Rolling out vaccines

Sooner or later scientists will create a vaccine for Covid-19. But how will it be distributed? Securing agreement on this is going to be nearly as difficult as discovering the vaccine. Here we report on a solution by one of America's leading bioethicists, Ezekiel Emanuel. 

Michael Cook

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Euthanasia in Victoria

In 2017 Victoria became the first state in Australia to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia. The government proudly declared that 68 safeguards made it the most conservative law of its kind in the world. The state's premier predicted that there would be about a dozen deaths, not too many, nothing to get your knickers in a knot about. 

A report for the law's first year of operation, however, has revealed that more than 120 people died -- ten times more than expected. It doesn't seem that the brakes are working. 

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Trump launches his campaign

Like the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, Republican President Donald Trump touched upon a number of bioethical issues when he accepted his nomination this week. 

I found it surprising that Trump devoted so much time to broadcasting his anti-abortion, pro-life message. It's not surprising -- his Administration has worked against Planned Parenthood and backed nominees to the Supreme Court who appeared to be anti-abortion.

But Trump did so boldly and without equivocation when he could have just settled for some boilerplate, His team must have calculated that it is an election-winning issue, no matter how polarising it appears to be. Is this a sign that public opinion is changing on this key bioethical issue? 

Michael Cook  

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Joe Biden puts on boxing gloves

As I see it, there are only three topics worth talking about at the moment: Trump vs Biden, the coronavirus pandemic, and Trump vs Biden on the coronavirus pandemic. Sorry, there is a fourth, Christopher Nolan’s new film, Tenet, which looks quite intriguing, but does not fit into BioEdge very neatly.

Just after I finished writing today’s lead story about the Joe Biden’s acceptance speech, he expanded on its central theme: that he will do a better job ending the pandemic than Trump. In an interview with ABC TV, he declared that he would shut the country down rather than let the pandemic roar out of control.

“I will be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives because we cannot get the country moving, until we control the virus,” Biden declared. “In order to keep the country running and moving and the economy growing, and people employed, you have to fix the virus, you have to deal with the virus.”

That puts bioethics at the very centre of this strange election. 

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Russia rushes its vaccine

Russia has dashed across the finish line and seized the trophy for being the first nation to release a vaccine for Covid-19. It has been nicknamed “Sputnik 5”, recalling the Soviet Union’s glorious triumphs in the Space Race of the 1950s and 60s.

Scientists and bioethicists around the world, and even in Russia, have grave misgivings. Sputnik 5 has not even completed Phase 3 clinical trials. If the Russian vaccine is ineffective or unsafe, it could deter many people from being inoculated with an effective vaccine when it arrives.

By one of those awful coincidences which sometimes happen with new products, Sputnik 5 is being trialled at the same time as a Russian movie which is also called “Sputnik”. This, however, is a horror film about a guest which returns from outer space with an unlucky cosmonaut. It turns out to be a slithering extraterrestrial parasite which feasts on human brains. (Rated 90% on Rotten Tomatoes).

Is there a translation for Murphy’s Law?

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Splintering bioethics

In 1978 Tom Beauchamp and James Childress published their milestone textbook, Principles of Biomedical Ethics. Over at the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, they're throwing a birthday party and reviewing those legendary principles of respect for autonomy, beneficence, non-malificence, and justice which have been the backbone of bioethics education ever since.

But it is a 40th birthday party, so perhaps it's also time for a mid-life crisis. And right on schedule arrives 'black bioethics'. Keisha Ray argues that younger and more diverse bioethicists are sick and tired of seeing their concerns about injustice and racial inequality sideliined by establishment figures. Will this lead to the crumbling of an already fractured discipline? 

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How many babies of surrogate mothers are stranded overseas?

With borders still closed around the world, news is emerging of the plight of babies born to surrogate mothers who are separated from the parents or parent who commissioned them. In George there appear to be a few dozen, in Ukraine a couple of hundred. That was bad enough. Now it appears that there may be a thousand in Russia. How many are in the United States, the premier destination for parents who want a supportive legal system and good medical care? In Albania? In Kenya? In Cyprus? We report below on what is currently known. 

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Coercive population control in China

We're back! For the past few months Covid-19 has been front and centre for most people thinking bioethical thoughts. Important as the pandemic is, I urge you to consider what may be one of the worst human rights abuses in the world today -- how China is treating its Uyghur Muslims. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that allegations that the Chinese Communist Party is using forced sterilisation, forced abortion and coercive family planning against the Uyghurs are “shocking” and “disturbing”. These are contained in a well-documented report from an independent scholar. Judge for yourself. 

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Sweden’s nursing home debacle

Sweden has followed a different Covid-19 strategy. Instead of imposing quarantines and lockdowns, it had a "common sense" policy of voluntary social distancing, border closures, and limits on crowds. Although it didn't mention the phrase "herd immunity", that was essentially its goal. 

However, something went very wrong with its policy for nursing homes. As in other countries, residents were treated as second-class citizens and often did not receive adequate treatment. Thousands have died. Why?

BioEdge's editor is going on holidays this week, so there will be no newsletter next weekend. We'll be back in mid-July. 

Michael Cook  

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Elder abuse awareness

It has been a tumultuous week for the world, with rallies and riots over Black Lives Matter. But also for bioethicists and medical journals. Suddenly events compelled them to acknowledge the impact of racism, conscious and unconscious, personal and systemic. Thousands of researchers and some leading scientific organizations around the globe stopped work on June 10 to protest anti-Black racism in science.

Not that this wasn't important before, but suddenly racism appeared to trump all other considerations. Below we feature excerpts from editorials in the leading science and medical journals about this astonishingly rapid shift in priorities. 

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