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January 31, 2006

Bioethics & Health News
January 31

Primary Care About to Collapse, Physicians Warn

Primary care — the basic medical care that people get when they visit their doctors for routine physicals and minor problems — could fall apart in the United States without immediate reforms, the American College of Physicians said Monday.
(Reuters)

Muscle Stem Cells Transformed Into Cartilage

Researchers say they have turned adult muscle stem cells into cartilage, and used them in animals to heal the kind of damage caused by arthritis. That is potentially good news for the many people who now face joint-replacement surgery because there is no available technique to repair cartilage damage from osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear condition that afflicts many older people.
(HealthDay)

Concern Over ‘Spare Part’ Babies

Children created as so-called “saviour siblings” to aid a sick brother or sister must be monitored to ensure their wellbeing, experts suggest.
(BBC)

Test Expands Donor Pool for Kidneys

For many years, transplant surgeons around the world rejected use of organs from cadaver donors age 60 or older because they tended not to last as long as organs taken from younger people.
(New York Times)

Study: Key Bone Marrow Cells Hide at Edges

Scientists have found blood stem cells hiding out in the edges of bone marrow, and said on Monday their finding could help ease lifesaving stem cell transplants for diseases such as cancer.
(Reuters)

Fatalism, Ignorance Keep Many From Needed Cancer Checks

A sense of futility in preventing or fighting cancer may be holding many Americans back from getting the early detection tests they need, a new American Cancer Society survey finds.
(HealthDay)

January 30, 2006

Bioethics & Health News
January 30

Report: 8M With Birth Defects Each Year

About 8 million children worldwide are born every year with serious birth defects, many of them dying before age 5 in a toll largely hidden from view, the March of Dimes says.
(AP)

Laws Would Allow Health Workers’ Choice

More than a dozen states are considering new laws to protect health workers who do not want to provide care that conflicts with their personal beliefs, a surge of legislation that reflects the intensifying tension between asserting individual religious values and defending patients’ rights.
(Washington Post)

Religious Groups Get Chunk of AIDS Money

New groups are springing up to win a piece of President Bush’s $15 billion AIDS program, with traditional players and religious groups joining forces to improve their chances in a competition that already has targeted nearly a quarter of its grants for faith-based organizations.
(AP)

Gender, Ethnicity Sway Choices for End-of-Life Care

When it comes to end-of-life care, researchers have known for some time that ethnic groups have different perspectives on how they’d wish to be treated. Now, a small study suggests there’s a gender gap even among people of the same ethnicity.
(HealthDay)

Scientific Brain Linked to Autism

Highly analytical couples, such as scientists, may be more likely to produce children with autism, an expert has argued.
(BBC)

Frist: Gov’t Unwanted in End-Of-Life Cases

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who took a leading role in the Terry Schiavo case, said Sunday it taught him that Americans do not want the government involved in such end-of-life decisions.
(AP)

January 27, 2006

Bioethics & Health News
January 27

Fake Research Puts Medical Journals Under Microscope

The recent spate of high-profile scientific shams has left many wondering whether what appears in the world’s most prestigious medical journals can be believed. But despite the considerable embarrassment these deceptions have caused, leaders in the field say they do not believe the frauds signal a need for a revolution in how research is judged fit for publication.
(HealthDay)

US Black Women ‘Unaware’ of HIV Risk

HIV/Aids is now the biggest cause of death among young black women in America – but too little is being done to combat it, a leading research organisation has said.
(BBC)

Calif. Says Secondhand Smoke a Pollutant

California became the first state to declare secondhand smoke a toxic air pollutant Thursday, putting tobacco fumes in the same category as diesel exhaust, arsenic and benzene because of its link to breast cancer.
(AP)

Health Savings Accounts Attract Wall St.

