A person? A thing? No, it’s a chimpanzee!

A concurrent opinion by a New York Court of Appeals judge has raised hopes that chimpanzees will soon be given legal rights in the US.

On May 8, Judge Eugene M. Fahey handed down an opinion in which he agreed with the New York Court of Appeal’s majority ruling that chimpanzees Kiko and Tommy -- privately owned by resident New Yorkers -- should not be recognised as persons by the law; he stressed, however, that the ethical issues involved in the case were “profound and far reaching”, and that failure to grapple with these… MORE

Alfie Evans ‘culture wars’

In a new editorial in the journal Bioethics, bioethicist Udo Schuklenk criticises the politicisation of the recent high profile legal battle involving British toddler Alfie Evans.

Evans, who was suffering from a mysterious neurodegenerative disease, died last month after the UK High Court deemed that it was in his best interests to have his life support withdrawn.

According to Schuklenk, the response to the case by conservative politicians and commentators was “unacceptable” and “ideological”. Schuklenk is particularly critical of a member of Italy’s National Bioethics Committee, biochemistry professor Assuntina Morresi, who… MORE

Vatican-backed hospital proposes charter of rights for incurable children

The cases of Alfie Evans and Charlie Gard rang bells around the world, not just in England. From Italy comes a proposal (PDF in Italian), a Charter of Rights for Incurable Children, which will be promoted in the European Parliament and hospitals around the world. The sponsor is Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital, in Rome, which is linked to the Vatican.

The ten articles of the document are:

  • The child and his family are entitled to the best possible relationship with doctors and health personnel
  • The child and his family have the right to health education 
  • The child… MORE

Ireland votes to legalise abortion

Ireland has legalised abortion by repealing the Eighth Amendment to its constitution. Turnout was strong, with about 60% of the electorate casting a vote after a long and hard-fought campaign on both sides.

According to exit polls, women were strongly in favour of repeal, with 70% in favour, and 30% against. About 65% of men voted in favour of repeal. The highest Yes vote was in the capital, Dublin, where some 77% voted to repeal.

Although supporters of a No vote hoped that rural voters would back their campaign, it appears that 60% of them voted to repeal.

The Eighth… MORE

Head of Dignitas charged with profiting from assisted suicide

The founder of Switzerland’s best-known assisted suicide group, Dignitas, 85-year-old Ludwig Minelli, has been charged with profiting from assisted suicide. Minelli has firmly denied the charges, denouncing them as “unfounded and incomprehensible”.

This is the first case of its kind in Switzerland, where assisted suicide has been legal since 1941, but with the proviso that the help must not be tendered “for selfish motives”.

The allegations concern the deaths of three German women. In one case, in 2010, Minelli allegedly charged a mother and daughter double suicide 10,000 Swiss francs each – much higher than the usual cost… MORE

‘Sugar War’ pits consumer choice against common good

In the 17th Century the Dutch Republic and Portugal fought a forgotten war lasting more than two decades over Brazilian sugar, in a conflict sometimes called the “Sugar War”. Nowadays the weapons in a new sugar war are less sanguinary, but the passions run just as high. At stake is the public health value of reducing obesity versus the freedom of industry to market high-sugar drinks and food.

Experts have been debating the role of sugar in a range of chronic disease since at least the 1960s. In 1972 journalist John Yudkin published a jeremiad against sugar, Pure, White and Deadly.… MORE

May doctors refuse IVF to LGBT individuals?

Rows over conscientious objection, at least in the Anglosphere, have revolved around reproductive rights and euthanasia. What about LGBT rights? Do healthcare workers have a right to object to providing procedures like IVF to LGBT individuals?

In a provocative article in Bioethics Abram Brummett, of St Louis University (Missouri), concludes that their claims would be very weak. It is a challenging contribution to a new battleground over conscientious objection.

What kind of people would seek refuge in conscientious objection? Brummett seems to believe that they would all be Christians who contend that “God has decreed the LGBT lifestyle to… MORE

The weaponisation of healthcare – a worldwide phenomenon

A new report from the NGO Safeguarding Health in Conflict warns of worsening attacks on warzone healthcare facilities around the world, and calls on the international community to take immediate action. The report states that “in 2017 there were at least 701 attacks on hospitals, health workers, patients, and ambulances in 23 countries in conflict around the world”.

Some of the more shocking examples in the report include:

- In January, a Nigerian army plane dropped two bombs on an internally displaced persons camp near the town of Rann during a vaccination campaign, killing 90 people, including at least… MORE

Concern mounts over biohacking “stunts”

The biohacking movement has come under increased scrutiny after the death of one of its best-known members last month.

Alan Traywick, 28, died in a spa in Washington DC on April 29. It is suspected that he took a dose of the drug Ketamine, lost consciousness and drowned. Traywick gained worldwide notoriety last February after injecting himself with a highly experimental herpes treatment in front of an aghast audience at a biohacking conference in Austin, Texas.

While Traywick’s death was not directly related to a biohacking stunt, the debate has intensified over whether biohacking -- body modification and augmentation… MORE

Legitimacy and healthcare policy

Do we all have to agree on bioethics policies for them to be legitimate?

Several eminent ethicists and political philosophers say “yes”. Over the last three decades, there have been multiple expositions of a view that legitimacy comes from democratic deliberation and agreement between reasonable agents. If a policy is to have normative and political force, it has to be the product of the rights sorts of procedures, and it must be sufficiently “public” so that all reasonable persons can accept it. Proponents of this general view include well-known names like Amy Gutmann, Dennis Thompson, Norman Daniels and… MORE

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