News from Bioethics.com

He Vowed to Cure Cancer. But This Billionaire’s Moonshot Is Falling Far Short of the Hype

3 months 1 week

(STAT News) – But a STAT investigation of Soon-Shiong’s cancer moonshot has found very little scientific progress. At its core, the initiative appears to be an elaborate marketing tool for Soon-Shiong — a way to promote his pricey new cancer diagnostic tool at a time when he badly needs a business success, as his publicly-traded companies are losing tens of millions per quarter. STAT also found several instances of inflated claims, with the moonshot team taking credit for progress that doesn’t appear to be real. Soon-Shiong’s use of the moonshot to advance his business interests may be good for his investors. But it also increasingly looks destined to disappoint patients — the latest in a long trail of failed quests to win the war on cancer.

Biotech Will Let Us Give Our Brains a Makeover–But We Risk Becoming Less Human in the Process

3 months 1 week

(Quartz) – Anyone who speaks in this manner has crossed an invisible but critically important line. They are treating human beings as if they are commodities that can be assessed, measured and exchanged. In this view, humanity becomes a kind of “platform”—akin to a piece of software or an operating system, whose performance can be boosted, built upon and manipulated at will. Personality traits become “features”; hard-earned skills and talents become “assets”; deep-seated personal struggles and failings become “liabilities.” Confronting this tendency toward the commodification of persons, and counteracting it with effective cultural strategies for “re-humanization,” will pose one of the most important moral challenges of our time.

Medical Journal to Retract Paper after Concerns Organs Came from Executed Prisoners

3 months 2 weeks

(The Guardian) – A prestigious medical journal will retract a scientific paper from Chinese surgeons about liver transplantation after serious concerns were raised that the organs used in the study had come from executed prisoners of conscience. The study was published last year in Liver International. It examined the outcomes of 564 liver transplantations performed consecutively at Zhejiang University’s First Affiliated hospital between April 2010 and October 2014.

The Doctor’s Dilemma: Is It Ever Good to Do Harm?

3 months 2 weeks

(The Guardian) – Medical knowledge changes swiftly, and technological changes make new and expensive investigations and treatments possible that were only theoretical a few years ago. Life has been extended in length, but not in quality, and the debates about end?of?life decisions show us how much the notion of a “good life” is bound up with the absence of disease, illness and suffering.

Vatican Defends China Invite to Organ Trafficking Summit

3 months 2 weeks

(BBC) – The Vatican has defended its decision to invite China to a conference on organ trafficking despite its record of using executed inmates as organ donors. The head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) admitted he did not know whether the practice was continuing but said he hoped to encourage change. Human rights groups say China is still using executed prisoners as a source of organ transplants. Beijing says forced organ harvesting ended in 2015.

Study Suggests That iPSCs Do Not Develop More Mutations than Subcloned Cells

3 months 2 weeks

(News-Medical) – Despite its immense promise, adoption of iPSCs in biomedical research and medicine has been slowed by concerns that these cells are prone to increased numbers of genetic mutations. A new study by scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health, suggests that iPSCs do not develop more mutations than cells that are duplicated by subcloning. Subcloning is a technique where single cells are cultured individually and then grown into a cell line. The technique is similar to the iPSC except the subcloned cells are not treated with the reprogramming factors which were thought to cause mutations.

Critically Ill Children Can Still Undergo Liver Transplantation and Survive

3 months 2 weeks

(Eurekalert) – Advancements in critical care make it possible for even the sickest children to successfully undergo liver transplantation. According to a new study published online as an “article in press” in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS), children who are sick enough to require mechanical ventilation or dialysis before transplantation achieve the same survival benefit as children who are stable prior to the surgical procedure. The study will appear in a print edition of the Journal this spring.

Women in Cervical Cancer Trials Have Died for the Sake of Research Methodology

3 months 2 weeks

(Scroll.in) – The problem was that these trials contained a “no screening” control arm where about 141,000 women were deliberately not offered any test for cervical cancer in order to compare the differences in outcomes between screened and unscreened women – that is, how many in each group would fall ill and die from cervical cancer. A total of 548 women enrolled in the trial eventually died of cervical cancer, of which 254 were from the group that had not been screened. These 254 women were not given the option of having their cancers detected early and treated.

US Child-Health Study Rises from Ashes of High-Profile Failure

3 months 2 weeks

(Nature) – The ECHO project emerged from the ashes of the controversial National Children’s Study (NCS), a programme run by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) that aimed to track 100,000 children from before birth to age 21. The NIH cancelled that study in 2014, after spending more than a decade and US$1.2 billion trying to get it off the ground. ECHO organizers say that their project will be different. By using cohorts that are already under way, they hope to side-step some of the problems that plagued the NCS, which had trouble recruiting participants, defining its hypotheses and sticking to its budget.

Vatican Defends Inviting Chinese Ex-Minister to Organ Trafficking Talks

3 months 2 weeks

(The Guardian) – Vatican officials have defended their decision to invite a Chinese former deputy health minister to a conference on organ trafficking despite concerns that China still relies on the organs of executed prisoners in its transplant programme. Medical ethics experts and human rights activists have decried the move by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to invite Huang Jiefu to a two-day conference starting on Tuesday that aims to expose organ trafficking and seeks to find “moral and appropriate solutions” to the issue.

Trump Picks a Bioethicist for the Supreme Court

3 months 2 weeks

(The Atlantic) – Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, is deeply interested in matters of life and death. His most lasting legacy from his time on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals is likely Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius, a case about religious objections to the rules on birth-control coverage in the Affordable Care Act, which later became a landmark Supreme Court decision. But he hasn’t confined his writing to briefs and rulings. In 2006—the year he joined the Tenth Circuit—he published a book called The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, outlining the moral, legal, and logistical challenges that emerge at the end of life. The most remarkable thing about the book is its measuredness.

China Looks at Making Surrogate Motherhood Legal

3 months 2 weeks

(South China Morning Post) – State media has published a rare, lengthy analysis on the possibility of legalising non-commercial surrogate motherhood to support the two-child policy. In the article, People’s Daily said many people believed relaxing regulations around surrogacy could help give more families a second child. It quoted experts who said surrogate motherhood should be considered an option in cases such as high-risk pregnancy and infertility.

Stem Cells Beat the Clock for Brain Cancer

3 months 2 weeks

(New Atlas) – Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of brain cancer that kills most patients within two years of diagnosis. In tests on mice last year, a team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that adult skin cells could be transformed into stem cells and used to hunt down the tumors. Building on that, they’ve now found that the process works with human cells, and can be administered quickly enough to beat the ticking time-bombs.

Prion Test for Rare, Fatal Brain Disease Helps Families Cope

3 months 2 weeks

(NPR) – It was a diagnosis that no one could ever want. But the fact that Schwister was able to get a firm diagnosis while still alive is a relatively new development that represents a step forward in understanding a group of devastating neurological disorders. And, some biochemists say, it could lead to better ways of diagnosing brain diseases that are much more common, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

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