News from Bioethics.com

Kenya’s Public Doctors to End 100-Day Strike That Saw Deaths

2 weeks 1 day

(ABC News) – Thousands of doctors at Kenya’s public hospitals have agreed to end a 100-day strike that saw people dying from lack of care, an official with the doctors’ union said Tuesday. The strike was blamed for dozens of deaths, as the majority of Kenyans cannot afford private health care. The government and union officials signed a deal to address pay and other issues in dispute, said Dr. Ouma Oluga, the secretary-general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union.

Fertility Treatment Failure May Harm Women’s Heart Health

2 weeks 1 day

(Medical News Today) – Fertility therapy failure may raise the risk of poor heart health for women, according to the results of a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Researchers found that women who did not become pregnant after undergoing gonadotropin-based fertility therapy – treatment often used in preparation for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technologies – were at greater risk of heart failure and stroke than those whose fertility therapy was successful.

What Hospitals Waste

2 weeks 2 days

(ProPublica) – Just outside Portland, Maine, there’s a 15,000-square-foot warehouse that’s packed with reasons the U.S. health care system costs so much: Shelves climb floor to ceiling, stacked with tubs overflowing with unopened packages of syringes, diabetes supplies and shiny surgical instruments that run hundreds of dollars apiece. There are boxes of IV fluids and bags of ostomy supplies and kits with everything you’d need to perform an obstetrics surgery. This, however, isn’t a story of about the crippling price of medical supplies. This is about the high cost of medical supplies that hospitals throw away.

First Results of CRISPR Gene Editing of Normal Embryos Released

2 weeks 2 days

(New Scientist) – A team in China has corrected genetic mutations in at least some of the cells in three normal human embryos using the CRISPR genome editing technique. The latest study is the first to describe the results of using CRISPR in viable human embryos, New Scientist can reveal. While this study – which attempted to repair the DNA of six embryos in total – was very small, the results suggest CRISPR works much better in normal embryos than it did in previous tests on abnormal embryos that could not develop into children.

The World’s Oldest Population of Humans Is Pushing Back against Unethical Researchers

2 weeks 5 days

(Quartz) – For centuries the San, also controversially called the Bushmen, have been studied, measured, photographed and exploited. The traditional knowledge and culture of the world’s oldest population of humans has fascinated scientists, with little benefit to San themselves. They’ve finally had enough. The South African San Council launched a code of ethics to prevent intrusive and exploitative research in their communities. Launched in Cape Town earlier this month, the code was established in collaboration with the Trust Project, a global organization trying to empower vulnerable communities to protect themselves from double standards in the research fraternity.

Car Wars

2 weeks 5 days

(The Atlantic) – The stakes are impossibly high. Self-driving cars are arguably the great technological promise of the 21st century. They are in that rare class of technology that might actually change the world. And not just in the way everyone in Silicon Valley talks about changing the world—but really, fundamentally change it. So much so that their dramatic life-saving potential is almost secondary to the other economic, cultural, and aesthetic transformations they would cause.

Full Genomic Sequencing for Newborns Raises Questions

2 weeks 5 days

(Scientific American) – Many serious diseases that can be screened for at birth are not included in standard newborn genetic tests. Full genome sequencing of newborns for existing and potential disorders is now technologically possible and might soon be economically feasible. Scientists are exploring whether the resulting flood of genetic information will help parents and physicians care for newborns—or add unnecessary anxiety, complexity and cost.

Rookie Docs Can Work Longer, 24-Hour Shifts Under New Rules

2 weeks 5 days

(ABC News) – Rookie doctors can work up to 24 hours straight under new work limits taking effect this summer — a move supporters say will enhance training and foes maintain will do just the opposite. A Chicago-based group that establishes work standards for U.S. medical school graduates has voted to eliminate a 16-hour cap for first-year residents. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education announced the move Friday as part of revisions that include reinstating the longer limit for rookies — the same maximum allowed for advanced residents.

Doctors Find Patient Brain Activity Continued for 10 Minutes after Death

2 weeks 5 days

(Medical Xpress) – A team of doctors affiliated with the University of Western Ontario in Canada has documented a case in which a terminal patient removed from life support continued to experience brain wave activity for approximately 10 minutes after they had been pronounced clinically dead. In their paper published in The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, the team describes the circumstances of the unusual event and acknowledge that they have no explanation for what they observed.

