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MIT Severs Ties to Company Promoting Fatal Brain Uploading

2 weeks 5 days

(MIT Technology Review) – The MIT Media Lab will sever ties with a brain-embalming company that promoted euthanasia to people hoping for digital immortality through “brain uploads.” The startup, called Nectome, had raised more than $200,000 in deposits from people hoping to have their brains stored in an end-of-life procedure similar to physician-assisted suicide. MIT’s connection to the company came into question after MIT Technology Review detailed Nectome’s promotion of its “100 percent fatal” technology.

You’re a Surgeon. A Patient Wants to Look Like a Lizard. What Do You Do?

2 weeks 5 days

(The Guardian) – Imagine that you are a cosmetic surgeon and a patient asks you to make them look like a lizard. Would you have ethical qualms? Or perhaps you are a neurosurgeon approached by someone wanting a brain implant – not to cure a disability but to make them smarter via cognitive enhancement. Would this go against your code of professional ethics? With the rapid advance of medical technology, problems of conscience threaten to become commonplace. Perhaps explicit legal protection for conscientious objection in healthcare is the solution.

Mini Brains Just Got Creepier–They’re Growing Their Own Veins

2 weeks 6 days

(Wired) – Neural organoids don’t yet, even remotely, resemble adult brains; developmentally, they’re just pushing second trimester tissue organization. But the way Ben Waldau sees it, brain balls might be the best chance his stroke patients have at making a full recovery—and a homegrown blood supply is a big step toward that far-off goal. A blood supply carries oxygen and nutrients, allowing brain balls to grow bigger, complex networks of tissues, those that a doctor could someday use to shore up malfunctioning neurons.

The Code: A Three-Part Video Series Investigating the Roots of Today’s Most Promising Genetic Technologies

2 weeks 6 days

(STAT News) – Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. And those who do not remember the sometimes irrational exuberance around past advances in biomedicine may be doomed to buy into the hype around today’s. From curing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to eliminating cancer deaths, no goal has been too ambitious for the best minds in medicine to claim is within reach thanks to the latest scientific discovery. Here is your genetic gut check.

It’s Not My Fault, My Brain Implant Made Me Do It

2 weeks 6 days

(The Conversation) – Mr. B loves Johnny Cash, except when he doesn’t. Mr. X has watched his doctors morph into Italian chefs right before his eyes. The link between the two? Both Mr. B and Mr. X received deep brain stimulation (DBS), a procedure involving an implant that sends electric impulses to specific targets in the brain to alter neural activity. While brain implants aim to treat neural dysfunction, cases like these demonstrate that they may influence an individual’s perception of the world and behavior in undesired ways.

NIH Rejected a Study of Alcohol Advertising While Under Pursuing Industry Funding for Other Research

2 weeks 6 days

(STAT News) – It would take them three years to figure it out: In 2014 and 2015, Koob’s agency was quietly wooing the alcoholic beverage industry to contribute tens of millions of dollars for a study on whether drinking “moderate” amounts of alcohol was good for the heart. Those efforts were brought to light by recent reports in Wired and the New York Times. Now STAT has found that the ties between Koob, his agency, and the alcohol industry were deeper than previously known — and that he told an industry official he would quash “this kind of work,” to which the industry objected. Doing so would be a radical departure from the NIH mission, in which decisions about what research to fund are supposed to be based on scientific merit and public need.

CDC: Drug-Resistant ‘Nightmare Bacteria’ Pose Growing Threat

2 weeks 6 days

(STAT News) – Nightmare bacteria” with unusual resistance to antibiotics of last resort were found more than 200 times in the United States last year in a first-of-a-kind hunt to see how much of a threat these rare cases are becoming, health officials said Tuesday. That’s more than they had expected to find, and the true number is probably higher because the effort involved only certain labs in each state, officials say.

A Human Head Transplant Would Be Reckless and Ghastly. It’s Time to Talk About It.

2 weeks 6 days

(Vox) – Recently, the media has been abuzz with news that Sergio Canavero of Italy and his colleague Xiaoping Ren of China plan to transplant a human head from a living person onto a donor cadaver. The two surgeons — who portray themselves as pioneers defying a stodgy medical establishment but are considered reckless renegades by many peers — say the head donor will be someone with a degenerative disease, whose body is wasting away while his or her mind remains active.

