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

How long should women’s eggs remain frozen for social purposes?

The British Fertility Society has recommended that the time limit on freezing eggs for social reasons be changed from 10 years to 55 years, thus potentially allowing women to have children when they are in their 80s.

Freezing eggs for medical purposes is already permitted for 55 years. This allows girls made infertile by cancer treatments as toddlers, for instance, to possibly have children as adults. Backers of a higher limit for women who freeze their eggs for social reasons, like wanting to delay childbirth until they find a suitable partner or complete a satisfying professional career, say that… click here to read whole article and make comments

After 70 years, lessons from the Nuremberg Code

Karl Brandt, Hitler's personal doctor, on trial at Nuremberg 

On August 20, 1947, an international tribunal which investigated the crimes of 23 Nazi doctors and bureaucrats involved in concentration camp medical experiments issued its verdict. As part of its judgment (seven of the men were sentenced to death) the tribunal also set a 10-point set of rules now known as the Nuremberg Code.

This called for the “voluntary consent” of the human research subject, an assessment of risks and benefits, and assurances of competent investigators. As an essay in JAMA by experts from the US and… click here to read whole article and make comments

Help us turbocharge bioethics debates

Dear BioEdge reader, 

First of all, thank you for being one of those more than 20,000 people who read our articles every month. When we started BioEdge more than 15 years ago, we never thought that it would have such a huge impact around the world.

Like everyone else, we do have a bias. We are trying to promote human dignity as a foundation for bioethics. With issues like euthanasia, surrogacy, gene editing, and organ markets in the headlines, we cannot afford to forget the ethical dimension of medical decisions. 

The mainstream media don't have enough time or patience… click here to read whole article and make comments

If you get a ‘do not resuscitate’ tattoo, will doctors pay attention?

Doctors at a Florida hospital’s emergency department were startled to discover the words “do not resuscitate”, together with a signature, tattooed to an unconscious man’s chest. Should they respect the request or not?

The 70-year-old man had no identification and no next-of-kin could be found. His blood alcohol was high. His health was very bad, with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and an irregular heart rate.

The doctors decided to keep him alive, invoking the principle of not choosing an irreversible path when faced with uncertainty. In a case report in the New England Journal of… click here to read whole article and make comments

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