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November 26, 2008

UK: Care ‘failing the terminally ill’

Terminally ill people and their families are being let down by failings in end of life care, a watchdog says.

The National Audit Office said while most people wanted to die at home, the majority ended their days in hospital. (BBC)

Race and Sex Disparities in Liver Transplantation: Progress Toward Achieving Equal Access?

Unique among medical specialties, the organ transplantation community has the obligation to explicitly allocate a very limited lifesaving resource. Liver transplantation offers the sole hope for long-term survival for patients with end-stage liver disease. Overall survival rates for transplantation now routinely exceed 90% at 1 year, even among patients with the most advanced liver failure, the majority of whom would die within months without a transplant.1-2 As stewards of a precious resource, the transplant community has a goal of achieving an equitable, transparent, and efficient system of organ allocation. Meeting these goals is crucial for maintaining confidence in the transplant system and encouraging organ donation. ([Premium] JAMA)

Mexico to Allow Terminally Ill Patients to Refuse Treatment

The measure, unanimously approved by the Senate with one abstention today, only applies to patients who have a life expectancy of six months or less, said Ernesto Saro, head of the health committee. Doctors can’t stop giving patients food, water, psychological care and pain killers, he said. (Bloomberg)

Can DNA Tests Help You Change Your Life?

If a genetic test tells a patient that he or she is susceptible to lung cancer, will that person quit smoking?

Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, Calif., is looking for the answer to this and other similar questions. (Forbes)

UK: Virtual hospitals – the NHS’s future

The future of NHS care does not lie in bricks-and-mortar hospitals, according to policy expert Nick Bosanquet.

In this week’s Scrubbing Up Professor Bosanquet, a director of the centre-right think-tank Reform – predicts we could one day be texting in test results day and night to doctors who could give an instant verdict. (BBC)

Actor robots take Japanese stage

First there were dancing robots, then house-sitting robots and now a new breed of acting robots is making its big debut on the Japanese stage. (BBC)

November 25, 2008

Genetic disease testing advance

Blood taken from a pregnant woman may reveal if her baby has a wide range of genetic diseases, researchers claim. (BBC)

Regenerating Neurons in Eyes

If researchers could spur the development of different types of new neurons in the living human eye, they might be able to replace cells that are lost in diseases like macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. Few or no treatment options are currently available for patients with these diseases. (Technology Review)

Researchers identify new source of insulin-producing cells

Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center have shown that insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells can form after birth or after injury from progenitor cells within the pancreas that were not beta cells, a finding that contradicts a widely-cited earlier study that had concluded this is not possible. (PhysOrg)

‘Embryo adoption’ service seeks to give infertile couples a chance to have a family

The day the frozen embryo arrived via FedEx was the day Maria Lancaster began experiencing firsthand what she had always believed: that human life begins at conception. (PhysOrg)

Scientists achieve repair of injured heart muscle in lab tests of stem cells

Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC have been able to effectively repair damaged heart muscle in an animal model using a novel population of stem cells they discovered that is derived from human skeletal muscle tissue. (PhysOrg)

China’s bid to end bribery for doctors opens debate on ethics and pay

China’s new bid to end corruption among non-government employees, especially doctors, has touched a sensitive nerve of the Chinese society in which poor doctor-patient relations have long been a topic, and where doctors are on low salaries.

Medical staff may face commercial bribery charges if they receive money or other forms of reward from sales agents of pharmaceutical companies or suppliers of medical equipment, according to a judicial interpretation by the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate released on Monday. (Xinhua)

Obama’s Promise on Stem Cells Doesn’t Ensure New War on Disease

How much federal money will be made available for the research? And how quickly can America’s major science-funding agency, the National Institutes of Health, take on a leadership role in a field where it has only modest experience and whose funding efforts have lagged behind several state initiatives. (Wall Street Journal)

The Seed State of Science 2008

In this, Seed’s first State of Science, we set out to examine the radical changes within science itself by assessing the evolving role of scientists and the shifting dimensions of scientific practice. We surveyed scientists, academics, and consulted with historians, journal editors, and policy experts alike. We also invited genome pioneer and entrepreneur Craig Venter to lay down his opinions on how science really gets done, Harvard historian Steven Shapin to profile the scientist of today, and researchers from five different continents to tell us why they do what they do. Our aim was to capture the fundamentals of science and create an honest snapshot of the state of science today—along with the motivations and ambitions of the individuals who will chart its future course. (Seed)

Helping physicians understand genetic risk

The American College of Preventative Medicine (ACPM) is developing a continuing medical education programme entitled: Genetic Risk, Screening and Intervention. The course is aimed at improving physicians’ understanding of “genetic risk factors for disease, the current evidence about the use of genomic tools and technologies to determine risk, and promising practices for utilizing those tools to aid in disease prevention”. (PHG Foundation)

Medical Tourism

Earlier this month, the insurance company WellPoint announced a program that will allow employees of a Wisconsin printing company to get coverage for non-emergency surgeries in India. It’s a first for WellPoint, but puts the insurer in good company. Over the past few years, U.S. insurance companies — dismayed at losing income from uninsured Americans who get cheap surergies abroad or clients who choose to pay out of pocket for discount foreign surgeries rather than expensive in-network co-pays — have announced plans to include foreign medical procedures among those covered by health plans. (TIME)

Survey: Many German Doctors Support Assisted Suicide | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 24.11.2008

A new survey shows that a surprising number of German doctors have no moral qualms about assisted suicide. A full 35 percent would support rules allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives. (Deutsche Welle)

Assisted suicide takes centre stage in Quebec courtroom

The controversial issue of assisted suicide will take centre stage in a courtroom in northeastern Quebec this week when a man charged with helping his severely ill uncle kill himself faces trial. )

A British take on nanotechnology risks

For traditionalists it certainly is jolly good, absolutely spiffing, actually, to be able to open a report on leading edge 21st century nanotechnology and be confronted with a preamble that contains these phrases right out of the 19th century: “Twenty-seventh Report To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty. May it please Your Majesty. Presented to Parliament by Command of Her Majesty. Humbly submitted to Your Majesty.” But then it gets decidedly strange when this is followed by a quote from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “…for I was never so small as this before, never!” How cool, sorry, bloody marvellous – does this mean that MI6 has now added nanobots to James Bond’s gadgetry? (Nanowerk)

The Hastings Center and National University of Singapore join forces in bioethics scholarship and launch new journal

The Hastings Center and the Centre for Biomedical Ethics (CBmE) at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (YLLSoM, NUS) have announced a collaboration aimed at expanding bioethics scholarship in Asia. The collaboration draws on The Hastings Center’s scholarly as well as editorial expertise. The Hastings Center is the world’s first bioethics institute, and publishes the Hastings Center Report, the oldest and leading peer-reviewed journal in the field. (Nanowerk)

How Comics Can Save Us From Scientific Ignorance

What’s the solution to America’s crisis in science education? More comic books. In December comes The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA, a remarkably thorough explanation of the science of genetics, from Mendel to Venter, with a strand of social urgency spliced in. “If there was ever a time that we needed a push to make science a priority, it’s now,” says Howard Zimmerman, the book’s editor and, not coincidentally, a former elementary-school science teacher. “Advances in treatments for disease cannot take place in a society that shuns science.” Zimmerman works with the New York literary publishing house Hill and Wang, which discovered Elie Weisel and has been creating a new niche for itself as one of the premiere producers of major graphic “nonfiction novels” like the war on terror primer After 9/11 and the bio-comic Ronald Reagan. (Wired)


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

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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

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