News from Bioethics.com

Eight of the Ten Worst Places for Newborn Deaths Are in Africa

2 months 2 days

(Quartz) – The healthcare problems in many African countries are well-known but one group that seems to be particularly at risk of those failings are newborns. A new UNICEF report on newborn mortality shows that global deaths of newborns remains “alarmingly high.” The report categorizes newborns are children aged less than one month. The “vast majority” of the deaths are preventable, UNICEF says, with more than 80% of the deaths being due to premature birth, labour and delivery complications as well as infections.

New Study Raises Questions about Early-Stage Cancer Therapies for Children

2 months 2 days

(STAT News) – The bar for clinical trials involving children, by design, is set higher than it is for adults. Before a drug can be given to children in a Phase 1 trial, it must have already been tested in adults and shown some signals about its safety and clinical promise. That, however, does not mean the outcomes will be any better, according to a new study. Scientists conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of Phase 1 clinical trials involving children with cancer and found, on average, only 1 in 10 will see their condition improve. About 1 in 50 children will die from complications related to the drug.

Alfie Evans: Sick Toddler’s Life Support ‘Can End’

2 months 2 days

(BBC) – Doctors can stop providing life support to toddler Alfie Evans who has a mystery illness against his parents’ wishes, the High Court has ruled. Alder Hey Children’s Hospital argued that continuing to treat the 21-month-old from Bootle, Merseyside was “unkind, unfair and inhumane”. His parents Tom Evans and Kate James had hoped to prolong Alfie’s life with treatment at a hospital in Rome. Mr Justice Hayden said Alfie requires “peace, quiet and privacy”. The hospital is set to withdraw ventilation on Friday.

Genome Editor CRISPR’s Latest Trick? Offering a Sharper Snapshot of Activity Inside the Cell

2 months 2 days

(Science) – Airplane flight recorders and body cameras help investigators make sense of complicated events. Biologists studying cells have tried to build their own data recorders, for example by linking the activity of a gene of interest to one making a fluorescent protein. Their goal is to clarify processes such as the emergence of cancer, aging, environmental impacts, and embryonic development. A new cellular recorder that borrows from CRISPR, the revolutionary genome editing tool, now offers what could be a better taping device that captures data on DNA.

Drugmakers Spent Millions Promoting Opioids to Patient Groups, Senate Report Says

2 months 2 days

(NPR) – Drugmakers gave millions of dollars to pain-treatment advocacy groups over a five-year period beginning in 2012, in effect promoting opioids to individuals most vulnerable to addiction, according to a new report released Monday by a U.S. senator. The 23-page report, put out by Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, sheds light on the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to shape public opinion and to fuel demand for such lucrative and potentially addictive drugs as OxyContin, fentanyl and Vicodin. These drugs have played a key role in the addiction crisis that has swept the U.S. in recent years, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives

Did Pox Virus Research Put Potential Profits ahead of Public Safety?

2 months 3 days

(NPR) – In the brave new world of synthetic biology, scientists can now brew up viruses from scratch using the tools of DNA technology. The latest such feat, published last month, involves horsepox, a cousin of the feared virus that causes smallpox in people. Critics charge that making horsepox in the lab has endangered the public by basically revealing the recipe for how any lab could manufacture smallpox to use as a bioweapon. The scientist who did the work, David Evans of the University of Alberta in Canada, has said his team had to synthesize horsepox because they wanted to study the virus and there was no other way to get it.

CRISPR Isn’t Just for Gene Editing Anymore

2 months 3 days

(Gizmodo) – CRISPR’s new tricks have come from making slight tweaks to its underlying system. In some cases, it means working with a different enzyme to actually doing the molecular cutting—usually the system relies on an enzyme called Cas9, but several recent CRISPR innovations have relied on other enzymes, like Cas12a. In other cases, it’s giving CRISPR upgrades, like the ability to send out a glowing signal when it detects something noteworthy.

Court Upholds Surrogacy Contracts as Enforceable in Iowa

2 months 3 days

(ABC News) – The birth mother of an 18-month-old girl, who agreed to be paid as a surrogate to have the baby, is not legally the child’s parent, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday in an emotional case that concluded surrogacy contracts can be enforced in Iowa. The ruling means the girl remains with the Cedar Rapids couple, the only parents she has known since leaving the hospital after birth. It was the first time the state’s highest court has weighed whether surrogacy contracts can be enforced.