When it comes to medical benefits, millions of Americans already have a health insurer. Soon, many will also have a debit card and a bank tied to their medical plan.
(New York Times)

Botox’ Doctor Sentenced for Botulism Poisoning

A doctor who injected himself and three others with a potentially deadly botulism toxin instead of the anti-wrinkle drug Botox was given the maximum sentence Wednesday of three years in prison.
(MSNBC)

Gates Pledges $900 Million for TB Research

Bill Gates said Friday his charitable foundation will boost its funding for tuberculosis eradication from its current level of $300 million to $900 million during the next decade.
(AP)

January 26, 2006

Bioethics & Health News
January 25

U.S. Scientist Entangled in Stem Cell Scam

Five months ago, a smiling Dr. Gerald Schatten appeared before reporters alongside South Korean stem cell researcher Dr. Hwang Woo-suk to present a scientific feat – the first cloned dog.
(AP)

Dextrous Mini-Robots to Aid Ops

Scientists are developing a new generation of dextrous mini-robots for use in minimally invasive surgery.
(BBC)

Circulation of Money May Predict Pandemics

A popular U.S. Web site that tracks the geographical circulation of money could offer new insights into predicting the spread of infectious diseases like bird flu.
(MSNBC)

Patients Fare Better in Trauma Centers

A national study confirmed that trauma centers – hospitals specially equipped to deal with gunshot wounds, auto accidents and other serious injuries – save lives. Patients treated at trauma centers are more likely to survive the emergency and more likely to be alive a year later, too, the study found.
(AP)

Science Spots New Cause of Chronic Pain

In a finding that could alter pain treatment, British scientists have found that undamaged nerve fibers, not injured ones, cause ongoing spontaneous pain.
(HealthDay)

Blacks Are More Likely to Get Lung Cancer

Blacks who smoke up to a pack a day are far more likely than whites who smoke similar amounts to develop lung cancer, suggesting genes may help explain the racial differences long seen in the disease, researchers say.
(AP)

January 25, 2006

Bioethics & Health News
January 25

Bush Considering Tax Breaks for Health Care

President Bush is weighing proposals for new tax breaks for health care costs, which will be a major topic of next week’s State of the Union address, a top economic adviser to the president said Tuesday.
(USA Today)

Anxious Dads ‘Raise Birth Pain’

Anxious fathers can make Caesarean operations more painful for mothers, research suggests.
(BBC)

More Than 260,000 Can’t Get VA Health Care

More than a quarter-million veterans considered to have higher incomes could not sign up for health care with the Veterans Affairs Department during the last fiscal year because of a cost-cutting move.
(AP)

W. Va. Schools Try Video Game to Fight Obesity

West Virginia, which has one of the nation’s worst obesity problems, is expanding a project that uses a video game to boost students’ physical activity.
(MSNBC)

China Lowers its HIV/Aids Figures

China has lowered its estimate of the number of HIV/Aids cases in the country, but health agencies continue to warn of a serious national problem.
(BBC)

Fish Oil May Not Help Prevent Cancer

Fish oil, seen as beneficial for reducing heart disease risks, probably doesn’t help prevent cancer, according to a review of studies involving more than 700,000 patients.
(AP)

January 24, 2006

Bioethics & Health News
January 24

Hospital Rejected Kidneys Despite Waiting List

The University of California, Irvine Medical Center, which was forced to close its liver transplant program, turned down a high number of donated kidneys despite a long patient waiting list, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
(MSNBC)

‘Cocktail’ Helps Adult Stem Cells Thrive in Lab

Scientists have discovered a “cocktail” of growth factors that expands the number of stem cells they can grow in the laboratory at least 10 times beyond what anyone has been able to do before.
(HealthDay)

Magnetic System May Help in Transplants

Magnetic tracking of immune cells could one day offer a better way to monitor organ transplants for rejection, researchers report.
(AP)

Stress Sparks ‘Male Foetus Death’

A woman’s body may actively kill off weaker male foetuses during times of stress, research suggests.
(BBC)

