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February 27, 2009

Lesbian couple claim £20,000 damages after NHS refuses them fertility treatment

Caroline Harris and Julie McMullan claim they are victims of discrimination because they are a same sex couple and have asked a judge to order fertility treatment for Miss Harris.

But Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Health Board insists that its expensive “assisted conception service” is for couples who have been trying without success to conceive “in the normal way”. (Telegraph)

Obama Moves to Undo ‘Conscience’ Rule for Health Workers

The Obama administration moved on Friday to undo a last-minute Bush administration rule granting broad protections to health workers who refuse to take part in abortions or provide other health care that goes against their consciences.

The Department of Health and Human Services served notice on Friday, through a message to the White House Office of Management and Budget, that it intends to rescind the regulation, which was originally announced on Dec. 19, 2008, and took effect on the day President Obama took office. (New York Times)

Researchers Generate Functional Neurons From Engineered Stem Cells

In a new study, researchers were able to generate functionally mature motor neurons from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are engineered from adult somatic cells and can differentiate into most other cell types. (Science Daily)

Assisted suicide case revives right-to-die debate

The case against an alleged assisted suicide ring known as the Final Exit Network has revived a long-simmering debate over the right to die.

The network’s president, its medical director and two other members are due in court Friday on charges they aided the suicide of a 58-year-old Georgia man who suffered for years from cancer of the throat and mouth. (Associated Press)

Stem cell research supporters offer Senate bill

Two prominent supporters of stem cell research said on Thursday they had reintroduced a Senate bill that would allow federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, in anticipation of President Barack Obama’s support for the work. (Reuters)

AstraZeneca Papers Raise Seroquel Issues

AstraZeneca PLC instructed its U.S. sales representatives to tell doctors that its powerful psychiatric drug, Seroquel, didn’t cause diabetes even though a company physician had at one point stated years earlier that such a link was probable in some individuals, documents unsealed in a federal court case here show. [Premium (Wall Street Journal)]

February 26, 2009

Brain-Machine Interfaces Make for Tricky Ethics

Direct connections from brains to computers may someday help free paralyzed people from the constraints of their bodies. They’re already used to reverse deafness and blindness. But as they become more refined, brain-machine interfaces will almost certainly be used for non-therapeutic purposes — and with that expansion comes profound ethical questions. (Wired)

Kinesiology major Melanie Burnett became an egg donor to help pay for college

In an economy that has been figuratively exacting a pound of flesh from many, Melanie Burnett has been literally selling a part of herself to help pay her way through college. (CSUN University News)

Ideas for Fixing Health Care

President Barack Obama said in his speech to Congress that the nation must address “the crushing cost of health care,” with premiums having grown four times faster than wages in the past eight years and one million more Americans having lost health insurance each of those years. Reform won’t be easy, he said, but it cannot wait another year. (New York Times)

Egg donors rise as U.S. economy falls

Hard economic times in the United States have sparked a rise in the number of young women wanting to donate their eggs for cash. (Scientific American)

New Issue of Journal of Bioethical Inquiry is Now Available

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (Volume 6, Number 1, March 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “Introduction: The Ethical Challenges of Nanotechnologies” by Alan Petersen, 9-12.
  • “The Social Impacts of Nanotechnology: an Ethical and Political Analysis” by Robert Sparrow, 13-23.
  • “Avoiding the Trust Deficit: Public Engagement, Values, the Precautionary Principle and the Future of Nanotechnology” by Margaret Stebbing, 37-48.
  • “The Role of Regret in Informed Consent” by Miles Little, 49-59.
  • “The Other Abortion Myth—the Failure of the Common Law” by Kate Gleeson, 69-81.
  • “Anthropological and Sociological Critiques of Bioethics” by Leigh Turner, 83-98.
  • “Policy Design for Human Embryo Research in Canada: A History (Part 1 of 2)” by Françoise Baylis and Matthew Herder, 109-122.
  • “Organ Donation: Who Should Decide?—A Canadian Perspective” by Jeffrey Conyers Kirby, 123-128.

Event: Intensive Workshop in Health Care Ethics

UMAS Division of Medical Humanities
Intensive Workshop in Health Care Ethics
May 7-8, 2009
Little Rock, Arkansas

Program OverviewThe UAMS Division of Medical Humanities Intensive Workshop is designed to educate participants in the basic concepts in medical ethics; to introduce the insights of medical humanities for clinical care; to apply knowledge from ethics and the humanities to specific issues that arise in practice and to explore those issues in a systematic and organized way.

