Destination Laos: the ever-changing surrogacy business changes again

The dreary design of the website and Facebook page of Find Surrogate Mother (aka surrogacy inc) makes depressing reading. The business describes itself as “a full service Surrogacy Agency in Manila, Philippines, helping to match Surrogate Mothers, Intended Parents, Egg Donors, Sperm Donors [which] provide[s] services for Heterosexual Couple, Gay Couple, Lesbian Couple, Single Woman, Single Man.”  

For desperately poor Filipino women, it must seem like a golden opportunity.

Unfortunately for them, the Filipino government is cracking down on what it describes as a "human trafficking syndicate". It detained four women on New Year’s Day as they were about to leave Manila for Phnom Penh, there to be impregnated with the sperm of men from Australia, Germany, China and Nigeria. They were to be paid US$10,000.

Philippine Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the police had uncovered "a new modus operandi of a human trafficking… click here to read whole article and make comments

“Anti-psychiatry” gets official recognition at U of Toronto

An institute at the University of Toronto has established the world’s first scholarship for anti-psychiatry. Bonnie Burstow, an anti-psychiatry activist, has endowed a matching scholarship for a research student at the UT’s  Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

According to a University press release, “The scholarship is being materialized at an opportune time. Key academics have demonstrated the enormous harm done by psychiatry … we have arrived at a moment where imminent action is called for, for we are now facing ‘an epidemic of iatrogenic [doctor-created] illness’.”

The initiative has come under fire in the Canadian press. National Post columnist Barbara Kay was savage in her criticism:

Real scholarship is “for” truth. The whole idea of any scholarly field being called “anti” anything is bizarre, and runs counter to the raison d’être of the university. The prefix “anti” tells us that Burstow’s program is merely organized political activism with… click here to read whole article and make comments

Spain, organ donation champion of the world

Spain is leading the world in deceased organ donation. An article in the American Journal of Transplantation explains how this happened.

In 1989, the Spanish Ministry of Health created the Organización Nacional de Trasplantes (ONT), a technical agency in charge of the coordination and oversight of donation and transplantation activities in Spain. It created a model of coordination in deceased donation that made the country evolve from 15 donors per million population to more than 30 per million in less than a decade.

The Spanish model relies on designated professionals (mostly intensive care doctors) who make donations happen when a potential donor dies. These professionals are supported in their work by ONT and regional coordination offices.

The Spanish model also makes it a priority to identify donation opportunities not only in intensive care units, but also in emergency departments and hospital wards. In addition, it considers organ donation… click here to read whole article and make comments

Ohio makes assisted suicide a felony

The Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio  

While several states in the US have passed legislation allowing assisted suicide, Ohio ended 2016 by passing an act making it a felony. Until now, courts could only issue injunctions against people who assisted others in killing themselves. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers of the State Legislature.

Helping someone die is now a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The measure passed along with a raft of other amendments to the criminal code, including making cockfighting a felony, reducing abortion limits from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, and permitting employees to keep guns in their cars while parked on company property. 

click here to read whole article and make comments

Finland set to debate euthanasia

A citizen's initiative to raise the issue of euthanasia in the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta) has passed the requisite 50,000 signatories required to trigger a parliamentary debate.

As in many countries, Finland has been dicing with euthanasia for some years now. The pro-euthanasia lobby, Exitus has been active since the early 1990s. As in many countries, the notional public support for euthanasia is above the two-thirds mark. Support amongst the nations doctors has also been steadily increasing in recent years with support and oppose numbers in the medical profession both at 46% in 2014.

As with all Finnish Citizen's Initiatives, the 'Euthanasia initiative on behalf of a good death' includes a prescription of the form of the Bill to be debated. The presented model is for euthanasia for people experiencing an 'incurable fatal disease, and death takes place in the near future'. The registered signatories now exceed 62000… click here to read whole article and make comments

American Psychiatric Association takes historic stand on assisted suicide and euthanasia

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has taken a strong stand against euthanasia. In a formal position statement approved by its board of trustees this month, it says:

The American Psychiatric Association, in concert with the American Medical Association’s position on Medical Euthanasia, holds that a psychiatrist should not prescribe or administer any intervention to a non-terminally ill person for the purpose of causing death.

