Has Jodi Picoult subscribed to BioEdge? She should


May 8, 2010

Hi there,

This week we had to sift through a number of interesting stories and articles in professional journals. It's impossible to fit everything in and some of the most intriguing stories get left out.

I was particularly struck by two stories from Australia. In the first, an Australian traumea surgeon, Craig Jurisevic, has just published his memoirs of his time in the 1999 Kosovo War. He went on patrols, provided intelligence, killed Serb soldiers, and operated in battlefield hospitals run by the Kosovo Liberation Army. Were his battlefield exploits compatible with his Hippocratic Oath? How should the Australian Medical Association respond?

And in the second, an intensive care doctor had to quash suspicions that she kept a convicted child-killer alive so that she could make a deathbed confession to police about other murders. Emma Hothersall told an inquest in Queensland that police had never put pressure on her to keep Valmae Beck alive after she suffered a heart attack. But what if they had? What would be the ethics of extending a lifer's life?

Perhaps some of your friends are novelists – get them to subscribe to BioEdge!

We've linked the BioEdge website to a Facebook page. Why don't you think about becoming a fan?

Cheers,

Michael Cook
Editor

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20100501 newsletter


May 1, 2010 

Hi there,

A canny Australian prime minister once mused that the benchmark of success for his administration was sport on the front page of newspapers. No scandals, no wars, no natural disasters, just the weekly drama of football and horses.

I feel a bit the same about BioEdge. I’d like to report more extensively on serious debates about the morality of euthanasia, stem cell research, informed consent and other cutting edge issues. But lurid dramas about personal morality keep intruding.

For instance, in this issue, we report that the president-elect of the World Medical Association has been arrested on corruption charges. Dr Ketan Desai will have his day in court to prove his innocence, but it is not the first time and the last time he was found guilty. He may have managed to corrupt the whole process of medical accreditation in India along the way. No doubt this will have other perverse effects.

Disgracefully, at the same time as he was allegedly scooping up bribes from medical institutions, Dr Desai was busy forbiddding Indian doctors to accept gifts from drug companies. Indian medical students can be forgiven if they end up feeling cynical about the whole enterprise of medical ethics. The lesson from this sorry episode seems to be that defining ethical standards is important, but they are worthless without personal integrity.

Cheers,

Michael Cook
Editor

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Finding a kidney on Facebook


April 24, 2010 

Hi there,

It's hardly the most significant of this week's stories, but I found the news that the mayor of a small  Connecticut town had donated a kidney to one of her constituents worthy of a TV drama. The most fascinating feature was that the recipient was one of her Facebook friends.

Facebook and other social networking tools are clearly transforming the way we interact. How will it affect bioethics? We've already featured news about psychiatrists who researched their patients on Facebook, raising serious issues of privacy and confidentiality. Expect to read even more convoluted stories in the years ahead.

Cheers,

Michael Cook
Editor

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Rescuing frozen embryos


April 16, 2010

Hi there,

Our lead story today is not all that momentous, to be honest. That adjective could possibly be used of the news further down the page that British scientists are on the road to creating babies whose DNA comes from two mothers and one father.

But it’s the sort of drama which appeals to me because it shows the human consequences of assisted reproduction. It is a case of embryo adoption, a practice promoted by some Christian groups to “rescue” left-over IVF embryos which would otherwise be used for research or, more probably, be discarded. But even Christians, it seems, find it hard to grapple with the complex human dilemmas thrown up when technology substitutes for nature.

If you come across similar stories, send them along. They give life to dry scientific developments and academic debates.

Cheers,

Michael Cook
Editor

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Film about Jack Kevorkian


April 10, 2010

Hi there,

It has been a slow week in the bioethics world, although there always seems to be something happening. If you notice news which might escape our notice, please send them along to us.

One development is more on the artistic side – a film with megastars Al Pacino and Susan Sarandon about Jack Kevorkian. I’ve managed to track down the YouTube trailer. Whatever your views might be, I think you’ll agree that a very sympathetic film about the world’s most prominent euthanasia activist means something. But what, exactly? That Americans are more sympathetic? That Hollywood is more sympathetic?

We learned from our recent survey that about 30% of our readers are on Facebook, so we’ve made it easier to post on Facebook from the newsletter. Try it out!

