First monkeys cloned in China

This week’s announcement by Chinese scientists that they had cloned macaque monkeys prompted a walk down memory lane for me. The scientists aver that they have no interest whatsoever in human cloning. One must take them at their word, I suppose, but the impulse to clone humans is a recurring lunacy.

Remember the Raelians? In 2002 Rael, the French-Canadian founder of the sect which believes that mankind was created by extraterrestrials and that cloning is a way to immortality, announced that his scientists had cloned a baby.

Remember Severino Antinori? The Italian gynaecologist announced that he had cloned babies in 2002. No proof was ever given. He is currently battling charges of kidnapping and forcibly removing eight eggs from a Spanish nurse.

Remember Hwang Woo-suk? The veterinary scientist claimed that he had cloned human embryos in 2004 and was featured on a South Korean stamp. Much of his work was fraudulent.

Remember Panayiotis Zavos? The Cypriot-American claimed in 2009 that he had implanted cloned 14 embryos and implanted them in four women. He has faded from the limelight in recent years.

I would wager that if the Chinese experiment is confirmed, there will be another wave of cloning attempts by rogue scientists. Watch this space.

to make a comment, click here


Singapore and gay parents. France debates bioethics. Dutch euthanasia dissent.

So much has been done; more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.

Recognise these words? They are spoken by the pioneering scientist Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s rich and intriguing novel. This year marks the 200th anniversary of its publication in 1818 and it is being celebrated with a number of academic conferences.

In the era of CRISPR, artificial intelligence, and reproductive technology, it’s a good idea to revisit the novel. Despite its Gothic excesses, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, is still an insightful critique of science and scientists. Make this your New Year’s resolution: “I will reread Frankenstein”.

to make a comment, click here


Back on deck

Hi there! We're back after a long and refreshing break -- in the mood to take suggestions for improving our coverage and improving our quality. If you have any great ideas, please send them along to or


to make a comment, click here


Happy Christmas! Happy New Year!

There will be no BioEdge newsletters over Christmas and New Year. However, we'll be working on ways to improve our coverage and presentation. Feel free to correspond and share your insights. 

All the best for the Christmas season to you and your loved ones. 

to make a comment, click here


Bioethics and ‘inappropriate behaviour’

There has been so much “inappropriate behaviour” in the press over the past two months, ever since movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a serial molester of women, that it deserves its own acronym, IB. IB is a euphemism for a range of appalling actions, like sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.

And now, thanks to an Arizona Congressman we can add surrogacy to the IB list. Trent Franks resigned this week after revelations that he had pressured women on his staff to act as a surrogate mother. It’s not a pretty story, but it helps to expose the exploitative potential of surrogacy, which is so often depicted as generous and life-affirming.

Heads up: the next issue of BioEdge will be the last until January. Hey! Everyone deserves a holiday, even the staff of BioEdge. 

to make a comment, click here


‘Do not resuscitate’ tattoos. Rohingya and population control

Unlike issues such as euthanasia or stem cell research, the bioethics of tattoos is not highly developed. However, it presents its own challenges and complexities. What if a patient shows up in emergency with "do not resuscitate" tatooed across his chest? Is that a valid advance end-of-life directive? There are so many issues here. How do the doctors know if he (let's assume it's a "he") still wants a DNR? Did he get it when he was drunk? Was it voluntary? There are so many fascinating issues -- read our preliminary report below. 

On a completely different note, with Christmas drawing near, I’m making an incredibly self-interested suggestion. Why not put a copy of my recent book, The Great Human Dignity Heist: how bioethicists are trashing the foundations of Western Civilization, in someone’s stocking? It’s available through the Australian publisher, at Amazon and at Book Depository. I can’t think of a better gift! 

to make a comment, click here



Good scientists have to be curious, tenacious, creative, intuitive and analytical. And it helps if they are humble, as well. At least that is my impression after reading about the Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero (see below.)

Canavero is the latest figure in a long queue of talented scientists led astray just in the last couple of years by the glamour of celebrity. Dr Canavero would no doubt deny this, but the scientific community is very sceptical of his project to transplant living heads onto living bodies. And although he has not had a single success in this project, he is already dreaming of transplanting brains.

Celebrity and science can make a toxic mix. There is thoracic surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, another Italian, whose work on artificial tracheas was hyped as life-saving, but turned out to be fraudulent.

Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel was renowned for his controversial research. He had faked the results of his experiments and even his PhD. Michael LaCour made headlines for his surveys about changing minds about gay marriage. He never carried out the surveys.

Japanese stem cell scientist Haruko Obokata found an incredibly simple method for creating pluripotent stem cells. And in fact, it was incredible.

What makes extremely talented and creative researchers choose the path of a circus performer rather than a dedicated scholar? Everyone has a different story, but perhaps the ancient Anglo-French word vaynglorie (vainglory) expresses it best. Are there classes for post-graduate students in humility? Perhaps there ought to be. 

to make a comment, click here


Assyrian pre-nups

Several of our stories this week deal with end-of-life issues. For a bit of a change, how about an historical diversion?

“And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.” You might recognise this quote from the Bible. It is often used to illustrate the pain of infertility, which hurts no less 4,000 years later.  

Jacob was a wandering pastoralist. But Turkish archaeologists announced this month that they had uncovered evidence of urban infertility in Kültepe, an Assyrian site in the centre of modern Turkey. It is a clay tablet with cuneiform script with a prenuptial agreement – also 4,000 years old. It may be the first pre-nup in recorded history.

If, after two years, the bride has still not borne a child, the tablet says, the wife will allow her husband to use a female slave as a surrogate mother to produce an heir. The slave would be freed after giving birth to a son.

Many ethical issues in the Reproductive Revolution have precedents, but it’s amazing to see that today’s surrogate mothers were anticipated by Assyrian slave girls four millennia ago. 

to make a comment, click here


The bioethics of social media

Autonomy being the central theme of contemporary bioethics, shouldn't bioethicists be concerned about the growing presence of social media, especially Facebook, in our lives? As we report below, what Facebook (and other social media) want is to "consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible." This involves dulling consumers' willpower with tricks learned from the gambling industry and psychology, ie, making people less autonomous. 

The debate about Facebook at the moment revolves around nefarious schemes by Russia to hack American elections. Social media executives are being hauled before Congressional committees to explain why their products should not be considered threats to democracy. But isn't the addictive nature of Facebook an even greater threat?

to make a comment, click here


Are you lonely tonight?

Songs about loneliness are legion and range from the soppy and sentimental, like Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” to the irony of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”. I’ve always been a sucker for Ralph McTell’s “The Streets of London”, with its piercing lyrics about homeless people in a big city. 

Perhaps the reason loneliness is such a potent theme is that we instinctively realise how dangerous it is. 

It turns out that loneliness is (a) a major social and health issue and (b) a widespread phenomenon. One US researcher has even estimated that it affects as many as 45% of retired Americans. This seems far too much, but the levels are certainly high. And since it increases the odds of an early death by 26%, I’d call it a challenge for bioethics. How can we heal the frayed and broken bonds of social cohesion?

A feature in this week’s JAMA examines the cost of loneliness – and the lack of solutions. We report on it below

to make a comment, click here


Page 2 of 38 :  < 1 2 3 4 >  Last ›

 Search BioEdge

 Subscribe to BioEdge newsletter
rss Subscribe to BioEdge RSS feed

 Best of the web