News from Bioethics.com

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act: Two Decades of Data

2 months 6 hours

(Medscape) – Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act (DWDA), passed through a voter-approved ballot initiative in 1997, lays out strict requirements for patients interested in requesting a prescription from their physician that would enable the patient to end to his or her life. In the 20 years since its passage, 0.2% of deaths in Oregon resulted from DWDA prescriptions but the number is increasing, researchers report in an article published online today in Annals of Internal Medicine.

ACP Affirms Opposition to Physician-Assisted Suicide

2 months 6 hours

(Medscape) – Ethical arguments against the legalization of physician-assisted dying remain more compelling than those in support of the practice, the American College of Physicians (ACP) states in an updated position statement published September 18 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The statement reaffirms the ACP’s opposition to physician-assisted dying as originally issued in 2001, but support for it is not universal. “Since then, there’s been a lot of interest in the subject, and several more states have legalized physician-assisted suicide,” ACP President Jack Ende, MD, told Medscape Medical News, explaining the reason the ACP revisited the issue. “We also felt there wasn’t enough attention given to patients with terminal illness to be sure they were receiving the best possible care, with hospice care and palliative care.”

Prospect of Synthetic Embryos Sparks New Bioethics Debate

2 months 7 hours

(MIT Technology Review) – The embryo-like structures, the team soon determined, are not complete and couldn’t become a person. They lack the cell types needed to make a placenta, a heart, or a brain. Even so, the Michigan “embryoids” are realistic enough that the lab has been destroying them using a bath of detergent or formaldehyde to make sure they don’t develop any further.

Oxford University Scientists Gave Babies Trial TB Vaccine ‘That Did Not Work in Monkeys’

2 months 1 day

(The Telegraph) – Oxford University is embroiled in an ethics row after scientists were accused of questionable conduct over a controversial trial of a new vaccine on African babies. Professor Peter Beverley, a former senior academic at the university, complained that scientists planned to test a new tuberculosis vaccine on more than a thousand infants without sharing data suggesting that monkeys given the immunisation had appeared to “die rapidly”.

Desperate Yemenis Sell Organs to Survive

2 months 1 day

(Al Jazeera) – After more than two years of war, many working-class Yemenis have turned to selling grocery items and khat – a mild, chewable narcotic – to make a meagre living. Others have opted to sell their organs to survive. In Ali’s case, he told Al Jazeera that a Yemeni-Egyptian taxi driver who moonlights as an organ broker used to wait outside the Sanaa passport office, where he stalked and questioned Ali, then preyed on his financial insecurities, persuading him to sell his kidney.

Victims of 1940s STD Study Sue University

2 months 1 day

(The John Hopkins News-Letter) – A federal judge is allowing a $1 billion lawsuit against Hopkins to move forward after it was dismissed in 2016 for the University’s alleged involvement in a 1940s experiment that infected hundreds of Guatemalans with sexually transmitted diseases. In the 1940s, the U.S. government conducted studies in Guatemala by intentionally infecting people with diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea without their consent. Subjects included psychiatric patients, soldiers, prisoners and sex workers. Several Hopkins physicians and doctors held positions on a committee that reviewed the research proposal in Guatemala.

This Gift Voucher Might Just Get You a Kidney

2 months 4 days

(Scientific American) – The former judge tried to think creatively, as he had on the bench—where he was known for unconventional and sometimes highly controversial sentencing. He came up with what might be called the delayed kidney swap: He gave his kidney three years ago to Kathy DeGrandis, a retired airport manager in her 50s, at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. In exchange, Quinn was given a voucher that gives him priority to receive a live donor kidney, provided a match can be found when a transplant is necessary. The idea caught on. Now about 30 hospitals around the country participate in this voucher program, administered by the National Kidney Registry.

CardioBrief: Cardiac Stem Cell Therapies May Get Boost from New FDA

2 months 4 days

(MedPage Today) – Cardiac stem cell therapy could gain FDA approval far earlier than most people expect, despite the fact that these therapies have consistently failed to produce any convincing evidence of safety and efficacy. Under the old FDA rules stem cell therapies would not have stood a chance of approval. Companies would have been required to demonstrate in a pivotal clinical trial that the therapy was both safe and effective.

