delayed,” it contends.

In the United States, burnout affects 78% of physicians and in the United Kingdom 80%. It is a “crisis”, says The Lancet, “in many high-income countries because it not only affects physicians' personal lives and work satisfaction but also creates severe pressure on the whole health-care system—particularly threatening patients' care and safety.”

The problem may be particularly acute in China and in other low and middle-income countries, although… MORE




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