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Bioethics 101

Recommended Reading

November 30, 2010

Event: How Did I Get Here and Where Did I Come From?: Clinical and Developmental Implications of Assisted Reproductive Technology

Saturday, February 5, 2011
8:15 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Uris Hall, Weill Cornell Medical College
1300 York Avenue / 69th Street, New York, NY 10021

This symposium will examine the complex ethical and psychological aspects of scientific innovations in reproductive technology.

For more information, please contact

November 29, 2010

Some Question State Storehouse Of Newborn DNA

A few drops of baby’s blood dabbed on a card are used for California’s mandatory newborn screening for 77 serious genetic diseases, but parents might be surprised what the state does with that genetic material after the tests are completed. (KTVU San Francisco)

Is the high price of drugs for rare diseases justified?

Afflicted with a rare blood disorder, Barry Katsof relies on an intravenous medication every two weeks that affords him the active lifestyle of his pre-symptom days almost a decade ago. The only problem is the drug therapy comes at a hefty price tag to taxpayers – $500,000 every year for the rest of his life. (The Globe and Mail)

U.S. Orders Vast Review of Bioethics

President Obama on Wednesday ordered a vast review to ensure the ethical treatment of people who take part in research backed by the federal government.

His action is a response to the revelation this year that American scientists intentionally infected people at a Guatemalan mental hospital with syphilis in the 1940s. (New York Times)

Fertilised eggs get microscopic bar codes

Researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona have come up with an ingenious solution for keeping track of embryos and egg cells during in vitro fertilisation procedures: microscopic bar codes. (New Scientist)

November 22, 2010

“Death, Torture or Grace: What story will be told about Bernard Rappaz?”

In part one of this article, I submit that the fundamental rights of Bernard Rappaz as outlined in the Swiss constitution have been violated, based on article 10 of the constitution.[2] To force-feed him is to violate his autonomy as a human being, which in this case is equivalent of torture. Moreover, it will violate the conscience (art. 15) of doctors who will have to be forced to feed him, unless the prison chooses a foreign doctor or one less bound to medical ethics. In part two, I intentionally move away from the question and suggest an alternative. Because, the Federal Court has already taken the decision that Rappaz may be fed by force, I suggest that the cantonal court of Wallis allows Bernard Rappaz to serve his sentence at home, for the time being. Being faced with a dilemma between the State who wants to force feed him and medical ethics who does not allow such action, I suggest a third alternative: the way of grace. Finally, I will use the approach of narrative ethics in order to ask, what story will be told about Bernard Rappaz and the canton of Wallis? (Botox 4 the brain)

Feds OK 2nd human study of embryonic stem cells; effort to focus on treating rare eye disease

For only the second time, the U.S. government has approved a test in people of a treatment using embryonic stem cells – this time for a rare disease that causes serious vision loss. (Associated Press/a>)

Tackling the booming trade in counterfeit drugs

The black market in counterfeit drugs is worth billions, but it does untold damage to the health of the poorest populations. Nayanah Siva reports on international efforts to tackle the problem. (The Lancet)

Calum MacKellar: Complex world of medicine

The festival is concentrating on psychiatric neurosurgery, that is, brain surgery to correct psychiatric disorders. To some, it may seem like science fiction or a holdover from a less enlightened era. However, neurosurgery has made a resurgence in Scotland today. Indeed, the Dundee Advanced Interventions Service at Ninewells Hospital, specialises in neurosurgery for mental disorders. (Scotsman)

November 19, 2010

Justice Dept. to reverse Bush-era policy on DNA tests

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is reversing a controversial Bush administration policy under which numerous defendants have waived their right to DNA testing even though that right is guaranteed under federal law, Justice Department officials said Wednesday. (Washington Post)

Margo MacDonald’s assisted dying Bill is rejected by cross-party group

The campaign to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland suffered a setback yesterday when a key Holyrood committee said it could not support new right-to-die legislation. (Scotsman)

Q&A: Ethics chair on synthetic biology

The Scientist speaks with the chair of a presidential bioethics commission, which decided this week that synthetic biology should not be too harshly regulated by the U.S. government. (The Scientist)

Senators push bipartisan state healthcare waiver

A Democrat and a Republican teamed up in the Senate on Thursday to offer legislation that would give states the flexibility to implement their own healthcare approaches when the federal overhaul goes into full effect in 2014. (Reuters)

Giving Nurses a Leading Role in the Future of Health Care

Nurses currently form the largest sector of health care providers, with more than three million currently registered; but few have led or even been involved in the formal policy discussions regarding the future care of patients. To address this discrepancy, the Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation assembled a national panel of health care experts that has been meeting for the last two years to discuss the role of nurses in transforming the current health care system. (New York Times)

Social media strategy tips offered in new CDC tool kit

Building on its experience as one of the first government agencies to embrace social media, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a service on how to use popular social media channels for public health education. (American Medical News)

Some parents sedate their babies

A frazzled mother on a crowded flight tries to coax a screaming baby to sleep as surrounding passengers stare — some in empathy, some in barely disguised annoyance. When the child doesn’t calm down, the parent discreetly pulls a bottle of children’s Benadryl from a diaper bag and administers a small dose. (Seattle Times)

Will science trump religion, answer how we should live?

In the endless, twisting arguments about whether science or religion can ultimately answer the questions of our times, a social scientist, Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund, has some questions: (USA Today)

Event: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008: A Multidisciplinary Workshop

January 20, 2011
9:30am – 5pm
ESRC Genomics Policy & Research Forum, University of Edinburgh

This workshop is co-organised by Dr Christine Knight, Policy Research Fellow, and Dr Malcolm Smith, Bright Ideas Programme Visiting Research Fellow (January 2011), ESRC Genomics Policy & Research Forum, University of Edinburgh. The event forms part of a workstream on the regulation of assisted reproduction and embryo research, which has so far included a major ‘Retrospective’ on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (London, March 2009), and a smaller workshop at the Genomics Network Conference (Cardiff, October 2009).

For more information

November 18, 2010

Is Genetic Research, Stem-Cell Therapy and Understanding DNA “Playing God”?

As Robert Frost’s poem posits, humankind will always seek to extend its reach. In a literal sense the poem, only a few lines of which we’ve quoted, is about a peach tree planted too far north. But its message has a timeless figurative meaning. Seventy years ago, Frost’s depiction of the hubris of planting a fruit tree beyond its climatic limits may have had the commonsense ring of truth. One can see the reader mulling it over: “Ah, yes, too cold. What were they thinking?” Or, “How foolish to expect this would work out well.” (

Bioethics Panel Finalizes Advice for Synthetic Biology

A presidential bioethics commission concluded this week that the U.S. government should not clamp down too hard on research on synthetic biology. But the commission struggled with what to do about amateur synthetic biologists who aren’t covered by current regulations. (ScienceInsider)

Policymakers ‘frightened’ of health research findings

Fear of political embarrassment has contributed to the gulf between policymakers and researchers in the field of health services, according to a leading expert in the field. (SciDev.Net)


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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