Let’s both be beautiful, say British couples</b>

Cosmetic surgeons at work Couples are encouraging each other to have cosmetic surgery to improve their looks, say British cosmetic surgeons, as demand for their services continues to rise. One in four patients at the Harley Medical Group, which runs a chain of cosmetic surgery clinics, said their partner had also gone under the knife. In the last six months liposuction demand is up 25%; nose jobs are up 20%; and facelifts are up 11%.

Several reasons are being offered to explain the trend. It's the physical and psychological benefits, says the Harley Medical Group. It's "social matching theory", says psychologist Linda Papadopoulos. People "search out somebody who has similar characteristics to their own, so you can imagine this theory being played out to extremes with plastic surgery". It's also the glamour of celebrity couples like Posh and Becks and Madonna and Guy. "If you are beautiful that is good, but you could be… click here to read whole article and make comments

Were Korean egg donors public-spirited or press-ganged?

Hwang Woo Suk (Nature) More controversy is swirling around the Korean scientist who announced in February that he had successfully cloned human embryos and created a stem cell line. This time the issue is whether women were pressured into donating their eggs to further his research. Korean bioethicists, human rights activists and the leading journal Nature have all suggested that the donors included junior members of a research team headed by Woo Suk Hwang. Nature was told by a PhD student on the team, Ja Min Koo, that she and another woman in the lab had donated eggs. She subsequently changed her story, blaming her poor English for a misunderstanding. Hwang and the ethics committee which approved the research refused to provide further information.

When the news of the experiment first broke, many non-Korean scientists expressed their astonishment that Hwang had been able to persuade 16 volunteers to provide him with 242 eggs for… click here to read whole article and make comments

Living wills don’t work, says study

Living will Living wills offer a false promise of control over end-of-life treatment, claims a study in the bioethics journal Hastings Center Report. Researchers at the University of Michigan based their conclusions on hundred of studies of living wills, end-of-life decisions and the psychology of making choices. A "durable power of attorney" is a far better option, they contend.

Dr Angela Fagerlin, of the University of Michigan Medical School, says that living wills fail all standards of workability. "First, most people don't even have living wills. Second, those who do rarely know what care they would truly want in some hypothetical future. Third, it's surprisingly hard for people to state their wishes accurately and understandably. Fourth, the document is often unavailable when decisions need to be made. Fifth, even when it is available, surrogate decision makers usually cannot reliably apply its instructions to the patient's current health condition."

Co-author Carl Schneider adds that most… click here to read whole article and make comments

Conjoined twins have “well-adjusted, rich lives”

Lori and Reba Schappell Conjoined twins can have such "well-adjusted, rich lives, made possible by the development of cooperation strategies" that we can all learn from them, suggests a new book from Harvard University Press. The author of "One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal", Alice Dormurat Dreger, asks "should people with unusual anatomies be treated as if their socially challenging bodies are inherently diseased?" Dreger points out that while life as a singleton is certainly easier, conjoined twins generally accept it as part of their identity. Although last year's unsuccessful operation to separate Iranian conjoined twins Ladan and Laleh Bijani was reported around the world, most twins never consider separation. The original "Siamese twins", Chang and Eng Bunker, travelled widely, married and had 22 children between them. Like them, most conjoined twins just get on with their lives.

As if to confirm Dreger's point, the BBC recently profiled 42-year-old American… click here to read whole article and make comments

Chicago IVF clinic creates five “saviour siblings”

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of 199 eight-celled embryos has resulted in the birth of five saviour siblings, an IVF clinic in Chicago has announced. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr Yuri Verlinsky says that tissue from the babies will be used for treatment of siblings with acute lymphoid leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia or Diamond-Blackfam anaemia. Of the five babies, only one has actually saved a sibling. Three of the affected siblings are in remission -- although they may need stem cell transplants later.

Dr Verlinsky dismissed misgivings about the ethics of creating babies to serve as medical treatments. "It offers the opportunity to save the life of an existing child with an otherwise untreatable disorder and allows couples to avoid confronting the difficulties of prenatal diagnosis for [antigen] typing in mid-pregnancy, with selective abortion of foetuses who are poorly matched with the affected child," he wrote in the JAMA.

