Britain considers electronic chaperone for doctors

In an effort to combat abuses by predatory doctors and false accusations by patients, Britain's National Health Service may force doctors to have a nurse chaperone in potentially compromising situations. However, the waste of a nurse's time in a country where nurses are in short supply has prompted the invention of a "virtual chaperone", The Economist reports. The Synaptiq Virtual Chaperone is discreet but omnipresent. It creates a securely coded video recording of the conversation between doctor and patient which could be used for both clinical and legal purposes. The NHS is studying the system, which promises to save time… MORE




ODD SPOT: </b>poor cellsmanship

A Buffalo, New York, school bus driver was fired after she told students that actor Mel Gibson had said that embryonic stem cell research had not produced a single human cure in 23 years and encouraged them to inform their parents. Some of the parents complained and 42-year-old Julianne Thompson ended up on the street. The school superintendent explained that political and religious discussion should be carried on in a classroom setting where a range of viewpoints can be discussed. Ms Thompson is considering legal action. MORE




IN BRIEF: </b>designer baby; IVF; new bioethics centres

Designer baby: A British woman is pregnant with the UK's first designer baby". In July Julie Fletcher and her husband Joe won approval from the UK's fertility watchdog to have her embryos screened so that her second child would be genetically compatible donor for a two-year-old son with a potentially fatal blood disorder. MORE




Scientists grappling with chimera ethics </b>

chimeric mice The US National Academy of Sciences is studying the ethical limits of research with chimeras, or mixed-species animals, an issue which is becoming more urgent with the development of stem cell biology. Scientists are already developing animals which have human organs and cells: pigs with human blood, sheep with largely human livers and hearts; mice with some human neurons. They are useful for research on the development of cells and could become medical resources as well. Some scientists are growing partially human organs in animals, for instance.

However, there are concerns about… MORE





Koreans claim that adult stem cells have cured paralysed woman </b>

An unnamed Korean woman walks again after treatment with stem cells Researchers at Chosun University in South Korea claim that stem cells from umbilical cord blood injected into the spine of a woman paralysed for 19 years have helped her to walk again. The stem cells were injected on October 12 and within three weeks, she took her first steps with the help of a walker. Professor Song Chang-hun says that the technique will be tested on four more patients soon. The results will be published next year.

Another researcher, Professor Kang Kyung-sun, told… MORE





Asian stem cell centres “mind-boggling” </b>

UK scientists returning from a visit to Asia report that a staggering level of technology and commitment is being put into stem cell research in Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Singapore. "I came back blown away by the whole thing," said Stephen Minger, of King's College London, one of Britain's leading stem cell researchers. "It was mind-boggling to everybody." In Seoul, he found that the labs of Hwang Woo-suk, the first scientist to clone human embryos, were better equipped than his own and that Hwang's team was cloning nearly a thousand animal embryos a day. In China there was a similar… MORE




Evidence for health of IVF babies “relatively weak” </b>

A surprisingly negative report from the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) has concluded that contrary to popular belief, the evidence for the long-term health of IVF babies is "relatively weak" compared to other well-established clinical techniques. Some patients, it says, are "prepared to undergo any treatment that might help them conceive" and had not considered the long-term implications. "With couples willing to go to great lengths to have a child," the MRC says, "it is of paramount importance to safeguard the health of these children from the moment they are conceived until they grow up and want to start families… MORE




Animal rights extremists undermine democracy, says Oxford head </b>

Chris Patten The new chancellor of Oxford University in the UK has made a blistering attack on animal rights extremists. In his first speech as Chancellor, Mr Chris Patten said that their violent tactics were undermining fundamental principles of liberal democracy. Capitulating to them would encourage extremists of other stripes to harass universities to discourage them from studying particular branches of science or history, or from employing staff of particular ethnic or religious backgrounds. "These are all issues that are on the frontier between an Enlightenment world of liberty and reason, and darkness," he… MORE




Dutch euthanasia cases </b>

Two recent test cases in the Netherlands have helped to clarify the distinction between murder and palliative care. In the first, the Dutch Supreme Court rejected an appeal by an Amsterdam GP, Dr Wilfred van Oijen against a charge of murder. He had an 84- year-old patient in a coma who was expected to die within 48 hours. He injected 50 mg of alcuronium and soon afterwards she died. Dr van Oijen's defence was that this "help with dying" was palliative care. However, the Supreme Court rejected this argument. Because the patient was in coma, she was not suffering, and… MORE




Desperate” couples offered unproven IVF treatment </b>

Unscrupulous fertility clinics are offering women unproven and potentially risky tests and treatments based on the theory that natural killer cells" in the womb may be responsible for recurrent miscarriages. According to a study in the British Medical Journal, many women who have high levels of these cells are being offered powerful treatments, such as steroids or immune-suppressant drugs, to reduce them. But at this stage, say the authors, there is no evidence to justify the tests and it is wrong to offer risky treatments which have not been licensed for use in reproductive medicine.

Dr Mark Hamilton, of the… MORE




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