IN BRIEF: new embryo rules ~ Greek nursing homes</b>

  • New rules to safeguard frozen embryos, sperm and eggs have been introduced by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority after a number of incidents in which they were accidentally destroyed or mixed up. The latest scandal occurred last year when a freezer failed at a hospital in Bristol and sperm samples belonging to 28 men undergoing cancer treatment were destroyed. MORE

  • “Slow euthanasia” is the way to go, say Dutch doctors</b>

    Terminal sedation Dutch doctors prefer "terminal sedation" to lethal medications, according to a survey by Nijmegan University. Under this system, all treatment, food and water are withheld from heavily sedated patients until they die. Its detractors describe it as "slow euthanasia" since the intention of the doctor is to kill the patient.

    Pain control expert Bernardus Crul said that better care for the dying in the Netherlands and advances in pain control had now made terminal sedation a viable alternative. "Most doctors no longer see euthanasia as a medical necessity for fighting unbearable suffering… MORE

    More doctors fail to report euthanasia in Netherlands</b>

    Dutch Health Minister Cl?mence Ross The Dutch health minister, Cl?mence Ross, has insisted that doctors who perform euthanasia must report it, after the number of reported cases dropped for the fourth year in a row. She appealed to their sense of "medical professionalism" and insisted that "There must be absolutely no misunderstanding... doctors must report."

    According to the latest statistics, there were 1,815 cases of euthanasia in 2003, compared to 1,882 in 2002; 2,054 in 2001; and 2,123 in 2000, although these do not include cases of "terminal sedation". Last year a government-commissioned report… MORE

    Dutch OK Euthanasia for dementia patients</b>

    The Dutch Justice Minister has backed a decision by the Procurators-General Council that dementia can be a valid reason for euthanasia, provided that certain conditions are met. The Council ruled last year that a doctor who agreed to a request by Alzheimer's patients for euthanasia should not be prosecuted, provided that their condition is accompanied by unbearable and hopeless suffering. MORE

    Alan Trounson lobbies for therapeutic cloning at UN</b>

    United Nations building in New York Australia's most prominent stem cell scientist,Alan Trounson, has joined other scientific luminaries in an attempt to sway a vote on human cloning in the United Nations later this year. Although reproduction cloning has been condemned by nearly everyone, a debate last year showed that the UN is split between countries championing therapeutic cloning and countries which want all forms of cloning banned. A Florida lawyer, Bernard Siegel, has marshalled a number of scientists, research institutes, biotechnology groups, venture capitalists and lawyers to form the Genetics Policy Institute.

    Siegel… MORE

    Obesity could sink Britain’s health system</b>

    obesity The weight of obesity could sink the UK's cash-strapped National Health System predicts a gloomy report from the House of Commons Health Committee. "Obesity will bring levels of sickness that will put enormous strains on the NHS, perhaps even making a publicly funded health service unsustainable," it says.

    If the obesity epidemic continues to spread, the MPs warned, there will be steep increases in diabetes, amputations, blindness and heart disease. "This will be the first generation where children die before their parents as a consequence of childhood diabetes," they said. Amongst other measures,… MORE

    Ethical hurdles for face transplants</b>

    Doctors at the University of Louisville in the US have successfully experimented with face transplants on cadavers and are now ready for living patients, according to a report in New Scientist. If the operation is approved by the university's ethics committee, the surgeons plan to offer it to people with severe facial injuries or disfigurement. Transplant surgeon Dr John Barker says that a person with a new face would not look like the donor.

    The procedure is highly controversial. Only six months ago the Royal College of Surgeons of England advised doctors not to proceed with face transplants because of… MORE

    Israeli organ traffickers shift operations to China</b>

    An Israeli organ trafficking ring which was smashed in South Africa last year has shifted its operations to China, according to a report in the New York Times. A 52-year-old Tel Aviv man, Ilan Peri, is alleged to have organised at least 100 kidney transplants for Israelis. The Times profiled the case of an American woman from Brooklyn and a Brazilian man from the impoverished city of Recife in Durban. She paid brokers US$60,000 (a special discount because of family ties) and he received $6,000 from them. The operation was performed at St Augustine's Hospital in Durban. This is owned… MORE

    Lax regulation lets Israeli scientists clone away</b>

    Israel will be left in the dust in the biotechnology race unless researchers are given free rein in embryo research, scientists have told their government. Unlike most developed countries, Israel's regulations in this area are very lax. There are no monitoring mechanisms for cloning embryos and creating human embryonic stem cells and little oversight of research.

    Some Israeli doctors are used to working on the ethical edge. Back in 1998 Israeli embryos were exported to the University of Wisconsin where James Thomson used them to create the first human embryonic stem cells. In recent years Israeli IVF doctors have dabbled… MORE

    Case study shows flaws in Oregon suicide law</b>

    Opponents of Oregon's assisted suicide law have highlighted a "mistake" made by a doctor who prescribed a lethal dose of barbiturates to mentally unstable patient without a terminal illness. Under the law only patients of sound mind with less than six months to live are eligible.

    In a case study presented to the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in May, Dr Gregory Hamilton, of the lobby group Physicians for Compassionate Care (PCC), said that Michael F. Freeland had a long history of depression and suicide attempts. In the last year of his life, he was twice declared mentally… MORE

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