News from Bioethics.com

‘Every Year, I Give Birth’: Why War Is Driving a Contraception Crisis in Sudan

2 days 23 hours

(The Guardian) – It has also meant a severe lack of maternal healthcare. There is no local midwife, and Sebila lives five hours’ drive from a hospital, in a region where cars are a rare luxury. Women told me of waiting hours for transport while in obstructed labour, or being held propped up, bleeding and falling in and out of consciousness, between two men on the back of a motorcycle to reach a hospital. Multiple and closely-spaced births can carry serious health risks for both mother and infant, and can be life-threatening without proper treatment.

It’s Not Pain But ‘Existential Distress’ That Leads People to Assisted Suicide, Study Suggests

2 days 23 hours

(Washington Post) – Allowing assisted dying to come into the open has helped us gain insights about one of the most fundamental questions of our existence: where humans draw the line between choosing life and choosing death. But a study released Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests the answers may be surprising: The reasons patients gave for wanting to end their lives had more to do with psychological suffering than physical suffering.

When the Patient Is a Gold Mine: The Trouble with Rare-Disease Drugs

3 days 18 hours

(Bloomberg) – Having to rely for profits on a small number of customers who are each potentially worth millions of dollars causes side effects of its own. For years, the sales culture at Alexion was so pressure-packed that aggressive phone calls to doctors were among its milder transgressions. Ethical lines were routinely crossed, troubling many of its workers, according to interviews with more than 20 current and former employees and more than 2,000 pages of internal documents.

Scores of Women in India Give Birth at Advanced Ages with the Help of a Controversial Doctor Who Claims Great Success with Patients over 50

3 days 18 hours

(Associated Press) – Such treatments have become more common across the world, and they strike a cultural chord in India, where a woman is often defined by her ability to be a wife and mother. While there are no reliable statistics for how many Indian women undergo fertility treatments each year at what age, tens of thousands of IVF clinics have sprouted up in the country over the last decade. Fertility specialists say pregnancies like Kaur’s are troubling because of the potential health risks and the concern that the parents may not live long enough to raise their babies to adulthood. Legislation is pending in India’s Parliament setting 50 as the legal upper age cap.

China Expands DNA Data Grab in Troubled Western Region

3 days 19 hours

(Nature) – Police in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, China, have been collecting DNA samples from citizens and are now ramping up their capacity to analyse that genetic cache, according to evidence compiled by activists and details gathered by Nature. The advocacy group Human Rights Watch reported last month that Xinjiang authorities intend to accelerate efforts to gather blood samples from the region’s large population of Muslim Uighur people. China’s government has cracked down on Xinjiang’s separatist movement in recent years, so the prospect of a DNA database there has stoked fears that authorities could use it as a political weapon.

Drop in Cases of Zika Threatens Large-Scale Trial

4 days 18 hours

(Nature) – Studies of thousands of pregnant women that were set up to probe the link between Zika and birth defects may not provide definitive answers because of a sharp drop in the number of new cases, researchers have warned. The unexpected development is making the disease harder to study, and threatens to hamper trials of experimental vaccines that might protect pregnant women in future outbreaks. “We’re seeing few, if any, cases, particularly in southern Brazil, which we thought might be the next big area to be hit this year,” says Oliver Brady, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

How to End a Life

4 days 18 hours

(Toronto Life) – For some doctors, the aftermath is difficult. Just because doctors are regularly exposed to death doesn’t mean they’re comfortable performing euthanasia. A 2006 study on the emotional effects of physician-assisted death in the Netherlands and Oregon found that doctors often felt isolated and powerless after performing the procedure. At UHN, Li has seen physicians who deal with death on a daily basis break down after conducting a medically assisted death. Since MAID became legal, the number of willing providers in Ontario has shrunk, as nearly 30 doctors have pulled their names from the ministry’s list.

Unprecedented Cholera Outbreak Tears through War-Torn Yemen

5 days 18 hours

(New Scientist) – A cholera outbreak in Yemen has killed 332 people, and left more than 32,000 ill in the last four weeks, the World Health Organization reports. The disease, which is caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with Vibrio cholerae bacteria, has spread faster than any previous known outbreak in Yemen. It could affect as many as 300,000 people over the next 6 months, the WHO says.

World Health Organization Gets First Leader from Africa

5 days 18 hours

(Nature) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has its first head to hail from Africa. Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will take up the post of the agency’s director-general from 1 July – succeeding Margaret Chan – after winning a 23 May vote by WHO member states at the World Health Assembly, their annual gathering in Geneva, Switzerland. Tedros, 52, is a public health expert who has formerly been both a health minister and a foreign minister in Ethiopia’s government, and will lead the WHO for a 5-year term.

