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June 30, 2009

GE teams up with Geron for stem-cell research

General Electric Co (GE.N) is teaming up with U.S. biotech company Geron Corp (GERN.O) to use stem cells to develop products that could give drug developers an early warning of whether new medicines are toxic. (Reuters)

Science journalism: How scientists can help

Science journalism may be under threat but scientists can still help ensure that reporting is informed and accurate, says an editorial in Nature. Some scientists see the media as a public relations service to explain new science, shape public understanding and highlight a blooming research sector to politicians. (SciDev)

Newborns’ Blood Samples Are Used for Research Without Parents’ Consent

Matthew Brzica and his wife hardly noticed when the hospital took a few drops of blood from each of their four newborn children for routine genetic testing. But then they discovered that the state had kept the dried blood samples ever since — and was making them available to scientists for medical research. (Washington Post)

A Biology of Mind

Understanding the biology of mental illness would be a paradigm shift in our thinking about mind. It would not only inform us about some of the most devastating diseases of humankind but, because these are diseases of thought and feeling, it would also tell us more about who we are and how we function. I naively thought we were on the verge of such a paradigm change in 1983, when James Gusella and Nancy Wexler were tracking down the gene that causes Huntington’s disease. I expected that within 10 years we would have found the major genes that contribute to schizophrenia, depression, and autism. Since then, there has been a lot of enthusiasm about genes and mental illness and some false starts, but surprisingly little progress. (Newsweek)

Should Employees Be Penalized for Unhealthy Behavior?

A recent Health Affairs article advances a set of ethical criteria for employer-based programs that penalize unhealthy behaviors. Given their growing prevalence and the ethical controversy they stir, the need for ethical guidance is urgent. The authors’ recommendations are thorough and thoughtful, but also have weaknesses that throw into question the practical utility of their guidelines and the ethical acceptability of penalty programs more basically. (Bioethics Forum)

Op-Ed: Code of conduct needed for health insurers, too

The American Medical Association (AMA) is considering a national health insurer code of conduct, calling on the U.S. health insurance industry to adopt consistent practices regarding costs, business transparency and the physician-patient relationship. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution )

New Issue of Trends in Biotechnology is Now Available

Trends in Biotechnology (Volume 27, Issue 7, July 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “Blood cell manufacture: current methods and future challenge” by Nicholas E. Timmins and Lars K. Nielsen, 415.
  • “Production of self-assembling biomaterials for tissue engineering” by Stuart Kyle, Amalia Aggeli, Eileen Ingham, and Michael J. McPherson, 423.
  • “Biotechnology under high pressure: applications and implications” by Abram Aertsen, Filip Meersman, Marc E.G. Hendrickx, Rudi F. Vogel, and Chris W. Michiels, 434.

New Issue of Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy is Now Available

Medicine, Health Care, and Philosophy (Volume 12, Number 3, August 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “From notions of health to causality” by Wim Dekkers and Bert Gordijn, 231-233.
  • “On the relationship between individual and population health” by Onyebuchi A. Arah, 235-244.
  • “International public health law: not so much WHO as why, and not enough WHO and why not?” by Shawn H. E. Harmon, 235-244.
  • “Healthcare regulation as a tool for public accountability” by Rui Nunes, Guilhermina Rego and Cristina Brandão, 257-264.
  • “Lifeworld-led healthcare is more than patient-led care: an existential view of well-being” by Karin Dahlberg, Les Todres and Kathleen Galvin, 265-271.
  • “The ethical and political evaluation of biotechnology strategies” by Juha Räikkä, 273-280.
  • “Under the pretence of autonomy: contradictions in the guidelines for human tissue donation” by Michael Steinmann, 281-289.
  • “Rapport and respect: negotiating ethical relations between researcher and participant” by Marilys Guillemin and Kristin Heggen, 291-299.
  • “The public funding of abortion in Canada: going beyond the concept of medical necessity” by Chris Kaposy, 301-311.
  • “Content analysis of euthanasia policies of nursing homes in Flanders (Belgium)” by Joke Lemiengre, Bernadette Dierckx de Casterlé, Yvonne Denier, Paul Schotsmans and Chris Gastmans, 313-322.
  • “Just love in live organ donation” by Kristin Zeiler, 323-331.
  • “Causal criteria and the problem of complex causation” by Andrew Ward, 333-343.
  • “Epidemiology and causation” by Leen De Vreese, 345-353.
  • “The meaning of the opposition between the healthy and the pathological and its consequences” by Maël Lemoine, 355-362.

