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Bioethics 101

Recommended Reading

October 31, 2005

Nano could be a huge future health crisis

The Age (Australia)

The Australian paper, The Age, has a great article that provides brief overview of nanotechnology, and reviews a number of issues related to it, particularly reguloatory issues.

Italian Laboratory Clones 14 Pigs


The Italian researchers who produced the first horse clone have announced the birth of 14 cloned piglets.

More of Italian laboratory clones 14 pigs

Cervical Cancer Vaccine Gets Injected With a Social Issue

Washington Post

A new vaccine that protects against cervical cancer has set up a clash between health advocates who want to use the shots aggressively to prevent thousands of malignancies and social conservatives who say immunizing teenagers could encourage sexual activity.

More of Cervical Cancer Vaccine Gets Injected With a Social Issue

October 28, 2005

Remote Control

Yuri Kageyama, a writer for the Associated Press, was recently tested a new device from the Japanese telephone company Nippon Telegraph & Telephone (NTT). The device consists of a special headset (which looks like a pair of large headphones) and a sophisticated remote control. It makes use of “galvanic vestibular stimulation – essentially, electricity messes with the delicate nerves inside the ear that help maintain balance.” By tricking you into thinking you’re about to loose your balance, the device makes you walk (stumble) right or left. The device can be synchronized to a video game to make it seem more realistic, or to music to produce a drug-like effect.

Ms. Kageyama reports:

I found the experience unnerving and exhausting: I sought to step straight ahead but kept careening from side to side. Those alternating currents literally threw me off.

. . .

I felt a mysterious, irresistible urge to start walking to the right whenever the researcher turned the switch to the right. I was convinced — mistakenly — that this was the only way to maintain my balance.

NTT is developing the technology for entertainment purposes (improving video games, virtual reality experiences, and amusement park rides), but other possible applications are mentioned: teaching ballet or gymnastics, creating nonlethal weapons, helping those with balance impairments.

In the end, Ms. Kageyama declares, “I didn’t like that sensation. At all.”

Gene Discovery Could Broaden Cancer Research


Researchers have stumbled across an unexpected genetic phenomenon in prostate cancer — a discovery that could change conventional thinking on breast, colon and lung malignancies as well.


Genetics of life’s 1st 15 minutes studied


European scientists say they’ve identified the gene responsible for controlling a first key step in the creation of life.

The gene, known as HIRA, chaperones the early processes that occur once a sperm cell enters an egg, giving it a crucial role in the most fundamental process in sexually reproducing animals.


Ethics of stem cell research front and center: Leon Kass speaks about life, cloning

Harvard Gazette

A top Bush bioethics adviser kicked off a new series of discussions about the ethics of stem cell and other scientific research on Thursday (Oct. 20), tangling with Harvard faculty members over the meaning of life and of family, and over the limits that society ought to impose on itself.

The discussion, at times brutally frank, centered on reproductive cloning, a procedure most within the scientific community firmly oppose and against which Harvard University has taken an official stand. Leon Kass, chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001 to 2005, presented a chapter of his 2002 book, “Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics,” to the group, gathered for the lunchtime event in the Barker Center’s Thompson Room.


October 27, 2005

The line between faith and science

Palo Alto Weekly

Dr. William Hurlbut was trying to have a conversation . Navigating the Pittsburgh, Pa., airport last week with cell phone in hand, he talked while hurrying to the gate, winding his way through security, buying a snack, hopping an intra-airport shuttle, and boarding the plane.

He should be used to obstacle-filled discussions by now. The conversation he’s tried to hold with the nation for more than a year has been much the same.

Then again, his topic — human embryonic stem-cell research — is a tough sell.


October 26, 2005

Tax law casts doubt on stem cell royalties

San Francisco Chronicle

The billion dollars in royalties that voters were told could flow to the state if they passed California’s $3 billion stem cell research funding initiative in 2004 may turn into an empty promise.


October 25, 2005

Genetic-Test Kits Now Available at Local Retailer

Denver Post

Boulder – When genetics experts gathered for an annual symposium in Aspen this summer, their talks focused on the potential for genetic tests to be sold directly to customers.

The group, made up of medical doctors and industry experts, agreed such sales were the wave of the future.

Now – barely three months later – that future has arrived in the form of multicolored boxes stacked on a corner table at the Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy in north Boulder. Pharmaca recently became one of four retailers to begin testing over-the-counter sales of genetic tests.


October 24, 2005

Echoes of Eugenics Movement in Stem Cell Debate

San Francisco Chronicle

Historians are drawing some intriguing connections between the contemporary debate over human embryonic stem cell research and California’s unsavory, and mostly forgotten, eugenics movement of the last century.


