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February 28, 2011

Most ‘locked-in’ people are happy, survey finds

Imagine that you are totally paralysed but still have all your mental faculties. You can communicate only through rudimentary speech or limited movements such as blinking or moving your eyes. You wouldn’t be happy, would you? It turns out that you probably would: contrary to most people’s assumptions, happiness is the norm among people with locked-in syndrome (LIS). (New Scientist)

Opinion: Nanotechnology for Surgeons

At first glance it might appear that nanomedicine is irrelevant to surgery as it is practiced today, as surgery is generally concerned with the manipulation of decidedly macroscopic devices. However, surgery as a discipline is obviously not limited to clinical procedures, but dovetails with parallel medical therapeutics. Consequently, methodologies that can enhance overall perioperative care are important. An alternative view is that nanomedicine is perhaps destined to put surgeons out of certain kinds of business—much as minimally invasive techniques including invasive radiology have progressively infringed on clinical areas that were once the purview of more conventional surgical approaches. As is often the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle. In any event nanotechnology certainly has the potential to affect the field. It is important to understand that potential and how it can be harnessed. (WIREs Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology)

Commentary: A Ban on Brain-Boosting Drugs Is Not the Answer

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism recently described an experiment in which two student journalists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison tested how quickly they could “score” Adderall—a prescription stimulant designed to treat attention-deficit disorders, but often used by healthy students as a study aid. The reporters walked into a campus library, tapped a studying stranger on the shoulder, and were connected to an Adderall supply in less than one minute. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Donor-Conceived and Out of the Closet

The children of anonymous sperm donors are growing up, speaking out, and demanding rights in a forum fraught with controversy. When she was younger, Alana S. used to experiment and tell people her dad died when she was a baby and that she didn’t really ever get to know him. She would get a sincere hug and a heartfelt, “I’m so sorry.” But when she told people the truth of her father’s whereabouts, she got a response mostly filled with confusion. (Newsweek)

February 25, 2011

Why Doctors Are Ordering Too Many CT Scans and MRIs

CTs and MRIs routinely change the course of medical care, often for the better. But their use has become so routine that their lifesaving benefits are being increasingly overshadowed by the risks of overuse. Medical imaging is the fastest-growing source of cost inflation (see PDF) in the Medicare program. Meanwhile, the real value of so much testing has been widely questioned in scientific literature: imaging rates are going up, but doctors are not diagnosing (or necessarily misdiagnosing) more diseases. (TIME)

Pushing the Bioethics Envelope to Serve Neo-Eugenic Purposes

Professor Julian Savulescu, the Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, was just in the news again, thanks to an article in the Melbourne Herald Sun titled “Only breed smart babies: Ethicist.” The responses, from various corners of the web, were mostly unfavorable. (The snarkiest was a thread titled “Only breed superior ‘designer babies’: Psychotic Eugenicist.”) (CGS)

Bill guaranteeing patients’ rights in Scotland passed

Patients in Scotland must be treated within 12 weeks according to new laws unanimously agreed by MSPs. The Patient Rights (Scotland) Bill also introduces a legal right for patients to complain about their treatment. (BBC News)

Bruesewitz v. Wyeth: What the Supreme Court Decision Means for Vaccines

Vaccine injury is a tricky thing to prove — medically and legally. So it was inevitably controversial when the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday against the parents of Hannah Bruesewitz, 18, who suffered seizures and permanent brain damage after receiving a diptheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine in 1993. (TIME)

Is DNA taken from arrestees constitutional?

