home |  about |  contact |   
your global information source on bioethics news and issues
Bioethics 101

Recommended Reading

January 31, 2011

New Issue of Journal of Medical Ethics is Now Available

Journal of Medical Ethics (Volume 37, Issue 1, January 2011) is now available by subscription only.
Articles include:

  • “Establishing a ‘Physician’s Spiritual Well-being Scale’ and Testing its Reliability and Validity” by C. K. Fang, P. Y. Li, M. L. Lai, M. H. Lin, D. T. Bridge, H. W. Chen, 6-12.
  • “Deception as Treatment: The Case of Depression” by Charlotte Blease, 13-16.
  • “A Test for Mental Capacity to Request Assisted Suicide” by Cameron Stewart, Carmelle Peisah, Brian Draper, 34-39.
  • “Is Best Interests a Relevant Decision Making Standard for Enrolling Non-capacitated Subjects into Clinical Research?” by Jeffrey T. Berger, 45-49.
  • “Public Attitudes to the Use in Research of Personal Health Information from General Practitioners’ Records: A Survey of the Irish General Public” by Brian S. Buckley, Andrew W. Murphy, Anne E. MacFarlane, 50-55.

Egg donation: The way to happy motherhood, with risks and side effects

Women who have become pregnant after egg donation should be categorized as high-risk patients. Why that is the case, and which consequences egg donation may have for women is the subject of a review article by Ulrich Pecks and co-authors from the University Hospital Aachen in the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. (ScienceDaily)

Will patents hinder equitable access to stem cell medicine?

An international group of ethical and legal experts has made recommendation for stem cell research intended to promote data sharing and prevent legal barriers to medical advances. (PHG Foundation)

The end of our National Health Service

There is a crisis in the National Health Service (NHS). The publication of the Health and Social Care Bill last week heralds dramatic changes for the NHS, which will affect the way public health and social care are provided in the UK. Those changes alone will have huge impact, but it is the formation of an NHS Commissioning Board, and commissioning consortia, that will once and for all remove the word “national” from the health service in England. The result, due to come into force in 2013, will be the catastrophic break up of the NHS. (The Lancet)

Lower Costs and Better Care for Neediest Patients

If Camden, New Jersey, becomes the first American community to lower its medical costs, it will have a murder to thank. At nine-fifty on a February night in 2001, a twenty-two-year-old black man was shot while driving his Ford Taurus station wagon through a neighborhood on the edge of the Rutgers University campus. The victim lay motionless in the street beside the open door on the driver’s side, as if the car had ejected him. A neighborhood couple, a physical therapist and a volunteer firefighter, approached to see if they could help, but police waved them back. (The New Yorker)

Create a disease to market a new drug

Many of us have a relatively simple, commonsense view of the way that drug development and marketing work. People get diseases; scientists develop drugs to treat those diseases; and marketers sell the drugs by showing that the drugs work better than their competitors. Sometimes, however, this pattern works in reverse. Drug company scientists develop a drug with a range of physiological effects, none of which are terribly helpful, so the marketers must identify and promote a disease for the drug to treat. This might mean co-opting a rare disease whose borders can be expanded to encompass more patients, or redefining an unpleasant aspect of ordinary life as a medical pathology. Once a disease has achieved a critical degree of cultural legitimacy, there is no need to convince anyone that a drug is necessary. It will come to him as his own idea. (KevinMD)

January 29, 2011

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks [cover]Insightful and poignant, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks takes an unflinching look at the history of the first “immortal” human cell line, the scientists involved in its discovery, the woman whose cells were used, and the impact it has since had on her family. This book not only recounts an incredible, true story but also engages the reader to consider the ethics of cell and tissue donation. Click below to read the full review.


January 28, 2011

New Issue of Ageing & Society is Now Available

Ageing & Society (Volume 31, Issue 1, January 2011) is now available by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Fertility History and Quality of Life in Older Women and Men” by Sanna Read and Emily Grundy, 125-145.

No right to assisted suicide, says European Rights Court

The background to this important judgement is in Switzerland. A 57-year-old Swiss national, Ernst G. Haas, felt that he could no longer live a dignified life after battling a serious bipolar affective disorder for 20 years. He twice attempted suicide, but then hit upon the idea of using sodium pentobarbital, a prescription-only drug. But no psychiatrist would prescribe it for him. He then asked the Swiss government for permission to obtain sodium pentobarbital without a prescription. He argued that Article 8 imposed on the State a “positive obligation” to create the conditions for suicide to be committed without the risk of failure and without pain. (BioEdge)

Obama’s ‘Sputnik Moment’

Dubbing it our generation’s “Sputnik moment” in his State of the Union Address this week, President Obama called for more research and incentives to help our country break its dependence on oil with biofuels.

Just last month the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues released its report examining the potential risks and benefits of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is an emerging field of research that relies on chemically synthesized DNA, along with standardized and automatable processes, to create new biochemical systems or organisms with novel or enhanced characteristics. (Bioethics Forum blog)

NIH Reorganization Draws Scrutiny From Congress

Biomedical scientists aren’t alone in questioning a plan by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins to create a new center to spur drug development. Last week, a staffer for a key congressional committee asked NIH and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a long list of details about the reorganization, which also entails dissolving an existing center. (ScienceInsider)

Do IVF Pregnancies Raise Death Risk for Mothers?

