Clinics face crisis over sperm donation figures</b>

The UK faces a sperm donor shortage and new recruitment strategies are urgently required, says a leading IVF clinic. Doctors at the Newcastle Fertility Clinic at Life (sic) studied sperm donation at their centre between 1994 and 2003. Their findings give an insight into the little-known market for sperm. Of 1101 men who applied to be sperm donors, fewer than 4% were accepted. Most were rejected because of sub-optimal sperm quality. Most of the accepted donors were students (67%), unmarried (87%) or without a partner (62%). Each made an average of 45 deposits. The average number of applicants declined throughout… MORE

US stem cell scientists bemoan lost opportunities</b>

As other countries develop embryonic stem lines, US stem cell researchers are being forced to sit on the sidelines, lamenting the loss of their competitive edge, according to a report in the Boston Globe. Most of the world's new stem cell lines are being created in countries like the Czech Republic, Australia, South Korea, Sweden, Israel and Finland. Earlier this month the first public bank for embryonic stem cells opened in the UK, headed by American expatriate Stephen Minger.

Envious US scientists are chafing under restrictions imposed by President George W. Bush in 2001. These have meant that no new… MORE

Italian bioethics chief gives UK philosophical raspberry</b>

The UK's new bank for embryonic stem cells represents the triumph of money over ethics, says the president of Italian National Committee of Bioethics, Dr Francesco D'Agostino. Research with embryonic stem cells may be ethically fraught, but it is certainly cheaper.

Speaking at a conference in Spain, Dr D'Agostino, who is a professor of the philosophy of law at Tor Vergata University in Rome, warned against "Anglo-Saxon" utilitarianism. "The only proper way to defend the dignity of the human person today is not to adopt a utilitarian point of view," he declared.

In the English-speaking world, "the concept of the… MORE

Lithuanian “charlatans” spruik embryonic stem cells cures</b>

Two Lithuanian MPs have accused their Minister for Health of allowing shady companies to treat sick children with injections of embryonic stem cells -- even though these treatments are banned in the EU, Lithuania and Russia. Local doctors have described the procedures as "scandalous charlatanism" performed on "experimental rabbits". Dr Eimantas Svedas, of Kaunas Medical University, supported the claims. "The propagation of this method would not be possible in the West, and that people can believe in it and pay thousands for such embryonic stem cell injections can only raise smiles in other countries."

Health Minister Dr Juozas Olekas responded… MORE

Let’s both be beautiful, say British couples</b>

Cosmetic surgeons at work Couples are encouraging each other to have cosmetic surgery to improve their looks, say British cosmetic surgeons, as demand for their services continues to rise. One in four patients at the Harley Medical Group, which runs a chain of cosmetic surgery clinics, said their partner had also gone under the knife. In the last six months liposuction demand is up 25%; nose jobs are up 20%; and facelifts are up 11%.

Several reasons are being offered to explain the trend. It's the physical and psychological benefits, says the Harley Medical… MORE

Were Korean egg donors public-spirited or press-ganged?

Hwang Woo Suk (Nature) More controversy is swirling around the Korean scientist who announced in February that he had successfully cloned human embryos and created a stem cell line. This time the issue is whether women were pressured into donating their eggs to further his research. Korean bioethicists, human rights activists and the leading journal Nature have all suggested that the donors included junior members of a research team headed by Woo Suk Hwang. Nature was told by a PhD student on the team, Ja Min Koo, that she and another woman in the… MORE

Living wills don’t work, says study

Living will Living wills offer a false promise of control over end-of-life treatment, claims a study in the bioethics journal Hastings Center Report. Researchers at the University of Michigan based their conclusions on hundred of studies of living wills, end-of-life decisions and the psychology of making choices. A "durable power of attorney" is a far better option, they contend.

Dr Angela Fagerlin, of the University of Michigan Medical School, says that living wills fail all standards of workability. "First, most people don't even have living wills. Second, those who do rarely know what care… MORE

Conjoined twins have “well-adjusted, rich lives”

Lori and Reba Schappell Conjoined twins can have such "well-adjusted, rich lives, made possible by the development of cooperation strategies" that we can all learn from them, suggests a new book from Harvard University Press. The author of "One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal", Alice Dormurat Dreger, asks "should people with unusual anatomies be treated as if their socially challenging bodies are inherently diseased?" Dreger points out that while life as a singleton is certainly easier, conjoined twins generally accept it as part of their identity. Although last year's unsuccessful… MORE

Chicago IVF clinic creates five “saviour siblings”

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of 199 eight-celled embryos has resulted in the birth of five saviour siblings, an IVF clinic in Chicago has announced. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr Yuri Verlinsky says that tissue from the babies will be used for treatment of siblings with acute lymphoid leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia or Diamond-Blackfam anaemia. Of the five babies, only one has actually saved a sibling. Three of the affected siblings are in remission -- although they may need stem cell transplants later.

Dr Verlinsky dismissed misgivings about the ethics of creating babies to serve as medical… MORE

US exporting contraception to Afghanistan

Part of the US plan for rebuilding Afghanistan is the introduction of contraceptive products developed and marketed specifically for Afghans. With the slogan "Be a NumberOne/OK family, live a comfortable life", Population Services International and the US Agency for International Development hope to promote reproductive health for women. PSI says that its marketing has been "culturally adapted" to Afghanistan -- a challenging task in a fiercely Muslim country where where discussion, let alone advertising, of sexual topics is still taboo. This month it has launched a public awareness campaign with radio advertisement, sponsorships and billboards. PSI is also distributing 1.6… MORE

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