June 29, 2009

UK: Let doctors pray for patients, BMA to hear

British Medical Association conference to be told praying for patients should not be grounds for NHS disciplinary action. (Guardian)

New Issue of Archives of Internal Medicine is Now Available

Archives of Internal Medicine (Volume 169, Number 12, June 22, 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “The Silent Dimension: Expressing Humanism in Each Medical Encounter” by Ami Schattner, 1095-1099.
  • “Cost-effectiveness Analysis of an Established, Effective Procedure” by Stephen Lyman, Robert G. Marx, and Peter B. Bach, 1102-1103.
  • “Frequency of Failure to Inform Patients of Clinically Significant Outpatient Test Results” by Lawrence P. Casalino, Daniel Dunham, Marshall H. Chin, Rebecca Bielang, Emily O. Kistner, Theodore G. Karrison, Michael K. Ong, Urmimala Sarkar, Margaret A. McLaughlin, and David O. Meltzer, 1123-1129.

New Issue of Journal of the American Medical Association is Now Available

JAMA (Volume 301, Number 24, June 24, 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “A Health Care Cooperative Extension Service: Transforming Primary Care and Community Health” by Kevin Grumbach and James W. Mold, 2589-2591.
  • “Economic Conditions and Obesity” by Garry Egger and José A. Tapia Granados, 2546.
  • “Evaluating Care Coordination Among Medicare Beneficiaries” by Richard H. Carmona, 2547-2548.
  • “States Explore Shared Decision Making” by Bridget M. Kuehn, 2539=2541.
  • “FDA Tells Drug and Device Makers to Give Balanced Picture of Risks in Ads, Labels” by Bridget M. Kuehn, 2541.
  • “Insurance Affordability” by Bridget M. Kuehn, 2542.

Book and Media Reviews Include:

  • “Ethical Issues in Governing Biobanks: Global Perspectives” by Thomas A. Faunce, 2596-2597.
  • “Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints, and Healing in the Modern World” by Anne Hardy, 2599=2600.

New Issue of Sociology of Health & Illness is Now Available

Sociology of Health & Illness (Volume 31, Issue 1, January 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “Violence, dignity and HIV vulnerability: street sex work in Serbia” by Milena Simić and Tim Rhodes, 1-16.
  • “AIDS stigma in health services in the Eastern Caribbean” by Scott Edward Rutledge, Neil Abell, Jacqueline Padmore, and Theresa J. McCann, 17-34.
  • “Are you sitting comfortably? The political economy of the body” by Peter Wilkin, 35-50.
  • “Shifting blame/selling health: corporate social responsibility in the age of obesity” by Clare Herrick, 51-65.
  • “Becoming a ‘real’ smoker: cultural capital in young women’s accounts of smoking and other substance use ” by Rebecca J. Haines, Blake D. Poland, and Joy L. Johnson, 66-80.
  • “Choosing not to choose: reproductive responses of parents of children with genetic conditions or impairments” by Susan E. Kelly, 81-97.
  • “How work reconfigures an ‘unwanted’ pregnancy into ‘the right tool for the job’ in stem cell research” by Naomi Pfeffer, 98-111.
  • “From housing wealth to well-being?” by Beverley A. Searle, Susan J. Smith, and Nicole Cook, 112-127.
  • “Time, self and the medication day: a closer look at the everyday work of ‘adherence’” by Liza McCoy, 128-146.

