News from Bioethics.com

China’s Birth Rates Fall in Several Regions in 2018: China Daily

2 days 14 hours

(Reuters) – China’s birth rate in several regions, including the capital Beijing, fell again in 2018, the official China Daily said on Friday, despite government efforts to encourage couples to have more children. Alarmed by the rapid aging of its population, China relaxed its controversial “one-child policy” in 2016, allowing all couples to have two children instead of just one. The change has failed to reverse what demographers say is a long-term trend of falling birth rates fueled by growing prosperity and concerns about the high cost of raising children.

Electronic Health Records Cannot Replace a Doctor Who Knows You

2 days 15 hours

(The Conversation) – More recently, we and many other doctors have realized that EHRs are no panacea, or cure-all. They are expensive; one study showed for a five-doctor group, the cost is $162,000 to install and $85,000 per year to maintain. These systems force doctors to follow generic templates that may not reflect the needs of a particular patient.
In addition, health professionals often find themselves spending more time and energy tending to the EHR than to their patient. One study at Dartmouth showed that physicians spend two hours on the EHR for every hour they spend with patients.

Human Genomics Research Has a Diversity Problem

2 days 15 hours

(NPR) – Precision medicine promises to tailor the diagnosis and treatment of disease to your unique genetic makeup. A doctor may use the presence of certain genetic markers to diagnose a disease, or choose one drug for treatment over another. But the studies that link genetic markers with disease focus largely on white European populations and neglect other races and ethnicities, according to an analysis published in the journal Cell on Thursday.

DNA Testing Company Will Now Let Users Opt Out of Helping the FBI

3 days 8 hours

(The Verge) – At-home DNA testing site FamilyTreeDNA — which was widely criticized for working with the FBI without telling its customers — will now offer users the option to prevent law enforcement from accessing their data. In January, BuzzFeed News reported that FamilyTreeDNA let law enforcement create profiles on the site using DNA from unsolved cases. The agencies then used those profiles to look for possible matches in the company’s genetic database. Now, users will be able to opt out of matching with accounts created for this purpose, FamilyTreeDNA said in an email, as first reported by New Scientist.

Popular Health Apps Share Data with Third Parties, Study Shows

3 days 8 hours

(UPI) – The widespread use of mobile health apps can help more people locate prescriptions and remember to take pills. But this technology also opens people up to have all of that medical information passed along to third parties without their knowledge, a new study shows.
About 79 percent of health apps shared users medical data with outside companies, according to research published Thursday in The BMJ.

Why Is It So Hard to Match Patients with Their Medical Records?

4 days 12 hours

(Undark) – These aren’t strange outliers; they are the everyday world of health care. Patient-matching — accurately matching patients to their medical records — bedevils every hospital, doctor’s office, laboratory, and other health care facility, risking patient safety and wasting money on unnecessary tests and procedures. There are two kinds of matching problems. The most dangerous is when records for different patients are mistakenly combined when, for example, two patients have similar names, leading to unnecessary kidney removals and other horrors. Much more common is the creation of so-called “duplicate” records for a single patient.

An Ohio Court Is Being Asked to Clarify When Life Begins in Lost Embryo Case

4 days 12 hours

(CNN) – An Ohio lawyer, representing a couple that lost three frozen embryos in a fertility clinic storage tank malfunction, is asking a court to clarify when life begins. Bruce Taubman is scheduled Wednesday to appear before a three-judge panel in the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals to argue on behalf of his clients Wendy and Rick Penniman. The Pennimans, of suburban Cleveland, were among the more than 950 families affected by the tank failure last March at Cleveland’s University Hospitals Fertility Clinic. That malfunction caused the temperature to rise, destroying more than 4,000 eggs and embryos.

FDA Approves First New Drug Developed for Women with Postpartum Depression

4 days 12 hours

(STAT News) – The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved brexanolone, the first drug specifically targeted to treat postpartum depression — the most common complication of childbirth. Yet it’s a condition that often goes untreated because new mothers fear being stigmatized if they report symptoms. Brexanolone is the first drug developed by and approved from Sage Therapeutics. The Cambridge, Mass.-based biotech company will market the new medicine under the brand name Zulresso.

Death by a Thousand Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong

4 days 12 hours

(Kaiser Health News) – The software in question was an electronic health records system, or EHR, made by eClinicalWorks (eCW), one of the leading sellers of record-keeping software for physicians in America, currently used by 850,000 health professionals in the U.S. It didn’t take long for Foster to assemble a dossier of troubling reports — Better Business Bureau complaints, issues flagged on an eCW user board, and legal cases filed around the country — suggesting the company’s technology didn’t work quite the way it said it did.

