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November 20, 2009

University of Nebraska Weighs Tighter Limits on Stem Cell Research

In an unusual pushback against President Obama’s expansion of federal financing of human embryonic stem cell research, the University of Nebraska is considering restricting its stem cell experiments to cell lines approved by President George W. Bush. (New York Times)

‘Bo-Tax’ for Health-Care Reform?

Plastic surgeons shriek as Democrats consider an excise tax on elective cosmetic procedures to raise funds for health reform. (BusinessWeek)

The Singularity Is Near—Future for Artificial Intelligence

IBM’s Blue Gene brain simulation has made gains in one of the most sophisticated tasks man has ever taken on—creating artificial intelligence (AI). With the true AI milestone comes the dawn of the singularity, when computers overtake humans. Contributing editor Glenn Reynolds looks into the future and wonders; what happens after the singularity? (Popular Mechanics)

November 19, 2009

Brain science creates a need for neuroethics

Judy Illes has a dilemma. What happens when someone who has agreed to participate in a medical study undergoes a brain scan during which the researcher happens to discover an anomaly, a potential health risk? It’s a hypothetical quandary, but an example of the type of question Illes grapples with every day as the head of the National Core for Neuroethics at UBC. (

New mammogram guidelines cause another political uproar

In 1997, a federal committee of medical experts recommended against routine mammograms for women in their 40s, sparking a political uproar that led to congressional hearings and a unanimous Senate vote challenging the findings.

Now, 12 years later, a similar drama is playing out around a different federal medical panel, which this week recommended against routine mammograms for women younger than 50, saying it is not worth subjecting some patients to unnecessary biopsies, radiation and stress. (Washington Post)

Hope for Down’s Syndrome children as blood pressure drug shown to improve mental abilities

Some of the learning difficulties of Down’s syndrome have been reversed by a blood pressure drug in a breakthrough that offers hope to millions. Given in childhood, the drug could improve marks in school. In adulthood, it could prevent or slow the decline towards dementia that often accompanies the genetic condition. (Mail Online)

Concerns over UK’s first DIY paternity tests on sale at Hackney pharmacy

A Hackney pharmacy sold do-it-yourself paternity tests over the counter for the first time in the UK on Tuesday – raising concerns among campaigners and community leaders. The DNA collection kit went on sale at Clockwork Pharmacy on Mare Street, Hackney Central, for £30. (Hackney Gazette)

November 18, 2009

Inside the Dignitas house

More than 1,000 people have travelled to Switzerland to end their lives. But what is it really like inside the world’s first assisted suicide centre? (The Guardian)

Payment for egg donation

Three years after embryonic stem cell cloning was legalised in Australia, advocates are finally facing up to the critical issue: where will all the eggs come from? Cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is impossible without a continuous – and large – supply of women’s ova. In South Korea, the now discredited Dr Hwang used 2061 eggs taken from 169 women and failed to produce a single cloned embryo. (WA Today)

Your own stem cells can treat heart disease, study suggests

The largest national stem cell study for heart disease showed the first evidence that transplanting a potent form of adult stem cells into the heart muscle of subjects with severe angina results in less pain and an improved ability to walk. The transplant subjects also experienced fewer deaths than those who didn’t receive stem cells. (ScienceDaily)

Disclosure Row Over White House Coverage

We’ve got one brewing right now. Yuval Levin, who worked in the White House domestic policy staff as an aide to George W. Bush, now has got a gig writing news stories for Newsweek. The Nation’s Ari Melber, who got wind of this, notes that when Levin’s first piece ran in the magazine last March, the editors slugged it as an analysis from “a Bush veteran.” No such notation was attached to Levin’s new piece chronicling why “right-of-center candidates are succeeding in the age of Obama.” A few months earlier, Levin even co-authored a piece in the conservative Weekly Standard with Bill Kristol explaining why “Obamacare” was wrong and deserved to be defeated. Melber, who smelled a skunk, called Newsweek, whose spokeswoman offered a defense. (CBS News)

Event: International Conference on Bioethics Education

International Conference on Bioethics Education: “Contents, Methods, Trends”, Zefat, Israel (May 2-5, 2010)

The Conference is designed to offer a PLATFORM for the exchange of information and knowledge and to hold discussions, lectures, workshops and an exhibition of program and databases.]

The Main Conference Topics:

  • Bioethics Education: General, Objectives, Teaching Methodology
  • Levels of Teaching, Status of the Programs, Evaluation of Students
  • Study Resources, References & Material

The Conference is organized by the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics [Haifa], The Zefat Academic College, The International Center for Health, Law and Ethics, and is supported by the Israel National Commission for UNESCO

Abstracts of approximately 250 words are invited for oral and poster presentations. The deadline for abstract submission: January 15, 2010.


