UK report on prenatal testing calls for ban on sex disclosure

A new report by the UK's Nuffield Council on Bioethics, “Non-invasive prenatal testing: ethical issues”, has probably pleased no one by trying to steer a course between banning abortions for sex-selection and allowing abortions for the most common kind of foetal abnormalities.

NIPT is a major breakthrough. It uses a blood sample taken from the pregnant woman and can be done from 9 or 10 weeks of pregnancy. It analyses DNA from the placenta that circulates in the woman's blood to estimate the chance that the fetus has Down's, Edwards' or Patau's syndromes, as well as single-gene disorders like cystic fibrosis and achondroplasia. It can also determine its sex.

The test is currently available in the UK through private hospitals and clinics, and in some NHS (ie, public) hospitals. Last year, the UK Government announced that from 2018, the NHS will offer NIPT to pregnant women… click here to read whole article and make comments

Will curing the deaf lead to ‘cultural genocide’?

It is estimated that half of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages are in danger of disappearing. Under pressure from dominant languages to assimilate, linguistic communities shrink, wither and disappear. Every fortnight, the last fluent speaker of a language dies, according to some experts.

People who use sign language fear that this could happen to them. Some theorists of deafness argue that the Deaf are a distinct ethnic group, not a group of disabled individuals. So Deaf English speakers fear that the rapid progress of genetic editing could kill their community and their language as well.

Writing in the Impact Ethics blog, Teresa Blankmeyer Burke worries that gene therapy for hereditary deafness threatens the rich world of the Deaf and could even be described as cultural genocide.

The argument goes like this: the use of gene therapy to cure hereditary deafness would result in smaller numbers… click here to read whole article and make comments

IVF world market to reach US$12 billion

The world market for IVF and IVF products will grow from US$8.4 billion this year to $12.5 billion on 2022, according to a report from a market research company.

Research and Markets says that “Factors driving growth in the market are increasing number of cases of infertility owing to lifestyle changes involving unhealthy nutritional habits, penetration of advanced procedures in developing nations, and favorable government initiatives. Geographically, Asia-Pacific is expected to witness the highest growth owing to rising aging population in Japan, favorable childbearing policies in China and rising awareness in countries like India, South Korea, and Thailand.”

Demand for IVF is growing at about 10% annually, owing to rising awareness and social acceptability. Infertility is not just a Western problem, with about 25% of couples in developing countries affected by it, according to the World Health Organisation. An article in PLOS says that in… click here to read whole article and make comments

Taiwan grapples with the public health ethics of discouraging betel nut

Betel nut, a mild stimulant often used by truck drivers, fishermen, and construction workers, stains the teeth and lips of Taiwanese who chew it. And it also leads to dire health consequences. Taiwan has the highest incidence of oral cancer in the world. Chewing betel nut is associated with a 28 times risk of oral cancer. If it is consumed along with alcohol and cigarettes, the risk rises to 122 times (compared to people who use none of them). There are other serious risks as well, including oesophageal cancer, coronary artery disease and stillbirths.

However, as an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics points out, the government of Taiwan is finding it difficult to curb its use, despite the huge health care costs. The areca palm from which it is harvested is easy to grow, profitable and popular. About 10% of the population chews betel nut, but 43% of indigenous… click here to read whole article and make comments

Patient advocates often in cahoots with industry

Over the past few decades, hundreds of patient-advocacy organizations have emerged in the United States, promoting disease research and influencing legislation and FDA and health insurer policies. A new study has revealed that a large proportion of these organizations have funding or other connections with drug or medical device makers, but do not adequately disclose these connections.

The study, led by medical ethicists at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that patient advocacy organizations should acknowledge industry connections.

Media reports have highlighted the fact that some industry-funded patient-advocacy organizations support the industry line on policy issues, for example by failing to support drug-price reform measures, and by pushing insurers to cover expensive drugs whose benefits to patients are questionable.

