Queensland legalises ‘assisted dying’


The Australian state of Queensland is the latest jurisdiction to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide. Nearly all of Australia now has access to “assisted dying”. In due course, someone will have to study why and how Queensland, a largely rural, socially conservative state with a substantial indigenous population jumped on the bandwagon.

The final vote in the unicameral parliament was 61 top 30, so the bill passed easily. About 50 sensible amendments were proposed and debated and none of them succeeded. All this suggests that the battle was lost long ago. Why? I don’t have a clear idea. Perhaps some of our readers may.

Michael Cook   
Editor
    




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medical journals and climate change


More than 200 medical journals from around the world have written an open letter demanding that governments stop climate change. They believe that a warming planet is the biggest threat to world health. Sound advice or over-reacting? Leave your comments. 

Michael Cook  
Editor 




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The Lone Star State and abortion


American supporters of abortion feel as though they are marching through the plains of Armageddon after SCOTUS failed to quash a Texas law which effectively bans the procedure. However, it’s not as simple as that. Read all about it below.

Michael Cook
Editor
    




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Third booster shot


The United States will offer a third booster shot to Americans. "It’s the best way to protect ourselves from new variants that may arise," said President Biden. "It will make you safer and for longer. It will help end this pandemic faster." But is it ethical to strengthen the immunity of Americans when people in other countries remain unvaccinated?




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Good luck, Taliban


This time around, the Taliban, who swept aside the US-supported government in a week of tragedy and “imbecility” (to quote Tony Blair), seem to be more sophisticated and more genial. Time will tell.

They have a big job on their hands. Over the past 20 years maternal and infant mortality fell dramatically. Public health improved, thanks to better sanitation and water supplies. A robust private health care system emerged. Will they be able to maintain the momentum for Afghanistan’s 40 million people? I hope so.  

Michael Cook  
Editor
  




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Fake vaccines


Personal trust is a pillar of the medical profession. It’s always shocking to hear that an unqualified person has been posing as a doctor (someone was arrested this week in Sydney) or selling counterfeit drugs. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a goldmine for some fraudsters, apparently. Thousands of people in India have received fake vaccines.

In our lead story today, we report that a German nurse gave patients a simple saline injection for no apparent reason.




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Can we trust medical research?


The middle of the Covid-19 pandemic is not an auspicious moment to cast doubt upon the reliability of scientific research. However, writing in a BMJ blog, Richard Smith, editor of The BMJ until 2004, launched a withering attack, saying that the system is riddled with fraudulent studies. “ It may be time to move from assuming that research has been honestly conducted and reported to assuming it to be untrustworthy until there is some evidence to the contrary,” he says. Dr Smith does not mention the pandemic but others are sure to raise questions about research into Covid-19. 




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Czech Republic and Roma


Sometimes, as a journalist, I feel like Winnie-the-Pooh, " a Bear of Very Little Brain”, when sifting through bioethics articles, which are normally very long, very complicated, and very subtle.

Even short articles can have the same baffling effect – one knows that something is wrong, but what?

As Pooh says, “when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."

Take, for instance, a very short letter to Nature from three distinguished members of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), including Robin Lovell-Badge, one of the more illustrious members of the stem cell fraternity.

They argue that there is a human right, guaranteed by United Nations covenants, for humanity to benefit from science – and therefore the 14-day limit on embryo research should be abolished because it will deliver a plethora of benefits.

To my Pooh-like brain, this sounds odd. How is there a right to something that does not exist? Could not a snake-oil salesman make the same plea? If anyone has ideas on this score, please let me know.




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Euthanasia in the Netherlands


Foreign observers might have the impression that it is always open season for euthanasia in the Netherlands. Not so. While the guidelines are elastic and subject to interpretation, they do exist and people violating them risk prosecution.

Two of this week’s stories reflect this. In one, police have arrested a man who, they said, was selling lethal medication for suicide; in the other, the euthanasia bureaucracy and the public prosecutor are fighting over who makes the rules: the bureaucrats or the government.




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Advance directive implants


Logan’s Run is a 1976 sci fi film which has not stood the test of time. “Terminally silly” and “aggressively tedious” are words used by some of its harsher critics. However, its central conceit is memorable: that a future civilisation where everyone lives underground limits the lives of its citizens. In the palm of the hand they all have a "life-clock" crystal which begins blinking as they approach the "Last Day.”

Two American bioethicists have proposed something similar for dementia patients: an advance directive implant. Read about it in our lead story below.  




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no newsletter


Hi there!

Apologies for this -- I should have mentioned it last week -- but I am going on holidays and there will be no newsletter this weekend. Publication of BioEdge will resume in mid-July. 

See you then!

Michael Cook
BioEdge 




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Has Canada endorsed sex-selective abortion?


Last week we reported that India has failed to reverse its skewed sex ratio – millions of baby girls are being aborted. The gendercide holocaust is not for lack of social messaging and feel-good feminist-friendly rhetoric. Politicians, bureaucrats, activists, educators are all singing from the same song sheet: do not abort girls. It hasn’t worked.

Most of the readers of BioEdge do not live in India and are not subject to the social pressures there. In countries like the US or the UK or Australia we might even feel a bit smug and self-righteous: we would never support sex-selective abortion, would we?

Don’t be so sure. Ultra-socially-progressive Canada just had a chance to reject sex-selection and blew it. Its Parliament overwhelmingly voted down a bill condemning sex-selection. Read about it below.




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The missing 13 million girls of India


This is odd, isn't it? That The Lancet Global Health published an article which claimed that "13.5 million female births were missing during the three decades of observation (1987–2016), on the basis of a natural sex ratio of 950 girls per 1000 boys". And you won't find anything in the media about it. What's going on in news rooms? Distracted by Covid? Bedazzled by Biden? Bored with this gendercide stuff? What's your explanation?




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Abortion access will be a SCOTUS challenge


The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a potentially ground-breaking abortion case which could turn abortion access into a major issue in the 2022 midterm elections. This has been triggered by state laws which dramatically restrict abortion access. Texas is the latest of these, as we report in today’s lead story.

