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October 31, 2007

Op-Ed: Doubling Down on Stem Cells

Nearly half of New Jersey’s citizens want to leave their state, and it’s not just because of the “Which exit?” jokes, its reputation for political corruption, or even the smell. (National Review Online)

Stem Cells Restore Memory Function in Mice

The Washington Post prominently reports a syndicated story, byline Steven Reinberg of HealthDay News, that stem cells have restored memory in mice. Those would be embryonic stem cells that the media and “the scientists” continually insist offer the “best hope” for such treatments, right? Uh, that would be a big negative. The stem cells came from the brains of the mice. From the story:

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) — A new U.S. study involving mice suggests the brain’s own stem cells may have the ability to restore memory after an injury.

These neural stem cells work by protecting existing cells and promoting neuronal connections. In their experiments, a team at the University of California, Irvine, were able to bring the rodents’ memory back to healthy levels up to three months after treatment.

The finding could open new doors for treatment of brain injury, stroke and dementia, experts say. “This is one of the first reports that you can take a stem cell transplantation approach and restore memory,” said lead researcher Mathew Blurton-Jones, a postdoctorate fellow at the university. “There is a lot of awareness that stem cells might be useful in treating diseases that cause loss of motor function, but this study shows that they might benefit memory in stroke or traumatic brain injury, and potentially Alzheimer’s disease.”

And don’t forget that in one human test, Dennis Turner’s own neural stem cells seem to have promoted a pronounced remission in Parkinson’s disease.

This is all still early, and we don’t know whether it will translate into treatments for humans yet. But if I hear one more time that embryonic stem cells and cloning offer the “only hope” or “best hope” for regenerative medical treatments, my brain will explode–and then I will need these treatments.

Also note that mice were required for this experiment–contrary to the ludicrous assertions by animal liberationists that animal research provides no benefit.

Charleston Gazette’s Disgraceful Editorial

This editorial in the Charleston Gazette is so despicable it is hard to know where to begin. In applauding the Federal Court’s decision not to extradite George Exoo at the request of Ireland for allegedly assisting the suicide of an Irish woman, the editorial makes the most disgraceful, ignorant, and insensitive statements:

Jack Kevorkian, an eccentric known as “Dr. Death,” spent eight years in a Michigan prison for murder because he helped a Lou Gehrig’s disease victim end his hopeless life.

Yes. And he also assisted the suicides of more than 130 people, most of whom were not terminally ill but disabled. More urgently, imagine how it feels to be a Lou Gehrig’s disease patient or a family member, and read in your local newspaper that it officially considers someone with ALS to have a “hopeless life.”

And then, the editorial brings up Terri Schiavo:

The grotesque Terri Schiavo case, in which Republican congressmen rushed into emergency session to continue life-support machines sustaining a brain-dead woman, spotlighted the thorny topic.

Never mind, as I wrote in this week’s Weekly Standard, that bill was passed with broadly bi-partisan support, including unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate. Terri was not on “life-support machines.” Nor was she “brain dead.” She was profoundly disabled.

The editorial writer is not only crassly insensitive, but incredibly ignorant. Disgraceful, but all too typical of the MSM on these issues.

Blank Check and Junk Biology in New Jersey’s Question 2

The fix is in for New Jersey voters to go $450 million in debt to fund embryonic stem cell research, now that the courts have permitted a bogus ballot description to go out to voters. Few voters will read the initiative itself, but you can here. (It was very hard to find the actual wording of the initiative. Either I am maladroit in conducting on-line research–a real possibility–or this is yet another game of hide the ball by Big Biotech and its camp followers in the media and in politics.)

In any event, Question 2 purports to prevent the bond funds from being used to conduct research into human cloning:

No funds authorized for, or made available to, an eligible research institution pursuant to this act shall be used for the purpose of human cloning.

Sounds good. But once again, Big Biotech’s minions resort to junk biology to explicitly permit what they purport to outlaw. Here is how “human cloning” is mis-defined in Question 2:

Human cloning” means human asexual reproduction accomplished by introducing nuclear material from one or more human cells into a fertilized or unfertilized oocyte whose nuclear material has been removed or inactivated so as to produce a human fetus that is substantially genetically identical to a previously born human being.

