America, land of fruits and nuts?

A government-funded study has found that more than half of Americans will develop a mental illness at some time in their lives. This startling statistic is based on a detailed survey of 9,282 people 18 and over which was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. The most common problems were depression, which affected 17%; alcohol abuse, 13%; and social phobia, 12%. The announcement has kindled a debate amongst psychiatrists over what truly constitutes a mental disorder.

"If I told you that 99% of Americans had a physical illness, you wouldn't blink an eye," Dr Ronald Kessler, of… click here to read whole article and make comments

Forget about therapies, says stem cell researcher

The cost of "therapeutic" cloning will be too high to cure patients, says Alan Trounson, one of the world's leading stem cell researchers. But cloning will be needed for research on the genetic component of disease. "I don't call it therapeutic cloning because it's not about cells for therapy," said Professor Trounson, of Monash University. "This is about cells that give us an opportunity to discover what causes a disease and whether we can interfere with that. These cells should only be used for research."

Professor Trounson, a central figure in Australia's… click here to read whole article and make comments

Drug companies targeting doctors with prescription records

US drug companies are tailoring their marketing to individual doctors with lists detailing their prescribing habits, according to Slate magazine. The lists are created by matching de-identified prescriptions written by the 600,000 doctors in the US with their identification numbers. These numbers are supplied either by the federal government or by the American Medical Association, which earns about US$20 million a year by selling its database.

By combining all this information, the drug companies know exactly what and how much each doctor prescribes. "Relatively few physicians know about prescriber reports," says Slate.… click here to read whole article and make comments

Israel to permit sex selection

The Israeli Health Ministry has come under fire for authorising social sex selection. Requests will only be granted, according to ministry guidelines, when "there is a real and apparent danger of substantial harm to the mental health of the parents or parent, or of the child destined to be born, if the desired procedure is not performed." Permission will only be given to couples with four children of the same sex -- except in exceptional circumstances.

The Commissioner for Future Generations, Shlomo Shoham, criticised the decision as "another step on the road to severe moral deterioration". "Selecting the sex… click here to read whole article and make comments

Are Snowflake embryos donated or adopted?

With the support of the Bush administration, Christian groups in the US are cooperating with IVF clinics to arrange for frozen embryos to be given to childless couples. When President Bush announced that he would veto a bill allowing embryo research, he appeared surrounded by 20 families who had taken test-tube babies into their lives with the help of a program called Snowflakes.

Since only about 2% of an estimated 400,000 embryos frozen in IVF clinics are given to other couples, this is hardly a solution to the problem of what to do with the embryos. But because it… click here to read whole article and make comments

Czech Gypsies demand apology for forced sterilisations

The Czech ombudsman is examining the stories of more than 60 Roma (Gypsy) women who complain that doctors sterilised them against their will. Large families are common amongst the Roma and infertility is shameful for both men and women. Often partners deserted women who had been sterilised against their will. Under the Communists doctors routinely sterilised Roma women to eliminate "undesirables". But the alarming feature of these complaints is that they happened after the "Velvet Revolution" and the restoration of democracy. Often, the Roma women claim, doctors and social workers would get them to sign consent forms while they were… click here to read whole article and make comments

Romanian police catch an organ donor

A 30-year-old thief in jail has become the first Romanian charged with organ trafficking, even though he was a donor, not a buyer. Robert Mihaly was charged after a prison doctor discovered that his kidney had been removed. An investigation found that he had sold it in 2001 for more than US$18,000 to an Austrian man. The records of the transplant clinic of Vienna General Hospital Mihaly describe him as a "relative donor". Police are trying to find out whether he was part of an organ trafficking ring.

Romania is one of the poorest countries in Europe and has… click here to read whole article and make comments

Euthanasia not needed for newborns, say doctors

The New England Journal of Medicine has published several letters from doctors indignant with a justification of infant euthanasia recently published by two Dutch colleagues. A public health expert from Emory University in Atlanta commented that all reported cases of euthanasia involved infants with severe spinal bifida. But this is a consequence, he claims, of the failure of the Dutch government to require folic acid fortification. If the government had the will to enforce this, it could prevent unnecessary severe disease and disability.

Two Scottish doctors pointed out that "access to paediatric palliation care is poor, even in countries… click here to read whole article and make comments

Bush vows to veto stem cell bill

Bush vows to veto stem cell bill The US House of Representatives has passed a bill by a vote of 238 to 194 which would allow federal funding for research on IVF embryos, if they would otherwise be discarded and if the donors consent. It was supported by most Democrats and about 50 Republicans. However, the bill's future is uncertain despite confident bluster from its sponsors, as it must still pass through the Senate and President Bush has vowed to veto it. It would be the first veto of his presidency.

In fact, Bush's views… click here to read whole article and make comments

Words become weapons in stem cell debate

The current US debate over stem cells has reignited complaints from both sides that their opponents are manipulating words for political gain. House of Representatives majority Leader Tom DeLay came under fire for describing the use of embryos for stem cell research as "dismemberment of living, distinct human beings". Linguistics expert Deborah Tannen, of Georgetown University, complained that DeLay was trying to associate stem cell research with late-term abortion. The Washington Post condemned his "irresponsible rhetoric" which implied that IVF was "legalised torture and murder on a mass scale".

However, William Hurlbut, a Stanford University biologist who sits on… click here to read whole article and make comments

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