Italy passes controversial end-of-life bill

After 30 years and 3000 attempts to propose amendments, an end-of-life bill was passed by the Italian Parliament this week which allows patients to end their lives by refusing to and drink. It also allows patients to express binding end-of-life care wishes through a text or a video.

The new legislation does not permit assisted suicide or euthanasia. However, it is clearly a momentous step in that direction. "Of course, we are still missing the legalization of euthanasia that we'll propose to the next parliament," said Marco Cappato, a spokesman for the right-to-die movement. The law was passed by a… click here to read whole article and make comments

A transplant surgeon’s autograph book

A renowned British transplant surgeon has pleaded guilty to assault after he was reported for having branded the livers of two patients with his initials.

Simon Bramhall, 53, used argon gas to label the livers “SB”. The patients were under sedation and apparently they sustained no lasting harm, as the marks disappear by themselves. 

However, Joyce Robins, of Patient Concern, observed: “This is a patient we are talking about, not an autograph book.”

Mr Bramhall was suspended from his post as a consultant surgeon at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital after a colleague spotted the initials in routine follow-up surgery.

click here to read whole article and make comments

Utility or happiness? A case study from Detroit

Here’s an interesting case which illustrated the difference between health care in the US and UK. Detroit resident Vincent Thomas, 58, was battling multiple myeloma, and only had a few months left to live.

And worst of all, he was nearly blind because both of his eyes were screened by cataracts. He asked his doctors if they would authorise an operation to remove the cataracts. He was stopping his cancer medication and going into hospice care anyway, but he wanted desperately to see his family before he died.

There was an uproar at the clinical meeting at Michigan Medical. click here to read whole article and make comments

Adverse IVF incidents rise in UK: report

The UK’s fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, has issued a cheery picture of the British IVF industry in its first-ever “state of the sector” report. Its proudest achievement was to reduce the multiple birth rate to 11% -- a “fantastic achievement”, in the words of the HFEA press release

The report covered the performance of fertility clinics and research laboratories in the financial year 2016-17 across a range of criteria. It is the first such report since the HFEA was formed 27 years ago.

Prof Adam Balen, Chairman of the British Fertility Society, told The… click here to read whole article and make comments

Is infertility a disease?

In a very interesting brief discussion in BioNews, Hane Maung, of Lancaster University, asks whether government funding for fertility treatment should be framed as fighting disease.

Describing infertility as a disease has some strong supporters. The World Health Organization considers infertility to be “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse”. The influential 1984 Warnock Report states that “an inability to have children is a malfunction and should be considered in exactly the same way as any other”.

However, this… click here to read whole article and make comments

‘My shock at discovering I was a donor child’

Two readers got in touch with the BBC after it broadcast a story on the positive side of egg donation.

One, 21-year-old Elizabeth, from the US, said that she learned as an 11-year-old that she was the child of her father’s sperm and an egg donor. The knowledge actually brought her closer to her parents, she says, and she wants to be an egg donor herself. “If I could help at all to de-stigmatise the idea, I would feel very proud,” she wrote.

However, the other story, from 35-year-old John, from the UK, was very different:

As… click here to read whole article and make comments

Bioethics on Capitol Hill: a $5 million surrogacy?

One of the quirkier stories bobbing in the flood of “inappropriate behaviour” in media HQs, Hollywood and Washington comes from the House of Representatives this week. A strongly pro-life Congressman from Arizona, 60-year-old Trent Franks, has resigned after being accused of pressuring a staff member to act as a surrogate mother for him and his wife. It is one of three resignations this week for “inappropriate behaviour” from Congress.

According to an AP exclusive, the woman claims that he offered her US$5 million – an amazing figure when the going rate is only about $100,000. She says that… click here to read whole article and make comments

Hormonal contraception boosts risk for breast cancer in Danish study

Women who use hormonal contraception face a small but significant increase in risk for breast cancer, according to a large Danish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.

Using data from about 1.8 million women over a decade, researchers found that for every 100,000 women, hormone contraceptive use causes an additional 13 breast cancer cases a year. That is, for every 100,000 women using hormonal birth control, there are 68 cases of breast cancer annually, compared with 55 cases a year among nonusers.

In other words, the risk of breast cancer was 20% higher among… click here to read whole article and make comments

Euthanasia is only for doctors, say Dutch prosecutors

Albert Heringa at his trial in 2015 

A 75-year-old Dutch man who helped his 99-year-old mother to die after her euthanasia request had been refused by doctors should be given a three-month suspended jail sentence, says a public prosecutor.

The case has been in the courts and the media for years. The woman died in 2008. Her son Albert Heringa was found guilty in 2013 but he was not punished. On appeal in 2015 the Dutch Supreme Court called for a retrial.

The public prosecutor declared in court that “Assisted suicide can only be carried out… click here to read whole article and make comments

Ethical standards urgently needed for neurotechnology, say researchers and ethicists

A group of researchers and ethicists delivered a warning in Nature in November about the dangers of neurotechnology and AI (sorry, guys, we missed this earlier). The Morningside group, headed by Columbia University neuroscientist Rafael Yuste, claims that existing ethical standards have been outpaced by galloping technology:

we are on a path to a world in which it will be possible to decode people's mental processes and directly manipulate the brain mechanisms underlying their intentions, emotions and decisions; where individuals could communicate with others simply by thinking; and where powerful computational systems linked directly to people's brains… click here to read whole article and make comments

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