A world of Methuselahs?

Life extension—slowing or halting human aging—is now being taken seriously by many scientists. Although no techniques to slow human aging yet exist, researchers have successfully slowed aging in yeast, mice, and fruit flies, and have determined that humans share aging-related genes with these species.

In his recently published book New Methuselahs, John Davis, of California State University, Fullerton,  offers a utilitarian defence of possible objections to widespread life extension. Despite its enthusiastic reception amongst transhumanists, a number of people object to it. In an article in The Conversation, Davis responds to a few of these.  

Is living… MORE

The difficult bit is surviving to 100. After that, it’s cruising

Jeanne Calment, of France, who died at 122 

Want to be a supercentenarian? The chances of reaching the ripe old age of 110 are within reach -- if you survive the perilous 90s and make it to 105 when death rates level out, according to a study of extremely old Italians published in Science.

Researchers tracked the death trajectories of nearly 4,000 residents of Italy who were aged 105 and older between 2009 and 2015. They found that the chances of survival for these longevity warriors plateaued once they made it past 105.

The findings challenge… MORE

Brown researcher under fire for questioning transgender narrative

Last week BioEdge reported that PLOS One had published the first serious study of a new condition which Lisa Littman, a researcher at Brown University, called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD). She suspected that teenagers who had suddenly announced that they were transgender were influenced by social media and friendship networks – raising the possibility that they were not genuine.

Almost immediately the journal and the university were attacked for supporting transphobia. PLOS ONE responded that it would do “further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses”. The editor told Science that “This is not about suppressing academic… MORE

Should we be more accepting of suicide in older adults?

Suicide can be impulsive and precipitated by mental illness. But what about when an a healthy, older person makes a calm and considered decision to end their lives?

According to Dr. Meera Balasubramaniam, a geriatric psychiatrist at the New York University School of Medicine, it is not uncommon to find individuals who are very old yet healthy, and who desire to die.

“So many of our patients are confronting this in their heads.” Dr. Balasubramaniam told The New York Times.

She recently published an article in the Journal… MORE

South Korean doctors “protest” new abortion regulations

Almost two thousand obstetrics and gynecology doctors in South Korea have protested tough new Ministry of Health and Welfare abortion regulations by refusing to perform abortions for women.

"We flatly refuse to carry out abortions, which the government has defined as an immoral medical action," the Korean College of Obstetrics & Gynecologists said in a statement in reponse to the regulations. 

The new government sanctions, which were released last month, threaten to ban doctors from practice for a month if they are found to have performed an illegal abortion. The regulations include abortion among… MORE

Does ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria’ exist?

Another ethical fight is brewing on the transgender front. Lisa Littman, of the Brown University School of Public Health, has published the first serious study of “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) in PLOS One. This is a condition in which gender dysphoria suddenly appears in puberty or even after its completion. This runs contrary to the current model of gender dysphoria, which assumes that it is present from a very early age. Unsurprisingly, its opponents claim that ROGD does not exist and that Littman’s research is “biased junk science”.

Dr Littman attributes ROGD, in part, to social contagion, as… MORE

Dementia’s Catch-22

People who fear living with dementia face a Catch-22 situation. When they are competent, they can write an advance directive asking for assistance in dying when they become deeply demented. But in the depths of their dementia, they can no longer confirm their intention to be killed and they might even refuse. A classic Catch-22.

A special feature in The Hastings Center Report explores this dilemma. Basically the ethical question revolves around whether nutrition and hydration is personal care or medical treatment. If the former, they cannot be denied as a matter of basic human dignity, just as we… MORE

The Economist hosts a debate on ‘assisted dying’

The Economist, the world’s most respected news magazine, is a staunch supporter of legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia. But as part of its 175th birthday celebration, it opened its pages to a debate. Below are excerpts from a selection of participants.

Stephen Fletcher, a Canadian quadriplegic, Manitoba MP, and member of the Queen’s Privy Council in Canada. “In a liberal democracy we don’t try and dictate how people should live so why does society try to dictate how people should die? Dying with dignity is the greatest shift in morality in Canada in this generation.”

Emilie Yerby,MORE

Healthcare workers and the duty to treat Ebola patients

Do healthcare workers have a duty to treat Ebola patients?

This question has becoming more pressing in recent years, with the repeated outbreaks of the Ebola virus in Western and Central Africa and a high mortality rate among healthcare professionals. 105 cases of Ebola have now been confirmed in the latest outbreak, centering on the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

On one view, bioethical principles such as beneficence and justice mandate that doctors provide treatment to patients when they are in dire need. A failure to leaves… MORE

Western Australia set to debate euthanasia

A joint select committee for the parliament of Western Australia has published a report recommending that the state government introduce a bill to legalise “assisted dying”.

The report was authored by seven politicians from across the political spectrum and reviews the provision and regulation of end of life care in Australia and abroad, as well as summarising contributions made during an extended period of public consultation. The report contains a recommendation that they government sponsor a bill to legalise “voluntary assisted dying” for patients who are:

...experiencing grievous and irremediable suffering related to an… MORE

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