March 10, 2014
The ‘cursed’ women living in shame
(BBC) – In a rural central Ugandan village, 17-year-old Sulaina sits on the mud floor of the tiny home she shares with her mother and younger brother and sister. She wants to help provide for her family. But she can’t. She can barely leave her house. Wherever she goes, a sickly smell follows her. That’s because she is constantly leaking urine. The rags she has stuffed in her underwear are drenched quickly, and then the urine starts running down her legs. She has sores all over her thighs where the urine has burned her. Sulaina has a condition called obstetric fistula. She developed it after giving birth to a baby girl last year.
Japanese researcher backtracks on ‘breakthrough’ STAP cell research
(Reuters) – A Japanese scientist called on Monday for withdrawing stem-cell research he had been involved in that had appeared to promise a new era of medical biology as doubts have arisen over the results. The research, described as game-changing by experts at the time, was covered breathlessly in Japan after it was published in the journal Nature, with co-researcher Haruko Obokata becoming an instant celebrity.
The start of life as seen on smartphones
(The Irish Examiner) – The Instituto Marques in Barcelona, which has treated more than 1,000 Irish patients, has a hi-tech incubator called the Embryoscope, which allows couples to watch the embryos in the first days and weeks live on the internet before they are transferred to the womb. Dr Hans Arce, assisted reproduction consultant at the clinic which specialises in long-standing and unexplained infertility, said Irish patients feel closer to the process of conceiving their baby through the webcam images which were only previously seen by the embryologists working in the laboratory.
Will Belgium’s legalized child euthanasia trigger death tourism?
(Forbes) – Speculation on whether Belgium will become a new destination for what is known as “death tourism” has also been raised by representatives of political parties opposed to lifting age restrictions for medically assisted deaths. They argue that as cultural differences and moral reasons prevent most other nations from legalizing euthanasia, people will travel to countries that allow the practice. They worry that Belgium has opened its doors to death-seeking visitors.
How do patients respond to end-of-life status?
(Nursing Times) – Although health professionals may tell patients when they are nearing the end of their lives, patients do not always absorb or want this information. Aside from close companions and friends, nurses have the closest and most sustained contact with dying people. In the UK, Field’s (1989) study of nurses’ experiences of caring for dying patients showed that, by the 1980s, attitudes to telling patients about their terminal prognoses had changed.
Recession has heightened euthanaisa ‘danger’ to disabled and elderly, claims peer
(The Telegraph) – The threat to frail elderly and disabled people from relatives tempted to get rid of them under the guise of euthanasia has grown “dramatically” in the wake of the economic downturn, one of Britain’s most prominent disability campaigners has claimed. Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, who suffers from a degenerative illness, issued an impassioned plea in the House of Lords against moves to further relax Britain’s laws on assisted suicide.
March 7, 2014
Wombs for rent: The Indian baby farms transforming the lives of poverty-stricken women who are paid to carry babies for wealthy foreigners
(Daily Mail) – Indian ‘baby farms’ are thriving as demand from couples from developed countries, including the UK, soars. Infertile couples are turning to women in India to carry and give birth to their children, as commercial surrogacy is not legal in certain countries, or if it is legal, can be prohibitively expensive. The money these women are earn – as much as £4,700 per pregnancy – is transforming communities.
March 6, 2014
Japanese scientists release tips on reproducing stem-cell work
(The Wall Street Journal) – A leading Japanese research institute on Wednesday released new tips on methods its scientists used to create stem cells in hopes of dispelling skepticism over what has been touted as a breakthrough technique. The Riken Center for Developmental Biology said additional procedural methods for the studies led by Riken biologist Haruko Obokata will be released on the British journal Nature’s online Protocol Exchange site where scientists share their experimental know-how.
Stem cells to treat lung disease in infants
(Asian Scientist) – A phase I clinical study conducted by researchers in Korea has found that it is safe and feasible to use stem cell therapies for preventing and treating lung disease in preterm infants. Advances in neonatal care for very preterm infants have greatly increased the chances of survival for these fragile infants. However, preterm infants have an increased risk of developing bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), a serious lung disease, which is a major cause of death and lifelong complications.
Thailand offers tourists a chance to win a new face
(CNN) – Fancy a different face but can’t afford to go under the knife? Thailand’s Tourism Authority has launched an Extreme Makeover contest, offering three lucky ladies a chance to win free facial surgery along with a shot at $5,000 and a luxury vacation. To enter, you’ll have to submit photos showing your face from various angles, along with a health profile and written explanation of why you so badly covet a makeover.