The workshop is composed of two one-day modules: The first day presentsThe Basics—an introduction to the basic concepts and issues within the field of medical ethics.  The second day focuses on a Special Topic in health care that raises ethical concerns and can be illuminated by other medical humanities.  This year the topic is Medical Ethics and the Law.

Target AudienceThis course is for health care professionals and others who seek to deepen their understanding of ethical issues in health care. 

For more information or to register

February 25, 2009

Thinking of Human as Machine

It will be a long time before machines can be “more human than human,” as scientists are just starting to decode what happens inside our brains as we recognize a spoken word. (Scientific American)

The Health Effects of Social Networking

Is social networking killing you? Well, no, probably not. Or at least, not literally. But two British scientists have recently suggested that spending all day, and — admit it — much of the night networking on a computer might in fact be bad for your body and your brain. (New York Times)

Seven Ways To Sell Your Body

Two years ago, the global market in human flesh looked like a humanitarian issue. It was a problem for those poor people in developing countries, not for us. But global capitalism doesn’t care what color your skin is, as long as you’ve got some to sell and you need the cash. And, increasingly, people need the cash. (Slate)

Mr. Know-It-All: Disclosing DNA, Enrolling Friends in Rehab, Protecting Peepers on a PDA

According to my 23andMe DNA test, I have an above average chance of developing prostate cancer. Should I disclose this to my finacé? (Wired)

February 24, 2009

New Safety, New Concerns In Tests for Down Syndrome

A handful of biotech companies are racing to market a new generation of tests for Down syndrome, a development that promises a safer way to spot the most common genetic cause of mental retardation early in pregnancy even as it weaves a thicket of moral, medical, political and regulatory concerns. (Washington Post)

The ethics of assisted suicide

To the majority of Washington voters, Initiative 1000 is a humane approach to end-of-life health care. To Rose Crumb, 83, the soon-to-be-enacted Death with Dignity law is physician-assisted suicide. (Peninsula Daily)

UConn finds two new stem cell lines

UConn has made a breakthrough in stem cell research by finding two new human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines at the UConn Health Center in Farmington. The new lines were named CT-1 and CT-2, and have been distributed to colleagues in-state and beyond, according to Dr. Ren-He Xu, director of the UConn Stem Cell Core Lab. (Daily Campus)

Organ donor ‘reassurance’ urged

Fear that doctors will not make every effort to save their life tops the list of reasons stopping people becoming organ donors, a survey suggests. (BBC)

New Issue of American Journal of Transplantation is Now Available

American Journal of Transplantation (Volume 9, Issue 3, March 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “Arms, Ovaries and TracheashellipWhat Next?,” 438.
  • “Predictive Ability of Pretransplant Comorbidities to Predict Long-Term Graft Loss and Death ” by G. Machnicki, B. Pinsky, S. Takemoto, R. Balshaw, P. R. Salvalaggio, P. M. Buchanan, W. Irish, S. Bunnapradist, K. L. Lentine, T. E. Burroughs, D. C. Brennan, and M. A. Schnitzler, 494-505.
  • “Effect of Comorbidity Adjustment on CMS Criteria for Kidney Transplant Center Performance” by E. D. Weinhandl, J. J. Snyder, A. K. Israni, and B. L. Kasiske, 505-516.
  • “Racial Disparity Trends for Graft Failure in the US Pediatric Kidney Transplant Population, 1980–2004″ by B. M. Chavers, J. J. Snyder, M. A. Skeans, E. D. Weinhandl, and B. L. Kasiske, 543-549.
  • “Resource Utilization of Living Donor Versus Deceased Donor Liver Transplantation Is Similar at an Experienced Transplant Center” by J. C. Lai, E. M. Pichardo, J. C. Emond, and R. S. Brown Jr., 586-591.
  • “Formal Policies and Special Informed Consent Are Associated with Higher Provider Utilization of CDC High-Risk Donor Organs” by L. M. Kucirka, R. Namuyinga, C. Hanrahan, R. A. Montgomery, and D. L. Segev, 629-635.


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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