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia will decide whether it is constitutional for the government to take DNA samples from people arrested but not convicted of a crime and keep the specimens on file like fingerprints. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Thai police free women from surrogate baby ring

Fourteen Vietnamese women, seven of them pregnant, have been rescued from an “illegal and inhuman” surrogate baby breeding ring in Thailand, officials said Thursday. (AFP)

Under kidney transplant proposal, younger patients would get the best organs

Instead of giving priority primarily to patients who have been on the waiting list longest, the new rules would match recipients and organs to a greater extent based on factors such as age and health to try to maximize the number of years provided by each kidney – the most sought-after organ for transplants. (Washington Post)

Designer Babies Will Be Godless Achievement Machines

Are designer babies a danger to the middle class? Should we, as a society, specially breed children for submission to the Achievatron to defeat Chinese mothers and live up to the genetic “Sputnik Moment” in which we find ourselves? Will designer babies be atheists? Peter Lawler, ostensible smart person, seems to think so! If I am translating his compassionate conservative gibberish properly, Lawler is under the distinct impression that the goal behind designer babies is to make a more productive populace and that doing so will wreak havoc upon our families and lives. (Discover Magazine)

Men who ‘imported’ Uzbekistani as surrogate mothers get probations

Taipei District Court Tuesday gave probations to three men who had imported women from Uzbekistan into the country to serve as surrogate mothers. According to the court, the main suspect surnamed Kuo, desired mix-race babies and used reasons such as marriage or studying as excuses to bring a total of six Uzbekistani women into the country since 2007. (AsiaOne)

New Zealand: Animal death toll ends cloning trials

Unacceptable death rates of laboratory animals have forced AgResearch to end its cloning trials. But the science agency says it will continue to create more genetically engineered animals using new research methods. (

Are we more — or less — moral than we think?

If asked whether we’d steal, most of us would say no. Would we try to save a drowning person? That depends — perhaps on our fear of big waves. Much research has explored the ways we make moral decisions. But in the clinch, when the opportunity arises to do good or bad, how well do our predictions match up with the actions we actually take? (ScienceDaily)

When Your Grandma is Also Your Mom

The first question we must ask is this: is surrogate motherhood, in general, ethically acceptable? For a variety of reasons I believe the answer is no: surrogate motherhood breaches children’s human rights regarding their coming-into-being; it confuses family roles and relationships; it exploits poor women; and its international commercialization has opened us up to dehumanizing scenarios, such as FedEx-ing frozen embryos to “warehouses” of surrogate mothers in developing countries. (The Mark)

Plagiarism and Bioethics

I hope that I am unique, or at least unusual, in having detected plagiarism of my work five times during my career as a bioethics scholar. Despite extensive discussion of plagiarism in biomedical research published in scientific journals, to my knowledge, the bioethics literature has devoted no attention to plagiarism within the field. I describe my recent experience with two instances of plagiarism here in order to alert fellow bioethicists to this problem and to stimulate discussion about what can be done to prevent it. (Bioethics Forum)

Down with Gene Tyranny!

The idea of using genetic engineering to enhance human beings scares a lot of people. For example, at a 2006 meeting called by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, Richard Hayes, the executive director of the left-leaning Center for Bioethics and Society, testified that “enhancement technologies would quickly be adopted by the most privileged, with the clear intent of widening the divisions that separate them and their progeny from the rest of the human species.” (Reason Magazine)

February 22, 2011

Massachusetts Considers Genetic Bill of Rights

The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) that was signed into law nearly three years ago was groundbreaking, but limited. CGS described it at the time as a “good first step” and many others agreed. The final regulations, issued in November 2010, were helpful but necessarily limited. But there are signs that further progress may be on the way. (CGS)

France’s first ‘saviour sibling’ stirs ethical debate about biotechnology

The country’s first “saviour sibling”, a healthy boy whose discarded umbilical cord will help heal one of his two siblings from a genetic blood disease, has brought complicated ethical issues over biotechnology to the forefront in France. (France24)

February 21, 2011

Obama administration replaces controversial ‘conscience’ regulation for health-care workers

After two years of struggling to balance the rights of patients against the beliefs of health-care workers, the Obama administration on Friday finally rescinded most of a federal regulation designed to protect those who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds. (Washington Post)


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

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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

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