Michael Cook   
Editor 
 




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Open access book about euthanasia


An open access book, published by Springer, has been written by ten Belgian health care professionals, nurses, university professors and doctors specializing in palliative care and ethicists who fear that euthanasia has become normalised and trivial. Far from being polemical, these stories of life and death present another side to the narrative of patient autonomy. Check out the link in our story below. 




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‘Uterine morality’


I had never heard of the term "uterine morality" until this week. At first I thought that it must mean a more traditional approach to sexual mores or perhaps something to do with innovative transplant surgery.

But no, it's a term coined on social media by some Chinese feminists to express their disgust at ugly children with ugly fathers. In short, it's a slogan for DIY eugenics. It might only catch on in China or Korea or India, where there is a shortage of marriageable young women. But it's an interesting sign of the times. Read about it below. 

Michael Cook   
Editor 




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Do we need an international pandemic treat?


Even as nations struggle to cope with Covid-19 catastrophes, 23 world leaders have called for the adoption of an international pandemic treaty. However noble this may sound, this is being criticised as a useless proposal, or even as a distraction from the urgent task of vaccinating poor countries. Only 2% of global vaccine doses have been administered in Africa and India, China, Brazil and the US do not appear to be interested…




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Planned Parenthood evolves


This was a headline in the New York Times which was sure to catch my eye: “I’m the Head of Planned Parenthood. We’re Done Making Excuses for Our Founder.” The author is Alexis McGill Johnson, the new president of PP. She candidly acknowledges the racist and eugenicist views of Margaret Sanger and disavows them completely. What she is not disavowing is PP’s role as America’s leading abortion provider.  

Perhaps she is being ruthlessly consistent in repudiating Sanger’s ideas. For Sanger, surprisingly, was opposed to abortion in most cases. She used to explain to women that “abortion was the wrong way—no matter how early it was performed it was taking life.” 

Michael Cook    
BioEdge 
 




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Colombia stays put


In potted surveys of the progress of euthanasia around the world, Colombia is often mentioned as a country which has embraced the right to die. Not so, in fact. The legislature has never voted for a euthanasia law. This week euthanasia supporters again had a chance and again they failed. As in Montana, the country’s high court had ruled back in 1997 that the right to die was constitutional – but the legislature has never ratified it. Is this another case of judicial activism gone rogue? Read our lead story today.




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Another American state legalises assisted suicide


The right-to-die is advancing in the US. New Mexico finally legalised assisted suicide this week, making it the 11th American jurisdiction. However, in France and Latvia it was rejected -- for a range of reasons. It's an interesting landscape. Read about it below. 

Michael Cook  
Editor 




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The co-parenting trend


The bizarre phenomenon of platonic co-parenting seems to be increasingly popular. In fact, a TV network in the UK has created a reality show based on the concept. Matchmakers bring a guy and a girl together who are interested in having a baby but not in having a spouse, or even in having sex. This is so gobsmackingly unconventional that I am left at a loss for words. So, for the moment, I'll just note that there's no accounting for tastes. I'm sure that many readers will agree with me. 

There will be no BioEdge newsletter next week because of the Easter holiday. 

Michael Cook
Editor




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Spain chooses euthanasia


Spain became the fifth country in the world to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide this week. It joins the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Canada. The vote in the lower house of the Spanish parliament was decisive, 202 in favour, 141 against and 2 abstentions.

"Today we are a more humane, just and freer country. The euthanasia law, widely demanded by society, finally becomes a reality," Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Twitter. What do you think? Is he right? 

Michael Cook  
Editor




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No more kids?


One of the premises of The Handmaid’s Tale, the popular dystopian novel and TV series, is that in an era of era of environmental pollution and radiation most women have become infertile. The ensuing social and political changes brings about a revolution and the installation of a bizarre theocratic government.

A recently published book, Count Down, suggests that the infertility bit, at least, may not be that far-fetched – although the author is more concerned about low sperm counts. Even more dramatically she claims that homo sapiens already fits the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s standard to be considered an endangered species. See today’s lead story.  

Michael Cook   
Editor 




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The travails of the rich


The Marquess and Marchioness of Bath are not short of a quid. Their Longleat estate in Wiltshire in the UK is 9,000 acres and includes a safari park. Yet they have a problem. Their second son was born with the help of a surrogate mother. This means, under English law dating back hundreds of years, that he cannot inherit his father’s title, if he were eligible. He is deemed “illegitimate”. In effect, there is a law for the rich and a law for the poor – and this time, the poor get a better deal. We explore this issue in our lead story.




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Home euthanasia


Where it is legalised, euthanasia is becoming more and more integrated into the practice of medicine. One of the more useful -- or ghoulish – developments, depending on your point of view, is euthanasia with organ donation. In other words, a patient agrees to supply organs and allows himself to be killed so that his kidney or liver can be harvested as soon as possible.

Two Dutch physicians have noticed, however, that patients who approved of organ donation in theory were still not donating. Why? Because they want to die at home. So they have developed a nifty protocol to allow patients to “fall asleep” at home, and die in the hospital. Is this the way of the future?




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One hundred surrogate babies?


Critiques of surrogacy generally centre on the welfare of the baby or the welfare of the gestating mother. Very seldom do they interrogate the motivations of the commissioning parents. But there are some very odd cases. A couple of years ago, wealthy Japanese businessman Mitsutoki Shigeta secured custody of 13 children he had fathered with Thai surrogate mothers. Apparently he just wanted a big family.

From Georgia comes our lead story about another wealthy man and his wife, Galip and Christina Ozturk, who also want a big family. The number 105 has been mentioned. They already have 10, plus children from previous relationships. How do we think through this?

Michael Cook   
Editor 




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Canada runs ahead


Canada's euthanasia legislation requires a parliamentary review of the law's provisions, as well as the state of palliative care in Canada, starting at the beginning of the fifth year after becoming law. This review would allow for further public engagement and parliamentary scrutiny of all aspects of MAiD.

2021 being the fifth year, doesn’t it make sense to save major amendments to this immensely consequential legislation until after the review? Apparently not. The nation’s Parliament is on the verge of approving an expansion of law which will effectively make it the most permissive in the world. Read about it below. 




