News from Bioethics.com

Many Kids Dying of Cancer Get Intense Care at End of Life

1 month 2 weeks

(Reuters) – Nearly two-thirds of children and teens with terminal cancer receive intense care at the end of life, often in hospitals and intensive care units, a U.S. study suggests.  Certain patients, including kids under age 5 and teens aged 15 to 21 as well as ethnic minorities and patients with blood malignancies were more likely to receive aggressive care than other children, the study also found.

To Have and to Hold: The Rise of Surrogacy in Britain

1 month 3 weeks

(Vogue) – There has long been controversy surrounding the ethics of certain surrogacy arrangements abroad, but even in Britain surrogacy is far from straightforward, with laws being dubbed outdated and confusingly complex by many in the field. For example, surrogacy is legal in this country, but it is illegal to pay someone to do it. “Reasonable expenses”, however, are permissible, as are “gifts”. But what is a reasonable expense? Can someone give up work to focus full-time on the pregnancy and have the intended parents pay? Yes. What about massages and private healthcare? Also admissible.

Half of World’s Abortions Deemed Unsafe by WHO

1 month 3 weeks

(UPI) – More than 25 million unsafe abortions are performed worldwide each year, a new study says. That means nearly half of the 55.7 million abortions that take place annually aren’t safe, said researchers led by the World Health Organization, or WHO, and the Guttmacher Institute in New York City. The vast majority of these dangerous pregnancy terminations occur in Africa, Asia and Latin America, they found.

Genetic Mutation Made Zika Virus More Dangerous, Study Says

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(The Wall Street Journal) – When Zika swept through the Americas and thousands of infants were born with horrifying birth defects, many scientists and health experts wondered if a virus once thought to be benign had mutated to become more dangerous. Now, some say it did. In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, a multidisciplinary team of researchers at several Chinese institutions identified a genetic mutation they say gave Zika the ability to disrupt brain development, leading to a congenital condition called microcephaly in which a baby’s brain and head are abnormally small.

The Genomic Revolution Reaches the City Crime Lab

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(The Atlantic) – Ziegert’s case is already being touted as an example of the power of new DNA technologies to solve crimes. In many ways, it’s the perfect example to take to the media: a young female victim, an infamous murder, a 25-year-old case. It’s unclear exactly how pivotal the DNA evidence was—the district attorney said “a number of factors” contributed to narrowing down the suspects—but there will almost certainly be more cases like this involving DNA. With the cost of sequencing rapidly falling, forensics labs have been looking for new ways to generate leads out of DNA.

Searching for a Fairer Way to Distribute Donor Livers

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(NPR) – Under the current system, the nation is divided into 11 regions, and the sickest patient on the waiting list in each region gets the next compatible liver that becomes available in that region. In some regions, patients have to wait until they’re facing a 93 percent risk of dying within the next three months. In other regions, patients get transplants when their risk is only 13 percent, according to UNOS. One big reason for that is that more organs become available in some places than others. And that’s partly because of the way people die — there are more deaths in ways that leave the victims eligible to be organ donors, such as car accidents and strokes.

FDA Cracks Down on Illegal Online Prescription Drugs

1 month 3 weeks

(UPI) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently took action against more than 500 websites that illegally sell unapproved versions of prescription medications. The FDA partnered with international regulatory and law enforcement agencies as part of a global operation to target illegal prescription drugs sold online that are potentially dangerous, unapproved, counterfeit, contaminated or expired, including opioids, injectable epinephrine and antibiotics.

After 15 Years in a Vegetative State, Nerve Stimulation Restores Consciousness

1 month 3 weeks

(Medical Xpress) – A 35-year-old man who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years after a car accident has shown signs of consciousness after neurosurgeons implanted a vagus nerve stimulator into his chest. The findings reported in Current Biology on September 25 show that vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)—a treatment already in use for epilepsy and depression—can help to restore consciousness even after many years in a vegetative state. The outcome challenges the general belief that disorders of consciousness that persist for longer than 12 months are irreversible, the researchers say.

Should States Ban Abortions When Down Syndrome Diagnosed?