In the new study, the team examined websites and annual reports for 104 US-based… click here to read whole article and make comments

MD stands for Massive Deception

Most doctors work for years to achieve certifications, competence, money and social status. But as headlines in Australian newspapers this week showed, it’s possible to spend no time at all. An Indian national named Shyam Acharya slipped into the country in 2002 and stole the identity of an Indian doctor named Sarang Chitale, who is currently a respected rheumatologist in the north of England. Mr Acharya was registered as a doctor in 2003 and worked at a number of hospitals in and around Sydney for a decade. He then moved into the private sector and worked for AstraZeneca and then Novotech, a company which runs clinical trials.

It was only then that his luck ran out. Late last year Novotech realised that something was amiss with his qualifications and reported him to Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and the police. But by that time Mr Acharya… click here to read whole article and make comments

Fears of Indian gendercide after fetuses found in sewer

Indian authorities have discovered 19 aborted fetuses dumped in plastic bags in the western state of Maharashtra, as officials continue a major investigation into illegal sex-selective abortion in the country.

The fetuses were discovered in a sewer near a local medical clinic suspected of carrying out illegal abortions and have been sent for DNA testing to determine their sex. Police are also investigating the death of a local woman after a botched abortion performed at the clinic by a homeopathist.

Indian laws ban doctors and health workers from sharing an unborn child's sex with the parents, or carrying out tests to determine the child's gender. Yet police suspect there is a major interstate femal feticide racket currently operating in the West of the country.

Dr Ganesh Rakh, an outspoken campaigner against sex-selective abortion in India, said the recent case indicates that… click here to read whole article and make comments

Canada passes genetic ‘anti-discrimination’ law

Canada’s House of Commons has passed a controversial new law that prevents corporations from demanding genetic information from potential employees or customers.

The law, known as ‘Bill S-201’, makes it illegal for companies to deny someone a job if they refuse a genetic test, and also prevents insurance companies from making new customer policies conditional on the supply of genetic information. Insurance companies will no longer be able to solicit genetic tests so as to determine customer premiums.

Critics of the bill said that insurance premiums would skyrocket, in some cases up to 30 or 50 per cent, if companies are prevented from obtaining genetic data. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau labelled the proposed legislation “unconstitutional” as it impinges on what he believes should be a matter for individual provinces to regulate.

Yet the bill’s supporters have described current mandatory genetic testing… click here to read whole article and make comments

Assisted dying battle continues in US legislatures

The battle over assisted dying is continuing in US legislatures, with various jurisdictions debating bills that would ‘outlaw’ or ‘condemn’ euthanasia and assisted suicide. 

Hawaii: A bill to create a physician-assited suicide regime modellled on Oregon's system sailed through the State Senate this week, by a vote of 22 to 3, despite some heartfelt speech from a senator who survived pancreatic cancer. The bill now moves to the House. 

MontanaA bill to criminalise doctor's participation in assisted suicide was recently defeated on a tied vote. The bill would have nullified a controversial 2009 Montana Supreme Court ruling that found that there was nothing in state law that prohibits a physician from helping a patient to commit suicide.

Kansas: a House of Representatives Committee this week heard testimony in favour of a resolution that “condemns” physician assisted suicide and promotes improvements to palliative care. Resolution No. 5010, which… click here to read whole article and make comments

The Philippines moves to reintroduce capital punishment

The Philippines has edged closer to reintroducing capital punishment, with the Philippine House of Representatives voting overwhelmingly in favour of a bill that would allow the execution of criminals.

The bill, which forms part of president Rodrigo Duterte’s hardline law and order agenda, passed the lower house by a majority of 216-54, with one abstention. The Senate will now debate a counterpart bill that will allow the President’s proposed policy to become law.

The bill permits execution via hanging, firing squad and lethal injection. President Duterte spoken repeatedly of his desire to hang criminals, as many as ‘20 per day’.

Opponents spoke out strongly in the house, describing the measure as barbaric, regressive and no deterrent against crime. Representative Jose Christopher Belonte said lawmakers voting in favor would have "blood on our hands". Human Rights groups and the Catholic Church have… click here to read whole article and make comments

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