Ethics Dispute Erupts in Belgium over Euthanasia Rules

2 months 3 days

(The Washington Post) – A disputed case of euthanasia in Belgium, involving the death of a dementia patient who never formally asked to die, has again raised concerns about weak oversight in a country with some of the world’s most liberal euthanasia laws. The case is described in a letter provided to The Associated Press, written by a doctor who resigned from Belgium’s euthanasia commission in protest over the group’s actions on this and other cases.

Afghanistan’s Lone Psychiatric Hospital Reveals Mental Health Crisis Fueled by War

2 months 6 days

(NPR) – Nearly 40 years of violent conflict is driving a growing mental health crisis in Afghanistan. While accurate data on mental health issues are not available in Afghanistan, the World Health Organization estimates more than a million Afghans suffer from depressive disorders and over 1.2 million suffer from anxiety disorders. The WHO says the actual numbers are likely much higher. The mental health toll signifies a hidden consequence of war that is often overshadowed by bombed-out buildings and loss of life.

With New CRISPR Inventions, Its Pioneers Say, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

2 months 6 days

(STAT News) – No one would be surprised if scientists announced tomorrow that CRISPR had leapt tall test tubes in a single bound, but until that happens, fans of the superhero genome-editing system will have to be content with a trio of almost-as-flashy (but potentially more useful) new tricks, all unveiled on Thursday. Some of the world’s leading CRISPR labs have, independently, tweaked CRISPR — adding bursts of light here and rings of DNA there — in ways that could make it even more of a research powerhouse and, possibly, a valuable medical sleuth, able to detect Zika, Ebola, and cancer-causing viruses, or a cell’s history of, say, exposure to toxins.

Index Adopted to Track NTD Treatment in Africa

2 months 6 days

(Sci Dev Net) – African leaders have adopted a new index that helps track progress in mass treatment of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Five NTDs — lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and trachoma — were added to African heads of states’ annual scorecard or index on disease progress last month (28 January), during the 30th African Union summit in Ethiopia. The scorecard is reviewed by African heads of state every year, and the move puts NTDs alongside malaria and maternal and child health as top health priorities for the continent.

In-Person License Renewal May Reduce Crashes Involving People with Dementia

2 months 6 days

(Reuters) – Older adults with dementia may be less likely to get in car crashes when they’re required to renew their driver’s licenses in person, a U.S. study suggests. Laws requiring doctors to report dementia patients and get their licenses revoked didn’t appear to influence the proportion of crash hospitalizations involving people with dementia, however, researchers report in the journal Neurology.

Evidence from the Field: Fractional Doses of Yellow Fever Vaccine Provided Protection, Study Finds

2 months 1 week

(STAT News) – A 2016 emergency yellow fever vaccination campaign that had to resort to using smaller than standard doses because of a global vaccine shortage appears to have protected the people who were vaccinated, a new study suggests. People who received a fractional dose — one-fifth the standard size — showed strong immune responses a month after they received the single dose of vaccine, the authors reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

One in Six Children ‘Affected by Conflict’–Save the Children

2 months 1 week

(BBC) – One in every six children are now living in a global conflict zone, a new report by Save the Children claims. Children are at more risk from armed conflict now than at any other time in the last 20 years, the charity says. Its new analysis found more than 357 million children were living in a conflict zone – an increase of 75% from the 200 million of 1995. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia were ranked as the most dangerous places for children.

Meet the Sacklers: The Family Feuding over Blame for the Opioid Crisis

2 months 1 week

(The Guardian) – The Sackler family, a sprawling and now feuding transatlantic dynasty, is famous in cultural and academic circles for decades of generous philanthropy towards some of the world’s leading institutions, from Yale University to the Guggenheim Museum in the US and the Serpentine Gallery to the Royal Academy in Britain. But what’s less well known, though increasingly being exposed, is that much of their wealth comes from one product – OxyContin, the blockbuster prescription painkiller first launched in 1996.

