News from Bioethics.com

Polio Eradication Initiative Meets Resistance to Appeals to Destroy Samples

2 hours 5 min

(STAT News) – For more than two years, the global initiative to eradicate polio has been trying to convince companies and laboratories around the world to get rid of stored samples of an extinct poliovirus, with little success. Thirty countries have indicated they plan to hold on to type 2 polioviruses, in a total of 99 facilities. That, health officials warn, could endanger years of efforts to stop the virus from crippling children.

Children, Fatal Illness and the Nature of Suffering

2 hours 11 min

(Scientific American) – But what about a nonverbal child or infant? How do we determine if they are suffering? This is what is at the heart of the public debates about how to care for children with incurable illness, and much of this involves our own perception, and even projection, while observing a child. But is a child necessarily suffering just because for us, as observers, it feels like suffering to watch? In the absence of hard evidence to the contrary, we need to rely on parents to guide us about how they identify and perceive their child’s suffering.

Court Upholds Ruling Against California’s Assisted Suicide Law

2 hours 40 min

(NPR) – An appeals court has let stand a lower court ruling overturning a California law that allows physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to the terminally ill. California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals on Wednesday refused to stay last week’s decision by the Riverside County Superior Court, which ruled that state lawmakers should not have passed the law during a special session on health care funding. However, the constitutionality of the law itself — passed nearly three years ago — was not challenged.

Kosovo Court Imprisons 2 over Illegal Organ Harvesting

1 day 5 min

(ABC News) – A Kosovo court on Thursday imprisoned two ethnic Albanians for involvement in organ harvesting. The Pristina court international judge Francesca Fischer sentenced former urologist Lutfi Dervishi to 7 years and a fine of 8,000 euros ($9,400). He cannot exercise his profession for two years after his prison term ends. Sokol Hajdini, an anesthetist, was sentenced to one year in prison after it was proven that he was aware of the work and willingly took part.

No Country Resorts to IVF More Than Japan–Or Has Less Success

1 day 19 min

(The Economist) – Japan has come a long way since journalists were warned off the taboo story of Princess Masako’s visits to fertility clinics 20 years ago. The wife of the crown prince, then in her late thirties, was being nudged to produce an heir to the throne (in the end, she disappointed traditionalists by having a girl). Today Japan has less than half America’s population, but more than a third more hospitals and clinics that offer fertility treatment. Over 50,000 babies were born last year with the help of in vitro fertilisation (IVF)—5% of all births.

The Success of the New Ebola Vaccine Will Hinge on Trust

1 day 22 min

(Vox) – The quest to convince people not to fear a lifesaving vaccine is underway in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an ongoing outbreak of the Ebola virus has transfixed the global health community. For the first time ever in an Ebola outbreak, health care workers have a vaccine to offer people at risk of infection. The experimental shot has had a remarkable rate of success in clinical trials, and it could be a game changer in the DRC outbreak, which has already infected 58 people, including 27 deaths. But success hinges on one major obstacle: People in the country need to trust and accept the new vaccine, and it’s not a given they will.

Hybrid Human-Chicken Embryos Illuminate Key Developmental Milestone

1 day 51 min

(Nature) – Before a cluster of cells can develop into an embryo, it must first decide which end is up. But that process had never been observed in humans — until now. For the first time, researchers have watched human ‘organizer’ cells direct the formation of an embryo’s top, bottom, front and back. They did so by developing a technique that sidesteps restrictions on research with human embryos by grafting human cells onto chicken embryos. The method, published on 23 May in Nature, could supplant the use of human embryos in some laboratory experiments.

In the Addiction Battle, Is Forced Rehab the Solution?

2 days 41 min

(ABC News) – An Associated Press check of data in some key states has found that the use of involuntary commitment for drug addiction is rising. And in many places, lawmakers are trying to create or strengthen laws allowing authorities to force people into treatment. But critics, including many doctors, law enforcement officials and civil rights advocates, caution that success stories like Loud’s are an exception. Research suggests involuntary commitment largely doesn’t work and could raise the danger of overdose for those who relapse after treatment.

