News from Bioethics.com

When a Tattoo Means Life or Death. Literally

23 hours 1 min

(NPR) – The tattoo, and the hospital’s decision about what it required of them, has set off a conversation among doctors and medical ethicists around the country about how to express one’s end-of-life wishes effectively, and how policymakers can make it easier. In the U.S., the standard way to tell doctors you want to be allowed to die is to sign an official form saying you don’t want to be resuscitated. That means, among other things, you don’t want doctors to do CPR or use a ventilator to keep you alive if you stop breathing.

Church of England Warns Future of Down’s ‘Under Question’

23 hours 40 min

(BBC) – The Church of England has warned the future existence of people with Down’s Syndrome is “under question”. It has called for expectant mothers to be given “comprehensive, unbiased information” ahead of the NHS roll-out of Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) in England and Wales this year. The blood test for high-risk women can offer an estimate of Down’s risk. But the Church is concerned it could lead to more abortions on women carrying children with Down’s Syndrome.

The AI That Can Tell When You Die

1 day 8 sec

(Daily Mail) – Stanford researchers have developed an AI that can predict when a patient will die with up to 90 percent accuracy. While the idea might sound unnerving, the team behind the work says it could vastly improve end-of-life care for patients and their families. By more accurately pinpointing when a terminal or seriously ill patient may pass, caregivers can prioritize their wishes and ensure important conversations are held before it’s too late.

Apple Health Data Is Being Used in a Murder Trial

4 days 2 hours

(Gizmodo) – In a German murder trial in which an Afghan refugee has been accused of rape and murder, health data from the refugee’s iPhone is being used by the prosecution as proof of murder. Hussein K admitted to raping and strangling 19-year-old medical student Maria Ladenburger in a park in Freiburg, Germany in October 2016 until she lost consciousness, according to the German website The Local. But some details of the surrounding Ladenburger’s death by drowning, which occurred directly after the assault, have been hazy.

They’re Waiting Longer, But U.S. Women Today More Likely to Have Children Than a Decade Ago

4 days 3 hours

(Pew Research Center) – The share of U.S. women at the end of their childbearing years who have ever given birth was higher in 2016 than it had been 10 years earlier. Some 86% of women ages 40 to 44 are mothers, compared with 80% in 2006, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. The share of women in this age group who are mothers is similar to what it was in the early 1990s.

Hungry Venezuelans Rely on Work-for-Food Barter as Economy Spirals

4 days 3 hours

(Miami Herald) – The economic crisis in Venezuela has spiked in recent months. Inflation rates in the rich-in-oil country in 2017 topped a stunning 2,600 percent, according to the opposition-controlled legislature. Venezuela’s tailspin has created poverty, personal insecurity, food scarcity, medicine shortages and money insufficiency. The situation has been labeled as a humanitarian crisis by opposition parties, foreign governments and Pope Francis.

China’s Great Leap into Biotech

4 days 3 hours

(Bloomberg) – So far, CAR-T has shown extraordinary results. More than 60 percent of children treated with Kymriah were cured, while the rate of full remission for patients treated with Yescarta was more than half. The big problem is price. Kymriah costs $475,000 for a single treatment; Yescarta goes for $373,000. Now China reckons it can do this better and cheaper. There are currently 153 CAR-T studies in the nation, just behind 186 in the U.S., according to Bernstein Research’s Laura Nelson Carney.

Protein Designed Entirely from Scratch Functions in Cells as a Genuine Enzyme

4 days 4 hours

(Eurekalert) – A dawning field of research, artificial biology, is working toward creating a genuinely new organism. At Princeton, chemistry professor Michael Hecht and the researchers in his lab are designing and building proteins that can fold and mimic the chemical processes that sustain life. Their artificial proteins, encoded by synthetic genes, are approximately 100 amino acids long, using an endlessly varying arrangement of 20 amino acids. Now, Hecht and his colleagues have confirmed that at least one of their new proteins can catalyze biological reactions, meaning that a protein designed entirely from scratch functions in cells as a genuine enzyme.