Cheers,
Michael Cook
Editor

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Happy Easter


April 2, 2010

Hi there,

This week’s and next week’s issues of BioEdge will be a bit shorter than usual because of the Easter holiday here, which extends from Good Friday through to Easter Monday.

We have made a few small improvements in the newsletter. We have added links to Facebook and Twitter so that you can post them with a single click. We’ve also added tags. Click these and you will be able to access all the recent articles on a particular theme.

Happy Easter!
Cheers,
Michael Cook
Editor

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Obama’s healthcare bill and abortion


March 27, 2010

Hi there,

Occasionally readers ask us why we don’t cover the abortion debate more extensively. The answer is that we deliberately steer away from it. First of all, it is extremely well covered on blogs and websites of all sizes and persuasions. There is almost nothing we can add. Second, it is such an inflammatory topic that it tends to squeeze out discussion of other bioethical issues.

However, personally speaking, I regard abortion as not just one more bioethical issue, but the main one. It is the single bioethics issue which affects nearly everyone personally, either because they have had one, facilitated one, or known someone who has had one. It shapes perceptions of human personhood and human dignity and influences our priorities for healthcare.

This was overwhelmingly evident in the acrimonious and prolonged debate over President Obama’s healthcare bill. Had he and his allies in Congress not insisted on including support for abortion, perhaps Americans would have had the mental space for an extensive debate on other fundamental human rights issues linked to the bill, like health care for illegal immigrants. Until we "solve" abortion, bioethics will continue to be a battleground rather than a building site.

Cheers,
Michael Cook
Editor

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Grammatical conumdrums


March 20, 2010

Hi there,

The articles in BioEdge are quite diverse. But this is the first time that we have dabbled in English grammar. A Sydney newspaper has reported the first officially androgynous individual, Norrie. Once legally male, he had a sex change operation but she apparently tired of that and is now living without a gender. This poses awkward problems for journalists. Is “it” the gender-appropriate pronoun? That sounds quite disrespectful. Norrie prefers the neologism “zie”.

Well, actually, it’s not actually a neologism, because this is one of a number of possible gender-neutral pronouns which have been floated over the years. None of them have been very successful. If you have any suggestions, please send them along.

Cheers,
Michael Cook
Editor

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results of survey


March 12, 2010

Hi there,

I promised that I would give you a bit of feedback on the survey of our readers. We were happy with the results: for 60% of our readers, BioEdge is their main source of bioethics news. Nearly three-quarters read it every week, mostly at work. And 92% feel that it presents the news in an unbiased fashion.

Who are our readers? About one-third are in the United States, about a third from Australian, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK and Canada, and the rest from all over the world. About 60% have a Master’s degree or PhD. About 45% say that their bioethical orientation is “Christian”, but 27% say that they are socially liberal or libertarian. It’s quite a good mix.

Here are a few comments from people who took the survey:

I like BioEdge because it gives me a ringside view of what is current in ethics. ~ India

This is one emailed newsletter you will find invaluable if you want to keep up with developments in genetics and reproductive technology. ~ UK

One of the best newsletters on ethics I've seen-relevant, interesting and topical subjects covered from a variety of angles. It's how I keep current on ethics issues. ~ Canada

One area in which we do have to improve is the presentation of our newsletters. The BioEdge website has improved a lot, but the newsletter itself has lagged behind. We are working on it.

Till next time,

Michael Cook

Editor

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survey again


March 6, 2010

Hi there,

We’ve tweaked BioEdge a bit more this week. In the right-hand column of the website, in MediaWatch, we are posting links to interesting background articles on various aspects of bioethics. And – of special interest to readers involved in organising conferences – we have created a section on the website called “upcoming events”. Send us the details of your conference and we shall advertise it for you.

Thanks to everyone who has filled in our survey of the site. If you weren’t aware of it, here’s your chance to give some feedback . It takes only 3 minutes. Just click here and you will be taken to a form which you can fill out on-line. If the link doesn’t work, copy and paste this URL:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MMV72D6
Next week I'll pass on the results to you.

Some readers asked about images in the newsletter. We have deleted the images to make it shorter and easier to print. However, we are certainly keeping images on the website itself. Take a look. 

Cheers,
Michael Cook
Editor

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