Green light for human tests with pesticides in US

A US federal government panel says that companies and government agencies can test the toxicity of pesticides or other substances on human, and potentially even children, as long as they meet high ethical and scientific standards. The decision by the National Research Council is the latest development in an on-again, off-again controversy over human tests. The head of the panel, James Childress, of the Institute for Practical Ethics at the University of Virginia, said that there was a public benefit in using the best available science.

In the tests, subjects are given levels of chemicals which will probably not harm… MORE

California court forces religious charity to offer contraceptives

contraceptives In a test case watched closely by women's groups across the US, the California Supreme Court has ordered a Catholic employer to include contraceptives, including the morning-after pill, in its employee prescription drug coverage, despite the Church's opposition to birth control. California is one of 20 states which require employers to provide coverage for contraceptives if they offer pharmaceutical benefits to their employees. Until now Catholic Charities had argued that it was exempt as a religious organisation.

Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote for the court in the 6-1 decision that the main issue… MORE

Cancer patients should die at home, says charity

A UK charity, Marie Curie Cancer Care, is lobbying the government to fund home care so that patients can die at home with their families. A survey commissioned by the charity found that 64% of people would like to die at home if they were terminally ill. But tight palliative care budgets mean that only 25% are able to do so. The charity has calculated that the Government could save ?200 million a year in hospital costs if it spent ?100 million on home care.

Tom Hughes-Hallet, the CEO of the charity, says "the choice to die at home is… MORE

Regulating suicide tourism in Switzerland

suicide Frustrated by the Swiss central government's lethargy, Zurich's public prosecutor is drafting legislation to clamp down on "suicide tourism" and to burden assisted suicide groups with red tape and expenses. Last month the Swiss justice minister, Christoph Blocher, decided that a federal law on assisted suicide was not a priority for him, even though the number of foreigners who have killed themselves in Zurich with the help of an organisation called Dignitas increased from 3 in 1999 to 91 in 2003.

Prosecutor Andreas Brunner fears that suicide organisations may not be operating within… MORE

Scientists can be rascals, say journal editors

Some researchers are up to no good, according to the annual report of the Committee on Publishing Ethics. Although the number of misdemeanours -- 29 -- is a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of scientific papers published each year, the committee is drafting a code of ethics which requires editors to report them.

As the Nature News Service commented, "they lie, they cheat and they steal... scientists are no different to the rest of us". The problem cases included outright plagiarism, outrageous conflicts of interest, lack of proper ethical clearance and printing the same paper twice to boost… MORE

IN BRIEF: Canadian Caesars; female genital mutilation; free IVF in UK; quitting IVF

  • Canadian obstetricians will soon be free to deliver babies by caesarean section without a medical reason. In the past the operation was reserved for high-risk deliveries, but Canada's rate of C-sections has risen to 20% of all births, far higher than the 15% level recommended by the World Health Organisation. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently ruled that elective C-sections were ethical if they benefit "the overall health and welfare of the woman and her foetus more than a vaginal birth". MORE

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