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A new vision for bioethics


I openly confess that I am not au fait with Michel Foucault and Kimberlé Crenshaw, but the latest bioethics weather report suggests that they are going to be the big names of bioethics in the next few years, until something new comes along. The latest issue of the American Journal of Bioethics is devoted to race and marginalisation in bioethics and Ye Olde Verities of Autonomy, Non-Maleficence, Beneficence and Justice are nowhere to be seen, at least in the target article.

I stand corrected – it’s all about Justice, but social justice, not justice for the individual. The headwaters of bioethics, in this new vision, are to be found in Justice, not in Autonomy. It’s going to be interesting to watch the change downstream. As the authors of the target article predict, “we must embrace an ethic of discomfort”.




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Belgian euthanasia is broken


A movement for the legalisation of euthanasia seems to be accelerating at the same time that countries with experience of it may be having buyer’s regret. At least, that seems to be the case in Belgium. A recent article in an academic journal makes the case that euthanasia there is broken, morally, administratively and legally. If this is the case, it is a huge human rights issue.




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“To feed the ambition in your heart is like carrying a tiger under your arm.”


He Jiankui, the Chinese biophysics researcher who announced in 2018 that he had created the world’s first gene-edited babies, was sentenced to three years in prison for “illegal medical practice” a year ago.

In China’s opaque justice system exemplary punishments are a hazard for celebrities. As the Chinese proverb has it, “To feed the ambition in your heart is like carrying a tiger under your arm.” No doubt He thought that he would be lauded for achieving a world first. Instead he disappeared for many months until it was announced that he had ended up in the clink.

Now 29-year-old Zheng Shuang, a popular actress and brand ambassador, must be asking herself whether she will end up behind bars as well. She engaged two surrogate mothers in the US to bear her children and then abandoned them. When the news broke, she was instantly “cancelled” and seems to have become an unperson.

What’s puzzling about this is that far, far worse crimes against women happen in Tibet and Xinjiang every day and the Chinese media is silent, or worse, praises them.  

Michael Cook 
Editor




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2021 begins


Hi there,

We’re back. If 2020 was unexpectedly weird and stressful, 2021 promises to be expectedly weird and stressful. Already we have had a terrible riot in the Capitol Building in Washington DC and the Covid-19 toll has passed two million worldwide. One thing is sure: there will be lots of news about bioethics.

Michael Cook
Editor    




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Triage debates


Hi there, 

Happy Christmas! Happy New Year! This will be the last issue of BioEdge for 2020. We'll see you in January. 

Michael Cook    
Editor 




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Embryo donation record


I’ve been watching The Mandalorian lately. It’s not my favourite Western and I am not a Star Wars fanboy, but I admit that it is entertaining.

The best character is Baby Yoda, an infant of an alien species with big ears, which, I am told, has no name. The interesting factoid, for the purposes of BioEdge, is that Baby Yoda, who appears to be about six months old and acts that way, is actually 50.

All this happens, of course, in a galaxy far, far away. Here on Planet Earth the closest being to Baby Yoda is a smiling infant named Molly Gibson, who came into existence 27 years ago and is only two months old. Read about her below.




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Is the Belgian consensus on euthanasia breaking up?


In northern latitudes the sound of spring begins with the booming of snow-covered ice cracking in frozen rivers. Is something like that happening in Belgium? 

The European Court of Human Rights is currently considering the case of a Belgian woman who was euthanised in 2012. Her son, Tom Mortier, claims not only that he was left out of the process, but that there were legal irregularities in the way that the euthanasia was carried out. Now it appears that this case may not have been an outlier. The Belgian media is reporting that the police are investigating ten similar cases. Stay tuned. 




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Dutch doctors cleared to euthanise dementia patients


Dutch doctors will be able to sedate demented patients and then euthanise them, if they have made advance directives, according to new official guidelines. This follows a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year which quashed the conviction of a retired nursing home doctor for murder. A very interesting development. See the article below. 




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Sorry, late newsletter


Sorry about this. Your BioEdge newsletter is VERY late. But our content management system went pear-shaped last weekend and there were issues. But after a lot of sweat and bad language, it is back on the road, still needing a few repairs, but chugging along. Apologies. 

Michael Cook 
Editor 
  




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After the election


Hi there, 

The US election dominates the media at the moment. But the rest of the world hasn’t stopped. Our lead story today continues our coverage of the dramatic events in Poland, where protesters appear to have succeeded in blocking further restrictions on abortion. There’s lots more reading below.

However, I'm afraid that BioEdge is a bit late. Our apologies. We are having some technical issues with our software. I hope that they will be resolved soon.




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Kiwis choose euthanasia


New Zealand has just chosen euthanasia, by a whopping majority of about 65%. By my count, that makes the Land of the Long White Cloud the fifth country to legalise euthanasia, along with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Canada. Several American states, two Australian states, and Switzerland also have passed laws which permit assisted suicide. Campaigners against the new law conducted a survey before the referendum and found that most people knew very little about the bill. It will be interesting to see if it takes off as quickly as it has in Canada. 

Michael Cook   
Editor 




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Poland and abortion


Hi there, 

Poland has become one of the few countries where abortion is being rolled back. Its high court has ruled that nearly all terminations are unconstitutional. This is being denounced an antediluvian outrage.

However, it will be interesting to read the judgement as the majority appears to have contended that abortion for foetal defects is basically eugenics. After all, it was only last year that US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said in a dissenting opinion that “abortion is an act rife with the potential for 'eugenic manipulation'”.




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The Netherlands moves to legalise euthanasia for children


It hardly comes as a surprise, but doctors in The Netherlands may soon be able to euthanise children under 12. They are already authorised to euthanise children up to 1 year old old and over 12. And although there is no "right to die" in Spain at the moment, the current coalition government is keen to join the club of countries where euthanasia is legal. Read all about it below. 




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Strange, strange times


These are strange, strange times. Today I read an editorial in The New York Times headed, “Get Well, Mr. President”. I don’t recall ever reading words of personal concern like this before in the Times. It was very touching.

But, of course, the editorial’s theme was not only wishing him and the First Lady well, but demanding complete transparency about his health now that he has been infected with the coronavirus. We’ll be hearing a lot more about every detail of Mr Trump’s life in the next few days.