This implies that it is not ethical for a psychiatrist to help a non-terminally ill person to commit suicide, either by providing the means or by direct lethal injection, as is being currently practiced in The Netherlands and Belgium.  

Although this binds only APA members, the APA is one of the world’s most influential professional bodies. The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) is considering a similar statement.

Dr Mark S. Komrad, of the APA ethics committee, says that the APA… click here to read whole article and make comments

All boxes ticked, UK rolls out 3-parent embryo treatment

Government regulators in the UK have given a green light to the creation of three-parent embryos to combat mitochondrial disease.

A regulatory framework has been in place since October 2015, but clinics had been advised to wait until after the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority had considered the opinion of an expert panel.

The HFEA Chair, Sally Cheshire, praised the cautious approach taken by the government.  

“Although it is tempting to rush ahead with new treatments, the UK approach of testing public opinion, putting the issue to parliament and carefully monitoring laboratory research has proved to be the most responsible and sustainable of introducing new, cutting edge treatments into the clinic. Such an approach has allowed us to balance innovation with safety, maintaining public trust as we go.”

Clinics must apply for permission to offer mitochondrial donation to patients. The HFEA will first… click here to read whole article and make comments

Mexican IVF clinic to use three-parent embryo technique

Alejandro Chavez-Badiola: director of New Hope Fertility Center Mexico   

The three-parent baby technique for creating children without birth defects may be unproven and controversial but it is not stopping an IVF clinic in Mexico from announcing plans to create at least 20 babies for clients in 2017.

New Scientist reports that New Hope Fertility, a New York clinic with a subsidiary in Guadalajara, will perform the controversial procedure, called mitochondrial replacement,  for 20 clients in the first half the new year. None of the 20 expected clients are likely to be Mexican.

The technique was legalized two years ago in the UK, but the country’s fertility regulator only opened up applications this week.

Mitochondrial replacement, which aims to avoid mutations in the mitochondria which are passed from a mother to her children, can be done in different ways. It. At New Hope… click here to read whole article and make comments

Italian doctor describes his handiwork as mercy, not murder

Leonardo Cazzaniga escorted by carabinieri   

LATE FLASH! Here’s an update on the romantically involved doctor and nurse accused of killing at least five patients and possibly dozens more between 2011 and 2014 in a hospital near Milan. Last week BioEdge reported that “The police are not treating the deaths as euthanasia, or mercy killing, but as homicides.”

We spoke too soon. While this may be the position of the police, it appears that Leonardo Cazzaniga, the doctor who has been arrested, is spinning a different story.

"Everything I did I did to alleviate the suffering of patients. It is not true that I wanted to kill them,” he told the magistrate. However, the Italian media has reported that he often said “I am like God; I am the Angel of Death,” which tends to undermine this line of defence. 

click here to read whole article and make comments

Zika virus: dangerous but still puzzling

Nearly half of women infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus experience some complications with their pregnancy, according to a preliminary study from Brazil. In an article in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, researchers describe the results of a study of 125 women who displayed symptoms of a Zika virus infection at some stage in their pregnancy. The study is small, but it is the first involving women who clearly had the virus.

The results were alarming: 55% of pregnancies had adverse outcomes after maternal infection in the first trimester, 52% after infection in the second trimester, and 29% after infection in the third trimester. The adverse outcomes include miscarriage, calcifications in a baby’s brain, babies who are smaller than normal, and brain hemorrhages. There were four cases of microcephaly among the 125 infected women, or 3.4%.

Overall, 46% of the pregnancies were problematic… click here to read whole article and make comments

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