‘Come Again?’ Good Medicine Requires Clarity

Anybody up for a spinal tap? How about a needle through your ribs to siphon fluid from around your lungs? Patients in hospitals and clinics face these sorts of invasive and somewhat risky but potentially lifesaving procedures every day, and in each case, a doctor must decide how much to tell a patient beforehand about the pros, cons and alternatives.
(New York Times)

FDA Panel Recommends Ban on Some Inhalers

Certain types of nonprescription inhalers used for decades by asthma sufferers, often against the advice of doctors, could be taken off drugstore shelves because they contain propellants that harm the ozone layer.
(AP)

January 23, 2006

Bioethics & Health News
January 23

New at E.R.’s: More Sense of Urgency

It had all the markings of a typical emergency department waiting room: magazines scattered on end tables; a wall-mounted television; more than two dozen institutional chairs lining the walls.
(New York Times)

Medical Journal Casts Doubt on Oral Cancer Research

The New England Journal of Medicine is raising another warning flag over published research by a Norwegian cancer specialist who apparently fabricated his data for another medical journal.
(HealthDay)

Poll: Most Find Medicare Program Confusing

Confusion by consumers may be one of the biggest problems at the startup of the new Medicare prescription drug program, an AP-Ipsos poll suggests.
(AP)

Infections ‘Brain Tumour Trigger’

Infections could play a key role in triggering certain types of adult brain cancer, scientists suggest.
(BBC)

Plan to Require More Data on Safety Issues

The Food and Drug Administration will soon propose guidelines intended to make annual safety reports filed by medical device makers more complete and more accessible to the public, a top F.D.A. official said yesterday.
(New York Times)

FDA Mulling OTC Sale of Fat Blocking Pill

A prescription diet drug that blocks the absorption of fat is “no magic pill” but will nevertheless help control calorie intake, the drug manufacturer said Monday as the Food and Drug Administration considered whether to approve the pill for over-the-counter sales.
(AP)

January 19, 2006

Bioethics & Health News
January 19

In The News — January 19

Cancer Study Was Made Up, Journal Says

A large study concluding that anti-inflammatory drugs reduce the risk of oral cancer was based on fabricated data, according to The Lancet, the prominent British medical journal that published the report last year.
(New York Times)

Face Transplant Patient Smokes Again

he world’s first face transplant recipient is using her new lips to take up smoking again, which doctors fear could interfere with her healing and raise the risk of tissue rejection.
(AP)

Coffee ‘Boosts Female Sex Drive’

Coffee could help boost a woman’s sex drive, a US study says.
(BBC)

FDA Unveils New Prescription Drug Labels

Package inserts that accompany every prescription drug are getting a major makeover that will provide doctors and patients with the clear and concise information they need while cutting down on the small-print warnings that only lawyers seem to understand.
(AP)

Revenge Replaces Empathy in Male Brain

The Germans have a word for it: schadenfreude, loosely translated as “taking joy in the misery of others.” It’s what many folks feel when movie villains get blown away or a nasty co-worker gets fired. Now a new brain-imaging study suggests schadenfreude might be a distinctly male phenomenon.
()

NIH Halts International AIDS Study

A major international study of a drug-conserving AIDS therapy has been halted because patients trying the on-again, off-again strategy got sicker than those who never took a break from the high-powered drugs, U.S. researchers announced Wednesday.
(AP)

January 18, 2006

Euthanasia and Doctor-Assisted Suicide are Illegal under British Law

But almost 3,000 people in the UK were hastened to their death by their doctor. There were 936 voluntary euthanasia deaths (i.e., patients requested euthanasia), 1,930 “non-voluntary” euthanasia deaths and 0 assisted suicides. The balance of the deaths was attributed to withdrawing or withholding treatment with the intention of hastening death.

The figures, extrapolated from the study, show rates of euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide which are significantly lower than anywhere else in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, where similar studies have been done.

