News from Bioethics.com

Science Is Getting Us Closer to the End of Infertility

3 weeks 6 days

(Wired) – We are now on the brink of another revolution in reproduction, one that could make IVF look quaint. Through an emerging technology called in vitro gametogenesis (or IVG), scientists are learning how to convert adult human cells—taken perhaps from the inside of a cheek or from a piece of skin on the arm—into artificial gametes, lab-made eggs and sperm, that could be combined to create an embryo and then be implanted in a womb.

Children with Autism Less Likely to Be Fully Vaccinated, Study Finds

3 weeks 6 days

(CNN) – Children with autism spectrum disorder are significantly less likely to be fully vaccinated than children unaffected by autism, new research finds. And the same is true of their younger sisters and brothers. “This study is showing that children with autism and their younger siblings might be at greater risk of vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Ousseny Zerbo, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research.

Fertility Clinic: Alarm Was Turned Off on Failed Embryo Tank

3 weeks 6 days

(ABC News) – An alarm system turned off on a fertility clinic storage tank that had been malfunctioning for weeks led to a failure that likely ruined more than 4,000 eggs and embryos, double what the clinic first thought, it said Tuesday. The clinic run by University Hospitals in suburban Cleveland does not know who shut off the alarm or why it happened, according to a letter sent to its patients.

South Africa Shocked by Deaths of 144 Psychiatric Patients

3 weeks 6 days

(CBS News) – Mangena was one of at least 144 psychiatric patients who died after South Africa’s Gauteng provincial government hastily transferred 1,711 state-funded psychiatric patients in 2015 and 2016 from Life Esidimeni, a private health care provider, to other facilities, dozens of which were not properly licensed. The death toll is expected to be higher: Two years later, the whereabouts of 44 patients are still unknown.

Massive Cyberhack by Iran Allegedly Stole Research from 320 Universities, Governments, and Companies

4 weeks 11 hours

(Science) – Nine Iranians working on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps hacked the computers of 7998 professors at 320 universities around the world over the past 5 years, an indictment filed by a federal grand jury alleges. The hackers stole 31.5 terabytes of documents and data, including scientific research, journals, and dissertations, the indictment alleges. Their targets also included the United Nations, 30 U.S. companies, and five U.S. government agencies.

The Lose-Lose Ethics of Testing Self-Driving Cars in Public

1 month 1 day

(Wired) – So now is the time to ask, even if it feels a bit late: How, exactly do we feel about unleashing this tech on public streets, inflicting it on people without their consent or even knowledge? What responsibilities does a government have to protect me and you and everyone we know as we live inside this science experiment? Sure, autonomous vehicles need to test and collect data from the real world, where they’ll encounter the strange and very human things lab simulators couldn’t imagine. But how did I get roped into this?

Omissions on Death Certificates Lead to Undercounting of Opioid Overdoses

1 month 1 day

(NPR) – After testing, coroners typically write the drugs involved in an overdose on the death certificate — but not always. Standards for how to investigate and report on overdoses vary widely across states and counties. As a result, opioid overdose deaths aren’t always captured in the data reported to the federal government. The country is undercounting opioid-related overdoses by 20 to 35 percent, according to a study published in February in the journal Addiction.

California Once Targeted Latinas for Forced Sterilization

1 month 1 day

(Smithsonian) – Iris’ participation in the World War II effort made her part of a celebrated time in U.S. history, when economic opportunities opened up for women and youth of color. However, before joining the shipyards, Iris was entangled in another lesser-known history. At the age of 16, Iris was committed to a California institution and sterilized. Iris wasn’t alone. In the first half of the 20th century, approximately 60,000 people were sterilized under U.S. eugenics programs. Eugenic laws in 32 states empowered government officials in public health, social work and state institutions to render people they deemed “unfit” infertile.

