Canadian children of anonymous sperm donors launch class action suit

Children of sperm donors in British Colombia have launched a class action suit to prevent medical records relating to their birth from being shredded by doctors. They are complaining that the present law is discriminatory: adopted children are able to find out about their biological parents while donor-conceived children cannot. Their case is based on the guarantees of equality and security of the person in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"Our clients seek information that might be said to be of the most basic and fundamental to the human condition," says one of the lawyers handling the case. "Knowing about one’s biological origin and thus their biological parent’s medical history, may be vital to our client’s present and future health... this information may [also] be needed to ensure that they do not inadvertently marry one of their siblings. But perhaps most important, is that knowing about one’s ancestry, one’s very roots, is central to a person’s… click here to read whole article and make comments

Polish govt backs away from castration for sex offenders

After a storm of criticism, the Polish government has retreated on the prime minister’s promise to introduce compulsory chemical castration of paedophiles. A weaker version of the proposal has been drafted which calls for compulsory therapy for sex offenders. A patient who refuses to take medications or undergo other procedures will be kept in custody.

Bioethicists had criticised the original bill for not respecting a patient’s autonomy and for using medical treatment in a way which would not benefit him.

"This is very slippery ground", Professor Mark Saffron, co-author of the Council of Europe's bioethics convention, had told the Polish magazine Gazeta. ''If we accept the compulsory chemical castration of sexual offenders, why not perform lobotomy on violent criminals? Only where will this take us? Medical therapy mustn't be used in public interest. Otherwise, we'll return, for instance, to the compulsory sterilization of mentally disabled patients performed in Sweden as recently as in the 1970s". ~ click here to read whole article and make comments

“Nazi” comparison backfires for critic of UK fertility law

Comparing provisions in the UK’s revised human fertility law to Nazi atrocities seems to have backfired for the Catholic Cardinal of Edinburg, Keith O'Brien. In a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, he declared that allowing tissue from children or incapacitated adults to be used to create human-animal hybrids was a hideous mistake. "The grotesque implications of these procedures are utterly horrifying and fly in the face of all medical guidance on consent to research." He said that this behavior was last seen under the Nazis and urged the prime minister to urgently amend the legislation.

The Cardinal told BBC Scotland: "Yes, I want publicity and I use strong language so that I'll get publicity." Whether or not the Nazi card persuaded voters, it made him a target for criticism. The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams observed that: "comparisons with Nazi Germany are always a tempting conversation stopper and must be used sparingly." Lord Robert Winston, a… click here to read whole article and make comments

Is Peter Singer the future of American bioethics?

Want a peek into the future of American bioethics? It could be Peter Singer. The American Society of Bioethics and Humanities has selected the controversial philosopher as a keynote speaker for a national undergraduate bioethics conference in March 2009. The conference will be held at Harvard University and will be sponsored by the Harvard Undergraduate Bioethics Society and a number of other Harvard groups. It is a two-day event which will draw about 200 students from around the country. That Singer is to be welcomed at Harvard, home of some of the most talented students in the US, when appearances in Europe provoke protests over his views on infanticide, abortion and euthanasia, could mean that American bioethics will tilt even further towards utilitarianism. Time will tell.


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Adult stem cells show promise, says market analyst

Research in adult and embryonic stem cells is progressing at breakneck speed despite formidable challenges, according to the US market analysis constancy Frost & Sullivan.

"New research into stem cell therapies has resulted in several technological innovations that have improved the manufacturing and design of these products," notes analyst Katheryn Symank. "For example, improvements in cell sorting and cell culture have allowed for improved survival and growth of adult stem cells. This allows for the rapid production of a high-quality adult stem cell product with increased bio-availability that may be produced on a large scale."

Adult stem cell therapies have often been criticised because they could only be produced in limited quantities or as needed. However, now adult stem cells have the potential to become mass-produced therapies.

