Assisted suicide in Oregon creeps ahead

One of Oregon's assisted suicide request forms Forty-two people died in Oregon through doctor-assisted suicide in 2003, the highest number since it was legalised in 1997, according to figures released this month. The increase was small and assisted suicide still only accounts for 1 death in 1,000 in the state. But the news is sure to add fuel to the smouldering euthanasia debate in the US. President Bush's Attorney-General, John Ashcroft, effectively banned assisted suicide in Oregon for about a year before he was overruled by a court. The federal government's appeal against that… MORE




NZ nurse on trial for euthanasia

Lesley Martin being escorted to the court by a guard A New Zealand nurse has gone on trial in Auckland for the attempted murder of her terminally ill mother in 1999. Police initially dropped their investigation for lack of evidence, but took the case up again when Lesley Martin, an intensive care nurse, published a book about her experience, Die Like A Dog. Ms Martin is now New Zealand's most prominent euthanasia campaigner and her trial has attracted international attention. Australian euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke is attending, along with an American, Brian Johnston,… MORE




Canada passes stem cell bill

The Canadian Parliament has passed a bill which will allow research on spare IVF embryos, but not therapeutic cloning. The bill also bans reproductive cloning, sex selection, the sale of sperm or eggs and commercial surrogacy. Fertility clinics will be monitored by a new Assisted Human Reproduction Agency. Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew says that the legislation "fills a legislative void" and puts Canada in line with policies adopted by other major industrialised countries. The bill still requires the assent of the governor general before it becomes law, but that is considered a formality.

The ban on the sale of eggs… MORE





What ordinary Germans feel about stem cells

A report to the German parliament by a "citizens' conference" opposes research on embryos and all forms of cloning. The conference was meant to gauge how ordinary Germans feel about stem cells so that the Bundestag, the lower house, could draft appropriate legislation. After three weekends of background briefings and discussion, the 12 members of the conference unanimously backed adult stem cell research and treatments, but stil had reservations about work on embryonic stem cells, although they acknowledged their research potential.

Although half supported a careful relaxation of Germany's ESC legislation, all of them opposed ESC research which created embryos.… MORE





Utah woman who refused Caesarean charged with murder

Melissa Ann Rowland A Salt Lake City woman who refused to have a Caesarean section to save the life of her unborn twins has been charged with first- degree murder after one of them was stillborn. Prosecutors have alleged that Melissa Ann Rowland, 28, wanted to avoid a C-section scar for cosmetic reasons. The details of the case are sketchy from news reports, but Ms Rowland appears to be an unmarried, overweight substance abuser who already has some children. She seems bewildered by her arrest.

Ms Rowland's plight has attracted nation-wide attention both… MORE





Sacked biologist fires another volley

Elizabeth Blackburn Cell biologist Elizabeth Blackburn has fired another broadside at President George W. Bush after being dismissed from his Council on Bioethics. In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Professor Blackburn claims that she had been sacked because she disagreed with the Council's chairman, Dr Leon Kass, and because she had complained that the Council's publications distorted the potential of embryonic stem cell research. She warns that this has set a dangerous precedent as other researchers may refuse to provide expert advice to the US Government if they believethat their… MORE




Vatican calls for more fertility research

The scale of destruction of embryos in IVF amounts to a "massacre of the innocents", says the Pontifical Academy for Life. In a Vatican communique issued after a conference on reproductive technologies, it condemned IVF and embryo research and declared that "no war or catastrophe has ever caused so many victims".

The Academy also claimed that doctors were referring couples for IVF programs without attempting to look into the underlying cause of their sterility. It foresaw a growing feeling that artificial reproduction was to be preferred to natural reproduction because the outcome could be controlled. "All this contributes to considering… MORE





IN BRIEF: adult stem cells; von Hagens cleared

  • US scientists have announced two advances in adult stem cell research. A team at Duke University, in North Carolina, has found that most adult fat cells are actually reprogrammable stem cells which can help repair damaged tissues. It was already known that fat cells from liposuction can grow into bone, cartilage, fat and nerve cells, but now it appears that at least 62% can grow into two other types as well. And at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers have managed to coax stem cells from the hair follicles of mice to grow into new hair. The procedure offers new… MORE




  • ODD SPOT: Pentagon funds embryo research

    the Pentagon With a war in Iraq, an occupation in Haiti and a man hunt in Afghanistan, you might think that the Pentagon has enough enemies and battles on its hands. Not so. Reuters reports that the American military is bankrolling embryonic stem cell research in Sweden, ignoring a well- publicised ban on such work by its chief, President George W. Bush. The US$240,000 research program will be taking place at Lund University. Apparently the Pentagon is interested in its ESC research into Parkinson's disease because the results might be useful for treating soldiers… MORE




    Cadaver scandals rock US

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) Two scandals over cadavers donated to medical schools have rocked US universities. The University of California at Los Angeles has stopped accepting corpses for its medical students and research pending the outcome of an investigation. It is alleged that two men, including the director of UCLA's Willed Body Program, sold body parts to other research labs for their own profit. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, over the last five years 496 cadavers were illegally sold for a total of US$704,600. And Tulane University, in… MORE




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