Victoria to offer stem cells for world market</b>

The Australian state of Victoria will become a new source of human embryonic stem cells in a commercial partnership designed to raise its profile in the global biotechnology market. Premier Steve Bracks told a world biotech conference in San Francisco that stem cell research "holds great promise for treating a range of diseases".

The collaborative effort will involve the Melbourne-based National Stem Cell Centre, Melbourne IVF and a private company, Stem Cell Sciences, which will use the stem cells to test and develop drugs. The initiative is awaiting approval by the National Health and Medical Research Council. MORE

Ethics top priority for US biotechnology, says retiring head</b>

The retiring head of the US biotechnology association believes that ethics is the main issue which could derail his industry. "We have paid passionate attention to bioethics issues," Carl Feldbaum told the Seattle Times. "We have taken them dead seriously. We have gone beyond narrow commercial interests and have tried to contribute, without commandeering, debates about Dolly, stem cells and gene therapy... The mishandling of a bioethics issue could derail us in no time, but hopefully that won't happen." MORE

Stem cell support depends on pollster’s questions</b>

Support for embryonic stem cell research in opinion polls depends on the wording of questions, says Public Agenda Alert. "Within the complex issue of stem cell research, most Americans admit to not following the debate closely. When initially asked, more than half say they don't have enough information to develop an opinion," it says. In June 2001, one survey found that only 30% opposed and 58% supported the use of "extra embryos" "to find treatment for many diseases". However, another survey taken in the same month found that 70% of people opposed the "destruction" of "live embryos" for unspecified "experiments". MORE

Should US doctors help execute death row prisoners?</b>

Gurney for Florida's lethal injections Lobby groups are trying to expose doctors who participate in legal executions in the US and then charge them with violating codes of medical ethics. About 25 states allow or require doctors to be present during executions -- which is normally by way of a lethal injection.

Dr Arthur Zitrin, a retired professor of psychiatry at New York University, has vowed to expose these doctors and have them expelled their professional organisations. When he discovered that Dr Sanjeeva Rao was helping to execute prisoners in Georgia, he denounced him… MORE

Guantanamo interrogators using prisoners’ medical records</b>

Detainees sit in a holding area at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay. ).(AFP/US Navy/File/Shane T. McCoy) American military interrogators have been given access to the medical records of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Medical ethics experts have denounced this as a serious breach of medical confidentiality. According to the Washington Post, the files are still being made available to interrogators despite complaints by the International Red Cross.

The US is constantly searching for legal ways to make prisoners reveal information about terrorist organisations. Early last year the Defense Department formally… MORE

IN BRIEF: new embryo rules ~ Greek nursing homes</b>

  • New rules to safeguard frozen embryos, sperm and eggs have been introduced by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority after a number of incidents in which they were accidentally destroyed or mixed up. The latest scandal occurred last year when a freezer failed at a hospital in Bristol and sperm samples belonging to 28 men undergoing cancer treatment were destroyed. MORE

  • “Slow euthanasia” is the way to go, say Dutch doctors</b>

    Terminal sedation Dutch doctors prefer "terminal sedation" to lethal medications, according to a survey by Nijmegan University. Under this system, all treatment, food and water are withheld from heavily sedated patients until they die. Its detractors describe it as "slow euthanasia" since the intention of the doctor is to kill the patient.

    Pain control expert Bernardus Crul said that better care for the dying in the Netherlands and advances in pain control had now made terminal sedation a viable alternative. "Most doctors no longer see euthanasia as a medical necessity for fighting unbearable suffering… MORE

    More doctors fail to report euthanasia in Netherlands</b>

    Dutch Health Minister Cl?mence Ross The Dutch health minister, Cl?mence Ross, has insisted that doctors who perform euthanasia must report it, after the number of reported cases dropped for the fourth year in a row. She appealed to their sense of "medical professionalism" and insisted that "There must be absolutely no misunderstanding... doctors must report."

    According to the latest statistics, there were 1,815 cases of euthanasia in 2003, compared to 1,882 in 2002; 2,054 in 2001; and 2,123 in 2000, although these do not include cases of "terminal sedation". Last year a government-commissioned report… MORE

    Dutch OK Euthanasia for dementia patients</b>

    The Dutch Justice Minister has backed a decision by the Procurators-General Council that dementia can be a valid reason for euthanasia, provided that certain conditions are met. The Council ruled last year that a doctor who agreed to a request by Alzheimer's patients for euthanasia should not be prosecuted, provided that their condition is accompanied by unbearable and hopeless suffering. MORE

    Alan Trounson lobbies for therapeutic cloning at UN</b>

    United Nations building in New York Australia's most prominent stem cell scientist,Alan Trounson, has joined other scientific luminaries in an attempt to sway a vote on human cloning in the United Nations later this year. Although reproduction cloning has been condemned by nearly everyone, a debate last year showed that the UN is split between countries championing therapeutic cloning and countries which want all forms of cloning banned. A Florida lawyer, Bernard Siegel, has marshalled a number of scientists, research institutes, biotechnology groups, venture capitalists and lawyers to form the Genetics Policy Institute.

    Siegel… MORE

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