(My emphasis.)

This wording would not only permit funding research into human cloning–which is accurately defined as the successful completion of human SCNT– but would also explicitly permit the state to use borrowed taxpayers’ money to pay for research on cloned human embryos through the eighth week–since the fetal stage doesn’t commence until week 8.

But the in-the-tank media will never report that–even if they read the actual wording of the initiative rather than merely rely on promoters’ press releases.

Now, couple this junk definition with the radical definition of human cloning in the substantive law of NJ–

As used in this section, “cloning a human being,” means the replication of a human individual by cultivating a cell with genetic material [the SCNT cloning process] through the egg, embryo, fetal and newborn stages into a new human individual.

–which permits cloning, implantation, and gestation through the ninth month, research onto implanted cloned embryos and fetuses would seem to be the ultimate goal.

A New Issue of Bioethics is Now Available

Bioethics Vol. 21 Issue 9 (November 2007) is now available by subsciption only.

Articles include:
GUEST EDITORIAL
“MOVING TOWARD GENDER JUSTICE” by ANNE DONCHIN with Susan Dodds and Jing-Bao Nie, ii–iii

ARTICLES
“DONATING FRESH VERSUS FROZEN EMBRYOS TO STEM CELL RESEARCH: IN WHOSE INTERESTS?” by CAROLYN MCLEOD AND FRANÇOISE BAYLIS, 465–477
“THE ETHICS OF CESAREAN SECTION ON MATERNAL REQUEST: A FEMINIST CRITIQUE OF THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF OBSTETRICIANS AND GYNECOLOGISTS’ POSITION ON PATIENT-CHOICE SURGERY” by VERONIQUE BERGERON, 478–487
“GENDER-BASED DISPARITIES EAST/WEST: RETHINKING THE BURDEN OF CARE IN THE UNITED STATES AND TAIWAN” by ROSEMARIE TONG, 488–499
“DEPENDING ON CARE: RECOGNITION OF VULNERABILITY AND THE SOCIAL CONTRIBUTION OF CARE PROVISION” by SUSAN DODDS, 500–510

DISCUSSION Coping with Genetic Termination
“THE SPACE IN BETWEEN: NARRATIVES OF SILENCE AND GENETIC TERMINATIONS” by ANGELA THACHUK, 511–514
“FEMINIST BIOETHICS AND GENETIC TERMINATION” by CATRIONA MACKENZIE, 515–516

DISCUSSION Sex-Selective Abortion for Social Reasons: Is it ever Morally Justifiable?
“SEX SELECTION AND RESTRICTING ABORTION AND SEX DETERMINATION” by JULIE ZILBERBERG, 517–519
“IS SEX-SELECTIVE ABORTION MORALLY JUSTIFIED AND SHOULD IT BE PROHIBITED?” by WENDY ROGERS, ANGELA BALLANTYNE AND HEATHER DRAPER, 520–524

Pitt school of medicine gets grant to develop organ donation protocol

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has received a grant of nearly $1 million to develop a protocol for organ donation for people who die in hospital emergency rooms, the university announced Tuesday. (Pittsburgh Business Times)

Quality of Life Predicts Lung Cancer Survival

Quality of life is the most important predictor of survival for patients with locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer, U.S. researchers report. (Washington Post)

Your Drug Target Audience

Whether drug companies like it or not, the FDA is pushing patient-reported outcomes in trials. So what are they good for? (The Scientist)

Star Trek Gadget? ‘Tractor Beam’ For Cells Developed

In a feat that seems like something out of a microscopic version of Star Trek, MIT researchers have found a way to use a “tractor beam” of light to pick up, hold, and move around individual cells and other objects on the surface of a microchip. (ScienceDaily)

Federal Study Offers Dire Outlook on Child Insurance

Twenty-one states will run out of money for children’s health insurance in the coming year, and at least nine of those states will exhaust their allotments in March if Congress simply continues spending at current levels, a new federal study says. (New York Times)