1 month 3 weeks

(ABC News) – Kuhns went to her home in rural central Ohio that day and cried for hours. But Oliver, her 2-year-old son with Down syndrome, ultimately has led “a pretty normal life.” That’s why Kuhns is fighting for an Ohio bill that would ban abortions in cases where a pregnant woman has had a positive test result or prenatal diagnosis indicating Down syndrome. Physicians convicted of performing an abortion under such circumstances could be charged with a fourth-degree felony, stripped of their medical license and held liable for legal damages. The pregnant woman would face no criminal liability. Several other states have considered similar measures, triggering emotional debate over women’s rights, parental love, and the trust between doctor and patient.

Longevity Gap Continues to Widen for Schizophrenia Patients

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(Medscape) – Findings from a new systematic review point to a widening longevity gap between people with schizophrenia and the general population that began in the early 1970s. The results of the review suggest that although many people enjoy an extended life span, owing to improved healthcare, those with schizophrenia do not. Psychiatrists should look beyond psychotic symptoms and treat the mentally ill person as a whole, study author Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, told Medscape Medical News.

Scientists Grow Bullish on Pig-to-Human Transplants

1 month 3 weeks

(Science Magazine) – Add your name to a waitlist for a kidney transplant in the United States today, and you’ll join around 100,000 people, many of whom have already been waiting years. The scarcity of life-saving organs for transplants has raised hopes for substitute organs from pigs, which have a similar anatomy to humans. But decades of scientific setbacks have kept clinical trials of that approach, called xenotransplantation, on the horizon.

When Will the Economy Start Caring about Home-Care Work?

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(The Atlantic) – Home-health and personal-care work is one of the country’s fastest-growing occupational sectors. But it is one marked by low pay and meager benefits, a problem that might become more urgent as the U.S.’s population continues to age. On top of that, care workers face high rates of wage theft, tax and benefits misclassification, and employer fraud, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a think tank and advocacy organization.

To Advance Medicine’s Future, the NIH Tries to Win the Trust of Communities Mistreated in the Past

1 month 3 weeks

(STAT News) – The National Institutes of Health would like six vials of your blood, please. Its scientists would like to take a urine sample, measure your waistline, and have access to your electronic health records and data from the wearable sensor on your wrist. And if you don’t mind sharing, could they have your Social Security number? It is a big ask, the NIH knows, and of an equally big group — the agency eventually hopes to enroll over 1 million participants in the next step of what four researchers referred to in a 2003 paper as “a revolution in biological research.”

Editing Embryo DNA Yields Clues About Early Human Development

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(NPR) – For the first time, scientists have edited the DNA in human embryos to make a fundamental discovery about the earliest days of human development. By modifying a key gene in very early-stage embryos, the researchers demonstrated that a gene plays a crucial role in making sure embryos develop normally, the scientists say. The finding might someday lead to new ways for doctors to help infertile couples have children, and could aid future efforts to use embryonic stem cells to treat incurable diseases, the researchers say.

Push for Three-Parent Technique in Australia to Save Babies from Mitochondrial Disease

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(Australian Broadcasting Co) – Scientists are pushing to overhaul human cloning laws in Australia so they can use DNA from three different people to create a baby when there is a risk of the child inheriting the debilitating and potentially fatal mitochondrial disease. Known as the three-parent procedure, it involves replacing a small amount of a mother’s DNA with the DNA of a third parent. But that would require the Australian Government to review human cloning laws — something that has already been done in the United Kingdom.

Court Ruling Not Needed to Withdraw Care, Judge Says

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(BBC) – Legal permission will no longer be required to end care for patients in a permanent vegetative state, a judge has ruled. Until now a judge must also consent, even if medics and relatives agree to withdraw nutrition from a patient. But in what been described as a landmark decision, those cases will no longer have to come to court.The Official Solicitor, appointed by the state to act for such patients, is likely to appeal against the ruling. Doctors are able to withdraw treatment from a patient – if relatives consent – under various circumstances without needing court approval.

Providing Abortions in the Deep South

1 month 3 weeks

(The Atlantic) – Willie Parker is an imposing ob-gyn who has been traveling across the deep South providing abortions since 2012. At times, he has been one of the few providers in the only abortion clinic for hundreds of miles. Though he had been flying down from his home in Chicago twice a month to provide abortions in Mississippi and elsewhere, he recently moved to Birmingham, Alabama—closer to the center of the abortion wars. He is also a practicing Christian, and he frequently refers to his faith as being the reason why he does what he does.

