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August 31, 2009

High court wades into life, death arguments

Robert Baxter, a 76-year-old former truck driver from Billings, spent his last months fighting for the right to hasten his own death. Baxter was the Montana face and only named terminally ill patient in a legal case that sought to legalize physician-assisted suicide; he wanted doctors to prescribe him medication that would bring about his death and end his struggle with chronic leukemia. (Billings Gazette)

Strained by Katrina, a Hospital Faced Deadly Choices

Several comments on this and other blogs express surprise that the Reuters blog on religion, faith and ethics should be interested in neuroscience. Several posts here — on a “God spot” in the brain, on moral instincts, on religious studies and on meditation and prayer — showed the growing relevance of brain science to the issues we cover. One angle we haven’t yet covered is the one that originally drew me towards this field, namely neuroethics. Rapid progress in neurological research has prompted a debate on the ethics of unlocking the brain’s secrets. I first wrote about this debate in early 2007, interviewing several neuroscientists on how to separate good uses of their work from bad after studies showed brain scans could read some kinds of intentions before the subjects revealed them. (New York Times)

Brain boosting, thought scanning and other neuroethics issues

Several comments on this and other blogs express surprise that the Reuters blog on religion, faith and ethics should be interested in neuroscience. Several posts here — on a “God spot” in the brain, on moral instincts, on religious studies and on meditation and prayer — showed the growing relevance of brain science to the issues we cover. One angle we haven’t yet covered is the one that originally drew me towards this field, namely neuroethics. Rapid progress in neurological research has prompted a debate on the ethics of unlocking the brain’s secrets. I first wrote about this debate in early 2007, interviewing several neuroscientists on how to separate good uses of their work from bad after studies showed brain scans could read some kinds of intentions before the subjects revealed them. (Reuters Blog)

‘Synthetic biology’ holds promise, but doubts simmer

“Plastics” may have been the Baby Boomer watchword, but “synthetic” rules today.

That’s “synthetic” as in synthetic biology, the hottest biomedical buzzword, promising new drugs, new fuel and someday, new life. (USA Today)

Proposed euthanasia bill could put doctors in a tight spot

Dr. Jeff Blackmer knows the thin line that exists between helping someone die in comfort and purposely ending their life through medical euthanasia. The Ottawa physician, who also runs the Canadian Medical Association’s office of ethics, deals mainly with spinal cord injuries, and a number of his patients are quadriplegics who depend on a respirator to stay alive. Some of those have asked to have their ventilators removed and be allowed to die. Dr. Blackmer, though an opponent of euthanasia, will prescribe drugs that allow the patient to pass without suffering. (National Post)

Lack of patient access limits promising cell therapy

Among the many decisions that parents face before the birth of their child is a potentially critical one: whether to preserve their infant’s umbilical-cord blood on the chance that he or she will need it someday to treat a serious illness. Parents can pay thousands of dollars to privately store their newborn’s umbilical-cord blood or they can donate the blood to a public bank for free. (Arizona Republic)

Top scientist’s industry move heralds stem-cell shift

Stephen Minger is one of the leading stem-cell scientists in the United Kingdom, known for his work both as a researcher and as a high-profile public advocate for the field. He gained one of the first UK licences for the derivation of human embryonic stem cells, and generated the first human embryonic stem-cell line in the country. In September, he will leave his post as director of the Stem Cell Biology Laboratory at King’s College London to take up a new role at GE Healthcare, the medical technologies company headquartered near Amersham, UK. (Nature News)

August 28, 2009

What should health insurance pay for?

What’s it worth to you to have comprehensive health coverage of, for example, physical therapy for a knee that acts up now and then due to an old sports injury? Would you accept a higher copay for other kinds of care to secure that benefit? What if getting a high level of coverage for PT meant that a middle-aged colleague with curable cancer also insured under your health plan would face greater financial barriers to care? These are the kinds of questions consumers grapple with as part of the game simulation called CHAT, Choosing Healthplans All Together, which engages people in setting health-spending priorities. (MarketWatch)

Health Compromise to See Changes Before Vote, House Dems Say

Two senior House Democrats said an agreement struck with centrist Blue Dog Democrats in late July on a public health insurance option might be altered before a health-care bill reaches the House floor. (Wall Street Journal)

Baby’s mp3 heart monitor

A new type of fetal heart monitor could save the lives of unborn infants in complicated pregnancies, according to a study published in the International Journal of Engineering Systems Modelling and Simulation. (PhysOrg)