Nanotech Needs Ethical Framework, Says Expert

The nanotechnology now celebrated for its potential to revolutionize drug delivery and surgery must also be scrutinized for its potential ethical dilemmas, according to an expert in the new field of “nanoethics.” (Business New Haven)

The Invincible Man

Aubrey de Grey may be wrong but, evidence suggests, he’s not nuts. This is a no small assertion. De Grey argues that some people alive today will live in a robust and youthful fashion for 1,000 years. (Washington Post)

Stem Cells Restore Memory in Mice

A new U.S. study involving mice suggests the brain’s own stem cells may have the ability to restore memory after an injury. (HealthDay)

October 30, 2007

Yet ANOTHER Sleeping Pill Awakening

Readers of SHS and my other work know that Zolpidem–which goes by the brand name Ambien–can sometimes awaken people who have been diagnosed as permanently unconscious. Here is the story in the Daily Mail of another such “miracle” in the UK:

A woman who has been in a coma for the past six years is slowly coming back to life after being given sleeping pills. Amy Pickard, from Hastings in East Sussex, was only 17 when she slipped into a coma in 2001.

However now, after being given over-the-counter miracle pill Zolpidem, her devoted mum Thelma says the “old sparkle” has returned to her daughter’s eyes…

Speaking today, Thelma, 54, said: “She is changing and it is amazing. “When she takes the pill, I see her face relax and the old sparkle return to her eyes. It’s incredible.”

Amy is one of 360 people taking part in a worldwide revolutionary drugs trial which could see coma patients “miraculously” come back to life.

Well, I don’t like the term “come back to life” since they weren’t dead. But never mind. Much is happening in this field and the time has certainly come to stop dehydrating the unconscious. If their inherent value as human beings isn’t enough not to terminate these lives, perhaps the hope for an efficacious treatment to awaken the unconscious are, finally, at hand. According to the story, 60% of the people treated with the drug so far have exhibited benefit. Wow.

Second-generation human genome map to shed new light on disease

The International HapMap Consortium, a public-private effort to identify and catalogue genetic similarities and differences in humans, this month unveiled its second-generation version of the human genome; a map three times more detailed than the original version released in 2005. The new map will help scientists to unpick the complex gene-environment interactions that have over time shaped the human genome, helping them to better detect genetic variants involved in common diseases, wrote the consortium in two papers published in the journal Nature.
(BioNews)

Doctor? Or Druggist?

When Anne Johnson recently visited the Nighttime Pediatrics and Adult Care Too! clinic near her home in Millersville with a case of hives, the doctor told her she needed steroids and several days’ worth of antihistamines. But he didn’t hand her a prescription. Instead, Johnson, 46, got a dose of each drug on the spot, and the chance to buy the rest on her way out the clinic door. Given the late hour — 11 p.m. — Johnson gladly accepted. (Washington Post)

Cigna Reaches Deal on Doctors’ Rankings

Cigna Corp. (CI) (CI) agreed to provide customers with more information about how the insurer recommends doctors, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced Monday. (AP)

Therapy for ‘Lorenzo’s oil’ boys

Doctors have for the first time used gene therapy to treat two boys with the rare nervous disorder made famous through the film “Lorenzo’s Oil”. (BBC)

Participants Left Uninformed in Some Halted Medical Trials

When Congress passed a bill last month requiring makers of drugs and medical devices to disclose the results of clinical trials for all approved products, advocates of greater study disclosure applauded the move. (New York Times)

Nurses ‘best placed’ to decide on resuscitation

Giving experienced nurses the power to decide whether or not to resuscitate patients will spare families the “heartache” of futile revival attempts, it has been claimed. (Telegraph)

Op-Ed: Scientists on Science

Many years ago, when I was young and spirited, I held the view that the world would be a much better place if scientists ran relevant parts of the government. I foresaw cerebral debate, realistic assessment of risks, intelligent adjudication, long-term planning, clear explanations of policy, and an absence of PR spin: The most rational people making the best possible decisions. (The Scientist)

 

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