Human Embryo Smuggling: Malaysian Arrested at India Airport

4 days 12 hours

(BBC) – Indian authorities are investigating a possible smuggling ring after discovering a live human embryo in a suitcase at Mumbai’s airport. A Malaysian national was allegedly found with the embryo in a canister concealed in his luggage on 16 March. The man, who reportedly admitted this was not the first time he had smuggled embryos into India, then led officials to a high-end IVF clinic in the city. But the clinic has vehemently denied being involved, alleging a set-up.

The Cost of Not Knowing a Huntington’s Diagnosis

5 days 10 hours

(The Atlantic) – When Jennifer Leyton was going through IVF, her doctors would tell her very little. They turned off the ultrasound screen facing her so she could not count the number of eggs retrieved. They kept secret the number of fertilized embryos. They did not even say how many they transferred to her womb. This secrecy might have been maddening for many IVF patients, but for Leyton, it was her choice. She chose secrecy because she wanted to avoid finding out whether she had inherited a mutation for Huntington’s.

Cyclone Idai: “The Scale of Devastation Is Enormous”

5 days 10 hours

(Vox) – Many of the affected areas have been cut off from communications. The charity Save the Children reports that 100,000 people still need to be rescued near Beria. People are waiting on rooftops to be rescued. There are reports that flying sheet metal roofs decapitated people during the storm, which made landfall with winds in excess of 100 mph, perhaps as high as 124 mph.

Censorship or Social Responsibility? Amazon Removes Some Books Peddling Vaccine Misinformation

5 days 10 hours

(The Washington Post) – Amazon has now joined other companies navigating the line between doing business and censoring it, in an age when, experts say, misleading claims about health and science have a real impact on public health. NBC Nightly News reported that Amazon was pulling books touting false information about autism “cures” and vaccines. The e-commerce giant confirmed Monday to The Washington Post that several books are no longer available, but it would not release more specific information

An AIDS Therapy Involving Parasite Injections Was Discredited. China Is Reviving It–for Cancer

5 days 10 hours

(STAT News) – American surgeon Henry Heimlich is best known for inventing a way to rescue choking victims, but a quarter-century ago, he was vilified for promoting a fringe treatment for AIDS and Lyme disease. Called malarial therapy, it involved injecting patients with the malaria-causing parasite, supposedly to stimulate their immune systems. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report saying the procedure “cannot be justified,” and another critic compared its use to the discredited practice of bleeding patients with leeches. Despite the criticism, Heimlich launched trials of the therapy in HIV patients in Mexico and China in the 1990s. Now, the scientist who led the Chinese study is using malarial therapy again — this time to treat cancer patients.

Online Abortion Pill Provider Ordered to Cease Delivery by FDA

5 days 10 hours

(CNN) – A European organization that provides doctor-prescribed abortion pills by mail is under order by the US Food and Drug Administration to stop deliveries. The federal agency sent a warning letter to Aid Access this month requesting that it “immediately cease causing the introduction of these violative drugs into U.S. Commerce.” “The sale of misbranded and unapproved new drugs poses an inherent risk to consumers who purchase those products,” the letter says. “Drugs that have circumvented regulatory safeguards may be contaminated; counterfeit, contain varying amounts of active ingredients, or contain different ingredients altogether.”

A Fertility App Bills Itself as Contraception, Raising Questions About Marketing and Efficacy

6 days 9 hours

(STAT News) – A new fertility tracking app, Dot, is billing itself as form of contraception — and touting the results of a new efficacy study that shows the app may be up to 99 percent effective as a form of birth control. With statistics like that, Dot — part of a surge in fertility and contraception apps — would appear to be one of the most effective birth control tools available. But there’s also significant debate over how to measure the effectiveness of these tools, as well as questions about which apps should be available in the first place.

‘Pill Mill’ Doctor Among First Released Under Law for Dying Prisoners

6 days 10 hours

(Houston Chronicle) – But on Thursday, Evans got out roughly two years earlier than expected. He became one of the first prisoners to benefit from a compassionate release provision of the federal First Step Act, shepherded through Congress late last year by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn. To Evans’ legal team, his release represents an early victory for the new law, but to advocates and policy wonks it’s a small step for a new measure that’s already running into unexpected roadblocks.