Speaking of which, I shall be taking a brief holiday this week. The next BioEdge newsletter will be on October 18.

Cheers,

Michael Cook 
Editor




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the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett


Judge Amy Coney Barrett gave a gracious acceptance speech after being nominated by President Trump to the US Supreme Court. “The flag of the United States is still flying at half staff in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to mark the end of a great American life,” she said. “She not only broke glass ceilings, but she smashed them. She was a woman of enormous talent and consequences and her life of public service serves as an example to us all.”

It was a moving tribute to RBG, but ACB is expected to help shift SCOTUS in a very different direction – more conservative, and above all, more sceptical of abortion. As I wrote before, bioethics is “at the very centre of this strange election”.

Michael Cook  
Editor 




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Don’t buy this for Christmas


Our lead story today is -- sort of -- about a Christmas gift. Specifically, one that you probably shouldn't buy for people you don't know very well: a subscription to a genealogy website. Two fertility doctors are being sued in the US after the offspring of former patients discovered that the doctors are their biological fathers. For them, and for their mothers, the news was devastating. 

This is not the first time that this has happened, of course, and the lawyer leading the lawsuit against the doctors warns that there will be many more. This despicable behaviour appears to have been common 30 or 40 years ago and 30 or 40 is the age when people start to get curious about their sperm donor fathers and buy DNA testing kits. 




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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
Editor 




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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  
Editor 




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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  
Editor 




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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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Queen’s birthday


After the brutal killing of black man George Floyd in Minneapolis by police on May 25, demonstrations with tens of thousands of people have erupted across the United States and around the world, from Berlin to Sydney. A common sentiment reported in the American media is that “black people are dying in twin epidemics of coronavirus and racism”. 

Whether #BlackLivesMatter or public health should be prioritised is sure to be the most consequential bioethics issue of the year. My guess is that hundreds, if not thousands, of lives are at stake. What do you think? 




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Monkeying around with coronavirus


The number and range of articles about Covid-19 in the bioethics arena alone is staggering. However, the topic of privacy and confidentiality has not been high on the agenda. Perhaps they should be, as there are risks.

A reader drew to my attention to news from India which raises some questions. A band of monkeys attacked a lab technician and spirited away blood samples of humans who had tested positive for coronavirus. The incident took place on the campus of a medical college in Meerut, in Uttar Pradesh.

Much remains to be known about Covid-19, but it appears that monkeys are not susceptible. So it is a mystery as to what the thieves intended to do with the blood samples. I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if they were stolen for research. But you never know. We’ll keep you informed.




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Immunity passports controversy


The coronavirus pandemic should have been an Iwo Jima moment for utilitarian bioethicists with their flag fluttering proudly on a blood-soaked hilltop. After all, the emergency seemed quite propitious for calculating the greatest good of the greatest number. However, as Oxford medical ethicist Charles Foster wryly observes, politicians everywhere embraced a "crude vitalism" instead. 

This was best expressed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in March. He told the media -- and voters: “My mother is not expendable. And your mother is not expandable…We’re not going to accept a premise that human life is disposable. We’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life." Out the window went utilitarian policies. 

Is the same dynamic being played out in the simmering debate over immunity passports? Read below. 




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Conspiracy theories


If I receive an email which begins: "The World Deserves the Truth…. Please brace yourself for the following information I’m about to share with you", I am not inclined to believe it. 

However, this particular one is so creative that it deserves to be shared. Apparently NASA and the Vatican Observatory learned in November that an asteroid was about to hit our planet. Soon afterwards, a top-secret UN meeting was convoked to develop a strategy to keep the world calm and give governments the best possible chance of maintaining public order. So they came up with the idea of releasing a coronavirus. Everyone would have to shelter at home. So that's why we are all washing out hands.... and waiting for annihilation. 

That does sound a bit far-fetched, but how do you deal with other conspiracy theories? The most popular one at the moment is Plandemic, a movie whose teaser has been censored by Google and Facebook. But is censorship the best strategy? 




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Covid-19 issues


Now that most countries are thinking of slowing lifting lockdowns and relaxing social distancing restrictions, the issue of coronavirus 'passports' is emerging as the next big ethical issue for epidemiologists. Should people get a stamp on identity cards (what identity cards?) confirming that they are 'clean'? Sounds sensible -- at first. See the articles below. 




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Nursing homes in the pandemic


Like rivets popping on a sinking ship, the stresses of the pandemic are showing the weakness in our societies. Suddenly we realise how much we depend on humble workers who provide essential services, how much we depend on supply chains, how vulnerable the elderly are, and so on. And everyone has become an epidemiologist. 

One statistic that caught my eye was the number of over-65s in care per thousand of population. This came up as part of Donald Trump's boast that the per capita death rate in the United States is far lower than the highest nation, which was Belgium. There's a reason for that -- Belgium is counting many deaths in nursing homes as deaths from coronavirus, even if the people had not been tested. 

But a chart in the BBC story showed that Belgium also has the the third highest proportion of people in nursing homes in Europe, 71 per thousand. Even higher were the Netherlands (75) and Luxembourg (82). Is it a coincidence that these three countries have also legalised euthanasia? What does that figure say about their social structure? After the pandemic has passed, it would be good to follow this up. 




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Wild theories


I'm not sure who was the first to say, "“Never let a good crisis go to waste". But lots of people are taking this wisdom to heart in the Covid-19 pandemic. It's a time when unconventional ideas will get a warmer welcome than usual because of the fear and the sense of urgency in the air. Perhaps that's why organ donation euthanasia sounds a bit more plausible if Covid-19 victims are doing the donating. See the report below.  




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Coronavirus pandemic continues


It takes a strong character not to get a bit dejected at the current situation. If you're not sick, you're probably in isolation. Still worse, you could be in isolation and jobless. You need some cheering up, so my advice is to watch this video about hand-washing from Uganda. The artist is H.E. Bobi Wine, an extraordinary character who is a local pop star and a candidate for president in upcoming elections. 




