The contradictions of commercial surrogacy

Commercial surrogacy contains inherent contradictions about the status of the mother, according to an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Jennifer Parks and Timothy Murphy, two American bioethicists, focus on times when the person or persons who commissioned the pregnancy abandon the child. This has happened in a number of widely-publicised cases overseas and in the US. Most of the time, the mother is left with responsibility for the baby, even if it is disabled.

They argue that “Treating commercial surrogates as presumptively responsible for children abandoned by commissioning parents, ... rest[s] on highly gendered assumptions about women… click here to read whole article and make comments

CRISPR on the rampage

CRISPR gene editing is one of the most exciting technologies of recent years, although most of the excitement so far involves curing people of obscure diseases and improving crops. Now a Dwayne Johnson film showcases its full potential – trashing all of downtown Chicago, for starters.

This is a must-see for fans of B-grade science fiction. The critics score at Rotten Tomatoes is 50%, but 78% of the audience loved it.

click here to read whole article and make comments

Are sperm counts declining around the world?

Several studies have reported a significant decline in sperm concentration and total sperm count among men from Western countries. Moreover, given recent findings that reduced sperm count is related to increased morbidity and mortality, the ongoing decline points to serious risks to male fertility and health. A recently-released video from The Economist outlines the problem.

Sperm count has previously been plausibly associated with environmental and lifestyle influences, including prenatal chemical exposure, adult pesticide exposure, smoking, stress and obesity. Therefore, sperm count may sensitively reflect the impact of the modern environment on male… click here to read whole article and make comments

Macron encourages French bishops to speak out on bioethics

In a speech on Monday that garnered both criticism and praise, French President Emmanuel Macron told a gathering of Catholic bishops that they should not be afraid to contribute to public debate, saying that Christians bring a valuable perspective on the human person to otherwise secular political discussions.

Speaking under an arch of the famous College of the Bernadins in Paris, Macron said that “the relationship between Church and State [in France] has deteriorated”, and that he wished to “repair it”. He said that the French doctrine of laïcité did not have the function of… click here to read whole article and make comments

Tongue splitting, bodily harm, and human dignity

Contemporary cosmetic surgery has become a tool for realising bizarre personal fantasies. Sometimes it also leads to significant bodily harm. “Tongue-splitting” is an operation whereby a person’s tongue is split from the tip to as far back as the underside base. The operation has become a common alteration for body-modification enthusiasts, who say it heightens their sense of taste and touch.  

Some jurisdictions, however, have enacted a ban on the procedure. The operation can be painful, and can temporarily impede one’s capacity for speech.

In a recent post on the blog Practical… click here to read whole article and make comments

Are crisis pregnancy centres unethical?

A recent article in the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics has sparked debate about the practices of crisis pregnancy centres (CPCs) in the US.

The article, "Why Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are Legal but Unethical", claims that CPCs deliberately withhold information about abortion services from pregnant women, and provide misleading information about the risks of premarital sex, contraception and pregnancy termination. The authors, Amy Bryant and Jonas Swartz, say that CPCs masquerade as medical facilities while not being staffed by medical professionals. They argue that the centers should be required to conform to “the ethical standards… click here to read whole article and make comments

Hawaii legalises assisted suicide

Hawaii has become the seventh American jurisdiction where assisted-suicide is legal. The “Our Care, Our Choice Act” passed  the Hawaii House of Representatives on a 39-12 vote on March 6, and cleared the Senate on a vote of 23-2 this week. Governor David Inge signed the bill on Thursday. “It is time for terminally ill, mentally competent Hawaii residents who are suffering to make their own end-of-life choices with dignity, grace and peace,” he said.

Under the provisions of the new law, the terminally ill may get a prescription for a lethal drug so long as two doctors agree… click here to read whole article and make comments

10% of Flemish cancer patients choose euthanasia

A survey of end-of-life decisions for cancer patients involving Flemish physicians has found that in 10.4% of the cases, there was euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide and life shortening without explicit patient request in 1.8%.

The results were published in the British Journal of Cancer and were based on a survey of physicians in Flanders, Belgium, in 2013. The percentages are based, not on cancer deaths, but on the number of end-of-life decisions for the patients. The classification system may seem a bit odd to non-specialists. If the drugs were given with the explicit intention of hastening death, the decision… click here to read whole article and make comments

US woman discovers that her father was her mother’s fertility doctor

The genetic testing company has become a leading source for people to track their heritage. However, the company warns that “We are committed to delivering the most accurate results, however with this, people may learn of unexpected connections.” 

Unexpected and unwelcome, in some cases. As with Kelli Rowlette, a 36-year-old American woman who used the company’s services to complete her family tree. Unexpectedly, the man whom the test showed to be her father was unknown to her. She thought that it was an error and complained to her now-divorced parents.

They knew immediately what the problem was. They had… click here to read whole article and make comments

When should we provide life sustaining care for premature babies?

A new article in Bioethics criticises policies in neonatal care units that mandate the withholding of treatment from babies born before 25 weeks gestation.

Neonatologist Manya J Hendriks (University Hospital Zurich) and paediatrician John D Lantos (Children’s Mercy Hospital) argue that many extremely premature babies -- babies born between 22 weeks and 25 weeks gestation -- can survive and, indeed, develop healthily if given adequate treatment. Yet many neonatal intensive care units in Europe and North America have policies based on estimated-gestation age (EGA), and these units routinely withhold treatment from extremely premature infants based… click here to read whole article and make comments

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