Second thoughts on abortion in UK and Australia</b>

Abortion is back on the government's agenda in the UK. The London Times has reported that Prime Minister Tony Blair has backed a rethink of the law to take account of scientific change. The shift in the political climate has been prompted by the stunning colour video clips of babies smiling and walking in the womb created by obstetrician Professor Stuart Campbell. British MPs are beginning to realise that foetuses are viable at 22 weeks, even though the legal time limit for abortion is 24 weeks. As well, a powerful documentary, My Fetus, made by the pro-choice daughter of the… MORE

Rich countries looking after number one in public health</b>

The preoccupation of rich countries with threats to their own health is crippling efforts to care for easy-to-cure diseases in poor countries, says a tropical disease expert in The Lancet. David Molyneux, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, outlines how interest in "the big 3" infectious diseases -- HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria -- is obstructing public-health initiatives to tackle preventable diseases such as the viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections of the tropics, and acute respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases of children.

Professor Molyneux comments: "The emphasis on the big three killers and… MORE

ODD SPOT: IVF becomes reality TV gimmick

In what its critics have termed the "sickest ever reality show", a British production company is planning a sperm race in which a human egg is fertilised live on television. In "Make Me a Mum", a woman will take fertility drugs to produce eggs and 1,000 men will compete for the privilege of having their sperm selected. The sperm of two finalists -- a man selected by the mum-to-be on the basis of sex appeal, wealth, fitness and personality and a man selected by scientific experts -- will race to create a baby.

The production company, Brighter Pictures, is… MORE

IN BRIEF: Chinese stem cells ~ HFEA reorganisation</b>

  • A doctor in Beijing has treated hundreds of patients with spinal damage with mucosal cells from an aborted foetus's nose in a procedure whose safety and effectiveness have not been verified. Nine Japanese with damaged spinal cords have travelled to the Capital Medical College in Beijing for treatment by Dr Huang Hongyun, according to the Japan Spinal Cord Foundation. MORE

  • “Substantial profits” likely from embryonic stem cells

    The future of human embryonic stem cell research will be driven as much by markets as by ethics and science, predicts a Harvard Business School professor. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Debora Spar foresees that "mainstream firms will provide increasingly normalised products, reaping substantial profits in the process and carefully avoiding the areas that society finds repugnant. Pharmaceutical companies will focus on treatments for major illnesses, for example, rather than on producing hybrid offspring for a tiny segment of possible buyers. Venture capitalists will fund research into the most acceptable offshoots of stem-cell science, driving a market… MORE

    Ethical quicksand surrounds therapies for spinal cord injury </b>

    Although stem cells show great promise for repairing spinal cord injuries, there are so many practical obstacles to be overcome that clinical experiments with humans are probably unethical, argues a Melbourne neurosurgeon. Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, Professor Jeffrey Rosenfeld and a bioethics colleague, Dr Grant Gillett, of the University of Otago Medical School, outline a number of troublesome ethical issues which will arise in a clinical setting.

    In the first place, experimenting with humans is problematic because "the less neurologically impaired the patient is, the greater the likelihood that manipulation of the spine will produce a worsening… MORE

    New penalties for Dutch euthanasia doctors who bend rules </b>

    The Dutch health minister wants to introduce penalties for doctors who disregard "procedural" guidelines when they administer euthanasia. Cl?mence Ross is responding to evidence that the real number of cases is twice the reported number. The Dutch public prosecution service believes that criminal penalties are not appropriate for these doctors (as opposed to doctors who ignore "material" guidelines such as informed consent). So the minister now wants to introduce sanctions such as reprimands, suspensions and fines. Other measures will be introduced to "promote transparency" and "create clarity" over the guidelines. MORE

    Health crisis follows staffing crisis as African nurses emigrate

    African governments are subsidising health systems in the UK, the US and other developed countries because many of their nurses are migrating for better pay and working conditions. According to a long report in the New York Times, almost two-thirds of the nursing jobs in Malawi's public health system are vacant. More registered nurses have left to work overseas in the past four years than the 336 who remain in the public hospitals to care for the country's 11.6 million people.

    According to a recent report by Physicians for Human Rights, about 75% of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa… MORE

    US doctors shunning O&G </b>

    Young American doctors are turning away from obstetrics and gynaecology. Since 1996, the number of graduates of US medical schools who enter O&G courses has dropped 23%, from 968 to 743. Only two-thirds of new residencies in O&G were filled by graduates of US medical schools -- compared with 86% eight years ago. "Nationally, we certainly are concerned about quality," says that head of O&G at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "If we're seeing fewer people going into the speciality, then we do need to start worrying about the quality of the people." The reasons are familiar ones: the highest insurance premiums… MORE

    Authors failing to disclose competing interests </b>

    Despite strict disclosure policies, some authors writing for highly respected medical journals still keep their financial interests to themselves, according to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based pressure group. After researching the financial connections of the authors of 163 articles in four journals, the CSPI found that 13 (8%) failed to comply with disclosure policies. The authors of one paper on coronary heart disease were consultants to more than 20 companies in the field, but failed to disclose them. However, the situation actually may be improving. In 2001, only 1% of papers disclosed… MORE

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