US Congress ponders assisted suicide

A resolution condemning assisted suicide has been introduced into the US House of Representatives. Both sides of the debate treated it as a milestone, but it does not have the force of law and merely expresses the “sense of Congress”.

The resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 80, reads:

 ... assisted suicide (sometimes referred to as death with dignity, end-of-life options, aid-in-dying, or similar phrases) puts everyone, including those most vulnerable, at risk of deadly harm and undermines the integrity of the health care system.

The resolution goes on to support this contention by referring to the… click here to read whole article and make comments

40 years after, Scottish mother still mourns the son a hospital stole from her

Forty years later, a Scottish mother is still mourning her son who died at 7 days. The death of Lydia Reid’s son Gary in 1975 was surrounded by mystery. He was sickly at birth and died in intensive care. She never had a chance to hold him and she specifically refused a request for an autopsy.

When he was buried, the undertakers initially refused to allow her to see him in his coffin. When they relented, she said that it was not her baby. She carried the coffin to the burial and thought that it was too light. But the… click here to read whole article and make comments

Costa Rica becoming hub for global organ trafficking

A doctor being arrested in 2013 / The Costa Rica Star 

A trial of four doctors and their accomplices in Costa Rica, one of the main countries for international medical tourism, is opening up a window on global organ trafficking.

The cost of a kidney transplant by one of the doctors appears to have been about US$140,000. This had to be split between the doctors, the hospitals, the donors and the brokers.

The business came unstuck in 2012 when Ukrainian police found a Costa Rican phone number among the contacts of two Ukrainian brokers whom they… click here to read whole article and make comments

Coma victims, PVS patients, and waking the dead

A 35-year-old man who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years after a car accident has shown signs of consciousness after neurosurgeons implanted a nerve stimulator into his chest.

The findings, reported this week in the journal Current Biology, suggest that “vagus nerve stimulation” (VNS)—a treatment already in use for epilepsy and depression—can help to restore consciousness even after many years in a vegetative state.

The researchers, based in France, provided the unidentified patient with one month of vagal nerve stimulation. According to their study, the patient's attention, movements and brain activity significantly improved following ongoing stimulation.… click here to read whole article and make comments

Organ donation and recipient information

How can we solve the shortage of organ donors?

Clearly there’s no easy answer. But two bioethicists have a very practical suggestion: why not provide more detailed information to potential donors about those who need an organ transplant?

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, David Shaw (University of Basel) and Dale Gardiner (Nottingham University NHS Trust) argue that providing real-life stories of the benefits of organ donation could greatly increase the likelihood of donation; the researchers propose that a detailed leaflet be given to patients and families who are making decisions about organ donation. This would help to… click here to read whole article and make comments

Ireland to vote on abortion in 2018

Ireland will vote in 2018 on whether to keep its controversial constitutional abortion restrictions, which currently prohibit pregnancy terminations unless there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced the 2018 referendum on Tuesday, saying that the issue requires “well-informed public debate” and “careful consideration by the people”.

While polls suggest that Irish voters are in favour of allowing abortion in cases of rape, there is a strong opposition to allowing abortion on demand. According to a 2015 Irish Times Poll, “where the public drew the line was… click here to read whole article and make comments

Major US doctors group opposes physician-assisted suicide

The American College of Physicians, the second-largest physician group in the United States with 152,000 members, has declared that physician-assisted suicide is unethical.

The ACP takes a forthright stand with supporting appendicies covering most of the arguments for and against physician-assisted suicide (PAS). Its conclusion is:

The ACP does not support the legalization of physician-assisted suicide, the practice of which raises ethical, clinical, and other concerns. The ACP and its members, including those who might lawfully participate in the practice, should ensure that all patients can rely on high-quality care through to the end of life,… click here to read whole article and make comments

Bioethicists: get rich quick!

Bioethics is a career in which financial rewards do not figure prominently. However, if you have made significant contributions to the fieild, here’s your chance to win US$1 million. One of the three 2018 Dan David Prizes will be awarded to “an outstanding individual or organization in any field of the humanities or social sciences who have transformed our understanding of the moral and ethical significance of biological and medical innovations in our times.”

The Dan David Prize is an unusual, but lucrative, prize headquartered at Tel Aviv University which promotes “innovative and interdisciplinary research that cuts across traditional… click here to read whole article and make comments

British childbirth doctors back decriminalised abortion

The professional body representing British obstetricians and gynaecologists has chosen to support the decriminalisation of abortion. The ruling council of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) voted to change the College’s position from neutrality to support.

While abortion-on-demand is effectively legal in Britain, sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 still remain on the books. Occasionally doctors are hauled before courts if they have not observed all the regulations.

Supporters of the change argue that it is more symbolic than practical, as all of the regulations would remain in place, such as… click here to read whole article and make comments

Is a defence of female genital cutting possible?

Female genital mutilation (or circumcision, or cutting) is reviled as one of the most egregious violations of human rights. But hundreds of millions of women have undergone some of form of FGC and there is fierce resistance to eliminating the traditional practice. Is it possible to reconcile it with human rights?

Writing in the journal Developing World Bioethics, a German bioethicist teaching in Lithuania, John-Steward Gordon, of Vytauto Didziojo University, believes that a compromise is possible. He contends that “one form of FGC, the removal of the clitoris foreskin, can be made compatible with the high demands… click here to read whole article and make comments

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