Researchers Tally the Physical and Financial Costs of Opioid Painkillers’ Side Effects

2 days 52 min

(Los Angeles Times) – The opioid crisis has shown us that prescription painkillers and their illicit counterparts can wreak havoc in American communities. Now researchers have quantified the damage they can do inside hospitals when administered to patients following surgeries and other invasive medical procedures. More than 10% of hospitalized patients who took one or more opioid painkillers experienced a side effect tied to the drug, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery. Fully 93% of these patients suffered at least one episode that was deemed moderate or severe.

More Kids Overdosing on ADHD Drugs

2 days 1 hour

(Reuters) – The surge in U.S. kids taking medication for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is having an unintended side effect, a new study suggests: more children and teens are overdosing on these drugs. Nationwide, U.S. Poison Control Centers received more than 156,000 calls about exposures to ADHD drugs among youth 19 years old and younger between 2000 and 2014, averaging 200 calls a week and 29 calls a day, researchers report in Pediatrics.

Murder or Suicide? The Legal Complexities of the ‘Cause’ of Death in Euthanasia

2 days 1 hour

(The Wire) – As a result of van Dongen’s death, Wallace was charged with murder and grievous bodily harm by using a corrosive acid with intent to cause harm. The jury found her unanimously guilty of using the corrosive acid with intent, but not of murder. Perhaps the most significant obstacle to securing the murder conviction was van Dongen’s decision to have euthanasia. In the UK euthanasia, or assisted suicide, can still result in a manslaughter or murder charge against the doctors who administer the life-ending treatment.

Congress Passes Right-to-Try Bill

2 days 1 hour

(Medscape) – The bill is intended to make it easier for people with life-threatening conditions to access experimental treatments outside of clinical trials. Many advocacy groups argue the measure will erode needed protections and put patients at risk for harm from unproven and potentially unsafe therapies. The House voted 250-169 on a version of the Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act of 2017, which the Senate approved last year by unanimous consent.

Battle to Treat Madagascar Women for Debilitating Fistula

2 days 1 hour

(Medical Xpress) – Obstetric fistula refers to the rupturing of tissue between the vagina and the bladder or rectum after prolonged, obstructed labour or, less commonly, violent rape. The condition typically results in urinary or faecal incontinence. Madagascar is one of the worst-hit countries, with 4,000 women affected every year. An estimated two million female patients have the condition worldwide—most of them in developing countries. It has been nearly eliminated in Western countries due to improved obstetric care and the use of caesarean delivery.

Experimental Drugs Poised for Use in Ebola Outbreak

3 days 21 min

(Nature) – Aid workers responding to the Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are seeking approval to treat patients with experimental drugs. These include three potential treatments — ZMapp, favipiravir and GS-5734 — that were given to patients during the 2014–16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The three drugs are being considered in addition to an existing plan to deploy an experimental vaccine; none of the treatments has been definitively proved to lower the risk of death from Ebola.

Nurse Dies After Contracting Rare Nipah Virus While Treating Outbreak in India

3 days 31 min

(TIME) – At least 10 people have died of Nipah since an outbreak began earlier this month in Kerala, health officials say, and two more people are in critical condition. There is no vaccine for the virus, which can cause raging fevers, convulsions and vomiting, and kills up to 75 percent of people who come down with it. The only treatment is supportive care to keep patients comfortable.

Can Genetic Counselors Keep Up with 23andMe?

3 days 37 min

(The Atlantic) – Now genetic counselors are figuring out how to help the growing [direct-to-consumer] set, while their field is in transition. As demand for their services grows, the field is facing a national shortage in which there are an estimated two to three jobs available for every graduate of genetic-counselor training programs. To address it, in addition to recruiting future students and expanding training programs, professional societies are at work trying to change the way genetic counselors are viewed in the health-care system. Currently, only eight states allow genetic counselors to directly order tests for patients.

The Suicide Rate for Black American Children Is Twice That of White Children

3 days 45 min

(Quartz) – White Americans are more likely to commit suicide than black Americans. But a new study finds that the opposite is true for children. Black children between the ages of 5 to 12 years old are roughly twice as likely to take their own life than their white counterparts, according to the paper, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. It adds to a 2016 study that found an increase in suicide rates in recent years among black children of elementary-school age.

Automated Health Care Offers Freedom From Shame, But Is It What Patients Need?