Medical hope in umbilical cord blood

Chicago Tribune

When 5-year-old Gina Rugari started kindergarten in Cincinnati this fall she brought her own crayons, pencils, glue sticks and pink backpack, but the blood flowing through her arteries was not her own.

Her red and white cells are the result of an umbilical cord blood transplant she had at 3 weeks of age. The transplant from an unrelated donor repopulated her bone marrow with stem cells, the wellspring of her new blood supply.

Her blood does all the things blood is supposed to do, but in Gina’s case it does something much more: It prevents the swift destruction of her brain by a faulty gene she was born with.”


Cloning and the Outsourcing of Ethics

Wesley J. Smith has a column on the World Stem Cell Foundation, Korean cloning scientist Woo-Suk Hwang’s project to avoid skirmishes over the ethics of cloning. The plan is to do cloning in areas where it is not forbidden (South Korea, the United Kingdom, and California) and export stem cells derived via the destruction of these cloned embryos. According to Smith,

This brings to mind Stanford University ethicist William B. Hurlbut’s warning against the “outsourcing of ethics.” After all, how is Hwang’s proposal any different in principle than if organ transplant surgeons formed a foundation to procure organs in “safe havens” allowing them to circumvent laws requiring that vital organ donors be dead? Or, if vaccine researchers sought “safe havens” to perform unethical research on primates in order to accelerate the time when their experiments could be conducted in human trials?

Read the whole thing.

Raise a Glass to Adult Stem Cells

Michael Fumento (TechCentralStation)

I have frequently written on the gulf between the promise of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and the reality of therapy from adult stem cells (ASCs) — those already in our bodies and umbilical cord blood. ESCs get publicity; ASCs get results. The latest example: ASCs are now rebuilding human livers. [More]

October 21, 2005

The Age of Radical Enhancement

Arnold King (TechCentralStation)

Perhaps the last unenhanced human to make a significant contribution in the field of mathematics has already been born. In twenty years, the tenure track at top university mathematics departments may consist entirely of people who depend on drugs, direct neural-computer connections, genetic modification, or a combination of all three in order to achieve high-level performance. [more]

Health and Wealth

Details are emerging about the deal on healthcare benefits struck between General Motors and the United Auto Workers. Retirees are going to begin paying “deductibles, monthly premiums, and co-payments,” that will add up to as much as $370 per year for individuals and $752 for families. Currently, retirees only pay a $5 co-pay for prescriptions and nothing else. Current GM employees will forego $1 per hour in raises and cost of living adjustments in 2006 in order to contribute to a fund for retirement healthcare costs (GM is paying into the fund as well). This deal will save GM approximately $1 billion per year. GM plans to spend $6 billion on healthcare this year. This agreement will likely impact deals between the UAW and other manufacturers.

Healthcare is expensive. People are living longer thus using more healthcare in their retirement years. Where is the money going to come from? Where should the money come from?

Ruling lifted on baby Charlotte


The parents of a brain-damaged baby have won a partial victory in their legal battle to have her resuscitated by doctors if she falls seriously ill.

A judge has lifted the order not to ventilate Charlotte Wyatt, but said doctors still had the final decision on taking action which would end her life. [more]

Embryonic Stem Cell Bill Postponed

(AP via Washington Post)

The Senate won’t vote until early next year on a bill to loosen restrictions on publicly funded embryonic stem cell studies, under a deal struck Friday by the sponsors [more]

October 20, 2005

A Few Good Eggs

The Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco is looking for “healthy women in their 20s and early 30s, in good physical and emotional health” who are “willing to give themselves hormone injections.” The pan is to open a “Bay Area satellite clinic of the new South Korea-based World Stem Cell Foundation,” and they are going to need more than a few good eggs to do it.

Interestingly, “it has not yet been decided whether the women will be paid for their eggs and effort” for this project. However, according to Pacific Fertility’s website, women who become egg donors for infertile couples are “very well compensated at $5,500.”

UNESCO Adopts Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights

(UN News Centre)

Beyond the well-established principles of informed consent and confidentiality, social responsibility, including improved access to quality health care, figures high in a new Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). [more]

NJ to create storage bank for umbilical cord blood

(AP via Newsday)

New Jersey will create a storage bank for umbilical cord blood to aid stem cell research, under an executive order signed Tuesday by acting Gov. Richard J. Codey. State officials say it will be the first such program in the nation. [more]


The Bioethics Poll
Should individuals and/or institutions be allowed to patent human genes?
Yes, with some qualifications

View results

Which area of research should more money be invested in:
Animal-Human Hybrids
Gene Therapy
Reproductive Technology
Stem Cell Research
"Therapeutic" Cloning
None of the above

View results

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