News from Bioethics.com

Two Vaccines Have Saved 1.45 Million Children’s Lives in the Last 15 Years

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(Quartz) – The study, conducted by scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, focused on Hib and pneumococcus because they can cause meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis, and other serious health complications that contribute to the high rates of child mortality in developing countries. According to the study, in 2000, about 900,000 children worldwide died from infections related to the bacteria—most of them from pneumonia. In 2015, the estimate was 323,500 children.

The Stanford Prison Experiment Was Massively Influential. We Just Learned It Was a Fraud.

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(Vox) – The Stanford Prison Experiment has been included in many, many introductory psychology textbooks and is often cited uncritically. It’s the subject of movies, documentaries, books, television shows, and congressional testimony. But its findings were wrong. Very wrong. And not just due to its questionable ethics or lack of concrete data — but because of deceit.

Researchers Infecting Test Subjects with Flu for $3,500: ‘You Have to Be Careful About Not Harming Them Too Much’

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(Newsweek) – Researchers at St. Louis University have put a price on voluntarily coming down with the flu, and it’s set at $3,500 and a 10-to-12-day all-expense-paid vacation in a hotel. Coming off the heels of a particularly deadly flu season, researchers with the university’s Center for Vaccine Development got funding to run an experiment in which they will actually infect people with the flu. The goal is to test the effectiveness of the vaccine through what’s called a “human challenge study.”

Medicare Takes Aim at Boomerang Hospitalizations of Nursing Home Patients

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(NPR) – With hospitals pushing patients out the door earlier, nursing homes are deluged with increasingly frail patients. But many homes, with their sometimes-skeletal medical staffing, often fail to handle post-hospital complications — or create new problems by not heeding or receiving accurate hospital and physician instructions. Patients, caught in the middle, may suffer. One in 5 Medicare patients sent from the hospital to a nursing home boomerangs back within 30 days, often for potentially preventable conditions such as dehydration, infections and medication errors, federal records show.

Are Google and Facebook Responsible for the Medical Quackery They Host?

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(Undark Magazine) – The question is, when content on social media and similar platforms nudges people toward dangerous medical decisions, do those websites bear any responsibility? And if so, how should they regulate such reckless speech? These questions grow particularly stark with AIDS denialism. After all, convincing someone that the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and other U.S. sites was an inside job can make them sound a little whacky at parties. Convincing someone that AIDS is a hoax can kill them.

Alcohol Study Failed to Seek FDA Approval, Possibly Violating Federal Rules

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(STAT News) – The controversy surrounding a study of whether moderate drinking might prevent cardiovascular disease isn’t over: If one interpretation of federal regulations is correct, the study may be in violation of Food and Drug Administration requirements meant to protect the health of research volunteers. STAT has learned that the study’s leaders failed to seek a form of regulatory approval intended to protect study participants and ensure they understand the possible health risks of the research.

Massachusetts Sues Opioid Maker, Executives Over Drug Crisis

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(ABC News) – Massachusetts sued the maker of prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin and its executives on Tuesday, accusing the company of spinning a “web of illegal deceit” to fuel the deadly drug abuse crisis while boosting profits. Purdue Pharma is already defending lawsuits from several states and local governments, but Massachusetts is the first state to personally name the company’s executives in a complaint, Attorney General Maura Healey said. It names 16 current and former executives and board members, including CEO Craig Landau and members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue.

Uber Wants a Patent on Tech to Help Guess if a Rider Is Drunk

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(Los Angeles Times) – Uber has a pending application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the technology that would help the ride-hailing giant tell drunk riders from sober ones. The idea is still in its early stages, and the company has no immediate plans to start using the technology as described in the application. But as with other uses of artificial intelligence, the technology also raises questions of how it would actually work, and how Uber could use and store data on the health and lifestyle choices of its users.

UN Security Council Sanctions Accused Libyan Human Traffickers

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(UPI) – The United Nations Security Council sanctioned six accused leaders of human trafficking networks operating inside Libya on Friday — marking the first time traffickers have been put on an international sanctions list. According to the U.N., the six sanctioned individuals are Ermias Ghermay, Fitiwi Abdelrazak, Ahmad Oumar Al-Dabbashi, Mus’ab Abu-Qarin, Mohammed Kachlaf and Abd Al Rahman Al-Milad.

