News from Bioethics.com

When Will the Economy Start Caring about Home-Care Work?

2 days 6 hours

(The Atlantic) – Home-health and personal-care work is one of the country’s fastest-growing occupational sectors. But it is one marked by low pay and meager benefits, a problem that might become more urgent as the U.S.’s population continues to age. On top of that, care workers face high rates of wage theft, tax and benefits misclassification, and employer fraud, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a think tank and advocacy organization.

To Advance Medicine’s Future, the NIH Tries to Win the Trust of Communities Mistreated in the Past

2 days 6 hours

(STAT News) – The National Institutes of Health would like six vials of your blood, please. Its scientists would like to take a urine sample, measure your waistline, and have access to your electronic health records and data from the wearable sensor on your wrist. And if you don’t mind sharing, could they have your Social Security number? It is a big ask, the NIH knows, and of an equally big group — the agency eventually hopes to enroll over 1 million participants in the next step of what four researchers referred to in a 2003 paper as “a revolution in biological research.”

Editing Embryo DNA Yields Clues About Early Human Development

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(NPR) – For the first time, scientists have edited the DNA in human embryos to make a fundamental discovery about the earliest days of human development. By modifying a key gene in very early-stage embryos, the researchers demonstrated that a gene plays a crucial role in making sure embryos develop normally, the scientists say. The finding might someday lead to new ways for doctors to help infertile couples have children, and could aid future efforts to use embryonic stem cells to treat incurable diseases, the researchers say.

Push for Three-Parent Technique in Australia to Save Babies from Mitochondrial Disease

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(Australian Broadcasting Co) – Scientists are pushing to overhaul human cloning laws in Australia so they can use DNA from three different people to create a baby when there is a risk of the child inheriting the debilitating and potentially fatal mitochondrial disease. Known as the three-parent procedure, it involves replacing a small amount of a mother’s DNA with the DNA of a third parent. But that would require the Australian Government to review human cloning laws — something that has already been done in the United Kingdom.

Court Ruling Not Needed to Withdraw Care, Judge Says

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(BBC) – Legal permission will no longer be required to end care for patients in a permanent vegetative state, a judge has ruled. Until now a judge must also consent, even if medics and relatives agree to withdraw nutrition from a patient. But in what been described as a landmark decision, those cases will no longer have to come to court.The Official Solicitor, appointed by the state to act for such patients, is likely to appeal against the ruling. Doctors are able to withdraw treatment from a patient – if relatives consent – under various circumstances without needing court approval.

Providing Abortions in the Deep South

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(The Atlantic) – Willie Parker is an imposing ob-gyn who has been traveling across the deep South providing abortions since 2012. At times, he has been one of the few providers in the only abortion clinic for hundreds of miles. Though he had been flying down from his home in Chicago twice a month to provide abortions in Mississippi and elsewhere, he recently moved to Birmingham, Alabama—closer to the center of the abortion wars. He is also a practicing Christian, and he frequently refers to his faith as being the reason why he does what he does.

Self-Driving Cars Will Kill People. Who Decides Who Dies?

3 days 6 hours

(Wired) – Recently, the “trolley problem,” a decades-old thought experiment in moral philosophy, has been enjoying a second career of sorts, appearing in nightmare visions of a future in which cars make life-and-death decisions for us. Among many driverless car experts, however, talk of trolleys is très gauche. They call the trolley problem sensationalist and irrelevant. But this attitude is unfortunate. Thanks to the arrival of autonomous vehicles, the trolley problem will be answered—that much is unavoidable. More importantly, though, that answer will profoundly reshape the way law is administered in America.

Navy Orders Stand Down for Medical Personnel after Employee Allegedly Called Newborns ‘Mini Satans’

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(ABC News) – The Navy’s surgeon general has ordered a stand down for all Navy medical personnel over the next 48 hours to reaffirm service commitments to patients and review social media policies after photos emerged on social media of medical personnel posing with newborns at a Navy hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. Two Navy hospital corpsmen at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, were removed from their jobs treating patients after they allegedly posted a video and photos of newborns to Snapchat, including a photo showing one of them flipping the middle finger at a newborn with the caption “how I currently feel about these mini Satans.”

