Another British suicide tourist dies in Zurich

A British woman has killed herself in a Swiss suicide clinic after a judge lifted an injunction which had banned her husband from accompanying her to Zurich. Mr Justice Hedley, said that the woman, known only as Mrs Z, was fully able to take her own decisions and that it would be wrong for a court to intervene. Although assisting a suicide is illegal in England, Mr Z has not been arrested. This has given heart to members of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. "I think people can take from this judgement that their right to self- determination is now pretty… MORE

Israel forms national bioethics council

Israel's new national bioethics council has been stacked with a small, yet dominant, group of lecturers and researcher who tend to favour minimal regulation and the least possible limitation of research," complain several academics. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the new council will be a statutory body overseeing bioethics, advising the Knesset, representing Israel in international bioethics bodies, and encouraging public comment. The role of the new council is particularly significant in Israel, where researchers are continually pushing the ethical envelope in reproductive technology. One source of the problem is the small number of experts. "There are always the… MORE

Is the commitment of dermatology to medicine only skin-deep?

To the disgust of some dermatologists, their specialty is in danger of becoming a branch of beauty therapy, according to a report in Business Week. A number of cosmetic companies are marketing cosmeceuticals" like Botox which blur the line between make-up and medicine. The market for such products is worth more than US$6 billion a year in the US. The sales of Botox alone were $564 million last year. Of course, some dermatologists are happy to promote beauty treatments. They open their own spas, lend their names to product lines and write books… MORE

Britain considers electronic chaperone for doctors

In an effort to combat abuses by predatory doctors and false accusations by patients, Britain's National Health Service may force doctors to have a nurse chaperone in potentially compromising situations. However, the waste of a nurse's time in a country where nurses are in short supply has prompted the invention of a "virtual chaperone", The Economist reports. The Synaptiq Virtual Chaperone is discreet but omnipresent. It creates a securely coded video recording of the conversation between doctor and patient which could be used for both clinical and legal purposes. The NHS is studying the system, which promises to save time… MORE

ODD SPOT: </b>poor cellsmanship

A Buffalo, New York, school bus driver was fired after she told students that actor Mel Gibson had said that embryonic stem cell research had not produced a single human cure in 23 years and encouraged them to inform their parents. Some of the parents complained and 42-year-old Julianne Thompson ended up on the street. The school superintendent explained that political and religious discussion should be carried on in a classroom setting where a range of viewpoints can be discussed. Ms Thompson is considering legal action. MORE

IN BRIEF: </b>designer baby; IVF; new bioethics centres

Designer baby: A British woman is pregnant with the UK's first designer baby". In July Julie Fletcher and her husband Joe won approval from the UK's fertility watchdog to have her embryos screened so that her second child would be genetically compatible donor for a two-year-old son with a potentially fatal blood disorder. MORE

Scientists grappling with chimera ethics </b>

chimeric mice The US National Academy of Sciences is studying the ethical limits of research with chimeras, or mixed-species animals, an issue which is becoming more urgent with the development of stem cell biology. Scientists are already developing animals which have human organs and cells: pigs with human blood, sheep with largely human livers and hearts; mice with some human neurons. They are useful for research on the development of cells and could become medical resources as well. Some scientists are growing partially human organs in animals, for instance.

However, there are concerns about… MORE

Koreans claim that adult stem cells have cured paralysed woman </b>

An unnamed Korean woman walks again after treatment with stem cells Researchers at Chosun University in South Korea claim that stem cells from umbilical cord blood injected into the spine of a woman paralysed for 19 years have helped her to walk again. The stem cells were injected on October 12 and within three weeks, she took her first steps with the help of a walker. Professor Song Chang-hun says that the technique will be tested on four more patients soon. The results will be published next year.

Another researcher, Professor Kang Kyung-sun, told… MORE

Asian stem cell centres “mind-boggling” </b>

UK scientists returning from a visit to Asia report that a staggering level of technology and commitment is being put into stem cell research in Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Singapore. "I came back blown away by the whole thing," said Stephen Minger, of King's College London, one of Britain's leading stem cell researchers. "It was mind-boggling to everybody." In Seoul, he found that the labs of Hwang Woo-suk, the first scientist to clone human embryos, were better equipped than his own and that Hwang's team was cloning nearly a thousand animal embryos a day. In China there was a similar… MORE

Evidence for health of IVF babies “relatively weak” </b>

A surprisingly negative report from the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) has concluded that contrary to popular belief, the evidence for the long-term health of IVF babies is "relatively weak" compared to other well-established clinical techniques. Some patients, it says, are "prepared to undergo any treatment that might help them conceive" and had not considered the long-term implications. "With couples willing to go to great lengths to have a child," the MRC says, "it is of paramount importance to safeguard the health of these children from the moment they are conceived until they grow up and want to start families… MORE

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