Italian health minister stumbles over stem cell success</b>

Italian Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia The Italian politician who pushed through Europe's most restrictive IVF laws has scored an own goal in the controversy over stem cell research. Although his opposition to using human embryonic stem cells and to therapeutic cloning was well-known, Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia called a press conference to praise the historic" cure of a 5-year-old boy suffering from thalassemia. Stem cells taken from the placenta of his twin brothers had saved his life.

However, the Minister may have been ambushed. The twins were actually designer babies, the product of pre-implantation… MORE

Euthanasia film wows ‘em in Venice</b>

A poignant docu-drama about a Spanish quadriplegic's quest for death has won two prizes in the renowned Venice Film Festival. "Mar Adentro" ("The Sea Within") depicts the plight of Ram?n Sampedro, a charismatic sailor paralysed in a diving accident who campaigned to be killed because he was "a living head glued to a dead body". The Spanish director is Alejandro Amen?bar, who is best-known in the English-speaking world for his Nicole Kidman film "The Others". Javier Bardem took out the best actor award and the film also won the jury grand prize.

Spanish Prime Minister Jos? Luis Rodr?guez Zapatero attended… MORE

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Melbourne, Britain, Montreal</b>

  • A Melbourne man has launched a world-first legal case by claiming damages from the Victorian government and from a gender identity clinic which had advised him to proceed with a sex-change operation. Alan Finch had his genitals removed but later reverted to being a male. Together with a woman who underwent surgery to become a man, he has founded a group called "gender menders". They claim that doctors at the state-funded clinic followed a rigid ideological belief that surgery, and not psychology, was the remedy for gender identity problems. MORE

  • Dutch doctors drafting protocols for child euthanasia</b>

    Dutch authorities are drawing up protocols to allow doctors to euthanase children under 12. Euthanasia is already legal for 12-year-olds, but a new proposal would extend existing options to even younger children, including newborns, if they have an incurable illness or unbearable suffering.

    News reports say that the guidelines, drawn up with the assistance of paediatrician Eduard Verhagen, of Groningen Hospital, have been under study for the past year. Dr Verhagen says that these will be strict and establish a step-by-step process which must be respected by doctors. A fundamental norm will be… MORE

    22 Britons dispatched by Swiss group Dignitas</b>

    The Swiss organisation Dignitas has helped 22 British suicide tourists die over the past two years, not five as previously believed, says a campaigner for euthanasia in the UK. Ms Lesley Close, the sister of a man who paid Dignitas to help him die last year, argued that it was better for people to die at home in Britain rather than having to travel abroad. Apparently Dignitas has 557 members in the UK and according to its director, Ludwig Minelli, 20% of these are likely to take up the offer of assisted suicide. The UK is currently debating a bill… MORE

    Dealing with the illness of companion animals</b>

    Animal medicine in the US is becoming as complex as human medicine -- and almost as expensive, according to a Washington Post feature. Author Mary Battiata reminisces about the death of her beloved 14-year-old mongrel whom she nursed through a battle with mysterious ailment. In the course of her distressing journey she discovers veterinary neurologists, veterinary brain scans, spinal taps, radiation treatment, operations under general anaesthesia and CPR -- all procedures costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

    Vets attribute the increasing sophistication of medicine for companion animals to technological innovation and the… MORE

    Italian IVF laboratory mix-up</b>

    An Italian couple are demanding compensation after a mix-up in their IVF clinic resulted in dark-skinned twins. The clinic in the city of Modena believes that a reused pipette contained the sperm of a North African man. The news came only days after a hospital in Turin decided to give two women the morning-after pill only minutes after they had been inseminated because they had received sperm from the wrong fathers.

    Italian IVF doctors have asked the public to be understanding and to realise that world-wide, the number of such mistakes has been minimal. "The error must be taken into… MORE

    Aussies flying to US for surrogate babies</b>

    Infertile couples, single women and gay couples from Australia are paying as much as $170,000 for babies born of American surrogate mothers. According to the Sunday Telegraph, one Los Angeles fertility agency, The Egg Donor Program, has helped more than 200 Australian couple have children by finding egg donors and surrogate mothers. Another company, Egg Donation Inc, has helped gay Australian couples to have a child at a cost of $170,000 for fees and expenses. Fertile Australian women are also flying to the US where they can sell their eggs legally for up to $20,000 a cycle. MORE

    Singapore legalises therapeutic cloning</b>

    Singapore has joined the small group of nations which have legalised therapeutic cloning. The new law allows scientists to create human embryos for stem-cell research. They must be destroyed at 14 days. Amongst the other countries which have explicitly authorised the cloning of embryos for research are Britain, Japan and China. No companies are currently carrying out research cloning in Singapore at the moment.

    MPs praised the new law for offering the prospect of cures for patients and economic benefits for Singapore. "Therapeutic cloning offers hope to victims of heart diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer's,… MORE

    Therapeutic cloning” a misnomer, says stem cell society</b>

    The term "therapeutic cloning" is a misnomer, says the International Society for Stem Cell Research, because it is not therapeutic and it is not cloning. "For a frank scientific, ethical and public debate on stem cells and their potential for medicine, accurate nomenclature is critical," it says. Instead, it suggests that the process should be called "nuclear transfer" or simply NT.

    The society says that the word "cloning" is inaccurate, as the product will not be an exact copy of the organism. The egg into which the nucleus of the clone is transferred still contains maternal mitochondrial DNA. These can… MORE

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