UK nurse accused of hastening deaths to free up beds

A 47-year-old Welsh nursing sister is being tried for the attempted murder of four geriatric patients in order to free up hospital beds. The prosecution alleges that Barbara Salisbury, a married mother of two, had a history of abusing elderly patients who were near death in Leighton Hospital in northern England. She would give them inappropriate doses of diamorphine, lay them on their backs so that it was difficult for them to breathe, or remove drips.

Callous remarks allegedly made by Ms Salisbury about burdensome patients have given the trial a gruesome twist. Colleagues reported that she made comments such… MORE

Swiss MP pushes European euthanasia

A Swiss member of the European parliament is lobbying the Council of Europe to decriminalise euthanasia, as the Netherlands and Belgium have already done. Dick Marty says that euthanasia is widespread in Europe and needs to be regulated, not left in the shadows. (Euthanasia is illegal in Switzerland, but authorities normally accept assisted suicide.) A report he has written has been narrowly accepted by the social, health and family affairs committee of the Council, but rejected several times by the parliamentary assembly. Last week he presented the report again, but did not ask the assembly to vote on it.

Marty… MORE

Illegal organ market survives in Russia

Transplant operation in Russia (Moscow News) After a year-long investigation, four Moscow doctors were arrested this week for plotting to murder a patient to supply a flourishing illegal trade in human organs. The case emerged when a 51-year-old man was taken to a hospital in April last year suffering from serious head injuries. Although Russian law stipulates that a person must be "biologically dead" before organs are removed, the man's heart was still beating and none of the required certifications had been obtained. As a result of this and other scandals, a… MORE

Bush’s stem cell plan under pressure

George W. Bush More than 200 members of the US House of Representatives from both major parties have asked President George W. Bush to loosen restrictions on embryonic stem cell research because they are stifling the promising field and delaying the development of cures for dread diseases. The current policy is to restrict federal funding to stem cell lines generated before August 9, 2001. The congressmen want the government to fund research on stem cell lines derived from "spare" IVF embryos after that date.

Some supporters of embryonic stem cells insist that they are… MORE

Stem cell research developments

  • Cardiac stem cells discovered by scientists at Chiba University Stem cells have been discovered in the heart which can become cardiac muscle cells, Japanese researchers report in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. "Clinical application is still a long way off, but if the regeneration capability of stem cells can be used, we can treat injured hearts," says Professor Issei Komuro, of Chiba University. MORE

  • IN BRIEF: China’s age problem; Swiss transplant blunder

  • After decades of the one-child policy, China may become "the first major country to grow old before it grows rich", say US analysts for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "In Europe, the elder share of the population passed 10% in the 1930s and will not reach 30% until the 2030s, a century later," the report says. However, "China will traverse the same distance in a single generation." This will burden China with nearly 400 million elderly who will have no support unless pension schemes are launched soon. MORE

  • Organ donation becomes easier for Australians

    Permission for organ transplants becomes easier Australian doctors will no longer have to seek explicit approval from relatives of a person who has agreed to be an organ donor. The decision to reverse "the onus of permission" will significantly increase the number of organs available for transplant, says Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott. However, relatives will still be able to veto a loved one's wishes.

    The nation's health ministers agreed on a uniform standard for organ donations at their tri-yearly conference. Currently doctors need relatives' permission even if a person has listed his or… MORE

    “Virgin birth” mouse rewrites textbook on reproduction

    Kaguya with kids Scientists at the Tokyo University of Agriculture have created a mouse from two eggs without the involvement of sperm or other male cells. Their experiment is being hailed as important as the birth of Dolly the cloned sheep in 1996. Until now, it was believed that two mammals of the same sex cannot combine their genomes to produce viable offspring.

    Although the news instantly prompted speculation about the redundancy of men, it is unlikely that the procedure could ever be used to create children for two women. For one thing, it… MORE

    Drug companies may have “suppressed” data about children’s anti-depressants

    The use of anti-depressants for children is a "disaster", says the leading medical journal The Lancet. In an article in its latest issue, six psychiatrists and child health experts suggest that drug companies may have suppressed evidence that many selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are unsuitable or even dangerous for children. The research team , headed by Dr Craig Whittingdon from University College London, say that benefits outweighed risks for only one of the five SSRIs studied, Prozac (or fluoxetine). For three of the other four, paroxetine, citalopram and venlafaxine, there was clear evidence of a small risk of… MORE

    Will doctors stand and fight or will they skedaddle?

    Outbreaks of infectious diseases in the US and Canada could give the medical profession a chance to test its commitment to a value even more fundamental than informed consent or autonomy: their duty to provide care to the sick and dying. A feature in the New York Times Magazine about an outbreak of monkeypox in the American Midwest suggests that many doctors and nurses might shrink from being heroes when faced with highly infectious patients carrying dangerous diseases. There were several dozen cases of monkeypox, a disease related to smallpox with a 1% to 10% fatality rate, in June 2003.… MORE

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