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March 31, 2010

Many Kids Not Fully Informed of Their Role in Cancer Studies

Among children with cancer who are enrolled in clinical research trials, most do not receive a clear explanation of their role in research from their parents and doctors, a new report suggests. (BusinessWeek)

Study: People would donate kidneys for payment

Paying people for living kidney donations would increase the supply of the organs and would not result in a disproportionate number of poor donors, a study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center concludes. (USA TODAY)

European Commission Launches New Privacy Project

New three-year project funded by the European Commission studies privacy implications of emerging technologies such as new identification and surveillance technologies, biometrics, on-the-spot DNA sequencing. (DarkReading)

Op-Ed: Obligation to comply with wishes to die

Grant Gillett traces a path through the ethical complexities of a person’s right to refuse treatment – even when that refusal might end in death. (Otago Daily Times)

Health Law Does Little to Curb Overuse of Care

Dr. Robert Colton, an internist in Boca Raton, Fla., has a problem, and he knows it. His patients come in wanting, sometimes demanding, tests and treatments that are unnecessary, just adding to the nation’s huge health care bill. He even has patients, he says, who come in and report that their chief complaint is, “I need an M.R.I.” (New York Times)

Biotech firms and DNA patenting: Genetic shock

PERSONALISED medicine has proved an elusive dream. Since the decoding of the human genome, biotechnology companies have claimed that by matching a person’s genetic make-up with specialised treatments, they can tailor drugs to maximise benefits and minimise side effects. Alas, researchers have discovered that the link between a given person’s genetic make-up and specific diseases is much more complex than they had hoped. The tantalising vision remains out of reach. (The Economist)

March 30, 2010

Making Cells Live Forever in Quest for Cures

It’s not quite the Fountain of Youth, but scientists have found a way to induce some of our cells to live forever. The purpose isn’t to make people immortal, but rather to create therapies that might one day treat or delay the onset of disease, such as progressive eye disease, gastrointestinal disorders and cancer. (Wall Street Journal)

Google and Facebook raise new issues for therapists and their clients

As his patient lay unconscious in an emergency room from an overdose of sedatives, psychiatrist Damir Huremovic was faced with a moral dilemma: A friend of the patient had forwarded to Huremovic a suicidal e-mail from the patient that included a link to a Web site and blog he wrote. Should Huremovic go online and check it out, even without his patient’s consent? (Washington Post)

Tweeting Medical Misinformation?

From celebrity gossip to natural disasters, social networking Web sites like Twitter have become powerful tools in the search for information and opinions. But when it comes to medical advice, a new study shows that such sites can be the source of potentially dangerous misinformation for millions of users. (ABC News)

What determines the price of a woman’s eggs? SAT scores

“Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality,” says the headline in the New York Times. Health care reform, college aid, and stimulus-funded jobs are evening out the distribution of resources. An age of equality is dawning. (Slate Magazine)

The death of euthanasia

“The end of life debate seems particularly burdened by confusion over the term ‘euthanasia’,” writes Dr. Ken Flegel, Senior Associate Editor and Dr. Paul Hébert, Editor-in-Chief, Canadian Medical Association Journal. “Both sides use it to further their ideological views: one side says murder, the other mercy; the right to live versus the right to die with dignity; selfishness versus compassion.” (PhysOrg)

Op-Ed: Bioethics a la francaise: the new French bioethics laws

‘Certain countries in Europe, France in particular, are trying to resist the ultra-liberal individualist ideology of the reproductive market. It’s too bad that some other countries have maintained a conspiracy of silence on that subject.’ (1) Guess who’s the villain of this recent statement by the French philosopher Sylvane Agacinski? Here’s another hint from a different source, Philippe Gosselin of the ruling UMP party: ‘We can’t be reduced to things, and the human body is not an object of commerce.’ (2) France, he says, needs to stand up for other values than the utilitarianism that dominates biotechnology debate in – yes, that’s right – the United Kingdom. (BioNews)

A Dose of Embryonic Cells Could Induce Infant-Like ‘Plasticity’ in Brain, Allowing it to Rewire Itself Like New