This $25,000 Life-Extension Test Is Impressing Investors But Not Doctors

2 months 4 days

(Bloomberg) – Craig Venter has got a deal for you. For $25,000, he’ll sell you a complete genome sequence, a full-body MRI scan, a cardio CT scan, bone densitometry, cognitive testing and more, all in the hope of discovering a lurking tumor or brain abnormality — and nipping it in the bud. “We’re driving a medical revolution,” says Venter of his latest startup, Human Longevity Inc., or HLI. “We have sequencing that’s better than anybody else in the world. We have the most accurate data.”

Senate Panel Seeks Middle Ground on Human Fetal Tissue Research and Abortion

2 months 5 days

(Science) – A Senate spending panel yesterday countered a move by its House of Representatives counterpart to quash federal funding for research that uses human fetal tissue from elective abortions. The move sets up a conflict that will need to be resolved when lawmakers meet later this year to hash out differences between the House and Senate bills, which will provide funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the 2018 fiscal year that begins on 1 October.

‘This Is a Horror Story.’ Outraged Families Demand Justice after 8 Die in Florida Nursing Home

2 months 5 days

(TIME) – Eight people — between the ages of 70 and 99 — died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma when The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where they lived, lost a transformer that had powered the air conditioning, facility officials and authorities said. Early Wednesday, emergency responders swept through the state-licensed, 152-bed facility after receiving distress calls, according to authorities. They found three people dead.

New Research Uncovers 17 New Genetic Variants Linked to Parkinson’s Disease

2 months 5 days

(News-Medical) – In new research published yesterday in Nature Genetics, personal genetics company 23andMe, Inc, and Genentech have identified 17 new genetic variants associated with Parkinson’s disease, almost doubling the total number of known risk variants for the condition, providing researchers with new hope for potential treatments to better target the disease in future.

Massacre at Tula Toli: Rohingya Recall Horror of Myanmar Army Attack

2 months 6 days

(The Guardian) – More than 160,000 of Myanmar’s 1.1 million ethnic Rohingya minority have fled to Bangladesh, bringing with them stories that they say describe ethnic cleansing. During interviews with more than a dozen Rohingya from Tula Toli, the Guardian was told of what appeared to be devastating carnage as Myanmar’s armed forces swept through the village on 30 August and allegedly murdered scores of people. Those who escaped fled to the hills in the west to make the three-day trek to Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh. The rest were buried in a mass grave, villagers said.

Study Shows Miscarriage Risk May Have Increased after Flu Shots, Puzzling Researchers

2 months 6 days

(STAT News) – Sometimes when scientists study things, they come up with results they didn’t expect, can’t explain, and may secretly wish they’d never sought. A new journal article looking at whether getting a flu shot during pregnancy increases a woman’s risk of miscarrying may be one such case. The article reports that at least in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 influenza seasons, pregnant women who were vaccinated against flu may have been at a higher risk of suffering a miscarriage — but only if they had also received a flu shot in the previous year as well. The results, published Wednesday in the journal Vaccine, are puzzling and contradict earlier research.

Does Your Genome Predict Your Face? Not Quite Yet

2 months 6 days

(MIT Technology Review) – On Monday, the California gene-hunting company Human Longevity published a paper making the bold claim that it can identify individuals using their genomes to predict what their faces looks like. The assertion—that your DNA can be used to create a photo-like reconstruction of you—has potentially big implications. It would allow police to pick suspects out of a lineup using a blood spot and it would mean no genome collected for research is truly private. But a withering reaction to the face-prediction paper by scientists on social media is probably not what Human Longevity’s founder, the famed genomics expert J. Craig Venter, had in mind.

IVF Accounts for 5% of Babies Born in Japan in 2015: Survey

2 months 6 days

(The Japan Times) – A record 1 in 20 babies was born through in vitro fertilization treatment in Japan in 2015, a recent tally showed. The upward trend in the number of IVF treatments is expected to continue as more couples are marrying later in life and increasingly turning to infertility treatment, according to experts. The survey by the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (JSOG) found a record 424,151 in vitro fertilizations were performed in 2015, resulting in 51,001 births, also an all-time high.

