‘I feel your pain!’ Really?

“I feel your pain,” Bill Clinton told an AIDS activist in the 1992 presidential campaign. Well, he probably didn’t. Pain is notoriously subjective and hard to measure. Some patients take the dentist’s drill without an anaesthetic; others would rather die.

In the 19th and early 20th Centuries doctors speculated why some groups were more sensitive. One popular theory was that less civilised groups were both less sensitive to pain and more expressive when they experienced it. Doctors contrasted stalwart, stoic Britons with degenerate, weeping dark-skinned people.

A contrasting theory was that civilisation was making people soft. The father of… MORE





German nurse confesses to 100 murders; could be many more

Niels Högel covers his face in the courtroom  

As we reported a year ago, a nursing home nurse in Germany has confessed to killing at least 100 patients. Although he is already serving a life sentence for two murders,  Niels Högel appeared in court this week to face charges that he killed another 100 patients.

When asked by the presiding judge whether this was true, Högel responded: "Yes."

The judge said that the goal of this trial was to determine the full scope of the murders that were allowed to go unchecked for years. "We will… MORE





Doctor sued over Chris Cornell’s death

The wife of the late American rockstar Chris Cornell is suing a Los Angeles doctor for overprescribing “mind-altering substances” to the singer.

According to a lawsuit obtained by journalists, Vikki Cornell is suing cardiologist Robert Koblin for overprescribing drugs which allegedly  “impaired [Mr Cornell’s] cognition, clouded his judgement and caused him to engage in dangerous impulsive behaviors that he was unable to control, costing him his life”.

Cornell was found dead in a Detroit hotel room in the early hours of May 17, 2017. An autopsy determined the cause of death to… MORE





Canadian MP tables bill to formalise MAiD conscience protections

A Canadian MP has tabled a bill that seeks to formalise legal protections for healthcare practitioners who conscientiously object to providing or facilitating Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD).

David Anderson MP tabled bill C-418, the Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act, in the House of Commons on Tuesday. The bill would make it an offence to intimidate or try to force a health care professional to be involved in MAiD.

It also makes it an offence to fire or refuse to employ a health care professional for refusing to take part, directly… MORE





Magna Carta for transhumanists

'Bad King John' signs Magna Carta in 1215 

The Magna Carta was the first in a long series of ancient bills of rights for citizens, great and small, in jurisdictions stretching from Ireland to France to Poland. They were tremendously varied, but one element was common: they all were related to homo sapiens 1.0.

Now the transhumanist movement has drafted a bill of rights for all “sentient entities” – a tall order considering that some of these entities do not yet exist and no state currently has the slightest interest in enforcing them.

The Transhumanist Bill… MORE





Swiss doctors go head-to-head over liberal guidelines for assisted suicide

The Federation of Swiss Medical Doctors (FMH) has refused to include in its code of ethics new guidelines on end-of-life care proposed developed by the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS). These provide that a physician may practice assisted suicide for patients presenting with "unbearable suffering" related to the symptoms of an incurable disease or disability. Until now, the patient had to have a terminal illness.

The FMH believes that unbearable suffering is too vague as a criterion. Michel Matter, a FMH vice president, gave the example of a bipolar patient. "When she is in a low phase, such a person would… MORE





Retraction Watch launches a searchable database

The blog Retraction Watch, supported by Science magazine, has launched a searchable database of 18,000 retractions since the 1970s. Retraction of a research paper is the scientific equivalent of the death penalty. While the figure of 18,000 seems enormous, it is a tiny percentage of the rapidly increasing scientific literature.

Some retractions are extremely troubling. A Japanese anaesthetist, Yoshitaka Fujii, holds the record for most papers retracted – 169. Lagging far behind is Joachim Boldt, author of 98 retracted papers, also in anaesthetics. Coming third is Diederik Stapel, a Dutch researcher in social psychology with 58 retracted papers. Boldt’s… MORE





Public prosecutor drops case against Dutch euthanasia doctor

Prosecutors in the Netherlands have dropped a case against a physician who euthanised a semi-conscious, severely impaired patient without written consent.

The case involved a 72-year-old woman suffering from metastatic pancreatic cancer, who was euthanized following cerebral haemorrhage that left her barely able to communicate. The woman had not signed a written declaration of intent, though the treating doctor said that the woman had expressed a desire for euthanasia on several occasions in the past.

The Public Prosecution Service announced Friday that it had conducted an investigation and said it was… MORE





Trolley problems and autonomous vehicles: what does the public think?

The “trolley problem” is a philosophical thought-experiment that has interested ethicists for over half a century (for a brief explanation of the problem, click here).

But the issue is not a matter of mere theoretical importance: as scientists and engineers have emphasised, the prospect of introducing autonomous vehicles on our roads raises questions of how we should program such vehicles to behave should they face “trolley-style” dilemmas.

A new study led by researchers from MIT analyses data from a massive online study of people’s decisions to prioritise lives in different variations… MORE





Biohacking is becoming mainstream in Sweden

The term “biohacking” was until recently associated with a fringe group of tech enthusiasts engaged in “do-it-yourself” body modification experiments. Yet in some countries the movement is becoming mainstream.  

In the past three years, more than 4000 Swedes have had a tiny ID microchip embedded in their thumb, allowing them to buy food, enter secure buildings, and perform a range of other social activities merely by holding up their hand against a reader.  

The microchip was developed by Swedish company Biohax International. The implants were first used in… MORE




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