Scientists Create ‘Designer Yeast’ in Major Step Toward Synthetic Life

2 weeks 6 days

(The Washington Post) – In a significant advance toward creating the first “designer” complex cell, scientists say they are one-third of the way to synthesizing the complete genome of baker’s yeast. In seven studies published Thursday in the journal Science, the researchers describe how they built six of the 16 chromosomes required for the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, altering the genetic material to edit out some genes and write in new characteristics.

Doctors Tie Zika Virus to Heart Problems in Some Adults

2 weeks 6 days

(ABC News) – For the first time, doctors have tied infection with the Zika virus to possible new heart problems in adults. The evidence so far is only in eight people in Venezuela, and is not enough to prove a link. It’s also too soon to know how often this might be happening. The biggest trouble the mosquito-borne virus has been causing is for pregnant women and their fetuses.

Open-Data Contest Unearths Scientific Gems–And Controversy

3 weeks 8 hours

(Nature) – When a prestigious medical journal challenged scientists to analyse data from a pivotal blood-pressure study in search of new findings, hundreds of researchers around the world rushed to sign up. The contest, sponsored by the New England Journal of Medicine, offered scientists a rare opportunity to access detailed trial data that otherwise might have remained proprietary for another year — if not indefinitely. But the competition, whose winners were announced on 7 March, also illustrates the tension between speeding access to data and protecting the interests of those who laboured to collect them.

Surgery or Drugs? Doctors’ Pay May Influence Choice

3 weeks 8 hours

(New York Times) – Sometimes doctors choose to do surgery not because it is absolutely preferable to other treatments but because they get reimbursed for it, a new study suggests. Researchers looked at patients with a narrowed artery in the neck, a condition called carotid artery stenosis that can be treated with surgery or managed with medicine and lifestyle changes. The choice is often a judgment call.

The Influence of Stimulants on Performance When Playing Chess

3 weeks 9 hours

(Science Blog) – How do highly complex cognitive processes change when we take pharmacological substances? Is it possible to enhance these processes by using substances such as the CNS stimulant methylphenidate or the wakefulness promoter modafinil, or do these actually undermine creative thinking and the ability to concentrate? Researchers at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Mainz University Medical Center have recently looked into these and other questions in a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. The conclusion they came to was surprising: they found that high-performance tournament chess players can actually enhance the highly complex cognitive functions they require by taking these substances and thus win more chess matches–unless they are under time pressure.

Years of Ethics Charges, but Star Cancer Researcher Gets a Pass

3 weeks 9 hours

(New York Times) – Dr. Carlo Croce is among the most prolific scientists in an emerging area of cancer research involving what is sometimes called the “dark matter” of the human genome. A department chairman at Ohio State University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Croce has parlayed his decades-long pursuit of cancer remedies into a research empire: He has received more than $86 million in federal grants as a principal investigator and, by his own count, more than 60 awards. With that flamboyant success has come a quotient of controversy. Some scientists argue that Dr. Croce has overstated his expansive claims for the therapeutic promise of his work, and that his laboratory is focused more on churning out papers than on carefully assessing its experimental data.

‘Right-to-Try’ Laws Expose Dying Patients to Exploitation, Ethicists Warn

3 weeks 1 day

(Kaiser Health News) – In the past three years, 33 U.S. states have passed laws aimed at helping dying people get easier access to experimental treatments. Supporters say these patients are just looking for the “right to try” these treatments. Such laws may sound compassionate, but medical ethicists warn they pose worrisome risks to the health and finances of vulnerable patients.

Medicine with a Side of Mysticism: Top Hospitals Promote Unproven Therapies

3 weeks 1 day

(STAT News) – They’re among the nation’s premier medical centers, at the leading edge of scientific research. Yet hospitals affiliated with Yale, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and other top medical research centers also aggressively promote alternative therapies with little or no scientific backing. They offer “energy healing” to help treat multiple sclerosis, acupuncture for infertility, and homeopathic bee venom for fibromyalgia. A public forum hosted by the University of Florida’s hospital even promises to explain how herbal therapy can reverse Alzheimer’s. (It can’t.)