Medicine Is Going Digital. The FDA Is Racing to Catch Up

5 days 18 hours

(Wired) – When Bakul Patel started as a policy advisor in the US Food and Drug Administration in 2008, he could pretty much pinpoint when a product was going to land in front of the reviewers in his division. Back when medical devices were heavy on the hardware—your pacemakers and your IUDs—it would take manufacturers years to get them ready for regulatory approval. FDA reviewers could keep up pretty well. But as computer code took on more complex tasks, like spotting specious moles and quantifying blood flow, their duties began to accelerate. Software developers needed months, not years, to make it to the market. And there were a lot of them. It got harder to match pace. And then came artificial intelligence.

Revealed: Facebook’s Internal Rulebook on Sex, Terrorism and Violence

5 days 19 hours

(The Guardian) – Facebook’s secret rules and guidelines for deciding what its 2 billion users can post on the site are revealed for the first time in a Guardian investigation that will fuel the global debate about the role and ethics of the social media giant. The Guardian has seen more than 100 internal training manuals, spreadsheets and flowcharts that give unprecedented insight into the blueprints Facebook has used to moderate issues such as violence, hate speech, terrorism, pornography, racism and self-harm.

New Service to Predict Genetic Disorders in Children

6 days 17 hours

(The Japan Times) – A major genetic testing company in Japan plans to provide a service from as early as next year to check the probability that future children will have genetic disorders, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. By examining the genetic codes of a couple, the testing can ascertain the incidence rate of about 1,050 conditions, including certain types of muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease, according to the company. However, related academic societies are considering whether to issue a statement expressing their concerns, as they believe that while there is a need for such testing, there are also concerns that it will promote new forms of discrimination.

Study Confirms ‘Flushing’ Blocked Fallopian Tubes Can Improve Fertility and Reduce Need for IVF

6 days 17 hours

(The Conversation) – A technique that effectively “unblocks” a woman’s fallopian tubes by flushing them with liquid to help her conceive has been used for decades, with varying levels of success. Now a study has confirmed that the method significantly improves fertility, and that a certain type of fluid – one that is oil-based rather than water-based – shows strong results. Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, our H2Oil study involved 1,119 women in 27 medical centres in The Netherlands. All women were younger than 38 and had been trying to conceive for 18 months on average.

Team Discovers Neural Stem Cells Can Become Blood Vessels

6 days 17 hours

(Medical Xpress) – Mother cells from the adult carotid body can transform into blood vessels as well as neurons. This discovery could have important repercussions on the treatment of such diseases as pediatric tumors and Parkinson’s. Researchers from the University of Seville and the Seville Institute of Biomedicine (IBiS) have just published a scientific article in the journal Cell Reports, in which they show that mother cells from the adult carotid body can transform into blood vessels, as well as into neurons. The work was led by the post-doctoral researcher Valentina Annese.

Yemen Cholera Cases Could Hit 300,000 within Six Months: WHO

1 week 2 days

(Reuters) – Yemen could have as many as 300,000 cases of cholera within six months and an “extremely high” number of deaths, the World Health Organization said on Friday. “We need to expect something that could go up to 200,000-250,000 cases over the next six months, in addition to the 50,000 cases that have already occurred,” Nevio Zagaria. WHO Yemen representative, told reporters in Geneva by phone. The cost in lives from this will be will be “extremely, extremely high”, he said.

For Tuskegee Syphilis Study Descendants, Stigma Hasn’t Faded

1 week 2 days

(New York Times) – Decades later, it’s still hard to grasp what the federal government did to hundreds of black men in rural Alabama — even if you’re among their descendants, lighting candles in their memory. For 40 years starting in 1932, medical workers in the segregated South withheld treatment for unsuspecting men infected with a sexually transmitted disease simply so doctors could track the ravages of the horrid illness and dissect their bodies afterward. Finally exposed in 1972 , the study ended and the men sued, resulting in a $9 million settlement. Twenty years ago this May, President Bill Clinton apologized for the U.S. government. It seemed to mark the end of this ugly episode, once and for all. Except it didn’t.

Italy Passes Law Obliging Parents to Vaccinate Children

1 week 2 days

(Reuters) – Italy’s cabinet approved a law on Friday obliging parents to vaccinate their children against infectious diseases as politicians spar over a spike in measles cases. Children up to six years old will now need to be immunized to be eligible for nursery school, and parents who send their children to school after that age without vaccinating them first will be liable for fines. Vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and meningitis, which were previously only recommended, will now become mandatory, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said.