Book Reviews Include:

  • The Medicalization of Society: On the transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders – by Conrad, P.” by Mike Bury, 147-148.
  • Health, Risk and Vulnerability Edited by Petersen, A. and Wilkinson, I.” by Ian Rees Jones, 148-149.
  • Researching Trust and Health – by Brownlie, J., Greene, A. and Howson, A.” by Patrick Brown, 149-151.
  • Essays on Professions, Ashgate Classics in Sociology – by Dingwall, R.” by Andy Alaszewski, 151-152.
  • The Sleep of Others and the Transformations of Sleep Research – by Kroker, K.” by Simon J. Williams, 152-153.
  • Critical Bodies. Representations, Identities and Practices of Weight and Body Management’ – by Riley, S., Burns, M., Frith, H., Wiggins, S. and Marcula, P.” by Liz Frost, 153-154.

Australia: New definition of death needed: expert

Leading medical experts want a new national standard on diagnosing death in order to boost successful organ donations. At present, there is no universal standard to clarify precisely when someone has died from heart failure. (The Age)

Fixing The Heart With Stem Cells

In a heart attack, the blood supply to part of the heart is shut off by a clot in a clogged artery – causing scarring of the heart muscle, which reduces the ability of the heart to pump. The best that doctors have been able to do is to promptly open up the clogged artery and limit the damage with drugs. But one day, there may be a way to get that damaged heart to grow its own brand-new muscle tissue. How? By using the patient’s own cardiac stem cells. (CBS News)

Doctors get to see how ethics bar is set

An AMA-sponsored fellowship adds to its online curriculum the study of how ethics policy is made at the Annual Meeting. (American Medical News)

AMA exhorts doctors to offer charity care, help the uninsured

Physicians also should become involved in the political process and help cut financial obstacles to care, says new ethics policy. (American Medical News)

Epigenetics: It’s All in the Packaging

Roll over, Mendel. Watson and Crick? They are so your old man’s version of DNA. And that big multibillion-dollar hullabaloo called the Human Genome Project? To some scientists, it’s beginning to look like an expensive genetic floor pad for a much more intricate—and dynamic—tapestry of life that lies on top of it. (Newsweek)

June 26, 2009

Obama’s Bioethics Commission: Providing Practical Policy Options

Last week President Obama disbanded the President’s Council on Bioethics and signaled plans to replace it with a new bioethics commission. A White House press officer told The New York Times that the council was being disbanded “because it was designed by the Bush administration to be ‘a philosophically leaning advisory group’ that favored discussion over developing a shared consensus.” Obama will appoint a new bioethics commission that “offers practical policy options.” (Bioethics Forum)

Primary-Care Doctor Shortage May Undermine Health Reform Efforts

As the debate on overhauling the nation’s health-care system exploded into partisan squabbling this week, virtually everyone still agreed on one point: There are not enough primary-care doctors to meet current needs, and providing health insurance to 46 million more people would threaten to overwhelm the system. (Washington Post)

The AI Report

Can machines think? In 1950, Alan Turing, considered by some to be the father of modern computing, published a paper in which he proposed that, “If, during text-based conversation, a machine is indistinguishable from a human, then it could be said to be ‘thinking’ and, therefore, could be attributed with intelligence.” He predicted that a computer would pass this “Turing Test” by the end of the century. That hasn’t happened–yet. But the question continues to provoke and inspire. AI might be just around the corner, or it might be centuries away. (Forbes)

New York to Pay Women Who Give Eggs for Stem Cell Research

New York has become the first state to allow taxpayer-funded researchers to pay women for giving their eggs for embryonic stem cell research, a move welcomed by many scientists but condemned by critics who fear it will lead to the exploitation of vulnerable women. (Washington Post)


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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