India’s census pinpoints the disappearing girls</b>

The sex ratio of India's children is notoriously skewed in favour of boys, but recently-released figures from the 2001 census give a more detailed breakdown according to religion. They show that the ratio is lowest amongst the Sikhs and Jains and highest amongst Christians and tribal religions. The natural sex ratio at birth is between 940 and 950 girls per 1000 boys, according to the Population Reference Bureau. The Indian ratio is highest amongst tribal people (976) and Christians (964). Amongst Buddhists it is 942 and amongst Muslims and Hindus 925. However, amongst… MORE




IN BRIEF: </b> placebos; teenagers; embryo licence fees

  • A survey of Israeli doctors suggests that they often give inactive "placebo" pills to their patients and then lie by telling them that they are getting a real drug. Some doctors want the practice banned because of the deception and possible harm to the doctor-patient relationship, say the authors of a study in the British Medical Journal. MORE




  • Germany’s National Ethics Council rejects therapeutic cloning</b>

    Germany's National Ethics Council announced this week that it was still opposed to cloning embryos for research despite pressure from scientists who are excited by developments in Britain. After a year of study, the 25-member body was split three ways, but a majority felt that the current ban on cloning should continue. However, a door was left open to reconsider the ban on therapeutic cloning. Opposition to reproductive cloning was unanimous. MORE




    Why not use artificial gametes, asks British bioethicist</b>

    A UK bioethicist has used the leading journal Science to argue for the right to use artificial sperm and eggs derived from human embryonic stem cells. In an article in the latest issue, John Harris, of the University of Manchester, and a German colleague contend that artificial gametes would have two compelling uses. First, they would allow infertile couples to have genetically related offspring, provided that the cost and the safety levels were about the same as conventional IVF. Second, they would allow same- sex couples to have children.

    Dr Harris dismisses the notion that a child would be harmed… MORE





    20 Dutch children a year euthanased, doctors admit</b>

    In the wake of news that a Dutch hospital has written a protocol to allow the involuntary euthanasia of children, one of the authors has defended his policy. Dr Eduard Verhagen, of Groningen University Hospital, told the Spanish newspaper ABC that about 20 children are euthanased each year already, even though this is officially against the law. Of these, only two or three are reported to a local coroner. Under the new guidelines, which were developed in concert with the Ministry of Justice, doctors are to report all cases of child euthanasia and… MORE




    Road to profit in IVF like “fast food industry” </b>

    A business profile of the two largest IVF practices in the Australian state of New South Wales shows that they have extraordinary potential" for profitability. In one of the world's first behind-the-scenes look at the finances of the fertility business, Margot Saville, of the Sydney Morning Herald, says that Sydney IVF and IVF Australia have been transformed from medical cottage industries into 21st Century conglomerates. IVF Australia earned revenue of almost A$15 million in the 2002-03 financial year, with a net profit of $1.5 million. Sydney IVF's profit for the same period was only $684,00 on a revenue of $21.3… MORE




    Clinical trials to become more transparent</b>

    Glowing results from clinical trials may be due to successful experiments -- or to the fact that none of the failures have been reported. And because pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in keeping bad news under wraps, little has been done to solve the problem. However, according to the Economist, drug companies are being pushed towards more openness by three recent events.

    The first is a legal settlement by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a British drug company which was accused by the state of New York of deliberately suppressing clinical trials with negative results for its anti-depressant Paxil. GSK has agreed… MORE





    Should dying patients recruit their own donors? </b>

    Everet needs a liver A Texas man who found a liver donor by advertising on billboards and the internet is being imitated by other sick people who are impatient with the conventional supply system. Several Americans have posted personal web sites looking for a liver or a kidney. The sites have names like EveretNeedsALiver.com, michaelneedsaliver.com, Kenneedsaliver.com and Donationforcynthia.com and feature tragic stories and heart- rending photos. Doctors and ethicists are alarmed by a possible trend towards queue- jumping. "The level of chaos that will ensue if directed donations and advertising efforts take off is… MORE




    Memories of Tuskegee may be at root of black organ shortage</b>

    Because racial groups have similar genetic characteristics, a large pool of black donors is needed to save blacks with diseased organs. In the US black patients constitute 27% of people on waiting lists, but only 12% of donors, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. As a result, blacks wait an average of 18 months longer for a transplant than whites.

    Many people involved with transplants blame the notorious Tuskegee experiments for blacks' reluctance to become donors. Between the 1930s and the 1970s poor black men in Alabama were used as guinea pigs to see what would happen if… MORE





    Californian fisticuffs over stem-cell proposal

    Californian backers of November's vote on a proposal to spend US$3 billion on stem cell research over 10 years are touting the financial return on the still-unproven technology, while its opponents are accusing it of shonky ethics.

    Supporters of Proposition 71 say that the return on the bond issue which would finance the research will be immense, generating at least US$6.4 to $12.6 billion in state revenues and health care cost savings during the payback period, with a return on investment of at least 120% to 236% -- as well as generating between 5,000 and 22,000 new jobs every year.… MORE




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