News from Bioethics.com

Chinese Doctors Harvested Organs of Car Crash Victims and Patients with Severe Brain Damage

11 hours 15 min

(Newsweek) – Six people including several doctors have been imprisoned in southeast China for illegally harvesting organs from traffic accident victims. Local media reports the group removed the livers and kidneys from 11 people at a hospital in Anhui province between 2017 and 2018. The trafficking ring deceived the families of the deceased into believing they had made official organ donations.

Covid Overload: U.S. Hospitals Are Stretched Way Too Thin

11 hours 20 min

(New York Times) – From New Mexico to Minnesota to Florida, hospitals are teeming with record numbers of Covid patients. Staff members at smaller hospitals have had to beg larger medical centers repeatedly to take one more, just one more patient, but many of the bigger hospitals have sharply limited the transfers they will accept, their own halls and wards overflowing.

Britain Set to Leap Ahead in Approving Vaccines

11 hours 32 min

(New York Times) – Britain asked its drug regulator on Friday to consider AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency approval, forging ahead in the face of considerable uncertainty about the vaccine’s effectiveness as the government tries to corral a pandemic that has killed more than 66,000 people in the country. The request was one of a series of steps that Britain has taken to put itself near the front of the pack of countries hurrying to assess coronavirus vaccine candidates.

For Nurses Feeling the Strain of the Pandemic, Virus Resurgence Is ‘Paralyzing’

11 hours 50 min

(Kaiser Health News) – Adding to that stress is that nurses are caught betwixt caring for the bedside needs of their patients and implementing policies set by others, such as physician-ordered treatment plans and strict hospital rules to ward off the coronavirus. The push-pull of those forces, amid a fight against a deadly disease, is straining this vital backbone of health providers nationwide, and that could accumulate to unstainable levels if the virus’s surge is not contained this winter, advocates and researchers warn.

Plasma from Recovered Patients Shows Little Benefit in Those Hospitalized with COVID-19: Study

12 hours 1 min

(Medscape) – Using blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors to treat patients with severe pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus showed little benefit, according to data released on Tuesday from a clinical trial in Argentina.

After Admitting Mistake, AstraZeneca Faces Difficult Questions About Its Vaccine

2 days 9 hours

(The New York Times) – But since unveiling the preliminary results, AstraZeneca has acknowledged a key mistake in the vaccine dosage received by some study participants, adding to questions about whether the vaccine’s apparently spectacular efficacy will hold up under additional testing. Scientists and industry experts said the error and a series of other irregularities and omissions in the way AstraZeneca initially disclosed the data have eroded their confidence in the reliability of the results.

India Needs More Transparency in Its COVID-19 Vaccine Trials, Critics Say

2 days 9 hours

(Science) – Last month, Anil Hebbar, a health entrepreneur, spoke to the media about his experience volunteering for a COVID-19 vaccine trial at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India. He says he wanted to demystify the process of volunteering in a trial. But the hospital’s dean, Hemant Deshmukh, responded with a threat, telling The Times of India the hospital may “be forced to not give this volunteer the second shot” in the study. Hebbar ultimately did receive his second dose. But the exchange highlighted ongoing concerns about the transparency of India’s COVID-19 vaccine trials. The nation now has five vaccine candidates in various stages of human testing. But the design, conduct, and regulation of these trials is often opaque, said researchers, bioethicists, journalists, lawyers, and others who participated in webinars hosted this month by the nonprofit Sama Resource Group for Women and Health.

Initial Batch of COVID-19 Vaccines Will Go to States Based on Population, Not Risk

2 days 9 hours

(NPR) – Top officials from Operation Warp Speed, the government’s program to fast-track the development and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, announced they’ve allocated 6.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to states based on their total populations. Once a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, allocations will be made based on the total number of adults in the state. “We wanted to keep this simple,” Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, said at a media briefing Tuesday. “We thought it would be the fairest approach, and the most consistent.” 

As COVID-19 Vaccine Nears, Employers Consider Making It Mandatory

2 days 10 hours

(NPR) – With promising news from three COVID-19 vaccine trials showing 90% to 95% efficacy, employers are now weighing whether they should simply encourage their employees to get vaccinated or make it mandatory. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has stated that employers can legally impose a flu vaccine requirement on their workforce, but employees have the right to request medical or religious exemptions under federal anti-discrimination laws. Each claim must be evaluated on its own merits, a time-consuming process for employers.

OxyContin Maker of Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty in Criminal Case

3 days 9 hours

(Associated Press) – Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty Tuesday to three criminal charges, formally taking responsibility for its part in an opioid epidemic that has contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths but also angering critics who want to see individuals held accountable, in addition to the company.

An Early Mutation May Have Made the Pandemic Harder to Stop

3 days 9 hours

(New York Times) – As the coronavirus swept across the world, it picked up random alterations to its genetic sequence. Like meaningless typos in a script, most of those mutations made no difference in how the virus behaved. But one mutation near the beginning of the pandemic did make a difference, multiple new findings suggest, helping the virus spread more easily from person to person and making the pandemic harder to stop.

More Kids Are Getting COVID-19, Kentucky Pediatrician Says

3 days 9 hours

(NPR) – Children represent about 11.5% of all reported coronavirus cases where a person’s age is noted, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. The groups said the seven-day period of Nov. 5 to 12, the most recent for which they’ve reported data, was “by far the highest weekly increase” in children’s cases since the start of the pandemic.

COVID-19 Vaccination Could Start December 11

3 days 10 hours

(Medscape) – Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine could be approved and roll out across the U.S. at the end of the second week in December, Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said on several Sunday talk shows. The first people could receive the vaccine on Dec. 11 or Dec. 12. The goal is to immunize 20 million people by the end of December. Another 30 million could be vaccinated each month after that.