March 4, 2014
Artificial heart patient dies
(BBC) – The first patient to be fitted with a pioneering artificial heart in France has died. The 76-year-old man, who has not been named, died 75 days after the operation in Paris. The bioprosthetic device, made by French company Carmat, is designed to replace the real heart for up to five years. It is intended to help patients who are in the advanced stages of heart failure.
Heart problems linked to those born with H.I.V.
(New York Times) – Children born with H.I.V. are more likely to have heart problems later in life, even if they are treated early with antiretroviral drugs, a recent study has found. The study was based on medical exams of 165 American teenagers born with H.I.V., but is applicable to the three million children in the world living with the virus, said the lead author, Kunjal Patel, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Indian hospitals are doing a roaring trade in medical tourists from Afghanistan
(Time) – Last week, a report by international charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) said one in every five of the patients interviewed had a family member or close friend who had died within the last year due to a lack of access to medical care. Aid money can’t always fix the problem. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) recently revealed that construction defects, and a lack of water, staff and and power, meant that the Salang Hospital in Parwan province was unable to function properly, despite the fact that over half a million dollars had been spent on it.
March 3, 2014
Revealed: Surrogate births hit record high as couples flock abroad
(The Independent) – Record numbers of British children are being conceived through surrogacy, according to official figures seen by The Independent on Sunday. The number of babies registered in Britain after being born to a surrogate parent has risen by 255 per cent in the past six years, amid mounting concerns that legislation has not kept up with demand.
The rent-a-womb boom
(The Daily Beast) – They’ve been called “baby factories,” conjuring up images of poor, illiterate women packed into bunks and forced by their husbands to bear surrogate children for Westerners. And they make up a vital industry in India—since 2002, when surrogacy was legalized in the country, a U.N.-backed study estimates that the surrogacy business has raked in more than $400 million a year.
February 28, 2014
Many countries lack capacity to prevent and treat hearing loss
(World Health Organization) – Many of the countries who responded to a new WHO survey lack the capacity to prevent and care for hearing loss, according to a report published on International Ear Care Day, 3 March. WHO estimates that over 5% of the world’s population – 360 million people – has disabling hearing loss. The highest prevalence is found in the Asia Pacific, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. About half of all cases of hearing loss worldwide are easily prevented or treated.
China sees wave of violence against hospital staff
(BBC) – A nurse left paralysed in Nanjing, a doctor with his throat slashed in Hebei and another beaten to death with a pipe in Heilongjiang. Three separate incidents all of which took place in China over the past two weeks. They are, of course, savage and shocking in their own right. Even more troubling though is the fact that they are not isolated cases but the latest in a growing crisis of violence at the heart of China’s healthcare system. It is leaving a trail of bereavement in its wake.
UK moves to legalize controversial IVF technique
(Nature News) – The United Kingdom today inched closer to legalizing a controversial method of reproduction, known as mitochondrial replacement, or ‘three-parent IVF’. The Department of Health announced a public consultation of draft legislation that would allow the procedures, which are intended to prevent children from inheriting diseases caused by faulty mitochondria. The consultation, which runs until 21 May, is an early step toward amending the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which would allow the mitochondrial replacement procedures.
Stem cell scientist gets suspended prison term
(Korean Times) – The Supreme Court Thursday upheld a suspended jail term of one year and six months for two years issued to stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk after he was convicted on charges of embezzlement and violation of the Bioethics Law. “The appellate court’s judgment that Hwang had concealed and used research funds invested on his research project was justifiable,” the top court said in its ruling. It added that Hwang had violated the Bioethics Law by deducting sterilization fees for women who donating ova during his research.
February 27, 2014
South Sudan: Violence ‘jeopardizing MSF work’
(BBC) – Medical charity MSF has warned its work in South Sudan is being jeopardised as a result of “brutal” attacks on medical facilities in which patients and its hospital staff have also been targeted. Hundreds of thousands of people have been effectively denied lifesaving assistance, MSF says in a new report. Fighting between the government and rebels since mid-December has displaced about 860,000 people, the UN says.
Disbelief after Egypt announces cures for AIDS and hepatitis C
(New York Times) – At a news conference late last week, an Egyptian Army doctor confidently announced that the country’s military had developed a cure for the virus that causes AIDS, as well as hepatitis C, one of Egypt’s gravest public health threats. The doctor, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Abdul Atti, said the cures were the result of 22 years of his own study. At some point, he added, military intelligence had taken on his research as a secret project.