Self-Driving Cars Will Kill People. Who Decides Who Dies?

1 month 4 weeks

(Wired) – Recently, the “trolley problem,” a decades-old thought experiment in moral philosophy, has been enjoying a second career of sorts, appearing in nightmare visions of a future in which cars make life-and-death decisions for us. Among many driverless car experts, however, talk of trolleys is très gauche. They call the trolley problem sensationalist and irrelevant. But this attitude is unfortunate. Thanks to the arrival of autonomous vehicles, the trolley problem will be answered—that much is unavoidable. More importantly, though, that answer will profoundly reshape the way law is administered in America.

Navy Orders Stand Down for Medical Personnel after Employee Allegedly Called Newborns ‘Mini Satans’

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(ABC News) – The Navy’s surgeon general has ordered a stand down for all Navy medical personnel over the next 48 hours to reaffirm service commitments to patients and review social media policies after photos emerged on social media of medical personnel posing with newborns at a Navy hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. Two Navy hospital corpsmen at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, were removed from their jobs treating patients after they allegedly posted a video and photos of newborns to Snapchat, including a photo showing one of them flipping the middle finger at a newborn with the caption “how I currently feel about these mini Satans.”

CRISPR Used to Peer into Human Embryos’ First Days

1 month 4 weeks

(Nature) – Gene-edited human embryos have offered a glimpse into the earliest stages of development, while hinting at the role of a pivotal protein that guides embryo growth. The first-of-its-kind study stands in contrast to previous research that attempted to fix disease-causing mutations in human embryos, in the hope of eventually preventing genetic disorders. Whereas those studies raised concerns over potential ‘designer babies’, the latest paper describes basic research that aims to understand human embryo development and causes of miscarriage.

One of the Biggest Problems in Rescuing People from Modern-Day Slavery Is Counting Them

1 month 4 weeks

(Quartz) – More than 40 million people around the world are enslaved, either through forced labor or by forced marriage, a human-rights group estimates. The same organization found there were 45.8 million people enslaved last year, 35.8 million in 2014, and 29.8 million in 2013—making news with these whopping numbers each time. The figures are heartbreaking, yet the fluctuations don’t mean that the enslaved population changes drastically year to year. They show just how hard it is to pin down the data.

WHO Warns of Lack of New Antibiotics under Development

1 month 4 weeks

(UPI) – Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are on the rise, and the World Health Organization issued a warning Wednesday of the lack of new antibiotics under development while the threat of antimicrobial resistance grows. Although the superbugs have not spread widely in the United States, two patients last year were infected by a bacteria that was resistant to colisitin, an antibiotic of last resort, and a Nevada woman in her 70s died after returning from a trip to India with a superbug resistant to all antibiotics.

Why Has a UK Team Genetically Edited Human Embryos?

1 month 4 weeks

(New Scientist) – Human embryos have been genetically edited in the UK for the first time, using a technique called CRISPR. But why do researchers think this is so important? The UK team, led by Kathy Niakan of the Francis Crick Institute in London, used the CRISPR genome-editing method to disable a gene thought to play a key role in early development. The researchers used around 60 spare embryos donated by couples who’d had IVF, which would otherwise have been discarded.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Has Filed a Federal Lawsuit That Challenges a Maine Restriction Common across Most of the U.S.

1 month 4 weeks

(Associated Press) – The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday that challenges a Maine restriction common across most of the U.S. that abortions be performed solely by physicians. The two groups were joined by four nurses and abortion provider Maine Family Planning in challenging the law that prevents advanced practice registered nurses, such as nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, from performing the procedure.

WHO Plans Global War on Cholera as Yemen Caseload Soars

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(Scientific American) – The World Health Organization will next month launch a strategy to stop cholera transmission by 2030, it said on Monday, as an unprecedented outbreak in Yemen raced towards 700,000 suspected cases with little sign of slowing down. The WHO is also trying to keep the lid on a flare-up in Nigeria while tackling many entrenched outbreaks in Africa and an epidemic in Haiti, where almost 10,000 people have died since 2010.

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