The extraordinary saga of Terri Schiavo continues

Despite what experts say, her parents say that brain-damaged Terri Schiavo responds. The plight of brain-damaged Florida Terri Schiavo continues to shake America. In an extraordinary move, the US Congress was recalled from its Easter recess to extend her life once again. The Senate voted unanimously and the House of Representatives voted 203- 58 to move the case to a Federal court. Her parents will argue that her constitutional rights are being denied by a local judge's decision that food and water can be withheld, at her husband's request, until she dies.


Nose stem cells could be breakthrough

An Australian team on a shoestring budget claims that adult stem cells harvested from the nose can morph into every kind of cell in the body. Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, of Griffith University in Brisbane, says that olfactory stem cells have all the advantages of embryonic stem cells and none of the disadvantages. They can be easily harvested, will not be rejected by the immune system and will not form tumours. Nor do they pose the ethical conundrums posed by the use of stem cells harvested from embryos. The research has been published in… MORE

Govt moves to stop stem cell free-for-all in India

Two government departments in India have agreed to draft common guidelines to monitor and control the mushrooming fields of stem cell medicine and research. A number of clinics are already offering stem cell therapies and some research institutes are forging ahead with experiments on human embryonic stem cells without government permission. Doctors at New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), for instance, have been treating patients with bone marrow stem cells for heart disease, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and stroke without permission and without reporting results in peer-reviewed journals. According to Nature, some scientists are concerned about the… MORE

500 embryos disappear from Croatian clinic

Supporters of more liberal assisted reproduction legislation in Croatia are using the disappearance of 500 frozen embryos to press for reform. The embryos, which belonged to couples from Croatia, Austria, Bosnia and Switzerland, disappeared from the Petrova Hospital in Zagreb. They were the responsibility of a gynaecologist, Asim Kurjak, who is being investigated by police for implanting frozen embryos without permission of the donors. A black market in frozen embryos operates in Croatia, with eggs reportedly being sold for 1,000 Euros.

Croatian IVF began only five years after the birth of Louise Brown in 1978. However, its IVF legislation has… MORE

Obesity could rescue American social security

Obesity epidemic The good news is that legions of fat Americans are going to rescue their crumbling social security system from collapse by dying as much as 20 years earlier than they should, says an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. The bad news is that the benefits of lower-than-forecast pension payouts will probably be offset by lost productivity and increases in Medicare costs. One worrying symptom of an impending crisis is that the lifetime risk of diabetes has risen to between 30 and 40% -- and diabetes reduces life expectancy by… MORE

Beware of foreign organ donors, says Australian study

Patients who seek kidneys overseas face a much higher risk of death and failed grafts, an Australian study claims. Paying organ donors is illegal in Australia even though the there is a severe shortage. Consequently a few people with end-stage kidney disease shop for their organs in Iran, Iraq, South America, Eastern Europe, South Africa and the Philippines. The survival rate of patients from these operations appears to be between 80% and 90%, compared to 95% for Australian transplants. The difference grows with time. Only 60% of overseas patients survive for five years, while 82% or more survive if the… MORE

... and of foreign cosmetic surgeons

Many Florida women who seek bargain-priced cosmetic surgery in Latin America are returning with scarred bodies and infected wounds, according to the Miami Herald. Shonky doctors offering discount surgery often fly to southern Florida and book women in for surgery after hotel room consultations. Local doctors say that the problem is increasing because of the Florida's beauty culture and the popularity of TV make-over shows. "It's almost a healthcare crisis," says Dr Seth Thaller, the head of the University of Miami's plastic and reconstructive surgery division. The head of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Dr Joao Sampaio Goes,… MORE

Research ethics in developing countries needs sound framework

Although medical research in developing countries is essential, it needs to be accompanied by a sound ethical framework, says a report from the UK's Nuffield Council on Bioethics. However, it would be impractical to argue that participants should receive the same standard of care as patients in first world countries. One problem is that stringent ethical guidelines could end up stifling research because they are simply impossible to observe.

Some controversial areas include: consent forms which are too complex for uneducated people to understand; uncertainty about whether participants should receive the best care possible or the best care available; the… MORE

Stem cell initiatives advance in US state legislatures

A number of American states are playing catch-up now that California stem-cell scientists have a US$300 million-a-year kitty for their research. In Washington state, the lower house has passed a bill endorsing stem cell research, after emotional pleas from both sides. In Massachusetts, supporters of embryonic stem cell research have formed a coalition to lobby the government. Recent polls there appear to show that most voters support the controversial science.

Harvard University has also approved cloning human embryos for research led by scientists Kevin Eggan and Douglas Melton. If Massachusetts legalises the research, their experiments will proceed. The Provost, Dr… MORE

New Zealand approves genetic testing of human embryos

The New Zealand government will allow fertility clinics to perform pre-implantation genetic diagnosis for serious inherited disorders. The National Ethics Committee on Assisted Human Reproduction says that PGD for non-medical reasons is forbidden, including sex selection or altering the genetic constitution of an embryo. MORE

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