Clinical trials to become more transparent</b>

Glowing results from clinical trials may be due to successful experiments -- or to the fact that none of the failures have been reported. And because pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in keeping bad news under wraps, little has been done to solve the problem. However, according to the Economist, drug companies are being pushed towards more openness by three recent events.

The first is a legal settlement by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a British drug company which was accused by the state of New York of deliberately suppressing clinical trials with negative results for its anti-depressant Paxil. GSK has agreed… MORE





Should dying patients recruit their own donors? </b>

Everet needs a liver A Texas man who found a liver donor by advertising on billboards and the internet is being imitated by other sick people who are impatient with the conventional supply system. Several Americans have posted personal web sites looking for a liver or a kidney. The sites have names like EveretNeedsALiver.com, michaelneedsaliver.com, Kenneedsaliver.com and Donationforcynthia.com and feature tragic stories and heart- rending photos. Doctors and ethicists are alarmed by a possible trend towards queue- jumping. "The level of chaos that will ensue if directed donations and advertising efforts take off is… MORE




Memories of Tuskegee may be at root of black organ shortage</b>

Because racial groups have similar genetic characteristics, a large pool of black donors is needed to save blacks with diseased organs. In the US black patients constitute 27% of people on waiting lists, but only 12% of donors, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. As a result, blacks wait an average of 18 months longer for a transplant than whites.

Many people involved with transplants blame the notorious Tuskegee experiments for blacks' reluctance to become donors. Between the 1930s and the 1970s poor black men in Alabama were used as guinea pigs to see what would happen if… MORE





Californian fisticuffs over stem-cell proposal

Californian backers of November's vote on a proposal to spend US$3 billion on stem cell research over 10 years are touting the financial return on the still-unproven technology, while its opponents are accusing it of shonky ethics.

Supporters of Proposition 71 say that the return on the bond issue which would finance the research will be immense, generating at least US$6.4 to $12.6 billion in state revenues and health care cost savings during the payback period, with a return on investment of at least 120% to 236% -- as well as generating between 5,000 and 22,000 new jobs every year.… MORE





Italian health minister stumbles over stem cell success</b>

Italian Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia The Italian politician who pushed through Europe's most restrictive IVF laws has scored an own goal in the controversy over stem cell research. Although his opposition to using human embryonic stem cells and to therapeutic cloning was well-known, Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia called a press conference to praise the historic" cure of a 5-year-old boy suffering from thalassemia. Stem cells taken from the placenta of his twin brothers had saved his life.

However, the Minister may have been ambushed. The twins were actually designer babies, the product of pre-implantation… MORE





Euthanasia film wows ‘em in Venice</b>

A poignant docu-drama about a Spanish quadriplegic's quest for death has won two prizes in the renowned Venice Film Festival. "Mar Adentro" ("The Sea Within") depicts the plight of Ram?n Sampedro, a charismatic sailor paralysed in a diving accident who campaigned to be killed because he was "a living head glued to a dead body". The Spanish director is Alejandro Amen?bar, who is best-known in the English-speaking world for his Nicole Kidman film "The Others". Javier Bardem took out the best actor award and the film also won the jury grand prize.

Spanish Prime Minister Jos? Luis Rodr?guez Zapatero attended… MORE





STRAWS IN THE WIND: Melbourne, Britain, Montreal</b>

  • A Melbourne man has launched a world-first legal case by claiming damages from the Victorian government and from a gender identity clinic which had advised him to proceed with a sex-change operation. Alan Finch had his genitals removed but later reverted to being a male. Together with a woman who underwent surgery to become a man, he has founded a group called "gender menders". They claim that doctors at the state-funded clinic followed a rigid ideological belief that surgery, and not psychology, was the remedy for gender identity problems. MORE




  • Dutch doctors drafting protocols for child euthanasia</b>

    Dutch authorities are drawing up protocols to allow doctors to euthanase children under 12. Euthanasia is already legal for 12-year-olds, but a new proposal would extend existing options to even younger children, including newborns, if they have an incurable illness or unbearable suffering.

    News reports say that the guidelines, drawn up with the assistance of paediatrician Eduard Verhagen, of Groningen Hospital, have been under study for the past year. Dr Verhagen says that these will be strict and establish a step-by-step process which must be respected by doctors. A fundamental norm will be… MORE





    22 Britons dispatched by Swiss group Dignitas</b>

    The Swiss organisation Dignitas has helped 22 British suicide tourists die over the past two years, not five as previously believed, says a campaigner for euthanasia in the UK. Ms Lesley Close, the sister of a man who paid Dignitas to help him die last year, argued that it was better for people to die at home in Britain rather than having to travel abroad. Apparently Dignitas has 557 members in the UK and according to its director, Ludwig Minelli, 20% of these are likely to take up the offer of assisted suicide. The UK is currently debating a bill… MORE




    Dealing with the illness of companion animals</b>

    Animal medicine in the US is becoming as complex as human medicine -- and almost as expensive, according to a Washington Post feature. Author Mary Battiata reminisces about the death of her beloved 14-year-old mongrel whom she nursed through a battle with mysterious ailment. In the course of her distressing journey she discovers veterinary neurologists, veterinary brain scans, spinal taps, radiation treatment, operations under general anaesthesia and CPR -- all procedures costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

    Vets attribute the increasing sophistication of medicine for companion animals to technological innovation and the… MORE




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