Researchers fret over California’s golden egg

Despite their delight at California's commitment of US$3 billion to stem cell research after November's referendum, some prominent US scientists are worried. They fear that Washington could use state generosity as an excuse to slash Federal funding for the National Institutes of Health. The Bush administration is already under pressure financially because of the Iraq war and its tax cuts and might welcome the opportunity to trim the NIH's budget.

If that happens, there are fears that standards might fall. "The less the NIH is involved in something, the less assurance we have that good ethical guidelines are followed,' says… MORE

Religious clouds gather over Enlightenment, says editor

In an editorial which expresses the exasperation of many scientists, the editor-in-chief of the leading US journal Science, Donald Kennedy, has complained that religious faith is stifling scientific progress. Placing himself squarely in the camp of the Enlightenment, Kennedy regards the sceptical Scottish philosopher David Hume as the patron saint of science. Now, he complains, a truly scientific outlook is in danger of disintegrating under the pressure of religious fundamentalism. He points to the spread of intelligent design" theories in American high schools, growing scepticism about the truth of evolution, and reluctance by the Bush Administration to promote condoms to… MORE

Now for something completely different

Comet plays with his hamburger toy -- Seattle Times Doctors at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle have used adult stem cells to cure a golden retriever suffering from a lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the immune system. The owner spent months tracking down a perfect tissue match for Comet and finally found him in Florida. The transplant happened last June and Comet is making slow but steady progress towards recovery.

The Seattle vet, Dr Edmund Sullivan, plans to offer the treatment as part of his regular services -… MORE

IN BRIEF: restless scientists; Korea; confidentiality

Restless scientists: Breaking with a tradition of siding with the Administration, several scientists at the US National Institutes of health have made public their dislike of federal restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research. In response to a letter from Senator Arlen Specter, they warned that the NIH and the nation could fall behind in stem cell science if talented young researchers go elsewhere to take advantage of more funding and fewer restrictions. Even NIH director Elias Zerhouni appears to sympathise. When asked if it were immoral to use "spare" embryos for research, Dr Zerhouni replied "I think you'll have… MORE

US pharmacy forced to sell contraceptives

The governor of the US state of Illinois has used emergency powers to force a pharmacy to sell contraceptives. The state government will also charge it with "failure to provide pharmaceutical care" and "unprofessional conduct" after a pharmacist declined to dispense contraceptives to two women in February. "The pharmacy is not allowed to discriminate who they sell it to and who they don't," said Governor Rod Blagojevich. "No delays. No hassles. No lectures. Just fill the prescription."

The incident highlights the increasing number of American pharmacists who are refusing to fill prescriptions for… MORE

Wrongful life” suit succeeds in the Netherlands

In the first successful "wrongful life" suit in the Netherlands, a severely disabled Dutch child has been awarded damages for having been born. Before Kelly Molenaar, now 11, was born, her parents knew that there was a risk of birth defects and asked a midwife at Leiden University Medical Centre whether tests were needed. They were told No and they proceeded with the birth. Had they known of Kelly's disability, they would have aborted her. The Dutch Supreme Court has ruled that Kelly was entitled to compensation for emotional damage because she… MORE

Chinese prisoners donating organs—whether they like it or not

Chinese hospitals obtain organs from executed prisoners, according to a recent report from Radio Free Asia. This is another confirmation of persistent rumours of a link between the criminal justice system and doctors. No. 1 and No. 3 Hospitals in Guangzhou, which are affiliated with the prestigious Sun Yat-sen University, have become leaders in liver and kidney transplants. A nurse told an RFA reporter that most of the organs came from prisoners and that they had been removed before death.

Human rights groups claim that China executes more people than the rest of the world put together -- about 10,000… MORE

Schiavo debate continues to smoulder

The controversy over the death of Terri Schiavo continues to smoulder in the media. Journalists and bioethicists have been reflecting on the consequences of her death after more than 15 years in a persistent vegetative state. The feud between her husband Michael, who successfully asked the courts for her feeding tube to be withdrawn, and her parents, who opposed it, has not ended. Michael arranged an autopsy to determine the extent of Terri's brain damage, but refused to allow her parents to get a second opinion. He had her body cremated. Other issues which have surfaced in the media include:… MORE

British scientists back hybrid embryos

In the wake of uproar over the news that a British parliamentary committee had backed the creation of mixed-species embryos, two leading scientists have lent their support to the idea. Professor Chris Higgins, the director of the Medical Research Council's clinical science centre, said that using animal eggs instead of human eggs in cloning experiments was "ethically easier".

And Dr Stephen Minger, a leading stem cell scientist, said that he supported the idea in principle because human eggs would no longer be needed. "In California, people are already up in arms about the issue of paying women for eggs and… MORE

Force people to participate in experiments, says ethicist

Prof John Harris British bioethicist John Harris has again plunged into controversy by arguing that medical research is so important that people should sometimes be forced to participate. In an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, he balances the rights of the subject against the society's need for medical advances, which he compares to taxation, jury duty or wearing seat belts. "There is a balance to be struck here," he writes, "but is not a balance that must always and inevitably be loaded in favour of the protection of research subjects."

Professor… MORE

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