Tel. +972-2-6520574

Fax +972-2-6520558

This announcement is transmitted through the UNESCO Global Ethics Observatory (GEObs). The GEObs is a system of databases with worldwide coverage in bioethics and other areas of applied ethics in science and technology such as environmental ethics, science ethics and technology ethics. The system currently comprises six databases on ethics experts, ethics institutions, ethics teaching programmes, ethics related legislation and guidelines, codes of conduct and resources in ethics. For more information, please visit the observatory’s website at:

Call for Papers: “Love at the End of Life”

Call for Papers
“Love at the End of Life”
2010 Film & History Conference: Representations of Love in Film and Television
November 11-14, 2010
Hyatt Regency Milwaukee
Extended Deadline: March 1, 2010

How does the understanding of love change with the death and dying experience? This area explores films that deal with love in the end of life experience for the dying, caregivers and their loved ones. Love at the End of Life can explore many themes related to love, including love for oneself in the face of existential suffering, or a new understanding of love in the face of one’s mortality. There are a wide range of films to explore in this area in a cross-section of genres, ranging from successful box office films such as Love Story (1970) and Whose Life is it, Anyway? (1982) to documentaries such as to more recent films such as The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007).

This area, comprising multiple panels, welcomes papers and panel proposals that examine all forms and genres of films featuring love at the end of life. Possibilities include, but are not limited to, the following topics:

*   Love and Sacrifice in Pediatric End of Life (e.g. Lorenzo’s Oil)
*   Love and Family at the End of Life (e.g. Marvin’s Room, My Life, Philadelphia)
*   Closure and Forgiveness at the End of Life (e.g. Magnolia, Truly, Madly, Deeply)
*   Love and Existential Suffering in the film, “Wit:
*   Love and the End of Life Experience in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
*   The Dying Friend: (e.g. Silverlake Life, The Doctor, Fried Green Tomatoes; Amadeus)
*   Assisted Suicide Requests and Euthanasia: (e.g. Arsenic and Old Lace, Dax’s Case, The Sea Inside? Million Dollar Baby)
*   Love and Death in times of War (Schindler’s List; Apocalypse Now, M*A*S*H)
*   Documentary Films About End of Life (e.g. Silverlake Life: The View From Here (1993)

Please send your 200-word proposal by e-mail only to the area chair:

M. Sara Rosenthal, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Bioethics
Director, Program for Bioethics
University of Kentucky

Panel proposals for up to four presenters are also welcome, but each presenter must submit his or her own paper proposal. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (

November 17, 2009

When the Law Allows Hospital Errors to Remain Secret

Connecticut law requires hospitals to tell the state Department of Public Health when certain medical errors harm patients. But some tweaks that were made to the law five years ago mean that hospitals report far fewer incidents, and those incidents that are reported are often kept secret from the public, the Hartford Courant reports. (Wall Street Journal)

“Study ethics, NIH!”

The government agency tasked with funding crucial life science research needs to focus more attention on ethical quandaries and nefarious business practices that often obscure the path from discovery to public benefit, says a strongly worded letter to Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), signed by more than 100 biomedical researchers, journal editors, and health care administrators in the US. (The Scientist)

Breakthroughs in Tissue Engineering

A tissue is an aggregate of cells, growing and thriving in an environment where they adhere and interact with one another. Tissue Engineering is the use of bioengineering methods to create, improve, develop and grow tissues, which then may be used for grafting, cartilage repair or, ultimately, regenerative medical procedures. The study of tissues is aimed at determining the answers to fundamental questions such as how cells react and interact in a specific matrix, and may involve the use of proteomics to study gene expression and protein production in complex environments. This form of systems biology might look at cellular functions such as excretion of intercellular signaling substances, and epigenetic factors that determine physical features such as size and shape of organs. (About)

Patents are crucial to embryonic stem cell research, scientist says

Patents offer the economic guarantees scientists and companies need to develop new treatments, Oliver Bruestle told Deutsche Welle. He’s at the center of a German court battle surrounding embryonic stem cell research. (Deutsche Welle)

November 16, 2009

Illegal organ trade rife in China

Organ trafficking in China is more active than ever despite efforts to crack down on the trade, with kidneys being openly bought and sold online in a dozen cities across the country. (ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation))

Cadaver programme may end organ trade: experts

The first-ever cadaver maintenance programme in the country, to be launched at the Stanley Hospital on Monday, is likely to put an end to organ trade in the State if successful, say experts. (The Hindu)

Baby RB: when is it right to allow a child to die?

A loving father last week abandoned a court battle to save his disabled child’s life. Why did he change his mind and what wider ethical questions has this tragic case raised? (Telegraph)

November 13, 2009

Restrictions on “suicide tourism” and organ trafficking

Two areas that give medical tourism a bad name, and most medical tourism hospitals and clinics avoid, are suicide tourism and organ transplant trafficking. Authorities want to end both. (International Medical Travel Journal)


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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