A recent survey by the Genetics and Public… click here to read whole article and make comments

US exporting contraception to Afghanistan

Part of the US plan for rebuilding Afghanistan is the introduction of contraceptive products developed and marketed specifically for Afghans. With the slogan "Be a NumberOne/OK family, live a comfortable life", Population Services International and the US Agency for International Development hope to promote reproductive health for women. PSI says that its marketing has been "culturally adapted" to Afghanistan -- a challenging task in a fiercely Muslim country where where discussion, let alone advertising, of sexual topics is still taboo. This month it has launched a public awareness campaign with radio advertisement, sponsorships and billboards. PSI is also distributing 1.6 million condoms at a subsidised price in Afghanistan's major cities. click here to read whole article and make comments

Embryos needed to cure diabetes, claims Harvard scientist

A vocal proponent of embryonic stem cell research, Harvard professor Douglas Melton, claims that there is "no evidence whatsoever for the existence of an adult pancreatic stem cell". In an experiment on mice reported in the leading journal Nature, he tracked the development of new insulin-producing beta cells as the mice recovered from surgical trauma to their pancreas. All the new beta cells came from older beta cells rather than from stem cells. In the absence of adult pancreatic stem cells, he argues, scientists will have to use stem cells derived from embryos.

Professor Melton's paper will undoubtedly be used as ammunition in the highly-charged controversy over federal funding for therapeutic cloning in the US. Diabetes is probably the disease with the highest profile in the debate and has the most powerful lobby. However, not everyone agrees with Melton's interpretation of his experiment. Vijay Ramiya of the University of Florida told the Washington Post that the results were unrealistic because… click here to read whole article and make comments

Morning-after pills will not be sold over the counter in the US

The emergency contraceptive Plan B cannot be sold over the counter, the US Food and Drug Administration has ruled. The agency said that the application was denied because only 29 of the 585 women studied by the manufacturer, Barr Laboratories, were under 16. However, it suggested that Plan B might be approved for over-the- counter sales if Barr could show that it was safe for adolescents.

The FDA's decision was unexpected and controversial because an advisory panel had decided by a vote of 27 to 0 that the drug could be safely sold over the counter. Echoing other critics, a Planned Parenthood spokesman, Dr Scott Spear, said that politics had corrupted good science. But some women's groups approved of the move. Wendy Wright of Concern Women for America told the Washington Post that "there's too much potential for harm to women and girls if it's easily available. It's the right decision to not have it next to candy bars and… click here to read whole article and make comments

NZ euthanasia campaigner sentenced to 15 months jail

Lesley Martin with her husband Warren Fulljames arriving at the Wanganui High Court today. Picture / Fotopress New Zealand's leading euthanasia campaigner was sentenced to 15 months jail this week for the attempted murder of her terminally ill mother. Although she can apply for home detention, Lesley Martin, a 40-year-old married mother of two, insisted earlier that she would go to jail. "Not a single day" went by when she felt guilty about her actions, she declared.

Mrs Joy Martin, who was suffering from rectal cancer, died in 1999 after being injected with 60mg of morphine. Police initially dropped investigations, but resumed them after her daughter Lesley published a book "To Die Like a Dog" in which she described the death.

Ms Martin's lawyer said that she would appeal the conviction and the sentence. Before the sentence, he argued that there were mitigating circumstances, such as her mother's poor palliative care and her exhaustion… click here to read whole article and make comments

Gamete donor registry opens in UK

Sperm vials in IVF clinicThe UK is making it easier for people conceived with donor eggs and sperm to contact their genetic parents. It has set up a voluntary register which will bring parents and children together (after they have turned 18) -- if they want to make contact. The government wants to bring the laws for donor-conceived children in line with the laws for adopted children. It will also be possible to contact half-siblings as well.

The register does not guarantee that children will be able to find parents. Parents are allowed limit the amount of personal information their children can access.

The government has also agreed to end sperm donor anonymity from 2005, meaning that children conceived next year will be able to contact their fathers in 2023. A BBC survey of fertility clinics found that 48% of clinics which recruit donors have low stocks of sperm and 65% are worried about… click here to read whole article and make comments

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