Bioethics & Health News
January 18

Face Transplant Doctor Reveals Tissue Rejection

French surgeons are declaring the world’s first face transplant a success even as they revealed that the patient battled a serious tissue-rejection episode less than a month after her groundbreaking operation.
(AP)

Gene Protects Against HIV, But Ups Risk for West Nile Virus

A genetic mutation that helps protect a small minority of people against HIV infection may increase their risk of contracting West Nile disease, new research suggests.
(HealthDay)

Court Ruling a Relief for Some Patients

Charlene Andrews, who has terminal breast cancer, has not yet asked a doctor for the fatal dose of barbiturates that would enable her to take her own life.
(AP)

Sex Difference in Aspirin Effect

Taking aspirin can cut the risk of cardiovascular disease in both sexes – but seems to work differently for men and women, research suggests.
(BBC)

Dogs Smell Signs of Cancer

Dogs have long been used to sniff out explosives, narcotics, and even counterfeit currency. Now, a new study shows that man’s best friend can also detect lung and breast cancer in breath samples.
(HealthDay)

Study: Aspirin’s Heart Benefits May Vary By Sex

he benefits of taking aspirin regularly differs between men and women, reducing the risk of heart attacks in men while reducing the risk of strokes in women, researchers said on Tuesday.
(Reuters)

January 17, 2006

Church of Scotland Weighs in on Bioethics Issues

The Church of Scotland has announced its opposition to the destruction of embryos in research and medicine. This includes embryonic stem cell research, preimplantation sex-selection, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis.

For some, the use of and subsequent destruction of embryos to extract stem cells is tantamount to sanctioning the murder of one human person in the hopes of saving the life of another, and therefore ought to be absolutely impermissible.
. . .
We feel that, particularly with stem cell research, human embryos will become regarded as mere research objects in a catalogue on which it is open season for scientists to research.
. . .
For many in the Church of Scotland, the human embryo has the moral status of a new-born baby, no research is permissible and they object strongly to (laws) which allow such research.
. . .
Instead of the Christian view of the child as a gift, the child is to be seen in terms of its usefulness against certain criteria. This is an instrumental view of a future child. In the process the couple would be discarding many good embryos. The selection of a future child because of its function or quality is a route we should not begin to go down.

Bioethics & Health News
January 17

US Judges Back Assisted Suicide

The US Supreme Court has upheld a law allowing doctors in the state of Oregon to help terminally ill patients die.
(BBC)

Study Finds Cloned Stem Cells Safe

Stem cells taken from cloned embryos are likely to be safe when used for therapeutic purposes, a new study finds. “This is actually really good news,” said Tobias Brambrink, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in the (Rudy) Jaenisch lab at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass.
(HealthDay)

Gene May Help Cause Infertility

Scientists say dysfunction in a key gene could explain many cases of female infertility. In studies in mice, embryos without a gene that expresses a uterine protein called CCAAT/Enhancer Binding Protein beta (C/EBPb) could not survive in uterine tissue or attach to the mother’s blood supply.
(HealthDay)

Taste Gene Could Encourage Alcoholism

Genetic research is linking alcoholism with a gene that controls how bitter individuals perceive foods to be. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis analyzed DNA samples from 262 families, each of which had at least three family members who were alcoholics.
(HealthDay)

Norwegian Doctor Made Up Cancer Study

A Norwegian cancer expert made up fictitious patients for an article about treatment of oral cancer published in a leading medical journal, the hospital said on Sunday.
(MSNBC)

Study Finds Exercise Helps Delay Dementia

Older people who exercise three or more times a week are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, according to a study that adds to the evidence that staying active can help keep the mind sharp.
(AP)

Wooed: The media hypes a fraud

Wesley J. Smith writing at National Review Online

Where’s the Media Mea Culpa?
But enough about Hwang. The other story here is the media’s attempt to shore up public perception of embryonic-stem-cell research and therapeutic cloning even in the midst of the implosion of its most exciting “breakthrough” and the utter discrediting of the field’s most promising star.

