Were Korean egg donors public-spirited or press-ganged?

Hwang Woo Suk (Nature) More controversy is swirling around the Korean scientist who announced in February that he had successfully cloned human embryos and created a stem cell line. This time the issue is whether women were pressured into donating their eggs to further his research. Korean bioethicists, human rights activists and the leading journal Nature have all suggested that the donors included junior members of a research team headed by Woo Suk Hwang. Nature was told by a PhD student on the team, Ja Min Koo, that she and another woman in the… MORE




Living wills don’t work, says study

Living will Living wills offer a false promise of control over end-of-life treatment, claims a study in the bioethics journal Hastings Center Report. Researchers at the University of Michigan based their conclusions on hundred of studies of living wills, end-of-life decisions and the psychology of making choices. A "durable power of attorney" is a far better option, they contend.

Dr Angela Fagerlin, of the University of Michigan Medical School, says that living wills fail all standards of workability. "First, most people don't even have living wills. Second, those who do rarely know what care… MORE





Conjoined twins have “well-adjusted, rich lives”

Lori and Reba Schappell Conjoined twins can have such "well-adjusted, rich lives, made possible by the development of cooperation strategies" that we can all learn from them, suggests a new book from Harvard University Press. The author of "One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal", Alice Dormurat Dreger, asks "should people with unusual anatomies be treated as if their socially challenging bodies are inherently diseased?" Dreger points out that while life as a singleton is certainly easier, conjoined twins generally accept it as part of their identity. Although last year's unsuccessful… MORE




Chicago IVF clinic creates five “saviour siblings”

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of 199 eight-celled embryos has resulted in the birth of five saviour siblings, an IVF clinic in Chicago has announced. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr Yuri Verlinsky says that tissue from the babies will be used for treatment of siblings with acute lymphoid leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia or Diamond-Blackfam anaemia. Of the five babies, only one has actually saved a sibling. Three of the affected siblings are in remission -- although they may need stem cell transplants later.

Dr Verlinsky dismissed misgivings about the ethics of creating babies to serve as medical… MORE





US exporting contraception to Afghanistan

Part of the US plan for rebuilding Afghanistan is the introduction of contraceptive products developed and marketed specifically for Afghans. With the slogan "Be a NumberOne/OK family, live a comfortable life", Population Services International and the US Agency for International Development hope to promote reproductive health for women. PSI says that its marketing has been "culturally adapted" to Afghanistan -- a challenging task in a fiercely Muslim country where where discussion, let alone advertising, of sexual topics is still taboo. This month it has launched a public awareness campaign with radio advertisement, sponsorships and billboards. PSI is also distributing 1.6… MORE




Embryos needed to cure diabetes, claims Harvard scientist

A vocal proponent of embryonic stem cell research, Harvard professor Douglas Melton, claims that there is "no evidence whatsoever for the existence of an adult pancreatic stem cell". In an experiment on mice reported in the leading journal Nature, he tracked the development of new insulin-producing beta cells as the mice recovered from surgical trauma to their pancreas. All the new beta cells came from older beta cells rather than from stem cells. In the absence of adult pancreatic stem cells, he argues, scientists will have to use stem cells derived from embryos.

Professor Melton's paper will undoubtedly be used… MORE





Morning-after pills will not be sold over the counter in the US

The emergency contraceptive Plan B cannot be sold over the counter, the US Food and Drug Administration has ruled. The agency said that the application was denied because only 29 of the 585 women studied by the manufacturer, Barr Laboratories, were under 16. However, it suggested that Plan B might be approved for over-the- counter sales if Barr could show that it was safe for adolescents.

The FDA's decision was unexpected and controversial because an advisory panel had decided by a vote of 27 to 0 that the drug could be safely sold over the counter. Echoing other critics, a… MORE





NZ euthanasia campaigner sentenced to 15 months jail

Lesley Martin with her husband Warren Fulljames arriving at the Wanganui High Court today. Picture / Fotopress New Zealand's leading euthanasia campaigner was sentenced to 15 months jail this week for the attempted murder of her terminally ill mother. Although she can apply for home detention, Lesley Martin, a 40-year-old married mother of two, insisted earlier that she would go to jail. "Not a single day" went by when she felt guilty about her actions, she declared.

Mrs Joy Martin, who was suffering from rectal cancer, died in 1999 after being injected with 60mg… MORE





Gamete donor registry opens in UK

Sperm vials in IVF clinicThe UK is making it easier for people conceived with donor eggs and sperm to contact their genetic parents. It has set up a voluntary register which will bring parents and children together (after they have turned 18) -- if they want to make contact. The government wants to bring the laws for donor-conceived children in line with the laws for adopted children. It will also be possible to contact half-siblings as well.

The register does not guarantee that children will be able to find parents. Parents are allowed limit… MORE





Whose fault is “genohype”: journalists or scientists?

A Canadian study has found that English-speaking media is surprisingly accurate in reporting on genetic research, even though it tends to overemphasise its benefits and underplay its risks. Timothy Caulfield, of the University of Alberta, has reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that only 11% of selected articles in 26 newspapers from Canada, the US, Britain and Australia dealing with genetic discoveries from January 1995 to June 2001 were "significantly exaggerated or inaccurate". Most of the articles, 63%, made no exaggerated claims and 82% had no significant scientific or technical errors.

However, Caulfield found that only 15% of the… MORE




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