Scientists split over value of moratorium on editing the human germline

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Stem cell scientists have split over the future of genetic editing of the human germline. In a commentary in Nature several leading scientists have called for a global moratorium on heritable genome editing. This would not be a permanent ban but an international agreement not to greenlight germline editing leading to pregnancies “unless certain conditions are met”. The proposal was strongly backed by Francis S. Collins, the director of the US National Institutes of Health.

The proposal was motivated by the outcry following an experiment by Chinese scientist He Jiankui which resulted… MORE

Is it ethical to have children as climate Armageddon approaches?

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New York’s celebrity Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently told her 2.7 million followers on Instagram that it was a “legitimate question” to ask whether they should have children in an age of looming climate disasters.

“Our planet is going to face disaster if we don’t turn this ship around,” she said in a live video feed as she prepared dinner. “And so it’s basically like, there is a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult and it does lead, I think young people, to have a legitimate question. Ya… MORE

The robot who will conceive your baby

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British IVF pioneer Simon Fishel has just published an autobiographical account of the growth of artificial reproductive technology, Breakthrough Babies. In an article in the Daily Mail he gives a startling account of future developments.

At the moment he has launched the first company to create technology to delay menopause. “By extracting a piece of ovarian tissue when a woman is younger and transplanting it back again later, we now know we can put off the menopause by at least ten years.”

But his most daring prediction is entrusting IVF to robots:


Spain puts prison psychology experiment on hold

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The Spanish Interior Ministry has put a halt to psychology experiments on violent prisoners which involved stimulating the prefrontal cortex with a mild electric current. Researchers wanted to see if the technique, transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS, makes the prisoners less aggressive.

According to a pilot study whose results were published in Neuroscience in January, it seems to work. Prisoners who received tDCS reported that they felt less aggressive; prisoners in a control group felt unchanged.

But when New Scientist reported this week that the Spanish scientists would be doing a follow-up experiment… MORE

Bedside manner 101: how to deliver very bad news

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A California family was shocked when Ernest Quintana, a 78-year-old man in intensive care, received the news that doctors could do no more for him and that he would die soon via a robot displaying a doctor talking to him on a television screen.

His granddaughter was with him and filmed the situation. Mr Quintana died two days later.

“If you’re coming to tell us normal news, that’s fine, but if you’re coming to tell us there’s no lung left and we want to put you on a morphine drip… MORE

Memo to hospitals: prison wardens do not own their prisoners

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Hospitals should check whether a person issuing a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order has been authorised to do so. This seems to be the hard lesson to be learned from a lawsuit against the warden of St Clair Correctional Facility in Alabama.

On January 6, 2014, a prisoner, Marquette F. Cummings, Jr, was stabbed in the eye by another inmate. He was airlifted to University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, in a critical condition.

Although the hospital told Mr Cummings’s mother that her son only had 10% of his brain capacity, she thought that he… MORE

When research participation pays, some people lie

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Offering compensation can be an important tactic to attract potential participants for enrolment in research studies, but it may come at a cost. A new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that up to 23% of respondents lied about their eligibility to participate in a survey when they were offered payment, even small amounts.

Anecdotal evidence and common sense suggest that offering money may encourage participants to lie about their eligibility or other aspects of study participation in order to secure payment. But few studies have investigated… MORE

Back to the source: the Hippocratic Oath re-examined

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Over the centuries the Hippocratic Oath has expressed the ideals of the medical profession, although nowadays other versions have supplanted it for graduating medical students– if they take any oath at all. If taken literally the Oath is an anachronism. Who today “swears by Apollo Physician, by Asclepius, by Hygieia, by Panacea, and by all the gods and goddesses”?

But T. A. Cavanaugh, a philosopher at the University of San Francisco, argues in his recent book Hippocrates' Oath and Asclepius' Snake: The Birth of the Medical Profession that the Oath is still relevant in establishing the… MORE

Parents request sperm retrieval from brain-damaged West Point cadet

A court has allowed doctors to retrieve sperm from the body of a brain-damaged West Point cadet so that his family can have a male heir.

Peter Zhu, 21, suffered a broken spine in a skiing accident at West Point, the United States military academy in upstate New York, on February 23. A few days later, doctors declared that he was “brain-dead”. As an organ donor, Zhu was to be kept alive until the afternoon of March 1. His parents applied for a court order on the morning of same day to retrieve his sperm.

“In addition to retrieving… MORE

Are patients with personality disorders who request euthanasia being treated properly?

Aurelia Brouwers

On January 26, 2018 at 2:35pm 29-year-old Aurelia Brouwers drank a lethal medication and died. The young Dutch woman was not terminally ill. Instead, she requested euthanasia at an end-of-life clinic because she had a borderline personality disorder and other mental health issues. “I suffer unbearably and hopelessly,” she said. “Every breath I take is torture." she said.

Her case was well documented: a team from a Dutch TV network, RTL Nieuws, followed her during her last two weeks.

She may be a perfect example why people with personality disorders may need treatment… MORE

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