There are ways to report a story to ensure that its import sinks deeply into the public’s consciousness. Think of Abu Ghraib; or of President Bush’s alleged culpability for the miseries suffered by the victims of Hurricane Katrina…or of the media’s incessant touting of embryonic-stem-cell research as the most likely source of miraculous medical cures, despite the current paucity of actual scientific verification.

January 13, 2006

Second Chances

Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review says that the fact that Hwang didn’t actually accomplish anything gives us “a second chance to preserve the dignity of human life.”

This is actually good news. Cloning — even under frequently used euphemisms: somatic-cell nuclear transfer, therapeutic cloning, and simply “stem-cell research” — would be a giant leap for mankind, and not a good one. To create a life in order to destroy it, as so-called therapeutic cloning would do, is a brave new world for us. A world that, although some states even here have already invested money in pursuing, we have not quite arrived at. Phew.

Read the whole thing.

Bioethics & Health News
January 13

Journal Retracts Disgraced Stem Cell Papers

The journal Science on Thursday officially closed the book on two stem cell research papers that were hailed as breakthroughs when they were published but are now discredited as frauds.
(MSNBC)

South Korean Stem Cell Probe Widens

South Korean prosecutors investigating disgraced stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk said Friday they were barring more of his collaborators from leaving the country.
(AP)

Maryland Sets a Health Cost for Wal-Mart

The Maryland legislature passed a law Thursday that would require Wal-Mart Stores to increase spending on employee health insurance, a measure that is expected to be a model for other states.
(New York Times)

Insect spray Linked to Male Infertility

While infertility may be caused by a number of factors, new study findings suggest that exposure to nonpersistent, or short-lasting, insecticides may play a role in male infertility.
(Reuters)

Children Poisoned by Medications a Common Cause of ER Visits

Medications taken accidentally by young children account for an estimated 53,517 nonfatal visits to emergency departments each year in the United States, a new federal study has found.
(HealthDay)

Fears Over Premature Birth Drug

A drug prescribed to pregnant women at risk of premature birth may actually do more harm than good, a study suggests.
(BBC)

January 11, 2006

fMRI: An Introduction

Don’t know what fMRI is? You’re going to be hearing a lot more about it and related technologies. Slate.com has a first-person introduction.

WSJ Interviews Leon Kass

The Wall Street Journal has an interview with Leon Kass, member and former chair of the President’s council on Bioethics, posted on their (free!) OpinionJournal site. Dr. Kass is adept at looking past the minutiae of specific debates to the broader issues of what it means 2BHuman, which this article demonstrates well.

Health and longevity; dementia and death; euthanasia and living wills; performance enhancement and life-prolonging genetic manipulations–these are the subjects that really engage the mind of this 66-year-old physician and ethicist (and former philosophy professor of mine). As for embryos, stem cells, cloning and the uses and abuses thereof, they are “not the most profound of subjects,” he told me over a pot of tea in the kitchen of his Washington apartment. “The embryo question is really about the means. The real question has to do with the ends to which we put this.”
. . .
. . . in an era in which biomedical technologies have already begun to alter the broad and basic contours of human nature, questions about when life begins, or what is permissible in the name of medicine, seem almost quaint. “Killing the creature made in God’s image is an old story,” he says. “Redesigning him after our own fantasies: That’s what’s really new.”

Read the whole thing.