CRISPR Used to Peer into Human Embryos’ First Days

4 days 2 hours

(Nature) – Gene-edited human embryos have offered a glimpse into the earliest stages of development, while hinting at the role of a pivotal protein that guides embryo growth. The first-of-its-kind study stands in contrast to previous research that attempted to fix disease-causing mutations in human embryos, in the hope of eventually preventing genetic disorders. Whereas those studies raised concerns over potential ‘designer babies’, the latest paper describes basic research that aims to understand human embryo development and causes of miscarriage.

One of the Biggest Problems in Rescuing People from Modern-Day Slavery Is Counting Them

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(Quartz) – More than 40 million people around the world are enslaved, either through forced labor or by forced marriage, a human-rights group estimates. The same organization found there were 45.8 million people enslaved last year, 35.8 million in 2014, and 29.8 million in 2013—making news with these whopping numbers each time. The figures are heartbreaking, yet the fluctuations don’t mean that the enslaved population changes drastically year to year. They show just how hard it is to pin down the data.

WHO Warns of Lack of New Antibiotics under Development

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(UPI) – Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are on the rise, and the World Health Organization issued a warning Wednesday of the lack of new antibiotics under development while the threat of antimicrobial resistance grows. Although the superbugs have not spread widely in the United States, two patients last year were infected by a bacteria that was resistant to colisitin, an antibiotic of last resort, and a Nevada woman in her 70s died after returning from a trip to India with a superbug resistant to all antibiotics.

Why Has a UK Team Genetically Edited Human Embryos?

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(New Scientist) – Human embryos have been genetically edited in the UK for the first time, using a technique called CRISPR. But why do researchers think this is so important? The UK team, led by Kathy Niakan of the Francis Crick Institute in London, used the CRISPR genome-editing method to disable a gene thought to play a key role in early development. The researchers used around 60 spare embryos donated by couples who’d had IVF, which would otherwise have been discarded.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Has Filed a Federal Lawsuit That Challenges a Maine Restriction Common across Most of the U.S.

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(Associated Press) – The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday that challenges a Maine restriction common across most of the U.S. that abortions be performed solely by physicians. The two groups were joined by four nurses and abortion provider Maine Family Planning in challenging the law that prevents advanced practice registered nurses, such as nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, from performing the procedure.

WHO Plans Global War on Cholera as Yemen Caseload Soars

5 days 3 hours

(Scientific American) – The World Health Organization will next month launch a strategy to stop cholera transmission by 2030, it said on Monday, as an unprecedented outbreak in Yemen raced towards 700,000 suspected cases with little sign of slowing down. The WHO is also trying to keep the lid on a flare-up in Nigeria while tackling many entrenched outbreaks in Africa and an epidemic in Haiti, where almost 10,000 people have died since 2010.

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act: Two Decades of Data

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(Medscape) – Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act (DWDA), passed through a voter-approved ballot initiative in 1997, lays out strict requirements for patients interested in requesting a prescription from their physician that would enable the patient to end to his or her life. In the 20 years since its passage, 0.2% of deaths in Oregon resulted from DWDA prescriptions but the number is increasing, researchers report in an article published online today in Annals of Internal Medicine.

ACP Affirms Opposition to Physician-Assisted Suicide

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(Medscape) – Ethical arguments against the legalization of physician-assisted dying remain more compelling than those in support of the practice, the American College of Physicians (ACP) states in an updated position statement published September 18 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The statement reaffirms the ACP’s opposition to physician-assisted dying as originally issued in 2001, but support for it is not universal. “Since then, there’s been a lot of interest in the subject, and several more states have legalized physician-assisted suicide,” ACP President Jack Ende, MD, told Medscape Medical News, explaining the reason the ACP revisited the issue. “We also felt there wasn’t enough attention given to patients with terminal illness to be sure they were receiving the best possible care, with hospice care and palliative care.”

Prospect of Synthetic Embryos Sparks New Bioethics Debate

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(MIT Technology Review) – The embryo-like structures, the team soon determined, are not complete and couldn’t become a person. They lack the cell types needed to make a placenta, a heart, or a brain. Even so, the Michigan “embryoids” are realistic enough that the lab has been destroying them using a bath of detergent or formaldehyde to make sure they don’t develop any further.

