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… 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… 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… 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… 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… 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… 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… click here to read whole article and make comments

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… 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… 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… click here to read whole article and make comments

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