Bioethics & Health News
January 11

Report: Face Transplant Patient Goes Out

The woman who received a new nose, chin and mouth in a groundbreaking transplant operation in November has taken strolls in public without drawing stares, her surgeon said in an interview published Wednesday.
(AP)

Study Confirms You Can’t Be Fat — And Healthy

Middle-age people who are overweight but have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels are kidding themselves if they think their health is just fine.
(MSNBC)

Advocates Hold Out Hope for Stem Cells

Having spent 23 years in a wheelchair, Wall Street analyst Henry Stifel keeps a close eye on spinal cord research. And he says the latest scientific scandal in South Korea has not dimmed his hope that stem cells may one day help people like him.
(AP)

Science Will Stick With Peer Review

It was late on a Wednesday night in February 2004 that Dr Hwang Woo-suk and his entourage swept into the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seattle to meet the BBC.
(BBC)

Science Probes the Awakening Brain

Americans who check their e-mail and scan the newspaper right after they get out of bed in the morning may want to wait just a bit longer.
(HealthDay)

Study: 7 Percent of Workers Drink on Job

Just over 7 percent of American workers drink during the workday – mostly at lunch – and even more, 9 percent, have nursed a hangover in the workplace, according to a study.
(AP)

January 10, 2006

Bioethics & Health News
January 10

Probe finds stem cell scientist faked research

An academic panel investigating the work of South Korean researcher Woo Suk Hwang said Tuesday that he faked his landmark claim that he cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them — capping the spectacular fall of a man once lauded as a pioneer.
(MSNBC)

Cough Medicines ‘Of Little Help’

Taking cough medicine does little to help recovery, US experts have said.
(BBC)

Study: Alone Time With Dogs Helps Seniors

Dogs apparently need no help lifting the spirits of lonely people. A St. Louis study has found that nursing home residents felt much less lonely after spending time alone with a dog than when other people joined in the visit. The residents shared their problems and story in “intimate conversations” with the visiting dog, researchers said.
(AP)

When the Pill Arouses That Urge for Abstinence

It is no secret that some women who take birth control pills lose interest in sex. They have been reporting this side effect to their doctors since oral contraceptives came into wide use 40 years ago.
(New York Times)

Designer Genes: Women May Stray When Ovulation Peaks

Women who feel an urge for sex outside of their marriages might be hearing an evolutionary call to improve the species.
(HealthDay)

Health Care Inflation Slowed in 2004

Spending on health care grew at a rate of 7.9 percent in 2004, the lowest overall increase since 2000, largely because of a shift by many people to cheaper generic drugs, according to a study.
(AP)

January 9, 2006

Stem Cells: State by State

No doubt about it, stem cell research is on the minds of state lawmakers as they head back to their capitols this month. The National Conference of State Legislatures has ranked stem cell research #9 on its list of top legislative issues in 2006.

The debate over regenerative medicine will endure in state legislatures in 2006. Last year, states considered more than 170 bills on embryonic and adult stem cell research. More than a dozen states will carry over legislation, and others will consider new bills. Should embryonic stem cell research be legal? Should state funds support it? Should the state fund adult stem cell research instead? These are questions lawmakers will contemplate in 2006.

Stay tuned. It’s going to be an interesting year.

Bioethics & Health News
January 9

Stem Cell Therapy Sparks Hope in Ailing Hearts

Esteban Bonilla feels no trepidation as he is wheeled into the operating room of a Bangkok hospital, despite the fact he is only minutes away from starting an experimental stem cell procedure he hopes will keep him alive.
(Reuters)

India ‘Loses 10m Female Births’

More than 10m female births in India may have been lost to abortion and sex selection in the past 20 years, according to medical research.
(BBC)

Sharon Case May Raise Theological Issues

Like nearly everything in Israel, Ariel Sharon’s condition touches both the hard-edged logic of the secular world and the vagaries of faith.
(AP)

Violent Games ‘Affect Behaviour’

Violent computer games may make people more likely to act aggressively, a study says.
(BBC)

Doctors Accepting More Medicare Patients

The percentage of physicians who accept new Medicare patients has increased over the past fours years despite a slight drop in physicians’ reimbursement rates, a study shows.
(AP)

Severe Medical Crisis Reported in Congo

War-ravaged Congo is suffering the world’s deadliest medical crisis, with 38,000 people dying each month, mostly from easily treatable conditions like diarrhea and respiratory infections, said a study published Friday in Britain’s leading medical journal.
(New York Times)

 

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