Oxford University Scientists Gave Babies Trial TB Vaccine ‘That Did Not Work in Monkeys’

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(The Telegraph) – Oxford University is embroiled in an ethics row after scientists were accused of questionable conduct over a controversial trial of a new vaccine on African babies. Professor Peter Beverley, a former senior academic at the university, complained that scientists planned to test a new tuberculosis vaccine on more than a thousand infants without sharing data suggesting that monkeys given the immunisation had appeared to “die rapidly”.

Desperate Yemenis Sell Organs to Survive

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(Al Jazeera) – After more than two years of war, many working-class Yemenis have turned to selling grocery items and khat – a mild, chewable narcotic – to make a meagre living. Others have opted to sell their organs to survive. In Ali’s case, he told Al Jazeera that a Yemeni-Egyptian taxi driver who moonlights as an organ broker used to wait outside the Sanaa passport office, where he stalked and questioned Ali, then preyed on his financial insecurities, persuading him to sell his kidney.

Victims of 1940s STD Study Sue University

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(The John Hopkins News-Letter) – A federal judge is allowing a $1 billion lawsuit against Hopkins to move forward after it was dismissed in 2016 for the University’s alleged involvement in a 1940s experiment that infected hundreds of Guatemalans with sexually transmitted diseases. In the 1940s, the U.S. government conducted studies in Guatemala by intentionally infecting people with diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea without their consent. Subjects included psychiatric patients, soldiers, prisoners and sex workers. Several Hopkins physicians and doctors held positions on a committee that reviewed the research proposal in Guatemala.

This Gift Voucher Might Just Get You a Kidney

1 week 2 days

(Scientific American) – The former judge tried to think creatively, as he had on the bench—where he was known for unconventional and sometimes highly controversial sentencing. He came up with what might be called the delayed kidney swap: He gave his kidney three years ago to Kathy DeGrandis, a retired airport manager in her 50s, at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. In exchange, Quinn was given a voucher that gives him priority to receive a live donor kidney, provided a match can be found when a transplant is necessary. The idea caught on. Now about 30 hospitals around the country participate in this voucher program, administered by the National Kidney Registry.

CardioBrief: Cardiac Stem Cell Therapies May Get Boost from New FDA

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(MedPage Today) – Cardiac stem cell therapy could gain FDA approval far earlier than most people expect, despite the fact that these therapies have consistently failed to produce any convincing evidence of safety and efficacy. Under the old FDA rules stem cell therapies would not have stood a chance of approval. Companies would have been required to demonstrate in a pivotal clinical trial that the therapy was both safe and effective.

This $25,000 Life-Extension Test Is Impressing Investors But Not Doctors

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(Bloomberg) – Craig Venter has got a deal for you. For $25,000, he’ll sell you a complete genome sequence, a full-body MRI scan, a cardio CT scan, bone densitometry, cognitive testing and more, all in the hope of discovering a lurking tumor or brain abnormality — and nipping it in the bud. “We’re driving a medical revolution,” says Venter of his latest startup, Human Longevity Inc., or HLI. “We have sequencing that’s better than anybody else in the world. We have the most accurate data.”

Senate Panel Seeks Middle Ground on Human Fetal Tissue Research and Abortion

1 week 3 days

(Science) – A Senate spending panel yesterday countered a move by its House of Representatives counterpart to quash federal funding for research that uses human fetal tissue from elective abortions. The move sets up a conflict that will need to be resolved when lawmakers meet later this year to hash out differences between the House and Senate bills, which will provide funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the 2018 fiscal year that begins on 1 October.

‘This Is a Horror Story.’ Outraged Families Demand Justice after 8 Die in Florida Nursing Home

1 week 3 days

(TIME) – Eight people — between the ages of 70 and 99 — died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma when The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where they lived, lost a transformer that had powered the air conditioning, facility officials and authorities said. Early Wednesday, emergency responders swept through the state-licensed, 152-bed facility after receiving distress calls, according to authorities. They found three people dead.

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