El Salvador Baby Death: Teodora Vasquez Freed after 9 Years

2 months 1 week

(BBC) – A woman jailed for murder under El Salvador’s strict abortion laws has had her 30-year sentence commuted. Teodora Vásquez, 35, spent 10 years in jail after her baby was found dead and she was sentenced for murder. Her release came as a surprise as her appeal against her sentence was rejected in December. El Salvador’s Supreme Court said there were “powerful reasons of justice and fairness which warranted granting her the grace of commuting her sentence”.

A Surge in Infants Born in the U.S. with Withdrawal Symptoms from Their Mothers’ Opioid Use Has Outpaced Science on How Best to Treat Them

2 months 1 week

(Associated Press) – Once the umbilical cord is cut, babies born to opioid users are at risk for developing withdrawal symptoms. By some estimates, one infant is born with the condition in the U.S. every 25 minutes. The numbers have tripled since 2008 at a rate that has solid medical research comparing treatments and outcomes struggling to keep pace.

Doping Is Rampant at the Olympics. Here’s Why.

2 months 1 week

(Vox) – There’s a common misconception that athletes dope to move faster or become stronger. “Sure, there’s some of that,” said Herman Pontzer, an associate professor at Hunter College who studies energetics. “But what athletes really go for, and what they usually get banned for, are drugs that fool their bodies to keep them from shutting down in the face of over-training.” After a certain amount of exertion, our brains send our tired arms and legs signals that cause them to exert less or switch off.

In Search of Surrogates, Foreign Couples Descend on Ukraine

2 months 1 week

(BBC) – Ukraine, one of Europe’s poorest nations, is fast becoming the place to go for people desperate to find a surrogate to have their baby. The money on offer is drawing in many young women, but there are fears they could be exploited.  Ana* was 18 years old when she found out about surrogacy from a television news report. She had just finished secondary school and had plans to work in a hotel in her small western Ukrainian town, where tourists come to see a medieval castle.  That job pays $200 a month, but for carrying someone else’s baby, she learned, she could earn up to $20,000 (£14,000).

Can Gene Therapy Be Harnessed to Fight AIDS?

2 months 1 week

(STAT News) – For more than a decade, the strongest AIDS drugs could not fully control Matt Chappell’s HIV infection. Now his body controls it by itself, and researchers are trying to perfect the gene editing that made this possible. Scientists removed some of his blood cells, disabled a gene to help them resist HIV, and returned these “edited” cells to him in 2014. So far, it has given the San Francisco man the next best thing to a cure.

Assisted Suicide Group Exit Registered 10,000 New Members in 2017

2 months 1 week

(Swiss Info) – Last year, some 10,078 new members joined the euthanasia organisation Exit, the group announced on Tuesday. The number of actual assisted suicides went down slightly, whilst the average age of Exit members rose. At the end of December 2017, the organisation had 110,391 members in German-speaking Switzerland and in Ticino, according to the figures in the press release. Last year, 734 people ended their lives using Exit’s services, compared with 723 the previous year.

Pakistan Gang ‘Stole Spinal Fluid from Women’

2 months 1 week

(BBC) – Pakistani police have arrested four people accused of stealing spinal fluid from women. The suspects told women they had to provide blood samples to qualify for financial assistance from the Punjab government, police told BBC Urdu. However, they extracted spinal fluid instead, and attempted to sell it on the black market, police added. The gang is thought to have stolen spinal fluid from over 12 women, including a teenager.

A Breast-Cancer Surgeon Returns to Work after Breast Cancer

2 months 1 week

(The Atlantic) – Doctors face particular challenges when they become patients—challenges that they are rarely prepared for. It is hard to relinquish control and allow others to dictate the treatments that you yourself are used to doling out. It is crushing to know your own prognosis in the starkest terms—a 65 percent chance of surviving for 10 years, in O’Riordan’s case. It is awkward to see your own former patients while you’re being treated: To strike up a chat would break confidentiality.

Dutch OK Law: Everyone Is an Organ Donor Unless They Opt Out

2 months 1 week

(ABC News) – Dutch senators have approved a new law that makes everybody a potential organ donor unless they decide to opt out of the system. The new system narrowly passed a vote in the upper house of the Dutch parliament Tuesday. The lower house last year passed the legislation with a one-vote majority.

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