Abortion Rates: Where And Why They’re Falling

1 month 1 day

(U.S. News & World Report) – The rate at which women are getting abortions has dropped across the developed world as access to effective contraception has increased, according to a new report, which also concludes that laws restricting abortions do not result in the procedure occurring less frequently, merely less safely. Abortion rates have significantly declined over the last 25 years in countries that have made contraception more easily available, according to a Guttmacher Institute report published Tuesday.

House Passes Controversial ‘Right to Try’ Legislation for Terminally Ill Patients

1 month 2 days

(U.S.A. Today) – The House on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at giving seriously ill patients increased access to investigational drugs, a bill championed by Vice President Mike Pence in part because of an Indianapolis 8-year-old with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The House voted 267 to 149 for the “right to try” bill, named partly for Jordan McLinn whose frequent trips to Washington to advocate for the bill have inspired him to want to be president one day.

Hospitals Are Throwing Sensitive Patient Information Out with the Recycling

1 month 2 days

(Gizmodo) – Heath data is some of the most sensitive information out there, and modern life sometimes puts that information at risk of being exposed. Hackers could break into insurance company records and steal customer medical information. A hospital you’ve visited could experience a data breach. You could spit in a tube to find out about your ancestry, and a company could sell your genetic information to a third party. Or, you know, someone could just go dumpster diving behind a hospital and find a treasure trove of valuable patient information.

North Korean Refugees’ Organs Are Being Harvested, Activists Say

1 month 2 days

(UPI) – The organs of North Korean refugees are being harvested in China, and the lucrative human organ trade involve Chinese hospitals, private citizens and bounty hunters, a North Korean defector resettled in the United States told UPI Tuesday. Cho Bo-eol, who heads a “North Korean government-in-exile” in Los Angeles, said a North Korean victim’s gallbladder can be sold for as much as $7,000 in the Chinese market, where demand for organs is high.

The Alcohol Industry Gave the Government Money to Prove Moderate Drinking Is Safe

1 month 3 days

(Vox) – Over the weekend, the New York Times published a bombshell report on alarming ties between the alcohol industry and the National Institutes of Health. Specifically, five alcohol companies helped fund — and potentially shaped the design of — a 7,800-person randomized controlled trial overseen by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a center at the NIH. The trial is supposed to answer the long-simmering question of whether moderate drinking truly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Can Electrically Stimulating Your Brain Make You Too Happy?

1 month 3 days

(The Atlantic) – The authors were asking this question because of a patient who wanted to decide the matter for himself: a 33-year-old German man who had been suffering for many years from severe OCD and generalized anxiety syndrome. A few years earlier, his doctors had implanted electrodes in a central part of his brain’s reward system—namely, the nucleus accumbens. Electrically stimulating the patient’s brain had worked rather well on his symptoms, but now it was time to change the stimulator battery.

‘That’s $425,000 Right There’–The Anxious Launch of a Gene Therapy with a Record Sticker Price

1 month 3 days

(STAT News) – The treatment, developed after decades of research, is called Luxturna, and it is sometimes referred to as the first “true” gene therapy to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Cancer treatments such as Kymriah and Yescarta are also sometimes described as a kind of gene therapy, but they involve removing a patient’s cells, genetically modifying them, and sending them back into the body to fight the disease. With Luxturna, a doctor injects a virus underneath the retina, where it delivers a healthy, lab-grown copy of the RPE65 gene into the cells. If the therapy works for these patients, it could help restore some of the images they have been missing.

Authors of Premier Medical Textbook Didn’t Disclose $11 Million in Industry Payments

1 month 2 weeks

(STAT News) – It’s a textbook that has graced the shelves of untold thousands of medical students going back decades. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, now in its 20th edition, is a must-read for medical students and young internists. It has been called “the most recognized book in all of medicine.” It’s also a case study in hidden conflicts of interest. So says a group of researchers who found that Harrison’s and several other leading medical texts failed to disclose financial interests the authors had in the subject matter as well as payments they’d accepted from industry groups.