The brain is the body’s most complicated biological machine, and as such it can be very difficult to service when something goes wrong; after our neural wiring is put in place, at a very young age, altering or rebuilding it becomes extremely challenging. But researchers at UC San Francisco have figured out a way to induce a new period of “plasticity” — a state in which neural circuitry is receptive to change — in the visual cortices of mice, a breakthrough that could lead to treatments for brain circuits damaged by developmental problems or traumas. (Popular Science)

Ethical guidelines needed for research on persons with impaired decision making

How do we handle the ethical dilemmas of research on adults who can’t give their informed consent? In a recent article in the journal Bioethics, ethicist Stefan Eriksson proposes a new approach to the dilemma of including dementia patients and others with limited decision making capabilities in research. (Medical News)

Nanotechnology’s small wonders opening new frontiers

When the University of Massachusetts Lowell launched its nanotechnology center six years ago, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs were dreaming big dreams about small things, like miniature generators to replace batteries and microscopic robots to repair human tissues. (The Boston Globe)

US judge strikes down patent on cancer genes

In a ruling with potentially far-reaching implications for the patenting of human genes, a judge on Monday struck down a company’s patents on two genes linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. (Washington Post)

March 29, 2010

Deciding against disability: does the use of reproductive genetic technologies express disvalue for people with disabilities?

This paper focuses on one objection to the use of reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs): the argument known as the expressivist objection. According to this argument, the choice to use reproductive genetic technologies to prevent the birth of individuals with disabilities is an expression of disvalue for existing people with disability. Many have been persuaded by this impassioned perspective. This paper shows that this argument is misguided and so does not constitute a sound objection to the use of RGTs to prevent disability in future children. It first identifies some responses to the objection that may be sound but not completely convincing to proponents of the expressivist position. It then describes a thought experiment designed to demonstrate more clearly that choosing to use RGTs to prevent disability in future children does not convey a negative message about people who have disabilities. After describing a decision that clearly does not send such a message, the paper walks through a series of cases and shows how, despite differences that might seem to be morally relevant, each is morally equivalent to the previous one with respect to the extent that it expresses disvalue for such individuals. [Premium (Journal of Medical Ethics)]

Life Extension– a conservative enterprise?

The beginning of the modern period in the pursuit of radical human enhancement and longevity can be traced to fin-de-siècle/early twentieth-century scientific and technological optimism and therapeutic activism. The works of several authors of the period – Fedorov, Stephens, Bogdanov, Nietzsche and Finot – reveal conflicting ideological and social pathways toward the goals of human enhancement and life extension. Each author represents a particular existing social order, and his vision of human advancement may be seen as a continuation and extension of that order. Therefore, the pursuit of life extension may be considered a fundamentally conservative (or conservationist) enterprise. (IEET)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Humans

She was homeless, her name unknown. She was brought into the University of Chicago Hospital’s emergency room with a large intracerebral hemorrhage, and her prognosis was very poor. Left untreated, such patients have a 90 percent chance of dying; with surgery the odds of survival are only about 50 percent, and the patient is likely to be permanently unconscious. (Chicago Reader)

‘Transplant tourism’ causing international concern: experts

Moves to combat “transplant tourism”, in which patients from rich countries pay large sums to have organ transplants in poor ones, are gaining pace, experts told an international conference. The World Health Organisation and the European Union have led the way in tackling the problem, the Madrid conference on organ donations and transplants heard. (AFP)

More surprises in Dutch euthanasia of infants

For people outside the Netherlands, the most surprising thing about legally tolerated non-voluntary euthanasia of infants is that it happens at all. But for Dutch doctors, the surprise is that reports of it are far lower than the quota. In 2007, under the so-called Groningen Protocol, a national review committee was instituted to review cases of active ending of life for newborns. It was expected that 15–20 cases would be reported. To date, however, only one case has surfaced. An article in the latest issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics speculates about why so few deaths have occurred. (BioEdge)


The Bioethics Poll
Should individuals and/or institutions be allowed to patent human genes?
Yes, with some qualifications

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Animal-Human Hybrids
Gene Therapy
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"Therapeutic" Cloning
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