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More about coronavirus


One of the saddest stories from the coronavirus pandemic comes from Iran. As of Friday, there had been 53,000 cases and 3,300 deaths. But, adding to the country's misery, hundreds of people have died after drinking methanol as a “remedy”. It illustrates the danger of a panicked response to the virus. Most of our other stories revolve around the crisis as well.

We'll be taking a break next week for the Easter holiday. See you later in the month. 

Michael Cook  
Editor, BioEdge 




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The partying is over


My favourite quote about coronavirus does not come from one of the internet's legion of epidemiological experts, but from an American college student on spring break in Miami. “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I'm not gonna let it stop me from partying”. After appearing on CBS News, he regrets saying that. Anyhow, we are taking the pandemic seriously at BioEdge, as you can see in our articles below. 




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More about the coronavirus pandemic


One of the guidelines of the UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics about the coronavirus pandemic (see below) is that “Liberty-infringing measures to control disease, such as quarantine and isolation, can be justified if the risk of harm to others can be significantly reduced.”

I agree, but I am still surprised at how few questions have been raised about the draconian restrictions on civil liberties prompted by the crisis. These are sure to lead to recession, soaring unemployment, bankruptcies, and social dislocation. They are the harshest that I have ever experienced in my lifetime – and, with few exceptions, there’s been nary a peep of opposition. In fact, my impression is that op-ed pages segued smoothly from anger at government overreach to anger at government underreach in a month.  

How long can lockdowns be sustained? As the Wall Street Journal points out, “no society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its overall economic health.” I don't think that it is utilitarian to observe that deferring or suppressing discussion of the costs, financial and social, of our response to the coronavirus could backfire. Human dignity is paramount; acting ethically is essential. But good ethics is based on a knowledge of all the facts -- and not just the facts about hand-washing. 




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Coronavirus special


Most of today’s newsletter is devoted to the coronavirus outbreak. Send us some feedback.

Two countries at the epicentre of the outbreak are particularly interesting in their response to the crisis. Taiwan has reported 50 cases and one death. Even though it is so close to China, Korea and Japan, it has the lowest incidence rate per capita in the world at the moment — around 1 in every 500,000 people.

The measures Taiwan has taken have been extraordinarily effective – and apparently ignored by the international community. Why? Because Taiwan is not a member of the World Health Organization. It was forced out by the People’s Republic of China for longstanding historical and political reasons. Now the rest of the world is paying the price for WHO’s weakness.  

As an op-ed in USA Today argues, Taiwan ought to be admitted to the WHO, even it if puts China’s nose out of joint. “Pandemics don’t care about human politics,” says Mia Ping-Chieh Chen.

The other country is North Korea. “The infectious disease did not flow into our country yet,” says a government newspaper. That is an astonishing achievement – no cases, no deaths. It’s better by far than Taiwan.




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Italy goes into coronavirus lockdown


Milan is in the grip of an epidemic. Towns have been quarantined. Public gatherings have been cancelled. The streets are empty. Incompetent public officials are trying to dampen mounting hysteria. Dark rumours are circulating. Hospital wards are overflowing.

The coronavirus?

No, the Great Plague of 1630 in which perhaps a million (1,000,000) people died. About two hundred and fifty (250) have died so far in Italy’s coronavirus outbreak. That figure alone should immunise you against nostalgia for the Good Old Days. The panic and suffering of the citizens of Milan during the bubonic plague -- who also had to cope with a drought, a famine and the Thirty Years’ War -- make coronavirus seem like a Sunday summer picnic.

There’s a dearth of good news about the panic, illness, death and economic disruption of the world’s coronavirus epidemic. The only positive I can think of is that it may send people back to the Great Italian Novel, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), which was published by Alessandro Manzoni in 1827. The climax of its complicated plot is a vivid description of the Great Plague.

If you want to be thankful for dodging a bullet by being born 400 years later than the events he described, dive into Chapters 31, 32 and 33. There are a number of instructive parallels with current events.  




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The right to die spreads to Germany


“Progressive! Individuals have a right to ‘self-determined’ suicide, including the freedom to take one's own life and to enlist support provided by third parties. German court rules assisted suicide ban violates citizens' rights to determine their own death.”

This was tweeted by Philip Nitschke, Australia’s indefatigable campaigner for an unfettered right to die. It was a good summary of a decision by the German Federal Constitutional Court on Wednesday, which declared that banning assisted suicide was against Germany’s ‘Basic Law’.

From now on people will be free to seek commercial assistance to help them die. (At least doctors won’t be co-opted, for the moment.) This opens up all sorts of business opportunities. Will there be death doulas in every funeral home? Watch this space.




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Portugal moves closer to euthanasia


Portugal could be the next country to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide. A bill is still in committee but it has the support of the government. Read all about it below. 




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Something in the water?


I haven’t done a comprehensive peer-reviewed study of this issue, but my working hypothesis is that at certain positions in the zodiac, people start discussing euthanasia. How else could you explain that this week’s newsletter is stuffed full of news about end-of-life issues? These come from countries as distant as Australia, the UK, Spain, Switzerland and Canada, so it’s not as though they’re all drinking from the same tap.

Hopefully next week we’ll have a wider range of issues. But for a bit of variety, we have featured an interesting response to a ban on abortion in the American state of Alabama.  




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Heroism in the coronavirus epidemic


The Chinese government has taken a battering for how it handled the coronavirus epidemic. The early stages of its response were marked by denial, obfuscation and lack of transparency.

The symbol of that is 34-year-old Dr Li Wenliang. He was one of eight doctors who warned people about the virulence of the new virus on social media. Police told him to sign a document: ““We solemnly warn you: If you keep being stubborn, with such impertinence, and continue this illegal activity, you will be brought to justice—is that understood?”

Now Dr Li is dead, one of the youngest victims of the coronavirus. An estimated 500 healthcare workers have been infected. But according to the media, others soldier on. Their dedication and even heroism needs to be celebrated.   




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Coping with coronavirus


There is a lot that scientists still do not know about the coronavirus. What is the incubation period? Are people contagious before they become symptomatic? What is the fatality rate? What are the transmission routes? Where did it originate? Do masks really work? 