New Gene Therapy Treatments Will Carry Whopping Price Tags

2 months 1 week

(New York Times) – With gene therapy, scientists seek to treat or prevent disease by modifying cellular DNA. Many such treatments are in the wings: There are 34 in the final stages of testing necessary for F.D.A. approval, and another 470 in initial clinical trials, according to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, an advocacy group. The therapies are aimed at extremely rare diseases with few patients; most are meant to cure with a single injection or procedure. But the costs, like that of Kymriah, are expected to be astronomical, alarming medical researchers and economists.

Texas Calls in U.S. Air Force to Counter Post-Storm Surge in Mosquitoes

2 months 1 week

(Reuters) – Texas has launched aerial attacks on mosquitoes swarming coastal regions of the state and threatening to spread disease and hinder disaster recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo planes began spraying insecticides over three eastern Texas counties over the weekend and will expand to other areas over the next two weeks, officials from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said. About 1.85 million acres have been treated as of Tuesday, according to the department.

Debt Drives Kidney Harvesting in Pakistan’s Citrus Orchards

2 months 1 week

(Reuters) – Punjab is Pakistan’s most prosperous region, but alongside thriving sectors from farming to textiles, another business is booming — the illegal trade in human organs, say police, activists and victims. Fueled by a cycle of poverty and debt, this black market has flourished for years with traffickers preying on the poorest – many of them laborers who have helped the region prosper but have been paid a pittance in return.

Illnesses Thought to Be Linked to 9/11 WTC Attacks on the Rise

2 months 1 week

(The Wall Street Journal) – In the 16 years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Sal Turturici has watched as friends he worked with at the World Trade Center site fell ill. Now Mr. Turturici is sick too, battling stage 4 Neuroendocrine Cancer doctors believe could be linked to his service on a medical team at the site. Though researchers say it could take decades to prove a clear link between time spent at ground zero and illnesses, they say it appears that toxins at the site heightened the occurrence of certain diseases.

Iranian Journalist Loses Eye ‘After Cancer Was Left Untreated in Jail’

2 months 1 week

(The Guardian) – A prominent Iranian journalist has lost an eye and part of his face due to a sinus cancer that activists say was left untreated while he was kept in jail. Alireza Rajaee, a former political editor of a number of banned Iranian reformist newspapers, spent four years in prison after being convicted of “acting against the national security” and “propaganda against the state” – vague charges used against dozens of journalists in recent years.

South Korean Researchers Lobby Government to Lift Human-Embryo Restrictions

2 months 1 week

(Nature) – More than a decade after a fraud scandal in stem-cell science rocked South Korea, scientists in the field are ramping up pressure on the government to relax the country’s strict regulations on human-embryo research — which many researchers label a ban. On 30 August, the nation’s bioethics committee held a public forum with the Ministry of Health and Welfare in Seoul, inviting 11 researchers and scholars to discuss possible changes to the country’s bioethics policies on research.

It Not Just One Suspect Herpes Vaccine Trial: Most Experimental Drugs Are Tested Offshore–Raising Concerns about Data

2 months 1 week

(STAT News) – But in some respects, the herpes vaccine trial isn’t all that unusual. Nearly all drug makers seeking U.S. approval today rely in part on overseas locations and populations to test their drugs, the result of a decades-long push by industry to try to cut costs and speed recruitment of patients. In fact, a STAT analysis found that 90 percent of new drugs approved this year were tested at least in part outside the U.S. and Canada.

More Doctors Are Practicing Past Age 70. Is That Safe for Patients?

2 months 1 week

(Philadelphia Inquirer) – As more doctors choose to work past the traditional retirement age, health systems are navigating a complex set of issues that revolve around what may sometimes be competing interests: keeping valued “late-career” employees happy and keeping patients safe. Most older doctors do good work and many choose to do less challenging work as a concession to age, experts said. But systems are testing how best to screen for the few who are slipping and don’t know it. This region’s two largest health systems — Penn Medicine and Jefferson Health — are embarking on screening programs.

Why Some People Nearing the End of Life Need the Same Protection We Offer Children

2 months 1 week

(The Conversation) – Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man (from As You Like It) famously and effectively portrays humans in deep old age as returning to infancy. But in many societies, the approach to end of life care requires us to continue as active and responsible citizens for as long as our mental capacities allow – to make choices about what kind of care we want, and where. In anticipation of losing capacity, people are urged to act responsibly and make preferences known in advance while they are still able.

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