The Fertility Doctor’s Secret

6 days 10 hours

(The Atlantic) – In the time since Woock’s half siblings got in touch with her, they have broken the news dozens more times. The children Cline fathered with his patients now number at least 48, confirmed by DNA tests from 23andMe or Ancestry.com. (Several have a twin or other siblings who likely share the same biological father but haven’t been tested.) They keep in touch through a Facebook group. New siblings pop up in waves, timed perversely after holidays like Christmas or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, when DNA tests are given as well-intentioned gifts.

Abortions by Mail: The FDA Is Going After Online Pill Providers

1 week 2 days

(Vox) – Legal versions of mifepristone and misoprostol have been available to patients in the US since 2000 — but patients can’t just get them at any pharmacy. The drugs are only given out by certified health care providers in a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital. The providers need to sign a waiver that they’ll ensure patients have access to a surgical abortion or emergency care if anything goes wrong — part of an FDA risk mitigation program called REMS, which is common to higher-risk medications. When retailers sell unapproved versions of drugs outside of the REMS program — which the FDA says Aid Access and Rablon have — “FDA is well within its regulatory authority to take action,” said Tim Mackey, a UC San Diego School of Medicine expert on counterfeit drugs. (In the case of Aid Access, the pills are imported from India.)

‘Definitely Not an Anti-Vaxxer’: Some Parents Push Back Against Recommended Vaccine Schedule

1 week 2 days

(CNN) – The squabble is often painted as two-sided: In one camp, the medical establishment, backed by science, strongly promoting the vaccination of children against 14 childhood diseases by age 2. In the other, a small but vocal minority — the so-called anti-vaxers — shunning the shots, believing the risks of vaccines outweigh the dangers of the diseases.
The notion that there are two opposing sides obscures a large middle ground occupied by up to one-quarter of parents, who believe in vaccinating their children but, like the Imamuras, choose to do so more gradually. They worry about the health impact of so many shots in so short a period, and in some cases they forgo certain vaccines entirely.

Americans Are Going Bankrupt from Getting Sick

1 week 2 days

(The Atlantic) – Medical debt is a uniquely American phenomenon, a burden that would be unfathomable in many other developed countries. According to a survey published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, nearly 60 percent of people who have filed for bankruptcy said a medical expense “very much” or “somewhat” contributed to their bankruptcy. That was more than the number who cited home foreclosure or student loans. (The survey respondents could choose multiple factors that contributed to their bankruptcy.)

Ebola Response Is Working, WHO Director-General Says, Amid Criticism and Violence

1 week 2 days

(STAT News) – The director-general of the World Health Organization said Thursday that health officials are making progress against the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and that the footprint of the outbreak zone is actually contracting. The cautiously hopeful remarks from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who visited the outbreak zone last week, came just hours after the most recent attack on an Ebola treatment center, one in a series that has plagued efforts to bring this outbreak, now in its eighth month, to an end.

Victims Sterilized Under Japan’s Eugenics Law to Get ¥3.2 Million Each Under State Redress Plan

1 week 2 days

(The Japan Times) – Ruling and opposition party lawmakers on Thursday decided on a bill to provide ¥3.2 million ($28,700) in state redress to every surviving victim of a state sterilization program that was conducted under a now-defunct 1948 eugenics law. The bill marks progress toward offering relief to the victims of the program that only came to an end in 1996, but the level of compensation was immediately criticized as insufficient by lawyers involved in damages suits filed by victims across the country.

Jury Awards $29 Million to California Woman Who Claimed Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Caused Cancer

1 week 3 days

(ABC News) – A California jury awarded $29 million on Wednesday to a woman who sued Johnson & Johnson, claiming that asbestos in its talcum-based baby powder caused her cancer. An Alameda County jury in Oakland, California, held Johnson & Johnson responsible for Teresa Leavitt’s mesothelioma — a cancer linked to asbestos exposure — through her use of baby powder.

‘They Don’t Want His Story to End’: Efforts to Save the Sperm of the Deceased Come with Heartache and Tough Questions

1 week 3 days

(STAT News) – The Zhus’ plight has reignited a debate around what is known as postmortem sperm retrieval, or posthumous sperm procurement, a procedure that was first attempted in 1980 and is typically considered when a young man dies unexpectedly. The Zhus’ case is particularly complicated because it involves a request from parents instead of a partner or spouse, whose directives hospitals are more inclined to follow.

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