With all these questions up in the air, transparency is important, especially since the virus is spreading so rapidly. But in the face of the emergency, the Chinese government reverted to form and prevaricated. The bodies of some victims may even have been cremated to keep the tally of fatalities down. The crisis is rapdily becoming a test of the real strength and resilience of  President Xi's authoritarian style. 




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More about Belgium’s euthanasia trial


Belgium's historic trial of three doctors for illegally killing a mentally ill woman in 2010 gives a glimpse of what's going on backstage in its euthanasia system. Whether or not they are convicted -- and on past form, this is unlikely -- I don't think that anyone will be able to claim that it works with clockwork efficiency and compassion. It's a sad and shabby business.




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Euthanasia on trial


The year has just begun and already we are being faced with some thorny bioethical issues, as we report in the links below:

  • Will countries which have legalised euthanasia ever convict doctors who break the law? Three doctors will go on trial in Belgium this week. The verdict will be interesting. 
  • A small hospice in British Columbia is being forced to permit euthanasia. We pay the piper, you play our tune, is the government's response. 
  • IVF researchers have paid Mexican women to donate eggs (dangerous) and to have some abortions (more dangerous). Is this an example of out-sourcing ethics and exploiting people who are poor, desperate and female?
  • Gestating babies in artificial wombs could help to smash the patriarchy. Are we ready for the challenge of ectogenesis? 

There's more... Send us your feedback. We'd love to hear from you. 




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Hungary’s desperate bid to increase its population


Hi there! We're back on track after a long gap. 2020 promises to be a big year in bioethics, with more developments in CRISPR, the Tokyo Olympics and drug testing and transgender athletes, desperate attempts by some governments to boost population, euthanasia, and many other topics, Some are represented in today's newsletter. If you have suggestions for our coverage, please contact us. 




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Extended break


Hi there, 

Sorry for the late notice, but the editor of BioEdge is taking a month-long holiday before the Christmas season. 

BioEdge will return in early January. 

All the best for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 




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Dead man walking?


It sounds like the premise for a Stephen King novel, but it’s real life. Benjamin Schreiber, a 66-year-old man, is serving a life sentence for murder in an Iowa prison. Back in 1996, he bludgeoned a man to death with an axe handle. In 2015 he suddenly became seriously ill, so ill that he lapsed into a coma and “died”.

But he recovered. Disappointed that he was still alive, he appealed to have his life sentence voided as it had already “expired”.

It’s an intriguing argument. Can you live two lives? Are you the same person after being resuscitated? Or are you literally a dead man walking?

Unfortunately for Schreiber, the court took a dim view of his request.

“We do not find his argument persuasive,” wrote a judge this week. She concluded: “Schreiber is either still alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is actually dead, in which case this appeal is moot.”

This ruling will allow the citizens of Iowa to sleep easier at night, but philosophically isn’t a bit naive in the way it addresses the problem of identity? Isn’t it possible that Mr (1996) Schreiber is dead and that Mr (2019) Schreiber is a different person? If S(2019) identifies as a dead person, shouldn’t we accept his carefully considered opinion?




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About meaning and purpose


With IVF firmly established legally and socially, the status of children has become a bit murky. Initially IVF was a remedy for medical infertility for married couples. Then it became a solution for "social infertility" for solo mothers and gay couples. A recent decision by an English Court extends the logic of IVF a bit further. A judge has ruled that a brain-damaged and severely handicapped woman should be allowed to have child to give meaning and purpose to her life. (See article below.)

 Where are the rights of the child in this development? To have no father, to be raised by grandparents who may die early, leaving a youngster in charge of a handicapped mother... It seems to violate a fundamental tenet of liberal democracy -- that people exist for their own sake, not as means to an end. 




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Fight over ‘transgender’ 7-year-old raises complex issues


If you live in Texas and you're itching to write a book about something, but you're not sure what, consider our lead story today.

We're all used to the tragedy of child custory cases after divorce, but this is completely novel. Jeff Younger and Anne Georgulas, now divorced, have twin 7-year-old sons. One of them, claims Dr Georgulas (she is a paediatrician), James, is transgender and needs to start on puberty blockers soon lest he begin life as a young man. Younger is horrified. He insists that James was, is and always will be a male. 

At first a jury agreed with Dr Georgulas, but an appeal has changed this. The battle, I predict, is far from over. No doubt we will see more and more cases like this.




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Direct to consumer test for gay attraction slammed


Hi there,

Sorry to be so late in posting out this issue of BioEdge. We hit a few speed bumps along the way....

Cheers




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Disabilities and assisted suicide


Speeches by supporters of assisted suicide always include a big shout-out for people with disabilities. Hey, guys, you’re top on our list of favs; we’re just working out the delicate balance against individual rights. Just hang in there; we love youse all. Which, translated, means that the fears of people with disabilities will be overlooked.

Unsurprisingly, a major authoritative report by the US National Council on Disabilities, a federal agency, on disability and assisted suicide has been almost totally ignored by the media. Assisted Suicide Laws and Their Danger to People with Disabilities is a scathing analysis of arguments in favour of assisted suicide. As the report – which was released on Wednesday -- points out: “Many national disability rights organizations oppose the legalization of assisted suicide. All national groups that have taken a position are opposed.”

Isn’t anyone listening? (See the article below.)




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No BioEdge this week


There will be no BioEdge this week. Monday is Labour Day and in the great tradition of celebrating the working man, we will not be working. 

See you next week




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Canada’s euthanasia regime under fire


I thought that Canadians were not eligible for euthanasia unless they were suffering from a terminal illness. So did the relatives of 61-year-old Alan Nichols, of British Columbia, who was suffering from depression. But he asked for euthanasia and his request was approved. His relatives had no input in the decision. It seems to be a landmark case in the steady downward slide of Canada's new euthanasia laws. Read about it below. 




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Collectables


I had a friend once whose dad collected clapped-out old refrigerators. As hobbies go, it was pretty harmless, although disposing of 34 useless refrigerators was a bit of a drag after he died. But I wonder what use Indiana abortionist Ulrich Klopfer had for 2,246 foetuses. As we report below, the late Dr Klopfer stored them away, keeping them secret even from his family.

