War or peace, ethics stay the same, says World Medical Assoc</b>

The World Medical Association has announced that it will amend its policy on how doctors should behave in times of armed conflict to emphasis that the ethical standards which they observe in times of peace do not change because of war. This is intended to help doctors behave in an ethical way when they are caught between cooperating with the police or the army and their duty of care to their patients.

The WMA reaffirmed its policy that it is "unethical for physicians to give advice or perform procedures that are not justifiable for the patient's health care or that… MORE





Debating designer deafness

A small number of people in the deaf community would use prenatal genetic testing or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to ensure that they have a deaf child, according to a news feature in Nature. Although the notion might horrify the non-hearing-impaired, many deaf people view their condition not as a handicap, but as a rich and vibrant culture. Some might fear that they could not share this way of life with a hearing child.

A British genetics counsellor, Anna Middleton, has studied attitudes of deaf people to prenatal testing. Although her results were inconclusive, she did find that a few… MORE





US stem cell experts study guidelines for chimaeric embryos</b>

In the absence of a law governing stem cell research, the US National Academies are studying guidelines on the production of chimaeric embryos, which mix cells and DNA from different species. Many researchers believe that they could learn valuable lessons about human development by injecting human embryonic stem cells into embryos, foetuses or newborn animals of other species.

For instance, Irving Weissman, of Stanford University, one of the leading figures in US stem cell research, feels that much of his own work is only be possible with human-mouse chimaeras. It would even be possible to construct a mouse whose entire… MORE





British boy cured with cells from “saviour sibling”

UK doctors say that a six-year-old boy has been cured of a rare blood disorder because of transplants from a baby brother who was created to give him tissue-matched healthy blood cells. Charlie Whitaker was born with Diamond Blackfan anaemia, which is normally a fatal condition. His parents failed to get permission from British authorities to create a "saviour sibling", so they sought help from a Chicago clinic which offered pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. A baby brother was born last year.

Ethicist John Harris, of the University of Manchester, denied that Charlie's case was a step towards designer babies or… MORE





Swiss to vote on stem cell research</b>

Voters in Switzerland will decide in a referendum next month whether scientists should be allowed to extract stem cells from surplus" IVF embryos. A law to this effect was passed last year by the Swiss parliament. However, green and anti-abortion groups joined forces and collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue. The government and science organisations are campaigning to support a Yes vote. At the moment, only one scientist is doing research with human embryonic stem cells in Switzerland, but she imports her cells. Anita Holler, of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, says that "many… MORE




Review finds child health unaffected by IVF</b>

The largest review ever of IVF children has found that the way they were conceived did not have an impact on their overall health, although there are immediate problems at birth. Kathy Hudson, of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University, brought together a panel of experts who reviewed 169 high quality studies.

Apart from the well-known risk that IVF children will be premature, underweight and twins, there appeared to be no notable problems with overall health, development and psychosocial skills, childhood cancers, major malformations and growth abnormalities, she said. However, the results for children born from… MORE





IN BRIEF:  euthanasia; Schiavo; IVF

  •  Schiavo -- In the latest incident in the long-running Terri Schiavo case, the Florida Supreme Court has rebuffed another attempt by Governor Jeb Bush to keep her alive. The governor is now considering an appeal to the US Supreme Court. Her parents are also waiting for a decision on their request for a new trial to determine their daughter's wishes.
  • MORE




    Embryo research divides candidates in final weeks

    In the closing weeks of the US presidential campaign, the use of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) has become a clear point of difference between the two candidates. Senator Kerry has given it his firm and frequent support, while President Bush is depicting his own policy as pragmatic but principled.

    It was expected that the issue would emerge in the third televised debate between the candidates this week. But there was only an oblique reference to it when Kerry was asked about Catholic bishops opposition to ESC research. "I am a Catholic and I grew up learning how to respect… MORE





    Harvard to clone embryos

     Scientists at Harvard University will probably become the first in the US to clone human embryos for research. Two separate teams at the newly-formed Harvard Stem Cell Institute are preparing applications for the university's ethics committee. One team, under Professor Douglas Melton, is applying to clone embryos to study juvenile diabetes. The other, under Dr George Q. Daley, will study diseases of the blood.

    Dr Daley recently was hauled over the coals at a committee hearing in the US Senate. He was repeatedly asked by Senator Sam Brownback, a fierce opponent of research cloning, exactly how old an embryo… MORE





    British judge rules that baby may die

    Doctors caring for a critically ill infant may decide if she should be denied life-saving treatment, a judge of the UK High Court has ruled. In a case which has riveted Britain, Sir Mark Hedley said that if her condition deteriorates the child's hospital can ignore her parents' insistence that that she be resuscitated.

    Eleven-month-old Charlotte Wyatt was born three months prematurely and has severe breathing and neurological problems. She has never been able to leave hospital and has survived only with the help of a life support system. Nevertheless her parents have insisted that she be kept alive… MORE




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