Trump’s health department takes a pro-life turn

The new strategic plan for the US Department of Health and Human Services has accomplished the impossible -- getting progressives to hanker for the good old days of the Bush Administration.

Every four years the HHS publishes its plan for comment. This one, if approved, will run from 2018 to 2022.

What caught the eye of journalists was a revision of the HHS mission statement. This now reads “HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.” It also uses phrases… click here to read whole article and make comments

‘Human dignity’ is not ‘useless’

Few concepts are more disputed in bioethics than “human dignity”. Ruth Macklin wrote a very short but very famous demolition of the notion in 2003, asserting that “Dignity is a useless concept”. The broad consensus amongst bioethicists is that she was right.

However, in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Linda Barclay, of Monash University, in Melbourne, takes a second look at her argument and concludes that while “human dignity” may be disputed and unclear, it is not altogether useless. For even though it has become a punching bag for bioethicists, there survives an “enormous practical concern for dignity… click here to read whole article and make comments

If Trump moves on bioethics, what kind of commission should he create?

Today is October 14. Two hundred and sixty-seven days have passed since President Trump was inaugurated. And the United States still has no bioethics commission. Is that a problem in a year when CRISPR has generated controversy after controversy? A series of articles in the Hastings Center Report addressed this problem a few months ago.

Alexander Capron, a former president of the International Association of Bioethics, believes that a new commission should be created, but not necessarily a carbon copy of its predecessors, the first of which was created by the Nixon Administration in 1974.

Capron insists that a… click here to read whole article and make comments

The emerging technology of ‘synthetic embryology’

Although experimentation on human embryos is tightly controlled in the United States. American scientists may have found a way around this restriction. According to the MIT Technology Review, some scientists are creating embryo-like structures from stem cells.

Journalist Antonio Regalado says that there is a boom in “organoid” research. Stem cells are being used to create “clumps of cells that increasingly resemble bits of brain, lungs, or intestine” or even embryos. This emerging technology has been dubbed “synthetic embryology”.

Research on true embryos is enmeshed in America’s bitter disputes over abortion and is largely limited to surplus embryos from… click here to read whole article and make comments

Gene of the week: divorce

Divorce does seem to run in families. Children whose parents were divorced have a higher risk of divorcing than those from stable families. The standard explanation is that the children absorbed attitudes towards marital commitment which normalised divorce for them.

So couples with rocky relationships are counselled to strengthen commitment and development weak interpersonal skills.

But all this could be a waste of time. Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Lund University in Sweden believe that there is a genetic component to divorce. In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, they claim that while biological children were more… click here to read whole article and make comments

Nine out of ten Quebec caregivers support MAiD for the demented – new study

A new study claims that nine out of ten Quebec caregivers want to extend the province’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) law to patients with dementia.

The study, presented by Université de Sherbrooke epidemiologist Gina Bravo at World Alzheimer’s Day conference in Montreal this week, involved 302 caregivers from across Quebec and a dozen Alzheimer’s chapters of the Fédération Québécoise des Sociétés Alzheimer. Bravo asked respondents if they support the idea of assisted dying for individuals suffering from dementia who are at the terminal state of their illness, who are showing signs of distress and… click here to read whole article and make comments

Michigan mother jailed for refusing to vaccinate child

A 40-year-old Michigan woman has been sentenced to seven days jail after disobeying a court order to have her son vaccinated.

Rebecca Bredow, who describes herself as an “educated vaccine-choice mother”, was ordered by Oakland County Circuit Judge Karen McDonald in late September to have her child immunised; she had been taken to court by her ex-husband and the child’s father, James Horne, who told the court that Bredow had reneged on a previous agreement to have the child vaccinated.

Bredow deliberately ignored Judge McDonald’s order to have the child immunised, and… click here to read whole article and make comments

Will assisted suicide always provide a quick and gentle death?

The gold standard for human experimentation is a randomly-assigned double-blind placebo-controlled study. Unfortunately, organising such a study to assess the effectiveness of the lethal medications used for executions in the United States and for physician-assisted suicide (PAS) has significant ethical issues. We need to rely upon historical data.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Sean Riley, an end-of-life researcher currently studying in the Netherlands, reviews the patchy record of the drugs used in executions and PAS. He summarises his findings as follows:

The pervasive belief that these, or any, noxious drugs… click here to read whole article and make comments

British man with motor neurone disease loses fight for assisted suicide in UK court

A British court has once again supported a ban on assisted suicide. Noel Conway (see here for previous BioEdge stories), a 67-year-old with motor neurone disease, had appealed to the court to allow him to die through assisted suicide when his health deteriorated.

His legal argument was that the Suicide Act 1961, which sets out the law on assisted dying, is incompatible with Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights. His lawyers argued that the law should be changed to permit others to assist him to commit suicide without risking prosecution.

However, after reviewing most of the… click here to read whole article and make comments

Religions and embryos

An special feature in the journal Development lists the attitude of various religions towards human embryos. Author William Neaves writes “How religions view the human embryo depends on beliefs about ensoulment and the inception of personhood, and science can neither prove nor refute the teaching of those religions that consider the zygote to be a human person with an immortal soul.”

Catholicism: Having a centralized government and a definitive teaching authority, the Catholic Church holds the most unified and consistent view, despite some contemporary dissidents. It believes that personhood begins with the fertilisation of an egg by a sperm.

click here to read whole article and make comments

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