Medical Ethics: UK Uses Data from Doctors to Find Migrants

3 weeks 8 hours

(ABC News) – To track down people in Britain who may have broken immigration rules, the government is turning to a new and controversial source of information: doctors. Doctors who work with refugees and asylum-seekers have described the move as a major breach of medical ethics, saying it isn’t up to physicians to enforce immigration rules.

Reporter’s Notebook: On National Doctor’s Day, a Look at the New Hippocratic Oath

3 weeks 9 hours

(ABC News) – This spring, nearly 20,000 medical students will graduate from medical schools across the country and will likely be asked to raise their hands for a new kind of Hippocratic Oath, one that now emphasizes a patient’s right to choose their own destiny.  The Hippocratic oath is a 2,500-year-old pledge doctors take outlining the professional duties and ethical principles the profession holds sacred. The first modern version of the Hippocratic oath was adopted in 1948. The version released in November by the World Medical Association in Chicago took two years to finalize and is the ancient text’s first ever major update. A new name was proposed as well: “The Physician’s Pledge.”

Pediatric Center Requests OK to Launch Embryonic Stem Cell Trial for Liver Treatment

3 weeks 9 hours

(The Japan Times) – A medical institution has applied for permission to carry out a clinical trial that will attempt to use embryonic stem cells to treat babies with a severe liver condition, which would be a first for Japan. The National Center for Child Health and Development plans to commercialize the process around 2020 to treat babies with livers that are unable to detoxify ammonia, one of the compounds resulting from the body’s processing of protein.

Hawaii Senate Passes Medical Aid in Dying, Sending Legislation to Governor

3 weeks 9 hours

(Honolulu Star Advisor) – A bill to legalize medically assisted death for terminally ill patients now awaits Gov. David Ige’s signature to become law after the state Senate today passed the measure. The Senate voted 23-2 to approve House Bill 2739, known as the Our Care, Our Choice Act. The bill sets out procedures for mentally competent adult residents who have been given six months or less to live to request prescriptions for lethal doses of medication to be self-administered.

Nature Journal Retracts Controversial CRISPR Paper after Authors Admit Results May Be Wrong

3 weeks 10 hours

(Retraction Watch) – Nature Methods has retracted a 2017 paper suggesting a common gene editing technique may cause widespread collateral damage to the genome. The notice has a long backstory: After the paper was published, it immediately drew an outcry from critics (including representatives from companies who sell the tool, whose stock fell after publication). Some critics argued that the authors, led by Vinit B. Mahajan at Stanford University, hadn’t employed sufficient controls, so they couldn’t be sure that the observed mutations stemmed from the tool, rather than normal background variation between mice.

Chile and Its Scientists Protest Research on Tiny Mummy

3 weeks 10 hours

(New York Times) – In a telephone interview, two authors of the new study, Dr. Garry P. Nolan, an immunologist at Stanford University, and Atul Butte of the University of California, San Francisco, defended the ethics of their research. “We had no involvement or knowledge of how the skeleton was originally obtained nor how it was sold or exported to Spain,” Dr. Butte said. “We had no reason to suspect in this case that this sample was illegally obtained.” He noted that there were reports about the remains on Chilean television for 15 years without the government investigating the case.

Enough with the Trolley Problem

3 weeks 3 days

(The Atlantic) – But there’s a problem with the trolley problem. It does a remarkably bad job addressing the moral conditions of robot cars, ships, or workers, the domains to which it is most popularly applied today. Deploying it for those ends, especially as a source of answers or guidance for engineering or policy, leads to incomplete and dangerous conclusions about the ethics of machines.

Time’s Running Out: The Frail in Puerto Rico Face End of Hurricane Relief Programs

3 weeks 3 days

(Kaiser Health News) – Six months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and its economy — and killing by some estimates at least 1,052 people — the daily indignities are piling up, especially for people who are frail or elderly. Many are finding their current economic straits nearly as threatening as the storm. The storm also crippled the island’s power grid, and as of Sunday 86,000 utility customers still had no electricity in their homes and businesses, affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

‘Aggressive’ Advance Directive Permits Halting Food and Water in Severe Dementia

3 weeks 3 days

(NPR) – Treading into ethically and legally uncertain territory, a New York end-of-life agency has approved a new document that lets people stipulate in advance that they don’t want food or water if they develop severe dementia. The directive, finalized this month by the board for End Of Life Choices New York, aims to provide patients a way to hasten death in late-stage dementia, if they choose. Dementia is a terminal illness, but even in the seven U.S. jurisdictions that allow medical aid-in-dying, it’s not a condition covered by the laws.

