Case study shows flaws in Oregon suicide law</b>

Opponents of Oregon's assisted suicide law have highlighted a "mistake" made by a doctor who prescribed a lethal dose of barbiturates to mentally unstable patient without a terminal illness. Under the law only patients of sound mind with less than six months to live are eligible.

In a case study presented to the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in May, Dr Gregory Hamilton, of the lobby group Physicians for Compassionate Care (PCC), said that Michael F. Freeland had a long history of depression and suicide attempts. In the last year of his life, he was twice declared mentally incompetent. He kept 32 firearms, including a machinegun, and thousands of rounds of ammunition at home. His house was uninhabitable, with heaps of clutter, rodent faeces, ashes extending two feet from the fireplace into the living room, and inadequate food and heating.

Despite his troubled history, his doctor did not think a psychiatric consultation was necessary and gave him a… click here to read whole article and make comments

The bioethics of torture</B></P>

In the Australian state of Tasmania, an eminent oceanographer has received a 12-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to the assisted suicide of his elderly mother in December 2002. The case was widely reported because 88-year-old Elizabeth Godfrey had been a local celebrity as a television chef. The euthanasia lobby was buoyed up by the light sentence and also by sympathetic remarks from Justice Peter Underwood. The judge said that John Godfrey had been motivated "solely by compassion and love" and suggested that people too ill to kill themselves deserved to be helped. In words which appeared to cast suicide as a human rights issue, he observed that such people were being "discriminated against by reason of their physical disability". click here to read whole article and make comments

Nitschke calls for new strategy to legalise euthanasia</b>

In an editorial in Exit Australia's official journal Dr Philip Nitschke has outlined a "tougher and smarter" strategy for promoting the legalisation of euthanasia without creating "a trail of martyrs". He is attempting to form "a leaderless network that can spread required information throughout a supportive group". One facet of this new approach is his workshops on do-it-yourself suicide devices.

"The days when kindly doctors travelled around helping the seriously ill to die, while details of these activities were then used to call for legislative change are gone," he writes. "The model is dated, fragile and dangerous, and to date has achieved little more than the removal of a number of committed activists from the struggle."

An outpouring of public support for euthanasia in Tasmania in the wake of the Godfrey case (see above) shows that this may have been a shrewd move. According to a report in The Age, Mrs Godfrey was a member of Exit Australia. However, Dr… click here to read whole article and make comments

Patient feedback leads to a better death</b>

Asking terminal patients about how well they are being cared for may be an easy, cost-free way of improving their quality of life. Bioethicists at the University of Toronto asked 36 seriously ill patients how they perceived their care. Three-quarters of them thought it was good or excellent -- an encouraging statistic, but one that left room for improvement. But when a doctor routinely asked patients about their concerns and then relayed their responses to medical staff, a third of them reported that care had improved.

"This study offers the promise of an inexpensive way to tackle the problem of B-grade end-of-life care," says Dr Peter Singer (not to be confused with the Australian ethicist). "Needed, quite simply, is more systematic, direct and intense patient feedback to doctors and other hospital staff." click here to read whole article and make comments

Polls on assisted-suicide vary dramatically with question</b>

An American survey of surveys about doctor-assisted suicide shows that people's answers shift with the wording of the pollsters' questions -- "one of the chief markers of unresolved thinking", according to the research group Public Agenda. People are significantly less likely to support it if the word "suicide" is used and significantly more likely when safeguards are described or if "wishes of a dying patient" are mentioned.

Public Agenda examined several polls done in 1997 and 1999. When the word suicide was avoided, support for legalisation fell from 68% to 45%. When the wishes of dying patients were mentioned, support rose from 45% to 61%. When safeguards were described, support reached 67%. click here to read whole article and make comments

Baby born from 21-year-old sperm</b>

vials of frozen sperm A UK man fathered a IVF child with sperm frozen 21 years ago before he had surgery for testicular cancer. Doctors at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester said that the age of the sperm might make it a world record. The baby was born two years ago after four IVF cycles, but the news came to light only this week in the journal Human Reproduction. An embryologist at King's College Hospital in London, Dr Virginia Bolton, said that the news was "not hugely surprising." "From animal studies," she commented, "the only damage it seems that could occur to frozen sperm is through background radiation". click here to read whole article and make comments

Clinics face crisis over sperm donation figures</b>

The UK faces a sperm donor shortage and new recruitment strategies are urgently required, says a leading IVF clinic. Doctors at the Newcastle Fertility Clinic at Life (sic) studied sperm donation at their centre between 1994 and 2003. Their findings give an insight into the little-known market for sperm. Of 1101 men who applied to be sperm donors, fewer than 4% were accepted. Most were rejected because of sub-optimal sperm quality. Most of the accepted donors were students (67%), unmarried (87%) or without a partner (62%). Each made an average of 45 deposits. The average number of applicants declined throughout the period, with a sharp fall after 2000, probably because of concerns about the removal of donor anonymity. From April 2005, IVF children will have a right to know the identity of their genetic parents. click here to read whole article and make comments

US stem cell scientists bemoan lost opportunities</b>

As other countries develop embryonic stem lines, US stem cell researchers are being forced to sit on the sidelines, lamenting the loss of their competitive edge, according to a report in the Boston Globe. Most of the world's new stem cell lines are being created in countries like the Czech Republic, Australia, South Korea, Sweden, Israel and Finland. Earlier this month the first public bank for embryonic stem cells opened in the UK, headed by American expatriate Stephen Minger.

Envious US scientists are chafing under restrictions imposed by President George W. Bush in 2001. These have meant that no new lines can be created with funding from the federal government -- which most scientists feel is essential for progress. Only about 20 lines exist, they complain, and these are poor and contaminated by contact with mouse feeder cells. But by the end of the year there could be 100 lines in other countries -- most of which will be off-limits… click here to read whole article and make comments

Italian bioethics chief gives UK philosophical raspberry</b>

The UK's new bank for embryonic stem cells represents the triumph of money over ethics, says the president of Italian National Committee of Bioethics, Dr Francesco D'Agostino. Research with embryonic stem cells may be ethically fraught, but it is certainly cheaper.

Speaking at a conference in Spain, Dr D'Agostino, who is a professor of the philosophy of law at Tor Vergata University in Rome, warned against "Anglo-Saxon" utilitarianism. "The only proper way to defend the dignity of the human person today is not to adopt a utilitarian point of view," he declared.

In the English-speaking world, "the concept of the person has been identified with an autonomous subject which is fully capable of understanding and acting". As a result, "they deny that foetuses, the aged, the handicapped and so on are persons with rights. Utilitarianism implies a calculus of convenience -- you see which people deserve to be defended and which do not by measuring the cost." click here to read whole article and make comments

Lithuanian “charlatans” spruik embryonic stem cells cures</b>

Two Lithuanian MPs have accused their Minister for Health of allowing shady companies to treat sick children with injections of embryonic stem cells -- even though these treatments are banned in the EU, Lithuania and Russia. Local doctors have described the procedures as "scandalous charlatanism" performed on "experimental rabbits". Dr Eimantas Svedas, of Kaunas Medical University, supported the claims. "The propagation of this method would not be possible in the West, and that people can believe in it and pay thousands for such embryonic stem cell injections can only raise smiles in other countries."

Health Minister Dr Juozas Olekas responded that "we really can't stop people participating in experiments in Russia, if they are so determined, even if they have objective evidence no such treatments are being used in any other country in the world. There are situations in which people will grasp at the last straw." He has warned the two companies involved to amend misleading claims in their… click here to read whole article and make comments

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