Conjoined twins have “well-adjusted, rich lives”

Lori and Reba Schappell Conjoined twins can have such "well-adjusted, rich lives, made possible by the development of cooperation strategies" that we can all learn from them, suggests a new book from Harvard University Press. The author of "One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal", Alice Dormurat Dreger, asks "should people with unusual anatomies be treated as if their socially challenging bodies are inherently diseased?" Dreger points out that while life as a singleton is certainly easier, conjoined twins generally accept it as part of their identity. Although last year's unsuccessful… MORE

Chicago IVF clinic creates five “saviour siblings”

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of 199 eight-celled embryos has resulted in the birth of five saviour siblings, an IVF clinic in Chicago has announced. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr Yuri Verlinsky says that tissue from the babies will be used for treatment of siblings with acute lymphoid leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia or Diamond-Blackfam anaemia. Of the five babies, only one has actually saved a sibling. Three of the affected siblings are in remission -- although they may need stem cell transplants later.

Dr Verlinsky dismissed misgivings about the ethics of creating babies to serve as medical… MORE

US exporting contraception to Afghanistan

Part of the US plan for rebuilding Afghanistan is the introduction of contraceptive products developed and marketed specifically for Afghans. With the slogan "Be a NumberOne/OK family, live a comfortable life", Population Services International and the US Agency for International Development hope to promote reproductive health for women. PSI says that its marketing has been "culturally adapted" to Afghanistan -- a challenging task in a fiercely Muslim country where where discussion, let alone advertising, of sexual topics is still taboo. This month it has launched a public awareness campaign with radio advertisement, sponsorships and billboards. PSI is also distributing 1.6… MORE

Embryos needed to cure diabetes, claims Harvard scientist

A vocal proponent of embryonic stem cell research, Harvard professor Douglas Melton, claims that there is "no evidence whatsoever for the existence of an adult pancreatic stem cell". In an experiment on mice reported in the leading journal Nature, he tracked the development of new insulin-producing beta cells as the mice recovered from surgical trauma to their pancreas. All the new beta cells came from older beta cells rather than from stem cells. In the absence of adult pancreatic stem cells, he argues, scientists will have to use stem cells derived from embryos.

Professor Melton's paper will undoubtedly be used… MORE

Morning-after pills will not be sold over the counter in the US

The emergency contraceptive Plan B cannot be sold over the counter, the US Food and Drug Administration has ruled. The agency said that the application was denied because only 29 of the 585 women studied by the manufacturer, Barr Laboratories, were under 16. However, it suggested that Plan B might be approved for over-the- counter sales if Barr could show that it was safe for adolescents.

The FDA's decision was unexpected and controversial because an advisory panel had decided by a vote of 27 to 0 that the drug could be safely sold over the counter. Echoing other critics, a… MORE

NZ euthanasia campaigner sentenced to 15 months jail

Lesley Martin with her husband Warren Fulljames arriving at the Wanganui High Court today. Picture / Fotopress New Zealand's leading euthanasia campaigner was sentenced to 15 months jail this week for the attempted murder of her terminally ill mother. Although she can apply for home detention, Lesley Martin, a 40-year-old married mother of two, insisted earlier that she would go to jail. "Not a single day" went by when she felt guilty about her actions, she declared.

Mrs Joy Martin, who was suffering from rectal cancer, died in 1999 after being injected with 60mg… MORE

Gamete donor registry opens in UK

Sperm vials in IVF clinicThe UK is making it easier for people conceived with donor eggs and sperm to contact their genetic parents. It has set up a voluntary register which will bring parents and children together (after they have turned 18) -- if they want to make contact. The government wants to bring the laws for donor-conceived children in line with the laws for adopted children. It will also be possible to contact half-siblings as well.

The register does not guarantee that children will be able to find parents. Parents are allowed limit… MORE

Whose fault is “genohype”: journalists or scientists?

A Canadian study has found that English-speaking media is surprisingly accurate in reporting on genetic research, even though it tends to overemphasise its benefits and underplay its risks. Timothy Caulfield, of the University of Alberta, has reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that only 11% of selected articles in 26 newspapers from Canada, the US, Britain and Australia dealing with genetic discoveries from January 1995 to June 2001 were "significantly exaggerated or inaccurate". Most of the articles, 63%, made no exaggerated claims and 82% had no significant scientific or technical errors.

However, Caulfield found that only 15% of the… MORE

UK nurse accused of hastening deaths to free up beds

A 47-year-old Welsh nursing sister is being tried for the attempted murder of four geriatric patients in order to free up hospital beds. The prosecution alleges that Barbara Salisbury, a married mother of two, had a history of abusing elderly patients who were near death in Leighton Hospital in northern England. She would give them inappropriate doses of diamorphine, lay them on their backs so that it was difficult for them to breathe, or remove drips.

Callous remarks allegedly made by Ms Salisbury about burdensome patients have given the trial a gruesome twist. Colleagues reported that she made comments such… MORE

Swiss MP pushes European euthanasia

A Swiss member of the European parliament is lobbying the Council of Europe to decriminalise euthanasia, as the Netherlands and Belgium have already done. Dick Marty says that euthanasia is widespread in Europe and needs to be regulated, not left in the shadows. (Euthanasia is illegal in Switzerland, but authorities normally accept assisted suicide.) A report he has written has been narrowly accepted by the social, health and family affairs committee of the Council, but rejected several times by the parliamentary assembly. Last week he presented the report again, but did not ask the assembly to vote on it.

Marty… MORE

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