Organ Trafficking Claims from Vietnam Renew Questions about Abuses in China

3 weeks 1 day

(The Epoch Times) – Such “violations of the law” may come in the form of abducting innocent individuals and murdering them to sell their organs, according to revelations from Vietnam last year that have not previously been documented in English. In July 2016, Vietnam police issued internal circulars regarding Chinese kidnappers harvesting the vital organs of vulnerable people in a border province, according to documents obtained by Epoch Times. In October, state television aired investigative reports on China’s underground organ procurement operations, partly targeting Vietnamese.

India Abortion: Police Find 19 Female Foetuses

3 weeks 1 day

(BBC) – Police in the western Indian state of Maharashtra have found 19 aborted female foetuses near a hospital. Senior police officials in Sangli district said the remains were “buried with the intention of disposing them”. The police told the BBC that they found the foetuses while they were investigating the death of a woman who had undergone an illegal abortion. Activists say the incident proves yet again that female foeticide is rampant in India despite awareness campaigns.

How to Find Meaning in the Face of Death

3 weeks 2 days

(The Atlantic) – When people believe their lives are meaningful, according to psychologists, it’s because three conditions have been satisfied: They feel their existence is valued by others; they are driven by a sense of purpose, or important life goals; and they understand their lives as coherent and integrated. Psychologists and philosophers say that the path to meaning lies in connecting and contributing to something that is bigger than the self, like family, country, or God.

A Delicate Balance between Pain and Prescription

3 weeks 5 days

(Undark) – Pain is more than discomfort — it’s a condition unto itself. And higher levels of chronic pain are associated with earlier death on average, the research reveals. Most striking: social disparities in chronic pain apparently mirror social disparities in health care. People of lower socioeconomic means report significantly more pain than people of higher socioeconomic means. Also associated with higher levels of pain: lower levels of education.

Venezuela’s Epileptic Patients Struggle with Seizures Amid Drug Shortage

3 weeks 5 days

(Reuters) – Venezuela’s brutal recession is worsening shortages of medicines from painkillers to chemotherapy drugs. With 85 of every 100 medicines now missing in Venezuela, anti-convulsants are among the toughest drugs to find, Venezuela’s main pharmaceutical association said. An estimated 2 million to 3 million Venezuelans suffer from epilepsy at some point in their lives, according to Caracas-based support organization LIVECE. Patients have been struggling to find specific anti-convulsive medicines as far back as 2012.

Embryo Experiments Reveal Earliest Human Development, But Stir Ethical Debate

3 weeks 5 days

(NPR) – Brivanlou knows that some of his research makes some people uncomfortable. That’s one reason he has agreed to give me a look at what’s going on. His lab and one other discovered how to keep human embryos alive in lab dishes longer than ever before — at least 14 days. That has triggered an international debate about a long-standing convention (one that’s legally binding in some countries, though not in the U.S.) that prohibits studying human embryos that have developed beyond the two-week stage.

It’s Easy Money: Lab Offers Doctors Up to $144,000 a Year to Push Dubious Genetic Tests, Employees Say

3 weeks 6 days

(STAT News) – Proove has grown rapidly by tapping into the public angst over surging opioid addiction. It is one of many companies touting personalized DNA-based tests backed by little or no credible scientific data showing their reliability. That’s because a regulatory loophole has left huge swaths of the multibillion-dollar genetic testing industry largely free of government oversight. A STAT investigation found that Proove employees stationed in physicians’ offices pushed unnecessary tests on patients — a practice called “coercion” by one former manager — and they sometimes completed research evaluation forms on behalf of doctors, rating the tests as highly effective when they weren’t. In fact, Proove tests of DNA captured by swabbing inside a patient’s cheek were so unreliable that many physicians disregarded the results. There was scant evidence, said the company’s former chief scientist, that the tests improved patient outcomes.

Ban Early Pregnancy Blood Test to Curb Abortion of Baby Girls, Ethics Body Demands

3 weeks 6 days

(The Telegraph) – A blood test which reveals the sex of a baby after nine weeks should be banned for routine use because it promotes sex-selective abortion, a Government-backed think tank has said. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has warned that unscrupulous private clinics are offering non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) to parents who only want to find out whether or not they are having a boy. It comes amid fears some doctors are unlawfully performing abortions purely on the basis of sex.

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