A Cheap and Easy Blood Test Could Catch Cancer Early

4 days 21 hours

(MIT Technology Review) – A simple-to-take test that tells if you have a tumor lurking, and even where it is in your body, is a lot closer to reality—and may cost only $500.  The new test, developed at Johns Hopkins University, looks for signs of eight common types of cancer. It requires only a blood sample and may prove inexpensive enough for doctors to give during a routine physical.

Child Pregnancies Reignite Sexual Abuse Debate in Turkey

4 days 21 hours

(BBC) – News reports of a spate of underage pregnancies in Turkey have sparked anger online. One hundred and fifteen girls, including 39 from Syria, have been treated at a single hospital in Istanbul in less than five months. News website Hurriyet Daily reported 38 girls became pregnant before the age of 15, and 77 before turning 18. The age of consent is 18 in Turkey and all cases of pregnancy under the age of 15 are classified as child abuse.

Young Women’s ADHD Prescriptions Have Soared Since 2003, CDC Finds

4 days 21 hours

(The Guardian) – Prescriptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications have increased 700% among US women in their late 20s since 2003, according to new research by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers raised alarms about the increase because “little information is available about the safety of taking ADHD medication during pregnancy”.

More Evidence Common Morning Sickness Drug May Not Work

5 days 23 hours

(Reuters) – A pill millions of women have used for morning sickness may not actually help relieve nausea, according to a new study that some doctors say reinforces their decision to stop prescribing the drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug, pyridoxine-doxylamine (Diclegis, Diclectin), based on results from a clinical trial. But previously unpublished data from the trial show the drug worked no better than a placebo at reducing nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, researchers report in PLOS One.

FDA Moving to Enhance Drug Approval Transparency, Gottlieb Says

5 days 23 hours

(Managed Care Magazine) – As part of its efforts to enhance transparency around drug approval decisions, the FDA is exploring ways it can continue to build on its obligation to share information, says FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. The agency is especially focused on information that can improve patient care and better inform providers about the products they prescribe. One place where it is evaluating how it can release information that may better inform scientists, providers, and patients is clinical study reports (CSRs), Dr. Gottlieb wrote in a statement.

Stem-Cell-Based Treatment Aims to Reverse Type 1 Diabetes

6 days 2 min

(Vancouver Sun) – About 10 British Columbians with Type 1 diabetes will be surgically implanted with packets containing lab-grown cells that are coaxed into behaving like true insulin-producing pancreatic cells in hopes of reversing their disease. The first patient to receive the implants is keen to exchange his regime of daily pinprick blood tests and insulin injections for a “handful” of pills for immune suppression.

Rohingya Crisis: Bangladesh and Myanmar Agree Repatriation Timeframe

1 week 2 hours

(BBC) – Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed a timeframe for repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled crackdowns from the military. Myanmar has agreed to accept 1,500 Rohingya each week, Bangladesh says, adding that it aims to return all of them to Myanmar within two years. More than 740,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh amid violence in Rakhine state in 2016 and 2017. Aid agencies have raised concerns about forcibly repatriating them.

Will Your Baby Like Cilantro? These Genetic Tests Say They Can Tell

1 week 3 hours

(Wired) – You have instant communication, on-demand entertainment, and dial-up transportation—why should you have to wait nine months to see what kind of baby you’re going to have? Now there’s an app for that. In a modern-day reboot of Lindsay Bluth’s “Mommy What Will I Look Like” business venture, Denver-based startup HumanCode has introduced BabyGlimpse. It’s a $259 test that uses DNA from each member of a couple to predict how their future child might look and act—from skin, hair, and eye color to preferred kinds of snacks.

For Now Sequencing Cancer Tumors Holds More Promise Than Proof

1 week 3 hours

(NPR) – People diagnosed with cancer understandably reach for the very best that medical science has to offer. That motivation is increasingly driving people to ask to have the DNA of their tumors sequenced. And while that’s useful for some malignancies, the hype of precision medicine for cancer is getting far ahead of the facts. It’s easy to understand why that’s the case. When you hear stories about the use of DNA sequencing to create individualized cancer treatment, chances are they are uplifting stories. Like that of Ben Stern.