"Both embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells have their own challenges that must be overcome," explains Symank. "The controversy surrounding embryonic stem cells has… click here to read whole article and make comments

Middle-aged suicides on rise in US

Middle-aged suicides are rising in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Injury Research and Policy. The increase in the overall suicide rate between 1999 and 2005 was due primarily to an increase in suicides among whites aged between 40 and 64, with white middle-aged women experiencing the largest annual increase. Whereas the overall suicide rate rose 0.7% during this time, the rate among middle-aged white men rose 2.7% annually and 3.9% among middle-aged women.

There may be some lessons for the voluntary euthanasia debate in these statistics, although he reasons for the increase are not fully understood. "While it would be straightforward to attribute the results to a rise in so-called mid-life crises, recent studies find that middle age is mostly a time of relative security and emotional well-being," said Baker. "Further research is warranted to explore societal changes that may be disproportionately affecting the middle-aged in this country." ~… click here to read whole article and make comments

Young British rugby player chooses assisted suicide in Zurich

Daniel JamesBritish police are investigating how a young rugby player died with the help of Dignitas, the Swiss assisted suicide group in September. Daniel James, who became a quadriplegic last year, was only 23. His parents escorted him to Zurich after yield to his insistent pleas for death. He may have been the 100th Briton to die in facilities organised by Dignitas.

The case has caused consternation in the UK, probably because of Daniel’s youth and tragic story. A potential professional who had represented England under-16s, he dislocated his spine in a scrum.

Julie James, Daniel’s mother, was indignant that police had responded to an anonymous tip-off. In a website posting, she wrote: “This person had never met Dan before or after his accident and obviously gave no consideration for our younger daughters who had seen their big brother suffer so much.”

Suicide in England is… click here to read whole article and make comments

Most organ donors not dead, says controversial article

Many Australian organ donors are not really dead, claims a Sydney doctors in a controversial article. Writing in the latest issue of the Journal of Law and Medicine, Dr James Tibballs, of Royal Children's Hospital, in Melbourne, says that “organ donation is presently commonly carried out on persons not actually dead but rather in the process of dying or ‘not completely dead but dead enough’”.

These sensational allegation were angrily denied by other doctors. Professor Geoffrey Dobb, chair of the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society's committee on organ and tissue donation, told The Age that that brain dead patients were really dead. "I strongly emphasise that this view is an extreme minority point of view," Professor Dobb said. Other doctors said that Dr Tibballs’s argument was irresponsible because it would deter donors. "We know that every organ donor potentially saves or greatly enhances the lives of up… click here to read whole article and make comments

Why not try ‘organ conscription’?

And if there is any doubt about whether dead donor rule is in dispute, a staff member of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, at Oxford, has suggested that it may be time for mandatory organ donation. Because even a presumed consent policy would not yield enough organs, Dominic Wilkinson, writing on the Practical Ethics blog, supports a policy of “organ conscription”:

Alternatively, we may come to think that the benefit of organ donation is so great that we should reject the current charade of informed consent for organ donation. After all, at present thousands of patients per year die for want of an available organ. Yet every day potentially life-saving organs are buried or burned because their owners did not make their wishes clear during life, because their families could not come to terms with the idea of donation, or because doctors failed to approach families to ask… click here to read whole article and make comments

Researcher falsified adult stem cell data, says university

More murky data and allegations of falsified results from the stem cell world, this time from an alternative to embryonic stem cells. Back in 2001, a research at the University of Minnesota, Catherine Verfaillie, published a paper in the leading journal Blood, which suggested that certain rare bone marrow stem cells might have all the versatility of embryonic stem cells. This was followed by another paper in Nature.

At the time, these discoveries became bullets in the stem cell debate, with opponents of destructive embryo research claiming that adult stem cells offered even more hope than embryonic stem cells. Unfortunately other researchers had trouble reproducing her results and suspicions were raised about Verfaillie’s data. After a lengthy investigation, the University has determined that several images had been deliberately falsified. It blamed a former graduate student, Dr Morayma Reyes, now an assistant professor at the University of Washington. Dr Verfaillie was censured for inadequate oversight.… click here to read whole article and make comments

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