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

Abortion doctor reveals her frustration over lack of support

An anonymous abortion provider has given an fascinating insight into her own misgivings about her job. Writing in Boston Magazine, the doctor says she does as many as 10 abortions a day, twice a week, largely because fewer and fewer doctors are willing to do them. She finds her work "really taxing" emotionally. "I don't think it'll ever make me stop doing terminations, but it can move people to tears. And it's not just me -- it extends to the nurses and the people who help us in the operating room."

The key issue for her is whether the child… MORE

Lawyers cater for homosexual dads

Some US law firms are specialising in arranging surrogate mothers for homosexuals who want to be fathers. A feature in the Washington Post profiles Creative Family Connections, a three-year- old law firm founded by Harvard Law School graduate Diane S. Hinson. About half of her 25 current clients are gay. To minimise future disputes, she works only with surrogates who have no genetic link to the baby. Egg donors are usually paid US$7,500 and surrogates $20,000 for a single baby and $25,000 for twins. She screens donors with a questionnaire, organises a meeting with the dad at Starbucks and guides… MORE

US writer warns of irrelevance for bioethics

American bioethics will become irrelevant unless it returns to its origins in human rights law, says Boston University Professor George Annas in a new book. He argues that his field has been captured by legal and economic interests and has lost sight of the big picture of global human welfare. As an example, he points to the embryo-centric" views of the Bush Administration in limiting funding for embryonic stem cell research.

American Bioethics: Crossing Human Rights and Health Law Boundaries" returns to the Nuremberg Code, a favourite theme of Professor Annas, who is one of the most widely quoted bioethicists… MORE

IN BRIEF:</B> Kentucky; cloned pet; sperm donors; IVF error

  • A state medical panel has dismissed a claim that the governor of Kentucky, who is also a medical doctor, should be deregistered for ordering an execution. The American Medical Association forbids its members to participate in executions and Kentucky law says that the state's doctors must follow AMA guidelines. The panel ruled that Governor Ernie Fletcher was acting as a governor and not as a doctor. MORE

  • Healthy patients deserve euthanasia, too, say Dutch doctors

     Doctors should be allowed to kill patients who are "suffering through living", the Royal Dutch Medical Association has recommended after a three-year inquiry. It could find no good reason to exclude suffering from living" from the list of motives for legal euthanasia. At the moment, doctors must follow a 2002 ruling from the Dutch Supreme Court that only a "classifiable physical or mental condition" constitutes the "hopeless and unbearable suffering" which can justify a case of legal euthanasia.

    The report argues that the Supreme Court's interpretation of the law is simplistic. It is "an illusion", it says, to contend… MORE

    US army doctors offer rationale for participation in torture

     In the wake of allegations that Army health care professionals may have colluded in the ill-treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq and Afghanistan, a top Pentagon official has justified their participation in interrogations. According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, military doctors regularly plan interrogation strategies such as sleep deprivation, pass health information to military intelligence, and coach interrogators. However, according to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Dr David Tornberg, these doctors are not acting as doctors and therefore they are not bound by patient-oriented ethics. The authors of the… MORE

    Some doctors “offensive” towards Down syndrome infants

     Most doctors treat the birth of a Down syndrome baby as bad news when communicating a diagnosis to mothers, according to research from Harvard Medical School published in the journal Pediatrics. They tend to ignore these children's potential and fail to put parents in touch with support groups. "Doctors have gotten better over time, but it's been a very slow change, and they've really gone from terrible to just bad," says the author, Brian Stotko. Mr Stotko is a medical student who has a sister with Down Syndrome and who has written a book on the condition. "Finding out a… MORE

    Lobotomised Kennedy sister dies at 86

     The oldest of the surviving siblings of US President John F. Kennedy, Rosemary, has died at the age of 86 in an institution in Wisconsin. She was born with mild mental retardation, even though she was well enough to be presented to the king and queen of England when her father, Joseph Kennedy, was US ambassador in the 1930s. She could even read and write. However, after the family returned from London, her behaviour became disruptive. When she was 23, doctors performed a lobotomy, a discredited surgical procedure in which the frontal lobes of the brain are scraped away, in… MORE

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