Physician payment plan stirs concern over reform efforts

ssues surrounding physician payments and addressing the primary care doctor shortage are central to health care reform efforts. (Medical News)

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

JAMA (Volume 302, Number 7, August 19, 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “Effects of a Palliative Care Intervention on Clinical Outcomes in Patients With Advanced Cancer: The Project ENABLE II Randomized Controlled Trial” by Marie Bakitas, Kathleen Doyle Lyons, Mark T. Hegel, Stefan Balan, Frances C. Brokaw, Janette Seville, Jay G. Hull, Zhongze Li, Tor D. Tosteson, Ira R. Byock, and Tim A. Ahles, 741-749.
  • “Marketing HPV Vaccine: Implications for Adolescent Health and Medical Professionalism” by Sheila M. Rothman and David J. Rothman, 781-786.
  • “The Risks and Benefits of HPV Vaccination” by Charlotte Haug, 795-796.
  • “Industry Support and Professional Medical Associations” by Norman Kahn, 737.
  • “Effort Under Way to Prepare Physicians to Care for Growing Elderly Population” by Bridget M. Kuehn, 727-728.
  • “Groups Promote ‘Key Competencies’ in Training for Premed and Medical Students” by Bridget M. Kuehn, 729.

New Issue of Nursing Inquiry is Now Available

Nursing Inquiry (Volume 16, Issue 3, September 2009) is now available by subscription only.

Articles Include:

  • “Ethical nursing practice: inquiry-in-action” by Gweneth Hartrick Doane, Janet Storch, and Bernie Pauly, 232-240.
  • “The shaping of organisational routines and the distal patient in assisted reproductive technologies” by Helen Allan, Sheryl de Lacey, and Deborah Payne, 241-250.
  • “Discourses of anxiety and transference in nursing practice: the subject of knowledge” by Alicia M Evans, David A Pereira, and Judith M Parker, 251-260.
  • “Nursing and the reality of politics” by Clinton E Betts, 261-272.

August 27, 2009

Circumcision: Change in medical opinion possible

For years the medical establishment in the U.S. has avoided advising parents on whether to circumcise their newborn sons, saying the benefits do not outweigh the risks. Now, however, new research suggests the procedure could be used to combat a major health problem: AIDS. (Chicago Tribune)

The CIA Torture Report and the Medical Profession

The long-awaited CIA Inspector General Report of 2004 has been released. For now, it is available on the homepage of the American Civil Liberties Union, though it will probably migrate to the rest of the ACLU torture file, which has impressively improved its indexing and is now suitable for real scholarship. Scholars beware: the documents are pdf photocopies and thus are not text searchable. (Bioethics Forum)

China admits organs removed from prisoners for transplants

Facing a growing demand for transplants, the Beijing government finally conceded that abuses had taken place after years of allegations that prisoners and even young conscripts in its army were targeted for their organs. (Telegraph)

Doctors admit euthanasia being applied in Czech hospitals

Prague – Some doctors admit that euthanasia is being applied in the Czech Republic not to prolong patients’ sufferings in hopeless cases, though it is officially illegal, the daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) reports today. (Czech Happenings)

Cysts At Spinal Cord Treatment Sites Led To FDA Hold On Geron’s Stem Cell Trial

Animals being tested using Geron Corporation’s treatment for spinal cord injury developed cysts at the injury sites, a finding that led the U.S. FDA to place a clinical hold on a planned human trial of the treatment, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based stem cell firm said on August 27. (Stem Cell Research News)

August 26, 2009

Genetic advance raises IVF hopes

Researchers have found a potential way to correct an inherited disorder affecting thousands of women. Working on monkeys, they transferred genetic material needed to create a baby from a defective egg to a healthy one, resulting in healthy births. (BBC)

Op-Ed: The ethics of egg manipulation

Many couples are faced with the unpleasant choice between not having a child of their own and risking the passing on of a debilitating disease. Yet research into reproductive technologies to lessen the chances of having unhealthy babies has been hampered by public attitudes to interfering with the course of life. (Nature)

Japanese health care: Lower costs and nearly no bankruptcy

The New York Times, in a series of ongoing stories about health care delivery in other countries, interviewed John Creighton Campbell, of the University of Michigan and visiting researcher at the Tokyo University Institute of Gerontology who has studied Japan’s health care system. (Medical News)

 

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