News from Bioethics.com

Why Vaping Is So Dangerous for Teens

1 hour 16 min

(CNN) – Most of what we know about nicotine addiction in teens, we know from cigarettes. But experts say the technology and chemistry of vaping might pose an entirely different threat. “It turns out that e-cigarette use by kids doesn’t look the same at all,” said Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “How you’re delivering [nicotine] and how much you’re delivering … everything you change really matters.” Levy said she’s seen vape-addicted kids in her program showing what appear to be psychiatric symptoms rarely seen with traditional cigarettes or among adults.

Rise in Serious Birth Defect Might Be Tied to Opioid Use, Study Says

1 hour 41 min

(CNN) – A potentially deadly birth defect in which babies are born with exposed intestines is on the rise, and researchers are concerned that it might be tied to the opioid epidemic. The birth defect, called gastroschisis, happens early in a mother’s pregnancy when the walls of the baby’s abdomen don’t develop properly. While science hasn’t figured out the exact cause of the condition, there are risk factors. Teen mothers are more likely to give birth to a baby with the defect, as are women who drink and smoke. Now it appears there’s an association with prescription opioid use.

Call the Midwife! (If the Doctor Doesn’t Object)

1 day 5 hours

(Kaiser Health News) – Every morning at Watsonville Community Hospital in Northern California, the labor and delivery team divvies up its patients — low-risk ones go to the midwives and high-risk ones to the physicians. Then, throughout the day, the doctors and midwives work together to ensure the births go smoothly. “We kind of divide and conquer,” said Dr. Julia Burke, chair of the hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology department. The hospital began allowing certified nurse midwives to deliver babies in 2017, part of an effort to decrease cesarean sections and make mothers happier.

Doctors Fired after Giving ‘Potentially Fatal’ Doses of Pain Medication to 27 Patients

1 day 5 hours

(CNN) – A doctor is accused of giving potentially fatal doses of pain medication to at least 27 patients who were near death, according to an Ohio hospital. The osteopathic physician ordered “more than what was needed to provide comfort” to patients whose families had requested that all life-saving measures be stopped, Mount Carmel Health System in Columbus said in a statement. The doctor was removed from patient care and fired, following an internal investigation, the hospital said.

A Remarkable New Study Shows Stem Cells Can Reverse MS in Some Patients

2 days 2 hours

(Vox) – The treatment is an experimental chemotherapy and hematopoietic stem cell transplant offered in the first randomized trial comparing the outcomes of patients receiving the treatment to patients who took standard MS medications.  The results of the trial appeared Tuesday in the journal JAMA, and they are impressive: Among the 55 patients in the control group who took medication, 34 saw their disease worsen. But for the 55 (including Loy) who received the chemo and stem cell transplant, only three got worse. The rest saw their quality of life and disability improve.

Microsoft and Walgreens Pair Up Amid Fierce Competition to Deliver Digital Health Care

2 days 2 hours

(STAT News) – Microsoft has struck a deal with Walgreens to build digital health tools for pharmacy customers that will include efforts to use artificial intelligence to deliver stepped-up telehealth, improve medication adherence, and reduce emergency room visits. The impact of the seven-year partnership, announced Tuesday, remains to be seen, but it represents another attempt by a large provider of health care services to increase the use of technology to deliver medicines and medical advice. The world’s largest technology companies, including Apple, Amazon, and Google, are making aggressive forays into health care, both through partnerships with providers and the development of their own health care businesses.

‘A Blizzard of Prescriptions’: Documents Reveal New Details about Purdue’s Marketing of OxyContin

2 days 2 hours

(STAT News) – When Purdue Pharma started selling its prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin in 1996, Dr. Richard Sackler asked people gathered for the launch party to envision natural disasters like an earthquake, a hurricane, or a blizzard. The debut of OxyContin, said Sackler — a member of the family that started and controls the company and then a company executive — “will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”

Pregnancy in Women in Vegetative State Is Rare, But Not Unprecedented

2 days 2 hours

(NBC News) – The woman, 29, delivered in December while receiving long-term care at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix after a near-drowning incident. Authorities do not know who impregnated her and have opened a sexual assault investigation in search of her rapist. The case echoes one from 1995, when a comatose 29-year-old woman was raped by a nurse’s aide at her nursing home near Rochester, New York. Staff discovered she was pregnant early on, a key difference between her and the Arizona woman.