First In Vivo Human Genome Editing to Be Tested in New Clinical Trial

1 week 2 days

(The Scientist) – Researchers have edited the human genome before, but always in cells outside the body. Now, biotech company Sangamo Therapeutics is recruiting participants for clinical trials in which patients with hemophilia B, Hurler syndrome, or Hunter syndrome will have the gene coding for one of the enzymes that is non-functional in them stitched into their genomes at double-stranded DNA breaks caused by zinc finger nucleases. “This is the first time someone could have a new gene put into their liver,” Sangamo President and CEO Sandy Macrae told The Scientist. “It’s a privilege and a responsibility to do” these trials.

In Jamaica, a Push to Market Island Getaways–with a Side of Surgery

1 week 2 days

(STAT News) – Jamaica, like other developing nations before it, is trying to boost its economy by wooing “medical tourists” to fly in for an inexpensive knee replacement or nose job. The private entrepreneurs opening the medical complex here are all in. The twist: They don’t just want to attract American patients who need surgery. They also want to persuade American doctors to fly in to do those sinus repairs and arthroscopies — while enjoying a Caribbean vacation.

100-Year-Old Fertility Technique Reduces Need for IVF

1 week 2 days

(Eurekalert) – Infertile couples have a major opportunity to achieve a successful pregnancy without the need for IVF, thanks to new research into a 100-year-old medical technique. The now lesser known technique — which involves flushing the woman’s fallopian tubes with an iodised poppy seed oil — has been proven to have significant benefits for fertility, according to the largest study undertaken by a team involving researchers in the Netherlands and Australia.

The Secret War Against Counterfeit Science

1 week 2 days

(Nature) – China is famous for knock-off DVDs, Louis Vuitton bags and Rolex watches. But counterfeit reagents aren’t on sale in busy public markets. They are sold through sophisticated websites, mixed in with legitimate supplies, and sourced and sold using a network of unwitting partners, such as the Zhongguancun shopkeeper. Even university cleaning staff have been implicated in the hidden process that creates counterfeit laboratory products, including basic chemistry reagents, serum for cell culture and standard laboratory test kits. Although it’s difficult to quantify the effects of this illegal trade, Chinese scientists and some in Europe and North America say that fake products have led them astray, wasting time and materials.

Suspected Cases of Ebola Rise to 18 in Democratic Republic of Congo

1 week 3 days

(New York Times) – The number of suspected cases of Ebola has risen to 18 from nine in less than a week in an isolated part of Democratic Republic of Congo, where three have died from the disease since April 22, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. The W.H.O. was criticized for responding too slowly to an outbreak in West Africa in 2014 that left more than 11,000 people dead, and Dr. Peter Salama, the executive director of the organization’s health emergencies program, said at a briefing that it was essential to “never, ever underestimate Ebola” and to “make sure we have a no-regrets approach to this outbreak.”

Big Pharma’s Newest Marketing Tactic: Infiltrating Soap Operas Like General Hospital

1 week 3 days

(Vox) – Last March, Vinay Prasad, a doctor in Portland, Oregon, caught wind of an episode on the long running soap opera General Hospital. One of the main characters on the show, a fellow at his hospital told him, had been diagnosed with an extremely rare bone marrow disorder, polycythemia vera. Prasad’s mind started spinning. And he felt suspicious. Of all the diseases out there, why would the writers at General Hospital feature an illness that affects only of two in 100,000 people?  So Prasad and his colleague Sham Mailankody began to search for answers. They published their jaw-dropping findings in a new paper in JAMA: Polycythemia vera got a mention on America’s oldest soap opera because a drug company, Incyte, asked it to.

Babies from Skin Cells? Prospect Is Unsettling to Some Experts

1 week 3 days

(New York Times) – Nearly 40 years after the world was jolted by the birth of the first test-tube baby, a new revolution in reproductive technology is on the horizon — and it promises to be far more controversial than in vitro fertilization ever was. Within a decade or two, researchers say, scientists will likely be able to create a baby from human skin cells that have been coaxed to grow into eggs and sperm and used to create embryos to implant in a womb. The process, in vitro gametogenesis, or I.V.G., so far has been used only in mice. But stem cell biologists say it is only a matter of time before it could be used in human reproduction — opening up mind-boggling possibilities.

China Cracks Down on Fake Data in Drug Trials

1 week 4 days

(Nature) – The policy shift is one of a handful of measures that China is implementing both to speed up its notoriously slow drug-approval process and to keep dangerous and ineffective drugs off the market. This move “is the strongest signal yet, to all the drug developers, clinical-trial managers and principal investigators and physicians, that China is now very serious about clinical data”, says Dan Zhang, executive chairman of Beijing-based Fountain Medical Development, which helps companies to carry out clinical trials and itself stands to be held accountable by the policy change.

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