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

The bioethics of torture</B></P>

In the Australian state of Tasmania, an eminent oceanographer has received a 12-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to the assisted suicide of his elderly mother in December 2002. The case was widely reported because 88-year-old Elizabeth Godfrey had been a local celebrity as a television chef. The euthanasia lobby was buoyed up by the light sentence and also by sympathetic remarks from Justice Peter Underwood. The judge said that John Godfrey had been motivated "solely by compassion and love" and suggested that people too ill to kill themselves deserved to be helped. In words which appeared to cast suicide… MORE

Nitschke calls for new strategy to legalise euthanasia</b>

In an editorial in Exit Australia's official journal Dr Philip Nitschke has outlined a "tougher and smarter" strategy for promoting the legalisation of euthanasia without creating "a trail of martyrs". He is attempting to form "a leaderless network that can spread required information throughout a supportive group". One facet of this new approach is his workshops on do-it-yourself suicide devices.

"The days when kindly doctors travelled around helping the seriously ill to die, while details of these activities were then used to call for legislative change are gone," he writes. "The model is dated, fragile and dangerous, and to date… MORE

Patient feedback leads to a better death</b>

Asking terminal patients about how well they are being cared for may be an easy, cost-free way of improving their quality of life. Bioethicists at the University of Toronto asked 36 seriously ill patients how they perceived their care. Three-quarters of them thought it was good or excellent -- an encouraging statistic, but one that left room for improvement. But when a doctor routinely asked patients about their concerns and then relayed their responses to medical staff, a third of them reported that care had improved.

"This study offers the promise of an inexpensive way to tackle the problem of… MORE

Polls on assisted-suicide vary dramatically with question</b>

An American survey of surveys about doctor-assisted suicide shows that people's answers shift with the wording of the pollsters' questions -- "one of the chief markers of unresolved thinking", according to the research group Public Agenda. People are significantly less likely to support it if the word "suicide" is used and significantly more likely when safeguards are described or if "wishes of a dying patient" are mentioned.

Public Agenda examined several polls done in 1997 and 1999. When the word suicide was avoided, support for legalisation fell from 68% to 45%. When the wishes of dying patients were mentioned, support… MORE

Baby born from 21-year-old sperm</b>

vials of frozen sperm A UK man fathered a IVF child with sperm frozen 21 years ago before he had surgery for testicular cancer. Doctors at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester said that the age of the sperm might make it a world record. The baby was born two years ago after four IVF cycles, but the news came to light only this week in the journal Human Reproduction. An embryologist at King's College Hospital in London, Dr Virginia Bolton, said that the news was "not hugely surprising." "From animal studies," she commented, "the… MORE

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