Juul’s Convenient Smoke Screen

6 days 5 hours

(The New York Times) – But in Juul’s case, revisionist history is particularly important, because the way Juul markets itself is central to the question of how it should be treated. Many consumers, investors and ethical technologists would rightly shun a company that knowingly targeted minors with harmful products, and cleaned up its act only after public pressure. But if you believe that Juul had a noble anti-cigarette mission all along, it’s easier to excuse its missteps as the product of innocent naïveté. Unfortunately for Juul, plenty of evidence suggests that the company didn’t always take its public health agenda so seriously.

Cuba Failed to Report Thousands of Zika Virus Cases in 2017

1 week 2 hours

(New Scientist) – THOUSANDS of Zika virus cases went unreported in Cuba in 2017, according to an analysis of data on travellers to the Caribbean island. Veiling them may have led to many other cases that year. The analysis suggests that Zika infections peaked in Cuba in the second half of 2017, at a time when the virus was waning in mainland North and South America. Cuban authorities didn’t follow the agreed practice of notifying the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) of the outbreak.

‘CRISPR Babies’ Scientist: ‘I’m Actually Doing Quite Well’

1 week 3 hours

(STAT News) – The Chinese scientist who shocked the world in November by announcing that twin girls had been born from embryos that he had created using genome editing has told two Western colleagues that, contrary to a flurry of reports that he is under house arrest and possibly even facing the death penalty, he is “actually doing quite well here.” In an email and a phone conversation, He Jiankui of Southern University of Science and Technology told the two scientists, who attended the “CRISPR babies” announcement at the International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, that he is able to read Western news reports about himself, including some earlier this week that he might be facing the death penalty for his work and that he is under armed guard and house arrest.

Banished from Home for Menstrual Cycle, Mother and Two Children Die in Nepali Hut

1 week 3 hours

(CNN) – A Nepali mother and her two children were found dead Wednesday morning, after being exiled from their family home as part of a criminalized practice where women and girls are made to sleep alone during their menstrual cycle. In sub-zero winter temperatures, Amba Bohora, 35, and her sons aged seven and nine, are believed to have constructed a small fire inside a tiny wooden hut close to their home in rural western Nepal. By the morning all three were dead.

New York Is Fighting Its Worst Outbreak of Measles in Decades

1 week 3 hours

(NBC) – At Clarkstown Pediatrics in Nanuet, New York, babies are on an accelerated measles vaccination schedule, getting their first shots six months early and their second dose right away. It’s part of a statewide effort to stop several outbreaks of measles from turning into an epidemic. The state has had 167 cases of the highly infectious virus since September, making it the worst year for measles since the 1990s.

Drug Overdose Deaths Among Women Ages 30-64 in the United States Increased by 260 Percent: CDC

1 week 3 hours

(ABC News) – As the number of drug overdose deaths continues to rise, the social awareness of the epidemic has as well. Even celebrities are opening about their addiction issues. The drug epidemic, however, has affected far more people than previously thought. Death by drug overdose is classically more common in men but a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday shows that women, specifically middle-aged women, are also increasingly affected.

The FDA Is Going After Stem Cell Clinics That Peddle Unproven Treatments

1 week 1 day

(Vox) – Currently, the only stem cell therapy approved by the FDA is a bone marrow transplant that uses pluripotent stem cells to treat cancers of the blood and bone marrow. But doctors in the Cell Surgical Network have moved ahead with using cells for autoimmune, neurologic, and other serious conditions.  And there is a growing number of cases of adverse effects. In 2016, an elderly woman went blind after receiving an injection of stem cells to treat her macular degeneration. She received the treatment at the Stem Cell Center of Georgia — an affiliate of Berman’s Cell Surgical Network.  More reports of ill-fated procedures have since surfaced across the country, the worst resulting in kidney failure and paraplegia.

A Father’s Fight to Help His Sons–And Fix Clinical Trials

1 week 1 day

(Nature) – Nick plunged himself into trying to find some relief for his son. As it turned out, researchers had identified a possible treatment. But the drug was being given to help infants survive a different condition — it wasn’t approved for AKU. And the path to approval was blocked by a considerable obstacle: the need for a full-scale randomized clinical trial. That’s expensive and difficult enough for medicines used to treat common diseases. It’s much harder for a condition that is almost unheard of.

