Oregon assisted suicide numbers fall

The number of assisted suicides in the American state of Oregon fell to 37 in 2004 from the peak year of 2003, when 42 terminally ill patients ended their lives with the help of a doctor. Supporters of assisted suicide are using the statistics to argue that the law is used seldom and that there are few complications. Opponents say that the issues are the same, whatever the numbers may be. Physician-assisted suicide is not medicine," comments Dr Kenneth Stevens, of Physicians for Compassionate Care. "It's contrary to what doctors should do, and it's not compatible with care of terminally… MORE

ODD SPOT: you won’t die laughing

Some readers have commented that when they finish their weekly fix of BioEdge they feel elated by the service but depressed by its contents. Our apologies -- we don't want to depress anyone. In fact, the latest research indicates that depression is morbid, literally. Dr Wei Jiang, of Duke University in North Carolina, has found that people with mild depression have a 44% greater change of dying. The good news is that laughter reduces the risk of a heart attack as it appears to inhibit hardening of the arteries, according to Dr Michael Miller, of the University of Maryland. Perhaps… MORE

BRIEFS: stem cells, IVF; Terri; abortion

Embryonic stem cells: A US company has developed a process for cultivating ESCs which will make it possible to grow them without feeder cells and without fear of contamination with animal or human viruses. Advanced Cell Technology, which first cloned a human embryo back in 2001, says that its breakthrough will make it much easier to grow defined cell tissues. MORE


After an extended break, BioEdge is back on track. We are now operating out of Melbourne. We apologise for the interruption of service and look forward to communicating with you every week from now on.

UN calls for ban on all forms of human cloning

 A non-binding ban on all forms of human cloning, including research or therapeutic cloning, has been passed by the UN General Assembly. More than half of the 155 nations voting supported the resolution, giving a moral victory to opponents of therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cell research. The resolution states that "member… MORE


BioEdge will not be published during February. The next issue will be on
March 8. We are moving our office to Melbourne. Our apologies for the interruption of service. MORE

Doctors uneasy over drug for short children

A year after the US pharmaceutical regulator liberalised restrictions on a growth hormone for short but healthy children, prescriptions have increased 38%. But the popular drug, Humatrope, which is made by Eli Lilly, is controversial amongst endocrinologists. Some describe it as a necessary treatment for short children whose self-esteem might be at risk. Others call it cosmetic endocrinology.

The drug is prescribed for extremely short children in mid-puberty who are predicted to be shorter than 4 feet 11 inches as women or 5 feet 3 inches as men. It is not a remedy for the financially- challenged, as it… MORE

Some UK anglican clerics back euthanasia

In the midst of a public debate over a bill which would allow assisted suicide, prominent Anglican clergymen in Britain are voicing their support for euthanasia. One of the chief advisers to the Archbishop of Canterbury has told the Observer newspaper that there is a very strong compassionate case for voluntary euthanasia". Canon Professor Robin Gill even goes so far as to contend that "in certain cases... there is an overwhelming case for it". Last week Archbishop Rowan Williams sent Professor Gill to testify before a parliamentary committee on euthanasia, a move instantly interpreted by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society as… MORE

California’s stem cell institute under fire

The governance of California's new US$3 billion institute for stem cell research, which was approved by voters last November, has come under attack for insufficient transparency. An appointed oversight committee of 29 people will decide how to allocate the funds based on the recommendation of three working groups. These groups are not required to have public meetings and their members are not required to disclose their business ties. "It is like a legislature that meets openly but with committees that are totally secret," says Terry Francke, of California Aware, a lobby group for open government. "In essence, you will have… MORE

Desperate Californians seek stem cell treatment overseas

Some American physicians are using so-called embryonic stem cells to treat patients without proper scientific trials. A feature in the Sacramento Bee alleges that two Californian health professionals are attracting desperate patients by word of mouth and the internet and referring them to clinics overseas in countries like the Ukraine, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. "They have no scientific credibility. They don't even aspire to scientific credibility," says Dr Evan Snyder, a leading stem cell researcher from the Burnham Institute in La Jolla.

The Bee highlighted the dubious professional background of two of these practitioners. Dr William C. Rader, of… MORE

So you want to be a parent? UK to revise IVF rules

The UK's fertility clinic regulator has launched a public consultation on what qualities are needed to become an IVF parent. The current guidelines require clinics to take into account the welfare of the child, but there is no standardised process for assessing prospective parents' suitability. Under the most radical proposal for discussion, only medical factors, such as the possibility of HIV or other infectious diseases, would have to be considered. Most officials of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority are understood to favour this approach.

Dr Mohammed Taranissi, one of London's leading IVF doctors, is pushing for minimum restrictions. "We… MORE

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