To me this horrific discovery is front-page news, but the media has, for the most part, ignored it. To its credit, the New York Times ran a story -- even if it was on page 22. Perhaps that says something about what Americans think of abortion doctors. Ho hum, that’s just the kind of stuff that these guys get up to in their spare time… get over it.




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More on conscientious objection


Conscientious objection to procedures like abortion and euthanasia often features in BioEdge. There is a growing consensus that CO has no place in modern medicine. It’s often argued nowadays that a doctor’s duty is to carry out the wishes of patients, regardless of whether they agree with them or not.

I stumbled across an interesting hypothetical on the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics which makes me question this consensus. In it, three bioethicists analyse a situation involving a difficult patient with deep Christian convictions. He is refusing post-operative pain medication because he believes that he needs to suffer in order to atone for his life as an alcoholic. What should the physician do?

The bioethicists conclude that he should neither acquiesce nor refer the patient to another doctor who will acquiesce. Instead, the physician should “refuse to offer this course of action, regardless of the religious rationale for such a request”.

They go on to assert that “Indeed, as part of their professional commitment to the patient’s health, physicians have some obligation to respectfully challenge patients' refusals of medical care that the physician believes is needed. A sincere discussion—even a respectful debate—in no way denigrates [his] religious beliefs.”

Indeed, this makes good sense. But, viewed from another angle, the bioethicists are advising the physician to conscientiously object to a course of action determined by a lucid patient after serious consideration. They even counsel him to argue (respectfully) with the patient to convince him that he is wrong.

If this is so obviously the case, why is it wrong for a doctor to refuse to perform an abortion? I’m having trouble reconciling the ethical reasoning of the two situations. Can anyone help? 




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Septuagenarian mothers


Below is an article about a 73-year-old Indian woman who has just given birth to twin boys. This is a story which used to fly onto the front page, but is now a bit ho-hum. To stir media interest, we need to break through the next barrier. “Centenarian gives birth to twins, say Indian doctors” – now that would be newsworthy, I think. At least the first centenarian would.

The ho-hum factor may account for the fact that few questions were raised about obvious ethical issues involved in septuagenarians giving birth.

First of all, it is obviously reinforcing a sexist stereotype – that a woman is useless unless she has children. Furthermore, despite reassuring words from the doctors, it is a serious risk to the mother’s health.

Second, the children of a 73-year-old mother will soon be orphans. In fact, their father had a stroke on the day after they were born. No one seems to be thinking about their welfare and their future. They are just status symbols for their parents and the doctors.

Why did the doctors cooperate? For the money? For the fame? It strikes me as completely unethical.




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The latest news about the ‘gay gene’


Nearly every week, it seems, you read about the discovery of a new gene explaining inexplicable behaviour -- internet addiction, obesity, voting conservative, voting liberal, infidelity, divorce, chocaholism, alcoholism, whatever.

I recall that a few years ago a New York judge even handed down a harsher-than-usual sentence because a defendant had a gene for viewing child pornography. The fact that the gene had not been discovered did not deter him. Someday it would be.

In short, the notion of genetic determinism seems to have a full nelson on the American imagination. So it comes as no surprise that homosexuality is believed, from North to South, and East to West, to be genetically determined. The most influential voice on this score is probably Lady Gaga, whose mega-hit “Born This Way” has been viewed about 300 million times on YouTube.

Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s looking like Lady Gaga was wrong. Researchers at MIT and Harvard’s Broad Institute have found that “it is impossible to meaningfully predict an individual’s same-sex sexual behavior from genetics”. If this study holds up, it is bound to shift the goal posts in the debate over homosexuality. Read about it below and post your comments.




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‘Reproductive freedom’ at risk


Sorry, guys, late again. There's a good variety of topics below -- we'd love to get your comments. 




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Transgender inquiry in Australia


Sorry, guys. We're running a bit late with this week's newsletter. I'd love to get your comments on our two lead stories on transgender treatment ethics and on the fertility industry. 




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India could ban commercial surrogacy


Probably no country knows more about the dangers of commercial surrogacy than India. And at the moment, it looks as though it could be banned completely. A bill upending India's surrogacy industry has passed the lower house. What happens next is anyone's guess. Similar bills have died of exhaustion before reaching a vote in the upper house. But at least it shows that it is not necessarily a good way to give needy women extra pocket money. 




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Exporting ethics


The ever-volatile issue of stem cell research is back on the boil. Earlier this week a Japanese researcher announced that he would be creating human-mouse chimeras -- and bringing them to term. This is controversial stuff, but at least the researcher waited until he had obtained a thumbs-up from Japanese authorities. 

Not to be outdone, a Spanish researcher announced soon afterwards this week that she and her colleagues in Spain and the United States are going to create human-monkey chimeras.

Monkeys? Isn't this even more controversial? Yes, of course it is, she told the media. But it's OK: we're doing it in China where ethical standards are lower. 

How do you classify that sort of attitude toward ethics? Arrogant? Undemocratic? Secretive? Publicity-hungry? Immoral? Take your pick. 




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Modern eugenics


What's in a name? Does it make a difference if (by way of example) the widespread abortion of unborn children with Down syndrome is called "eugenics"? A number of bioethicists deny that it is, even though the rates of termination reach 90% if a diagnosis is made before birth. From their point of view, "eugenics" is a word reserved for Nazi atrocities. The destruction of children with Down syndrome is not being carried out by Nazis, ergo, it is not eugenics. 

A number of bioethicists writing from a disability perspective disagree. We have presented some of their arguments in a special issue of the Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities. They have a refreshingly different opinion on this contentious topic. 




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Cutting the Gordian knot


Surrogacy is where bioethics, President Trump’s war on “illegals”, US-China hostility, California weirdness, IVF profitability, and constitutional law all meet. Here’s the drill.

Unlike many other states and countries, California permits surrogacy. So it has become a Mecca for gay couples, couples who want gender-balanced families, and couples from jurisdictions where surrogacy is illegal. Since surrogacy is illegal in China, many Chinese couples are California-dreaming, as well. Using an American surrogate has the added attraction for them of giving birth to a baby who automatically becomes a citizen under the 14th Amendment. This also makes it easier for its parents to stay in the US.