A Serious New Hurdle for CRISPR: Edited Cells Might Cause Cancer, Find Two Studies

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(STAT News) – Editing cells’ genomes with CRISPR-Cas9 might increase the risk that the altered cells, intended to treat disease, will trigger cancer, two studies published on Monday warn — a potential game-changer for the companies developing CRISPR-based therapies. In the studies, published in Nature Medicine, scientists found that cells whose genomes are successfully edited by CRISPR-Cas9 have the potential to seed tumors inside a patient. That could make some CRISPR’d cells ticking time bombs, according to researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and, separately, Novartis.

Pressure Mounts on Drug Makers to Move Birth Control Over the Counter

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(STAT News) – Drug makers are facing growing pressure to sell contraception without a prescription. And this weekend, the nation’s largest physicians group could join in the chorus calling to expand access to birth control. At the American Medical Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, delegates will vote on a resolution to encourage contraceptive makers to submit applications to the Food and Drug Administration to switch the status of their pills from prescription to over the counter. If it passes, the new policy would be directed more squarely at drug makers than the AMA’s current policy, which focuses on the FDA’s role.

Rapid Genome Sequencing Could Revolutionize Health Care for Acutely Ill Babies

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(The Washington Post) – Kingsmore is trying to make the case that this technology should be standard care in every neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, in the nation. As part of a $25 million federal project that funds newborn sequencing research, the Rady team published the results of a study comparing traditional and this newest method in 42 infants with suspected genetic disorders. Rapid sequencing offered diagnoses for 18 babies, while standard genetic tests identified a disease in only four cases. Most important, the information from the advanced technique helped doctors recommend lifesaving surgeries or medications for 11 of the infants.

He Started Vaping as a Teen and Now Says Habit Is ‘Impossible to Let Go’

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(Kaiser Health News) – Dr. Deborah Liptzin, a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, sees the evidence differently. E-cigarettes, she said, have become “the new way to get kids addicted to nicotine.” There’s been scant e-cigarette research, she noted, including on Juul and the ingredients in the e-liquids used in the devices. “They specifically use nicotine salts,” Liptzin said. “We have no research that I could find on nicotine salts that are inhaled, because it’s so new.”

French Emergency Room Tests Virtual Reality Path to Pain Relief

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(Reuters) – The very thought of visiting a hospital emergency department is stressful enough for many people, even without the discomfort or pain of an examination or treatment. Enter an immersive virtual-reality program created by three graduates being used in France to relax patients and even increase their tolerance of pain – without resorting to drugs. “What we offer is a contemplative world where the patient goes on a guided tour, in interactive mode, to play music, do a bit of painting or work out a riddle,” said Reda Khouadra, one of the 24-year-olds behind the project.

Why a DNA Data Breach Is Much Worse Than a Credit Card Leak

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(The Verge) – This week, DNA testing service MyHeritage revealed that hackers had breached 92 million of its accounts. Though the hackers only accessed encrypted emails and passwords — so they never reached the actual genetic data — there’s no question that this type of hack will happen more frequently as consumer genetic testing becomes more and more popular. So why would hackers want DNA information specifically? And what are the implications of a big DNA breach?

Artificial Intelligence Will Improve Medical Treatments

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(The Economist) – FOUR years ago a woman in her early 30s was hit by a car in London. She needed emergency surgery to reduce the pressure on her brain. Her surgeon, Chris Mansi, remembers the operation going well. But she died, and Mr Mansi wanted to know why. He discovered that the problem had been a four-hour delay in getting her from the accident and emergency unit of the hospital where she was first brought, to the operating theatre in his own hospital. That, in turn, was the result of a delay in identifying, from medical scans of her head, that she had a large blood clot in her brain and was in need of immediate treatment. It is to try to avoid repetitions of this sort of delay that Mr Mansi has helped set up a firm called Viz.ai.