With IVF, Fresh or Frozen Embryos Give Similar Chance of Pregnancy

1 week 1 day

(UPI) – The chances of having a baby after in vitro fertilization (IVF) are similar for most women whether frozen or fresh embryos are used, a new study finds. In a group of infertile women with normal ovulation, rates of live birth were nearly 49 percent in those who received frozen embryos. Rates were just over 50 percent for women who received fresh embryos, said researchers at Penn State College of Medicine.

Zambian Army Enters Slum after Riots over Cholera Controls: State Radio

1 week 4 days

(Reuters) – Zambian troops entered a slum in Lusaka on Friday to restore order after residents rioted over a curfew and ban on street vending imposed to control a cholera outbreak, state radio said. The riots in the densely populated Kanyama township were sparked after police sealed off a market where trading had been banned on Sunday, when the curfew was declared.

Organ Transplants Hit an All-Time High in 2017. But It’s a Bittersweet Win

1 week 4 days

(TIME) – Last year, organs were recovered from 10,281 deceased donors—more than a 3% increase from 2016 and a 27% increase over the last 10 years. Those organs contributed to the 34,768 transplants performed in 2017 using organs from both deceased and living donors—a new record for organ transplants in the United States. The reasons why are both hopeful and concerning.

Uncertain Inheritance: Epigenetics and the Poisoning of Michigan

1 week 4 days

(Undark) – If Marcus is right, it could upend not just medicine, but whole strata of legal, regulatory, and even ethical bedrock. Could insurers refuse coverage to the great-grandchildren of people exposed to a chemical toxin? Where would liabilities end? What are the real-world implications of personal health problems linked not to some chemical exposure that unfolded in our lifetimes, but at some distant point in our past lineage?

Menstruating Girls Banned from Crossing Ghana River

1 week 4 days

(BBC) – Ghanaian schoolgirls have been banned from crossing a river while they are menstruating – and on Tuesdays. The ban, apparently given by a local river god, has outraged children’s activists, especially as girls must cross the river to reach school. It means girls in the Upper Denkyira East district, in the Central Region, could miss out on their education. Sub-Saharan Africa is already struggling to keep girls in school during their periods.

When Ignorance Leaves Pregnant Surrogates on the Wrong Side of Cambodian Law

1 week 4 days

(The Phnom Penh Post) – Malis* sits under her home in a remote village with her legs folded under her swelling belly. She’s six months pregnant, expecting a baby girl, and knows nothing about the child’s parents except that they are Chinese. She also is unaware that, as of yesterday, she could find herself facing serious jail time for her role in an illegal surrogacy operation. Though the “rent-a-womb” practice was outlawed in a snap edict in October 2016, the Interior Ministry named January 8 the deadline for a “surrogacy amnesty”.

Bioethics in Action, Part I: Helping Students Explore Difficult Questions in Health Care

1 week 4 days

(New York Times) – Bioethics is a broad, interdisciplinary field. Its subject matter encompasses many of the most controversial and weighty matters facing contemporary society, including aid in dying or assisted suicide, human cloning, abortion, artificial reproduction, genetic engineering, organ transplantation, medical marijuana and health care rationing. In this first part of a two-part series, we use resources in The Times to help students explore difficult ethical questions related to patient autonomy, physician autonomy and scarce resources

Who Will Answer the Call in the Next Outbreak? Drug Makers Feel Burned by String of Vaccine Pleas

1 week 5 days

(STAT News) – In nearly each case, major vaccine producers have risen to the challenge, setting aside their day-to-day profit-making activities to try to meet a pressing societal need. With each successive crisis, they have done so despite mounting concerns that the threat will dissipate and with it the demand for the vaccine they are racing to develop. Now, manufacturers are expressing concern about their ability to afford these costly disruptions to their profit-seeking operations. As a result, when the bat-signal next flares against the night sky, there may not be anyone to respond.

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