3 days 48 min

(The New Yorker) – Most contemporary writing about A.I. fixates on the vital concerns of job disruption, privacy, and algorithmic bias. But there is an equally important conversation to be had about shame and vulnerability. We often respond more frankly to computers and robots than we do to our fellow-humans. In online surveys, for example, people admit to financial stress and illegal or unethical acts more readily than they do over the phone, and potential blood donors report riskier behaviors. When a virtual interviewer is asking the questions, children are more candid about bullying and adults show sadness more intensely. Part of this openness stems from the presumed anonymity of telling something to a machine: computers seem private because of their very facelessness.

Is Salt Bad? A Prison Study May Hold the Answer

3 days 22 hours

(The Atlantic) – The groups ran through their research options. The best evidence linking salt intake and high-blood pressure comes from short-term feeding studies, where researchers prepare the meals for participants over several weeks. But it is far too expensive to feed participants for the years it takes for heart disease to show up. And frankly, how many volunteers would follow a bland diet for years? So they considered people already on controlled diets. Nursing homes, they ruled out because many of the elderly have medical conditions that already require eating a certain amount of salt. The military they ruled out because the population is so young and fit that it would take too long for heart disease to show up. That left prisons.

Founder of Swiss Assisted Suicide Organization on Trial for Profiteering from His Clients

3 days 23 hours

(The Telegraph) – The founder of one of Switzerland’s best known assisted suicide organisations went on trial on Friday on charges of profiteering from patients and exploiting their suffering for his own benefit. Ludwig Minelli, the founder of Dignitas, is accused of arranging the assisted suicide of one German woman because she left the organisation 100,000 Swiss francs (£74,000) in her will. He is also accused of overcharging a mother and daughter by around 11,000 Swiss francs (£8,000) to arrange their suicide.

Finding the Lost Generation of Sperm Donors

1 week 3 hours

(The Atlantic) – For people like McKinney and Sanchez who were conceived through sperm donation, it’s an unusual time to come of age. Born nearly three decades ago, they are members of something of an in-between generation: Donor-conceived children born well before them tended not to know their parents or any existing “donor siblings.” And while donors in the ’80s and ’90s most often planned on staying anonymous, in the time since McKinney and Sanchez were born, the rise of consumer DNA testing has made this much less certain. Meanwhile, industry practice and consensus among psychologists are moving away from anonymous donations, such that the era when anonymity is the expectation appears to be over.

More Patients Are Taking Home Recordings of Their Doctor Visits. But Who Else Could Listen?

1 week 3 hours

(STAT News) – Doctors across the U.S. have begun doing what once seemed unthinkable in a litigious health care environment: recording their medical conversations with patients and encouraging them to review the audio at home. The rationale for the practice is as simple as the smartphone technology that enables it: having a recording improves patients’ understanding and recall of their doctor visits and helps them adhere to treatment regimens. Now the increasing power of artificial intelligence is promising to bring this technical capability to a new level — potentially offering big rewards, and risks, for patients and caregivers.

Creepy ‘Brain in a Bucket’ Study Spurs Medical, Ethical Debate

1 week 3 hours

(NBC News) – First, a reality check: Sestan’s research used pig brains, not human ones, and nothing was reanimated. Bringing a dead brain back to life remains squarely in the realm of science fiction. But what Sestan and his team accomplished does take science into uncharted waters. Brain research is advancing so quickly that ethicists are scrambling to keep up.

WHO: Ebola in Congo Not Global Health Emergency

1 week 3 hours

(ABC News) – The World Health Organization says the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo does not yet warrant being declared a global health emergency. For a health crisis to constitute a global health emergency it must meet three criteria stipulated by WHO: It must threaten other countries via the international spread of disease, it must be a “serious, unusual or unexpected” situation and it may require immediate international action for containment.

Opioid Crisis Makes More Organs Available

1 week 3 hours

(NBC) – America’s opioid epidemic has one sad upside: more organs available for lifesaving transplants, researchers reported Wednesday. Close to 14 percent of people who donated an organ in 2016 had died of a drug overdose, the team of experts reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. That compares to just 1 percent in 2000. The numbers still are not large. In 2000, 59 organ donors had died of drug overdoses, compared to 1,029 in 2016.

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