Utah woman who refused Caesarean charged with murder

Melissa Ann Rowland A Salt Lake City woman who refused to have a Caesarean section to save the life of her unborn twins has been charged with first- degree murder after one of them was stillborn. Prosecutors have alleged that Melissa Ann Rowland, 28, wanted to avoid a C-section scar for cosmetic reasons. The details of the case are sketchy from news reports, but Ms Rowland appears to be an unmarried, overweight substance abuser who already has some children. She seems bewildered by her arrest.

Ms Rowland's plight has attracted nation-wide attention both… MORE

Sacked biologist fires another volley

Elizabeth Blackburn Cell biologist Elizabeth Blackburn has fired another broadside at President George W. Bush after being dismissed from his Council on Bioethics. In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Professor Blackburn claims that she had been sacked because she disagreed with the Council's chairman, Dr Leon Kass, and because she had complained that the Council's publications distorted the potential of embryonic stem cell research. She warns that this has set a dangerous precedent as other researchers may refuse to provide expert advice to the US Government if they believethat their… MORE

Vatican calls for more fertility research

The scale of destruction of embryos in IVF amounts to a "massacre of the innocents", says the Pontifical Academy for Life. In a Vatican communique issued after a conference on reproductive technologies, it condemned IVF and embryo research and declared that "no war or catastrophe has ever caused so many victims".

The Academy also claimed that doctors were referring couples for IVF programs without attempting to look into the underlying cause of their sterility. It foresaw a growing feeling that artificial reproduction was to be preferred to natural reproduction because the outcome could be controlled. "All this contributes to considering… MORE

IN BRIEF: adult stem cells; von Hagens cleared

  • US scientists have announced two advances in adult stem cell research. A team at Duke University, in North Carolina, has found that most adult fat cells are actually reprogrammable stem cells which can help repair damaged tissues. It was already known that fat cells from liposuction can grow into bone, cartilage, fat and nerve cells, but now it appears that at least 62% can grow into two other types as well. And at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers have managed to coax stem cells from the hair follicles of mice to grow into new hair. The procedure offers new… MORE

  • ODD SPOT: Pentagon funds embryo research

    the Pentagon With a war in Iraq, an occupation in Haiti and a man hunt in Afghanistan, you might think that the Pentagon has enough enemies and battles on its hands. Not so. Reuters reports that the American military is bankrolling embryonic stem cell research in Sweden, ignoring a well- publicised ban on such work by its chief, President George W. Bush. The US$240,000 research program will be taking place at Lund University. Apparently the Pentagon is interested in its ESC research into Parkinson's disease because the results might be useful for treating soldiers… MORE

    Cadaver scandals rock US

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) Two scandals over cadavers donated to medical schools have rocked US universities. The University of California at Los Angeles has stopped accepting corpses for its medical students and research pending the outcome of an investigation. It is alleged that two men, including the director of UCLA's Willed Body Program, sold body parts to other research labs for their own profit. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, over the last five years 496 cadavers were illegally sold for a total of US$704,600. And Tulane University, in… MORE

    Ethical deficit is research asset for Chinese stem cell science

    stem cells In five to ten years China could become a world leader in therapeutic cloning and related research, a US stem cell scientist has predicted in the journal Nature. Xiangzhong Yang, of the University of Connecticut, contends that China's main asset is that it lacks the ethical qualms which have hampered the development of research on human embryos in Western countries. "In addition," he says, "the relatively easy access to human material, including embryonic and foetal tissues, in China is a huge advantage for researchers".

    Chinese scientists have already achieved notable progress towards… MORE

    Australian clinic creates two “saviour siblings”

    Tasmanian couple Leanne and Stephen with their 4-year-old son An IVF clinic has claimed an Australian first by achieving two pregnancies of "saviour siblings". Sydney IVF said that it had culled embryos for tissue compatibility so that they could provide "spare parts" for a sick sibling. When their child is born, a Tasmanian couple will be able to treat a 4-year-old son who suffers from a rare condition called hyper IgM syndrome. Another couple will be able to treat a child with leukaemia. Although other IVF clinics have created "designer babies" which are free… MORE

    Leading US cancer institute “withheld risks” of experiment

    Dr E. Donnall Thomas A court case involving one of America's leading medical research centres has opened up a discussion of the limits of informed consent. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and three of its researchers are disputing allegations that they misled participants in an experiment which ran from 1983 to 1991. The defendants include Dr E. Donnall Thomas, who won the 1990 Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in bone marrow transplants.

    At the heart of the complex case is whether the patients understood what they had agreed to. "The… MORE

    “Parachute research” for drug companies hits ethical nerve

    Drug companies and ethicists in the US are troubled by the ethical dilemmas of conducting clinical trials overseas. A report in the New York Times says that American companies are increasingly turning to former Soviet bloc countries with good, but underpaid doctors and compliant patients where they can carry out their trials more cheaply. Because there are often no government subsidies for prescription drugs in these countries, few people can afford to buy them. Participating in a clinical trial can be a patient's best chance for effective medication.

    But what happens when the trials finish? Do the companies take special… MORE

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