To Get Mental Health Help for a Child, Desperate Parents Relinquish Custody

1 week 1 day

(Kaiser Health News) – Two-thirds of states don’t keep track of how many families give up custody to help a child get mental health services. But a study by the Government Accountability Office found that, back in 2001, families in 19 states relinquished nearly 13,000 children. Today in Illinois, state records show that dozens of children enter state custody this way each year, despite a 2015 state law aimed at preventing it. And new data collected by the University of Maryland for the federal government finds that Illinois is not alone in failing to address this issue.

Unethical Experiments’ Painful Contributions to Today’s Medicine

1 week 1 day

(CNN) – He’s experiments, which are still clouded with the uncertainty of his claims and his whereabouts, open a Pandora’s box of questions around ethics in experiments with humans — even though these dilemmas aren’t new. Historic examples of human experimentation include wartime atrocities by Nazi doctors that tested the limits of human survival. Another led to the creation of the hepatitis B vaccine prototype. Wendell Johnson, who made several contributions to the field of communication disorders, tried to induce stuttering in normally fluent children. In the 1940s, prisoners in Illinois were infected with malaria to test anti-malaria drugs.

Rwanda Deploys Officials to Enforce Ban on Skin Lightening Creams

1 week 1 day

(CNN) – The Rwandan government is sending officials across the country to enforce its ban on skin lightening and bleaching products. The East African country is leading a campaign against skin bleaching and substandard cosmetics, particularly products that include hydroquinone, a spokesman from the Rwanda Standards Board told CNN.

Europe’s Top Rights Court to Hear Belgian Euthanasia Case

1 week 2 days

(ABC News) – Europe’s top human rights court has agreed to hear a case being brought against Belgium by a man whose mother was euthanized in 2012 for depression, the second case that implicates one of Belgium’s leading euthanasia doctors. In a statement Tuesday, lawyers for Tom Mortier said they brought their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg after Belgian authorities declined to pursue it.

U.S. Cancer Death Rate Hits Milestone: 25 Years of Decline

1 week 2 days

(STAT News) – The U.S. cancer death rate has hit a milestone: It’s been falling for at least 25 years, according to a new report. Lower smoking rates are translating into fewer deaths. Advances in early detection and treatment also are having a positive impact, experts say. But it’s not all good news. Obesity-related cancer deaths are rising, and prostate cancer deaths are no longer dropping, said Rebecca Siegel, lead author of the American Cancer Society report published Tuesday.

Alzheimer’s Attack on the Brain May Vary with Race

1 week 2 days

(Scientific American) – Research on Alzheimer’s has mainly focused on Caucasians. New findings, however, suggest the disease process that leads to dementia may differ in African–Americans. According to a study published Monday in JAMA Neurology, the brains of African–Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s have less buildup of a protein called tau—one of the two hallmark proteins that characterize the disease.

23andMe Will Add Weight-Loss Advice to Its DNA-Testing Services

1 week 2 days

(Bloomberg) – Consumer DNA-testing giant 23andMe Inc. plans to add new wellness offerings it hopes will help its customers shed a few pounds, but some genetics experts say the jury is still out on the science behind the products. On Tuesday, the Mountain View, California-based company announced a partnership with Lark Health, an artificial-intelligence coaching service that delivers personalized advice for weight loss and diabetes prevention via an app. Lark will allow customers to incorporate weight-related genetic data from 23andMe into its service.

AI Face-Scanning App Spots Signs of Rare Genetic Disorders

1 week 3 days

(Nature) – In a paper published on 7 January in Nature Medicine, researchers describe the technology behind the diagnostic aid, a smartphone app called Face2Gene. It relies on machine-learning algorithms and brain-like neural networks to classify distinctive facial features in photos of people with congenital and neurodevelopmental disorders. Using the patterns that it infers from the pictures, the model homes in on possible diagnoses and provides a list of likely options. Doctors have been using the technology as an aid, even though it’s not intended to provide definitive diagnoses. But it does raise a number of ethical and legal concerns, say researchers. These include ethnic bias in training data sets and the commercial fragmentation of databases, both of which could limit the reach of the diagnostic tool.

Chinese Scientist Was Told Not to Create World’s First Gene-Edited Babies

1 week 3 days

(CNN) – Everyone he talked to — which was not many people — had said “don’t go there,” “don’t do it,” explained Robin Lovell-Badge of the UK research facility the Francis Crick Institute, who organized the scientific summit in Hong Kong during which the news broke in November. “He had already been told not to proceed,” he said. The announcement came on the eve of this summit, the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing. Two days later, He defended his work on the scientific stage and announced that a second pregnancy using the technology was underway.

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