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July 31, 2009

NHS Starts Pilot Program to Increase Doctors’ Genetics Knowledge

The UK’s National Health Service wants to prepare its physicians for the changes that personalized and genomic medicine will bring to the healthcare field and has invested £4.5 million ($7.4 million) in a new pilot program to begin that process. The goal of the new program is to provide enhanced training in genetic technologies and clinical applications for healthcare scientists working in laboratory genetics. (GenomeWeb)

Ethics are ill-conceived

IT is a rare treat when parting with money for a mainstream movie buys real food for thought. But Hollywood hoopla and high-profile castings hide the kernel of real, human issues in My Sister’s Keeper. The movie, which opened in cinemas across the nation this week, prompts a discussion that ethicists say society must have continually if it is to keep its laws related to embryo selection thoughtful and its moral barometer calibrated. (Courier-Mail)

Why fear the public health insurance option?

Since it now appears that there aren’t enough votes in Congress to pass Single Payer, President Barack Obama’s public health insurance option offers the best current chance for the U.S. to become the last industrialized country to achieve universal health insurance. Since the public option wouldn’t create a government health insurance monopoly, then why are Republicans and some of the more conservative Democrats opposed to it? (Examiner)

How The Internet Is Changing Health Care

In late June, the Rochester, Minn.-based hospital system Mayo Clinic tried something it had never attempted before. Using the micro-blogging service Twitter, it announced the imminent release of a study on Celiac disease, an immune system response to gluten. Then it tracked which of its followers had re-distributed the Tweet and, after careful consideration, provided a few users with an embargoed copy of the study–a practice normally reserved for journalists. Those followers, each of whom have Celiac disease, were permitted to blog about the study once it was released to the public. (Forbes)

Exploring the nursing implications of physician-assisted suicide in the UK 1

A review of the practical, legal, ethical and educational implications for nurses of any legislative changes that would allow physician-assisted suicide. (Nursing Times)

Is Paperwork Suffocating British Clinical Research?

Concerns are being raised by a growing number of British academics that bureaucratic overload is stifling their ability to undertake clinical research, compromising the future of this activity in the UK, and ultimately doing patients a disservice. The issues are discussed in a Special Report in the August edition of The Lancet Oncology, written by freelance journalist Adrian Burton. (Medical News Today)

UW prof taking leave to become advisor with FDA

Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics, is taking a leave from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to become a senior advisor in the Office of the Commissioner at the Food & Drug Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (UW Madison)

UF scientists program blood stem cells to become vision cells

University of Florida researchers were able to program bone marrow stem cells to repair damaged retinas in mice, suggesting a potential treatment for one of the most common causes of vision loss in older people. (University of Florida News)

July 30, 2009

Op-Ed: The bioethics biz

Researchers who are paid to enrol patients in studies with a not-so-favourable risk–benefit ratio, pharmaceutical companies holding back with data that give rise to concern about patient safety, institutions that provide advanced clinical care to underinsured patients only if they agree to enrol in a trial—conflicts of interest in the medical field have become the subject of increasing scrutiny, leading to codes of conduct as well as to the establishment of processes and rules for the resolution of such conflicts. Bioethics has happily contributed to these developments. [Premium (Journal of Medical Ethics)]

House Bill Is Moving Again as Democrats Strike Deal

House action on the health-care bill resumed Thursday, with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman warning lawmakers against offering amendments that make the legislation more expensive. (Wall Street Journal)

The Future Is Now For Virtual House Calls

Cisco and UnitedHealth Group are spending tens of millions on an initiative that they hope will make virtual house calls — they call it “Connected Care” — a big part of the future of medical care. The pitch: It pares down the need for “come to me” office visits, extends specialist care to remote areas and makes routine follow-ups, well, routine, without requiring a lengthy break from work or school. (Wired)

Snake oil or fish oil? Americans shelling out $33.9 billion a year on alternative health treatments

People in the U.S. spent $33.9 billion last year on alternative health goods and services, ranging from antioxidant supplements to yoga, according to a new study released today by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). About 38 percent of adults are using some sort of alternative treatment (known as “complementary and alternative medicine” or CAM), and what they’re buying makes up about 11 percent of total U.S. out-of-pocket healthcare spending, the report states. (Scientific American Blog)

All Together Now

Nanoethics. Neuroethics. Synbioethics. How many bioethics subfields do we really need to grapple with the issues at the cutting edge of contemporary science? Maybe just one, suggest the authors of a recent report from the Hastings Center and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars: an ethics of emerging technologies. The reason being that emerging technologies are not diverging from one another—rather, they are converging. As these fields begin to overlap, sharing tools and techniques, so too do the ethical questions converge. Namely, they raise the potential for both physical harms we must consider—unforeseen environmental damage from nanomaterials or synthetically engineered bioterrorism weapons—as well as nonphysical harms that might result from the inequitable distribution of, for instance, new drugs or energy sources built on nanotech or synthetic biology. (Science Progress)

German research bodies draft synthetic-biology plan

[Premium (Nature News)]

Editor retracts sperm-creation paper

A paper reporting the creation of sperm-like cells from human embryonic stem cells has been retracted by the editor of the journal Stem Cells and Development. The work had garnered headlines worldwide after being published three weeks ago (see ‘Sperm-like cells made from human embryonic stem cells’). (Nature News)

Myths of the public health plan

It’s a critical week in Congress on the health care reform front, and members are ramping up the rhetoric for one of the sticking points — a government-run health insurance plan that would “compete” with private insurers. (News-Medical)

CDC gives priority to certain groups for swine flu vaccine

Pregnant women, parents and caretakers of young children, all healthcare workers, people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years, and non-elderly adults with underlying medical conditions should be first in line to get the pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine when it becomes available, an advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. (Los Angeles Times)

Lax hospitals may be fostering kidney-selling

A look-the-other-way attitude at some U.S. hospitals may be fostering a black-market trade in kidneys, transplant experts say. Some hospitals do not inquire very deeply into the source of the organs they transplant because such operations can be highly lucrative, according to some insiders. A single operation can bring in tens of thousands of dollars for a hospital and its doctors. (Boston)

Hungary detains 4 over illegal stem cell treatment

The International Society for Stem Cell Research said in a report released in December that it was “very concerned” that stem cell therapies are being sold around the world before they have been proven safe and effective. The group of stem cell experts also released guidelines for researchers and regulators and a guidebook for patients without naming any specific clinic. Hungary’s Health Ministry issued a brief statement on Wednesday saying that at the moment no institution in the country had permission to carry out human stem cell research. (Reuters)

Genome Engineering Goes High Speed

Using the process, which grafts pieces of synthetic DNA into the genomes of dividing cells, researchers generated 15 billion different genomic patterns in just three days. The process would normally take years, and could eventually be used to produce industrial chemicals, drugs, fuel and anything else that comes out of bacteria. (Wired)

Nanotech gene therapy kills ovarian cancer in mice

Tiny synthetic particles carrying a payload of toxin worked as well as chemotherapy at killing ovarian cancer cells in mice, without the bad side effects, U.S. researchers said on Thursday. (Reuters)


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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