Mr Trump has said that he wants to end birthright citizenship. "We're the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States...with all of those benefits,” he said last year. “It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. And it has to end."

The President has almost no chance of bypassing the 14th Amendment with an executive order, as he has threatened, and still less of repealing it. But why not ban commercial surrogacy? That will close a very big loophole in the law.




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Solidarity with Vincent Lambert


Michel Houellebecq and Pope Francis are two names seldom found in the same sentence. Yet they are united in decrying the death of Vincent Lambert, the disabled French nurse who died this week after having his food and water removed.

Being the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis’s views are, and are supposed to be, predictable. But Houellebecq, France’s most acclaimed and controversial novelist, is hardly a spokesman for traditional values. His novels are grotesque, nihilistic, pornographic, vulgar, cynical, and misogynistic. But, with the unsparing honesty of a true artist, he sees exactly what was going on:

"Vincent Lambert was in no way prey to unbearable suffering, he was not suffering any pain at all (...) He was not even at the end of life. He lived in a particular mental state, the most honest of which would be to say that we know almost nothing …

As he points out, it is ironic that France’s minister for health is called the “Minister of Health and Solidarity”. Solidarity with whom?




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L’Affaire Vincent Lambert


L’Affaire Vincent Lambert, as the French call it, seems to be just about over. Doctors are going to remove hydration and nutrition from the 42-year-old nurse, who was severely brain-damaged in an accident in 2008. The appeal process initiated by his parents to keep him alive has ground to a halt now that France’s highest court has ruled on the case. It will be interesting to see whether more of the 1700 patients in his situation in France will also be given what is called in France “passive euthanasia“.




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Pointed questions


It seems that President Trump and President Xi Jinping are best buddies again after mending fences at the G-20 summit in Osaka. They both want to defuse the tit-for-tat trade war which threatens the economic stability of the world economy. "We're right back on track and we'll see what happens," says Mr Trump, although that is not exactly the language of iron-clad guarantees.

The link to bioethics?

Well, it is a bit tenuous, but I’m disappointed that Trump did not bring up China’s egregious human rights abuses. If “egregious” seems offensive, how about flagitious or abhorrent? We’re talking about putting a million Uyghurs in concentration camps because they are Muslims. Some members of the United Nations have fewer than a million people.

And it appears that some of them, along with the persecuted Falun Gong sect, are being quarried for their organs. An article appeared in Nature this week reporting the results of a private investigation. It concluded that “forced organ harvesting is of unmatched wickedness even compared – on a death for death basis - with the killings by mass crimes committed in the last century.”

Is the evidence incontrovertible? No, probably not. But that’s why Trump should have asked some pointed questions.




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Underneath the mask


This week Governor Andrew Cuomo threw in his cards, beaten in his attempt to pass a law legalising commercial surrogacy in New York. He was furious. “I say, how about a woman’s right to choose, which we just argued for Roe v. Wade?” Cuomo said in exasperation. (See article below.

The thing is, Governor, the women did choose. They chose to oppose a bill which would exploit them. And it wasn't just the religious types. Deborah Glick, the first openly gay person to sit in the state assembly, said that Cuomo was not being respectful. “I certainly do not think that there is sufficient protection for the women who do not appear to be considered as people in the arrangement, but rather as the donor and as the surrogate.” 

She is not alone. The president of the National Organization for Women said: "Commercial surrogacy does not depend on the willing choice of friends or family to help loved ones, instead it relies on the commodification of women’s bodies. History has shown us that the buying, selling and renting of their bodies does great harm to women."

It appears that Cuomo has failed to deliver on a promise to gay men to legalise commercial surrogacy so that they can rent the wombs of needy women. When push comes to shove, a new, rainbow-coloured patriarchy is just as ready to exploit women, feminists included, as the old patriarchy. 




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Russian biologist to create gene-edited human embryos


LATE FLASH -- sorry to all of our readers. We have finally discovered and destroyed the bug in our software. Thanks for your patience. 




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Outrage over Russian plans to edit human genome


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Vale Noa Pothoven


The news of a 17-year-old Dutch girl suffering from anorexia nervosa who died of 'euthanasia" flew around the world this week. It was an error. The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) clarified what happened: "She decided to stop eating and drinking to bring her own death. In The Netherlands, this is not considered euthanasia or physician assisted suicide." The media issued corrections and moved on. 

I'm curious to know more about this sad story. In her autobiography, Noa said that she had been raped and that this had provoked a psychological crisis. Sadly, this could easily have been true. No one queried the truth of her story, possibly because sexual abuse is known to trigger anorexia. But without that back story, would the world have been so sympathetic to her decision to starve herself to death?

The KNMG says that stopping eating and drinking under medical supervision is not physician-assisted suicide. Really? She committed suicide and she was assisted by physicians. As Humpty Dumpty said, "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." If Noa's death wasn't physician assisted suicide, then I'm a Dutchman.

Isn't the real news here something altogether different? Dutch doctors who were unable or unwilling to treat a 17-year-old rape victim for anorexia nervosa gave up on her and allowed her to kill herself. In her time of greatest need, they abandoned their patient.  




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Black genocide


An interesting group within the American pro-life movement is African-Americans who oppose abortion. The Rev Clenard Childress Jr, for instance, is a New Jersey pastor who runs a website called Black Genocide. Groups like his highlight the fact that African-American women account for a third of abortions in the US. 

This might have been remained a factoid about the US abortion wars, but it was unexpectedly placed on centre stage this week with the Supreme Court's decision in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. Justice Clarence Thomas, the only African-American on the bench, was seething with anger when he reflected on the fate of black babies (see our story below): 

abortion in the United States is also marked by a considerable racial disparity. The reported nationwide abortion ratio— the number of abortions per 1,000 live births—among black women is nearly 3.5 times the ratio for white women. And there are areas of New York City in which black children are more likely to be aborted than they are to be born alive—and are up to eight times more likely to be aborted than white children in the same area.

Journalists who bothered to report his remarks shook their heads and described him as loopy. He's not. That abortion has a disproportionate impact on the poor and disenfranchised is a blot on American society. For a touching comment on this, check out this rap song from a group called Flipsyde, Happy Birthday. 




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