Maternal deaths resulting from in vitro fertilization (IVF) are relatively rare, but they do occur, British doctors warn in an editorial in the journal BMJ. In the U.S. there were more than 140,000 IVF cycles in 2008, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). During IVF, an egg and sperm are fertilized outside of the body in a laboratory and then implanted in the woman’s uterus. Fertility drugs are often used to stimulate a woman’s ovaries to produce eggs. (WebMD)

The Globalization of Clinical Trials: The Promise and Perils

Research ethics is often said to have been born of scandal. The field is regularly accused of having developed in response to particular cases and transgressions. Whether or not this is true of the field in general, it does seem to be the case for much of the literature on the ethics of international research. In When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials and the Global Search for Human Subjects, the anthropologist Adriana Petryna sets out to portray not scandal or crisis, but the routine offshoring of clinical trials. Through a series of gripping interviews and detailed case studies, Petryna follows the lifecycle of international research and traces its connections to health systems, legal systems, and entitlement programs. She also provides a glimpse into the complex social relations on which the research process depends. In particular, the reader sees the way that the labor is divided, the responsibilities delegated, the risks shifted, and decisions with far-reaching social consequences shaped by a spectrum of market, regulatory, and cultural influences. (The Hastings Center)

January 27, 2011

Event: The 20th Annicersary Ethics Symposium: “Reflecting Forward, Minding the Past”

The 20th Anniversary Symposium of the KP NCAL Department of Medical Ethics
March 5, 2011
7:30am – 4:30pm

On this date, the Department of Medical Ethics residing within KP-TPMG Northern California celebrates its twentieth yearly anniversary. This landmark occasion invites our reflection – both towards the past, and towards the future. Our symposium agenda mirrors those reflections through the illuminating analyses and insights offered by our esteemed speakers on a host of bioethical issues.

The format of our day-long symposium involves both large-group plenary sessions and small-group workshops. Registration is open to anyone interested in healthcare ethics, and is not limited to KP employees.  Our conference aims to foster moral community and collegiality, and to promote understanding of clinical ethics in the service of humane patient care and quality outcomes.

For more information

Event: The Third International Conference on Science in Society

August 5-7, 2011
The Catholic University of America, Washington D.C.

Key themes addressed by the Conference include the social impacts of science, the values and ethics of science, the pedagogies of science, the knowledge-making processes of science, the politics of science and the economics of science. At first glance, the scope and concerns of the Conference are enormous. However, in contrast to conferences with a specialist disciplinary focus, this Conference aims to explore, in an interdisciplinary spirit, linkages between different areas of concern and practices of investigation. We welcome presentation proposals which range from broad explorations of philosophical, theoretical, methodological and policy questions, to proposals which present finely grained evidence of the connections of science to society in microcosms of research, teaching and practice.

For more information:

Event: Third Biennial Conference of the Society for the Philosophy of Science in Practice

June 22 – 24, 2011
Third biennial SPSP conference will be hosted by the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (Egenis), University of Exeter, UK.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent,
Professor of History and Philosophy of Science
Université Paris-X Nanterre

Philip Kitcher,
Professor of Philosophy and James R. Barker Professor of Contemporary Civilization
Columbia University

Sandra Mitchell,
Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science
University of Pittsburgh

For more information:,23552,en.html

January 26, 2011

Electronic Medical Records Don’t Improve Outpatient Care Quality: Study

If you’re looking for studies laying out the benefits of electronic medical records, this isn’t your month. Last week we wrote about a review of existing research that found little evidence for some of the claims made about health IT. (Wall Street Journal)

Cancer: Unrealistic optimism a problem in clinical trials of cancer drugs

It is a bedrock of medical ethics that patients may participate in clinical trials only if they give informed consent. This means that patients must get information about the trial, demonstrate that they understand that information, have the mental capacity to make a decision about becoming a research participant and make that decision voluntarily. (Los Angeles Times)

Event: Call for Papers for Women’s Health Conference

Conference Date: Saturday, April 2, 2011
St. Francis College
180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

Papers Due Date: Monday, January 31, 2011

This multidisciplinary conference will feature panels on a variety of perspectives on women’s health, as well as a keynote speaker and several opportunities to share research.

For more information:

Event: Nordic Biobank Research – Obstacles and Opportunities

May 3-4, 2011
Conference at Uppsala Konsert & Kongress

The aim of the conference is to discuss Nordic collaboration in biobank based research. The Nordic countries have a long history of utilising biological samples, patient records and health registers to study disease in the population and develop new forms of intervention, treatments and medications.  Biobanking, however, raises ethical questions on how to address integrity, privacy, access, legislation and protection from information excess in light of the possibilities to understand and treat diseases using new technology.

The conference will investigate opportunities and obstacles of getting new knowledge by using integrated information from registers, patient records and biobanks.  We seek to address the question of whether there is a need for a wider view of autonomy for biobank based research and what this would entail, e.g regarding informed consent and ethical review? Is the perspective of public trust eroding when all focus is on informed consent? Individual rights or public good – how should the balance be made in association with biobank based research? Is ethical review of biobank based research up to date? In brief, what are the interests at stake that need protection on the one hand and promotion on the other?

We welcome researchers and scientists who use the samples, the clinicians who collect them, the administrators who handle them and members of research ethics committees who approve the research the biobanked material is used for. We also welcome researchers interested in the ethical, legal, social and economical aspects of biobank research and biobanking, and the lawyers, politicians and administrators who deal with those aspects.

For further information and registration please contact the secretary of the Nordic Committee on Bioethics Lotta Knutsson Bråkenhielm (

For more information:

January 25, 2011

Why doctors should profit from dispensing medications

Hold onto your hats. I am about to enter dangerous territory. I am about to suggest maybe doctors should profit from dispensing medications from their office to offset declining reimbursements and rising expenses by using prescriptions as a source of ancillary revenues. (KevinMD)


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

Bioethics Websites
home |  about |  contact |   
your global information source on bioethics news and issues