Suicide Increasingly Common in the U.S.

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(New York Times) – Suicide rates rose steadily in nearly every state from 1999 to 2016, often by as much as 30 percent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday. In 2016, there were more than twice as many suicides as homicides in the United States. The figures come two days after the death of celebrity designer Kate Spade, which has sparked a national conversation about suicide.

Clinic Claims Success in Making Babies with 3 Parents’ DNA

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(NPR) – In a clinic on a side street in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, doctors are doing something that, as far as is publicly known, is being done nowhere else in the world: using DNA from three different people to create babies for women who are infertile. “If you can help these families to achieve their own babies, why it must be forbidden?” Dr. Valery Zukin, director of the Nadiya Clinic, asks as he peers over his glasses. “It is a dream to want to have a genetic connection with a baby.”

Suspension of California’s Aid-in-Dying Law Leaves Sick Patients in Limbo

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(Kaiser Health News) – Dozens of terminally ill patients in California who counted on using the state’s medical aid-in-dying law may be in limbo for a month after a court ruling that suspended the 2016 measure. A judge who ruled in May that the law was improperly enacted refused to vacate that decision at the request of advocates last week. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia set a hearing for June 29, however, to consider a separate motion by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to reverse the decision.

After Malpractice Caps, Doctors Ordered Fewer Invasive Tests to Diagnose Heart Attacks

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(STAT News) – It’s a judgment call. Heart attack symptoms can be ambiguous, and there are no clear guidelines on which test to try when. But a new study published Wednesday in JAMA Cardiology has found one factor that appears to sway a doctor’s behavior when diagnosing a heart attack: whether the state where he or she is practicing has enacted a law capping malpractice damages. These laws limit payments made to compensate plaintiffs for “pain and suffering.”

For Many Lung Cancer Patients, Keytruda Is a Better Initial Treatment Than Chemotherapy, Study Finds

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(Los Angeles Times) – In findings that may allow many lung cancer patients to avoid chemotherapy, a large clinical trial has shown that the immunotherapy drug Keytruda is a more effective initial treatment for two-thirds of patients with the most common type of lung cancer. Compared with advanced small-cell lung cancer patients who got chemotherapy, those treated first with Keytruda had a median survival time that was four to eight months longer.

European Mental Health Institutions Fall ‘Far Below the Standard,’ WHO Reports

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(CNN) – European mental health institutions fall “far below the standard,” with no single institution meeting all of the standards for quality of care and human rights, according to a new World Health Organization report. Among the more severe transgressions documented in the report were the use of restraints to manage difficult behavior, sexual abuse of female patients, sleeping on floors, restrictions on communication and little access to “meaningful daily activities.”

Medical Workers in Congo City Finish Vaccinating Contacts of Ebola Patients

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(New York Times) – Medical workers in Democratic Republic of Congo have given all the immediate contacts of Ebola patients in the city of Mbandaka an experimental vaccine as they try to thwart a disease that has killed around 25 people, the health ministry said. Ebola spreads easily through bodily fluids and the medical strategy involves vaccinating all the people a patient may have infected and then vaccinating a second “ring” of contacts around each of those potential sufferers.

Hundreds of Illinois Children Languish in Psychiatric Hospitals After They’re Cleared for Release

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(ProPublica) – These unnecessary hospitalizations are another failure for a state system that has frequently fallen short in its charge to care for Illinois’ most vulnerable children, who suffer from conditions such as severe depression or bipolar disorder. Though statistics to compare how states handle children in psychiatric hospitals are scarce, and other states also experience similar challenges, psychiatrists and mental health experts say circumstances in Illinois are among the most dire in the nation.

Genealogy Site MyHeritage Says 92 Million User Accounts Compromised

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(STAT News) – MyHeritage, one of the nation’s most popular online genealogy sites, said a security breach had affected the email addresses and hashed passwords of 92 million users, raising concerns about the security of more sensitive data that the company collects. The website allows users to create family trees, search historical records, and look for possible relatives. It also operates MyHeritage DNA, a genetic testing service that lets users to send in their spit and have their genetic information analyzed.

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