Data Show Hospitalized Covid-19 Patients Are Surviving at Higher Rates, but Surge in Cases Could Roll Back Gains

4 days 9 hours

(STAT News) – Patients hospitalized with Covid-19 are surviving at higher rates than in the early days of the pandemic, gains that data and interviews with experts suggest are driven by a more refined understanding of the disease and how to treat it — and, crucially, less strain on hospitals that had been inundated at times.

Dosing Error Turns into Lucky Punch for AstraZeneca and Oxford

4 days 9 hours

(Reuters) – A stroke of good fortune from a dosing error will pave the way for AstraZeneca and Oxford University to submit their COVID-19 vaccine for regulatory clearance. The British drugmaker said on Monday that the vaccine could be around 90% effective, when administered as a half dose followed by a full dose a month later, citing data from late-stage trials in Britain and Brazil.

‘I Just Pray God Will Help Me’: Racial, Ethnic Minorities Reel from Higher Covid-19 Death Rates

4 days 9 hours

(The Washington Post) – It’s not just grieving relatives who are demanding answers. Nearly nine months after the virus exploded in the United States, and amid big treatment strides, the disease continues to ravage African American and other minority communities with a particular vengeance. Black, Asian, Native American and Hispanic patients still die far more frequently than White patients, even as death rates have plummeted for all races and age groups, according to a Washington Post analysis of records from 5.8 million people who tested positive for the virus from early March through mid-October.

AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine Is 70% Effective on Average, Early Data Show

4 days 9 hours

(STAT News) – AstraZeneca said Monday that its coronavirus vaccine reduced the risk of symptomatic Covid-19 by an average of 70.4%, according to an interim analysis of large Phase 3 trials conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil. The results, while positive, suggest the vaccine may be less effective than two others. Earlier this month, Moderna and the Pfizer and BioNTech consortium announced their messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines showed 95% efficacy against Covid-19 infections in their respective clinical trials.

Why Emergency COVID-Vaccine Approvals Pose a Dilemma for Scientists

4 days 9 hours

(Nature) – Following the release of early data from phase III trials on 9 November, vaccine makers Pfizer and BioNTech have sought regulatory permission to deploy their vaccine under emergency-use rules. The developer of another leading vaccine, Moderna, is expected to do the same within weeks. Once a vaccine is granted emergency approval, there is pressure on developers to offer the immunization to trial participants who received a placebo. But if too many people cross over to the vaccine group, the companies might not have enough data to establish long-term outcomes, such as safety, how long vaccine protection lasts and whether the jab prevents infection or just the disease.

South Korea Faces New, Challenging Rise in Coronavirus Infections

4 days 9 hours

(NPR) – After beating back two waves of coronavirus infections — and garnering international praise for its competent handling of the pandemic — South Korea now finds itself fighting a trickier, stealthier uptick in cases, which has forced it to ramp up social distancing quickly. The first wave in February was tied to a megachurch and centered on the fourth-largest city of Daegu. The second wave in August was tied to a fundamentalist church and anti-government rallies in Seoul. The government moved quickly to isolate and test these clusters. But the current crop of cases, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) says, appears to have no links to any major groups or events.

Rural Areas Send Their Sickest Patients to the Cities, Straining Hospital Capacity

4 days 9 hours

(NPR) – Many rural communities across the U.S. have resisted masks and calls for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, but now rural counties are experiencing record-high infection and death rates. Critically ill rural patients are often sent to city hospitals for high-level treatment, and as their numbers grow, some urban hospitals are buckling under the added strain.

Pregnant Women Haven’t Been Included in Promising COVID-19 Vaccine Trials

4 days 9 hours

(U.S.A. Today) – Early results from two major COVID-19 vaccine trials have sparked hope that the worst of the pandemic may soon be over. But it’s still unclear if or when that relief would extend to pregnant people, who have been excluded from those vaccine trials.

COVID-19 Outcomes Tied to Hospital, Not Just Race

4 days 9 hours

(Medscape) – Findings from a national registry reinforce the role racial health disparities play in COVID-19 outcomes but also highlight the contribution hospitals make to the variation in poor outcomes. Researchers studied 7868 patients hospitalized across 88 sites from January 1 to July 22 of this year in the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Registry, established early in the pandemic to better understand hospital outcomes and CV complications.

Can a COVID-19 Vaccine Stop the Spread? Good Question.

4 days 9 hours

(Medscape) – Scientists involved in oversight of the Operation Warp Speed COVID-19 vaccine trials are tempering excitement about efficacy, noting that the studies haven’t shown yet whether the products can prevent transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

As a New Covid-19 Treatment Arrives, Hospitals Scramble to Solve Logistical and Ethical Challenges

1 week 15 hours

(STAT News) – When the federal government started handing out a newly authorized Covid-19 treatment last week, some hospitals weren’t sure they should accept their share. On the surface, it sounded crazy. Decline a medication that might keep patients from getting severely ill? But like so many other pandemic-time medical decisions, this one offered only flawed choices. The medication is bamlanivimab, Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody, and it’s meant for keeping high-risk patients out of the hospital. But its use comes with a Venn diagram of difficulties.

Dutch Euthanasia Rules Changed After Acquittal in Sedative Case

1 week 15 hours

(The Guardian) – Doctors euthanising a patient with severe dementia may slip a sedative into their food or drink if there are concerns they will become “disturbed, agitated or aggressive”, under a change to the codes of practice in the Netherlands. The review committee for cases of euthanasia refreshed its guidance in response to the case of a former nursing home doctor, Marinou Arends, who was prosecuted for murder and cleared after putting a sedative in her 74-year-old patient’s coffee before giving a lethal injection.

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