Why Apple, Amazon, and Google Are Making Big Health Care Moves

1 month 2 weeks

(Vox) – Some of the biggest and most famous brands in America are making big bets on health care. The blue chips of Silicon Valley — Amazon, Apple, Google, Uber — have announced in the past few weeks they’re interested in disrupting an industry that has bedeviled us with rising costs and inefficiencies for decades.

U.S. FDA Allows 23andMe to Sell Test for 3 Mutations of Breast Cancer Gene

1 month 2 weeks

(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday allowed genetic testing company 23andMe to market directly to consumers its test that will help assess three mutations in a common type of breast cancer gene.  The drug regulator said the test, which work by analyzing DNA collected from saliva samples, provides genetic risk information but cannot determine a person’s overall risk of developing a disease or condition.

VA Study: Opioids Not Better at Reducing Chronic Pain

1 month 2 weeks

(UPI) – Opioid medications were not better than nonopioid treatment to improve chronic back, hip or knee pain, according to medical research conducted at Veterans Affairs clinics in Minnesota. Participants found that pain still interfered with activities that included walking, work and sleep over a 12-month period, according to research released Tuesday in the Journal of American Medical Association.

CRISPR Gene Editing Ready for Testing in Humans

1 month 2 weeks

(Financial Times) – Ever since scientists began decoding the human genome in 1990, doctors have dreamt of a new era of medicine where illness could be treated — or even cured — by fxing flaws in a person’s DNA. Rather than using medicine to fight disease, they would be able to hack biology to combat sickness at its source. The dream started to become a reality in 2013, when researchers demonstrated how a gene editing technique, known as Crispr-Cas9, could be used to edit living human cells, raising the possibility that a person’s DNA could be altered much as text is changed by a word-processor. Now, two biotech companies say they plan to start testing the technology in humans as early as this year.

As Surgery Centers Boom, Patients Are Paying with Their Lives

1 month 3 weeks

(Kaiser Health News) – Such centers started nearly 50 years ago as low-cost alternatives for minor surgeries. They now outnumber hospitals as federal regulators have signed off on an ever-widening array of outpatient procedures in an effort to cut federal health care costs. Thousands of times each year, these centers call 911 as patients experience complications ranging from minor to fatal. Yet no one knows how many people die as a result, because no national authority tracks the tragic outcomes.

How a Society Gala Was Used to Sell Young-Blood Transfusions to Baby Boomers Desperate to Cheat Death

1 month 3 weeks

(STAT News) – “Take that initiative,” Faloon urged his audience of about 120 people who had flown in from as far as California, Scotland, and Spain. How? Paying to participate in a soon-to-launch clinical trial testing transfusions of young blood “offers the greatest potential for everyone in this room to add a lot of healthy years to their life,” Faloon said. “Not only do you get to potentially live longer … but you’re going to be healthier. And some of the chronic problems you have now may disappear.”

Prescription for Secrecy

1 month 3 weeks

(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) – Stories about individual doctors avoiding discipline in a second state have been reported before. An investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today shows how widespread the problem is: At least 500 physicians who have been publicly disciplined, chastised or barred from practicing by one state medical board have been allowed to practice elsewhere with a clean license. And their patients are kept in the dark — even as more become victims — thanks to an antiquated system shrouded in secrecy.

Transgender Surgeries Are on the Rise, Says First Study of Its Kind

1 month 3 weeks

(The Washington Post) – In the first broad demographic study of trends in gender-affirming surgeries in the United States, researchers found that the number of operations increased fourfold from 2000 to 2014. Some of the significant rise, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery, may be related to an increase in insurance coverage for the procedures.

Rethinking Rural Health Solutions to Save Patients and Communities

1 month 3 weeks

(NPR) – It’s a quickly changing landscape as more rural hospitals close, and some health policy analysts say it’s time communities made some hard decisions — starting with completely changing the health care structure in small towns. For example, says a recent report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, instead of making sure each rural resident can easily get to a full-service hospital, some communities should consider what kind of primary care and more specialized care they could offer at a facility instead — short of having a full-service hospital.

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