Genetic Profiling Could Improve IVF Success

3 weeks 3 days

(Medical Xpress) – Genetic profiling could help determine whether an embryo created through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is likely to successfully transfer to the womb, increasing the success rate of the procedure. It’s part of a field of work looking at the role of genetics in fertility. “Understanding why some people do not have children, and developing treatments for them is extremely important,” said Joris Vermeesch, professor of molecular cytogenetics and genome research at KU Leuven in Belgium. “People sometimes spend years of their life trying to get pregnant, and it doesn’t work.”

Two Controversial Stem Cell Trials Could Harm Patients, Critics Say

3 weeks 3 days

(Science Magazine) – But is the idea underlying Macchiarini’s work—”seeding” a scaffold with a patient’s own stem cells, in hopes of regenerating a healthy, functional organ—still worth testing in patients? That’s the question facing scientists in the United Kingdom, where two trials of stem cell–based larynx (voice box) and trachea transplants are planned but on hold in the wake of the scandal.

Beware: Hospitals Think ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Means You Don’t Want to Live

3 weeks 4 days

(New York Post) – Patients, beware. When you’re admitted to a hospital, you’re routinely asked if you want to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order. Don’t assume it’ll apply only in extreme circumstances. New research shows having those three letters — DNR — on your chart could put you on course to getting less medical and nursing care throughout your stay. Fewer MRIs and CT scans, fewer medications, even fewer bedside visits from doctors, according to the Journal of Patient Safety. A DNR could cost you your life.

The Controversial Study of a Girl Who Ufologists Called ‘Alien’

3 weeks 4 days

(The Atlantic) – This redemptive scientific narrative took shape, only to be punctured by a sharply critical editorial in Etilmercurio, a Chilean science website. Cristina Dorador condemned the DNA analysis as unethical given the origins of the girl’s body. “If samples are obtained unethically, any resulting science is not ethical, and as such, should not be published,” she wrote. Then, the gut punch: “Would these authors be happy working on the body of a surreptitiously buried child from Boston, MA or Santa Barbara, CA? Or are the ethics of working on children from less-developed nations less complicated?” On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the Chilean National Monuments Council is investigating whether the girl’s body had been dug up and sold illegally.

Opioid Overdose Deaths Are Still Rising in Nearly Every Segment of the Country, CDC Says

3 weeks 4 days

(Los Angeles Times) – A report issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presents some alarming new statistics about the opioid epidemic that claims the lives of 115 Americans each day. Researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control examined data on fatal overdoses from the 31 states that made reliable reports of drug-related causes of death to the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System. The District of Columbia was included as well. The picture that emerges is of a public health crisis that touches just about every segment of the country.

UH Explains How It Lost All the Embryos in Its Fertility Clinic

3 weeks 5 days

( – University Hospitals was close to one day away from moving eggs and embryos to safety when a temperature fluctuation in a storage tank damaged them, rendering all 4,000 eggs and embryos in the hospital system’s care nonviable. Initially, UH said 2,000 eggs and embryos were affected but late Monday revised that number to include all the specimens and upped the number of patients involved to 950 from the original 700. UH first discovered the tank failure March 3-4.

Israel Says It’s Launching Domestic Digital Health Database That Could Make It a Global Medical Powerhouse

3 weeks 5 days

(Associated Press) – Israel announced Wednesday it was launching a domestic digital health database that could make it a global medical powerhouse. The move aims to improve public health worldwide but critics warn it risks compromising personal privacy. People will get health alerts before they become patients, helping prevent disease early with data relevant to each individual, said Eli Groner, director-general of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. “The database will be unlike anything in the world,” he added.

Without Context or Cushion, Do Online Medical Records Make Sense?

3 weeks 6 days

(Kaiser Health News) – The push for portals has been fueled by several factors: the widespread embrace of technology, incentive payments to medical practices and hospitals that were part of 2009 federal legislation to encourage “meaningful use” of electronic records, and a 2014 federal rule giving patients direct access to their results. Policymakers have long regarded electronic medical records as a way to foster patient engagement and improve patient safety. Studies have found that between 8 and 26 percent of abnormal lab results were not communicated to patients promptly.


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