News from Bioethics.com

Deleting Your Online DNA Is Brutally Difficult

2 months 8 hours

(Bloomberg) – Recently, I started feeling uneasy about how freely my DNA data flowed. So I decided to try to erase my DNA data footprint from all the websites and databases and laboratories in which it was stored. It turns out that isn’t so easy. When you send your DNA to consumer genetic-testing companies, the sample typically is stripped of identifying details and sent to a third-party laboratory. There, DNA is extracted and purified from your saliva and analyzed. Then the anonymized data is stored and the sample is stashed for future tests.

Do You Know Who’s Using Your DNA Data?

2 months 9 hours

(Quartz) – You’re in search of your roots, on a quest to uncover your ancestors. You submit DNA to a public genealogy service and in exchange get information about your people. Success! But from a constitutional perspective, in the US, you’re also abandoning evidence, which means criminal investigators can use your data. They don’t need a search warrant and you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

New Stem Cell Technique Tested for Babies with Life-Threatening Heart Condition

2 months 9 hours

(CBS News) – Doctors at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are trying something new. They’re collecting the baby’s cord blood at birth to gather stem cells. Then when the child undergoes the second HLHS [hypoplastic left heart syndrome] surgery, “We’re going to inject stem cells into the right ventricle,” explains Dr. Ram Kumar Subrmanyan. He believes injecting the stem cells directly into the heart will help stimulate muscle growth, making it stronger.

China’s Vaccine Tourists Drain Hong Kong’s Supply of Cancer Drug

2 months 9 hours

(Bloomberg) – Medical tourism has been a great business for Manna Wang, an insurance agent in Shenzhen who’s been helping Chinese women travel to Hong Kong for a vaccine against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. Business has been so good, in fact, that the medicine is running is out. In the two years since Merck & Co.’s Gardasil 9 became available in Hong Kong, about 2 million mainlanders have come for the shots, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

UC Berkeley Finally Scores a Win with Two CRISPR Patents

2 months 1 day

(Futurism) – Before CRISPR can transform our world, it’s gotta get out of court. There’s been a legal battle going on to determine which of the scientists whose research led to CRISPR’s discovery gets to own it (and collect money from licensing it). The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) just decided to grant not one, but two new CRISPR patents to UC Berkeley, home of biochemist Jennifer Doudna, who many consider the creator of CRISPR.

That ‘Living Will’ You Signed? At the ER, It Could Be Open to Interpretation

2 months 1 day

(Kaiser Health News) – A new report out of Pennsylvania, which has the nation’s most robust system for monitoring patient safety events, treats mix-ups involving end-of-life documents as medical errors — a novel approach. It found that in 2016, Pennsylvania health care facilities reported nearly 100 events relating to patients’ “code status” — their wish to be resuscitated or not, should their hearts stop beating and they stop breathing. In 29 cases, patients were resuscitated against their wishes. In two cases, patients weren’t resuscitated despite making it clear they wanted this to happen. The rest of the cases were “near misses” — problems caught before they had a chance to cause permanent harm.

Being Black in American Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

2 months 1 day

(The Atlantic) – These cities are among the most extreme examples of a national phenomenon: Across the United States, black people suffer disproportionately from some of the most devastating health problems, from cancer deaths and diabetes to maternal mortality and preterm births. Although the racial disparity in early death has narrowed in recent decades, black people have the life expectancy, nationwide, that white people had in the 1980s—about three years shorter than the current white life expectancy. African Americans face a greater risk of death at practically every stage of life.

Polio Returns to Venezuela, and Threatens the Region

2 months 1 day

(The Economist) – IN 1961 Venezuela became the first country in Latin America virtually to eliminate malaria, using a combination of DDT, an insecticide, and drugs. The oil-rich country has now made health history again, this time in a bad way. On June 7th Venezuela’s health department reported to the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) the first case of polio in South America since 1991. This is a big worry, not only for Venezuela but for its neighbours. The re-emergence of polio strongly suggests that Venezuela’s vaccination programme has failed. With thousands of Venezuelans a day fleeing the country’s political and economic crisis, there is a risk that polio and other highly infectious diseases will spread to more countries in the region.

Digital Mental Health Drug Raises Troubling Questions

2 months 1 day

(The Conversation) – Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and Proteus Digital Health won Food and Drug Administration approval to sell Abilify MyCite in late 2017. This drug contains a digital sensor embedded within the powerful antipsychotic drug Abilify, the brand name for aripiprazole, which is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. The goal of the digital sensor is for doctors to monitor their patients’ intake of Abilify MyCite remotely and ensure that the patient is adhering to the correct drug dose and timing.

Irish Catholic Hospitals ‘Will Have to Perform Abortions’

2 months 1 day

(BBC) – Irish hospitals with a Catholic ethos will be expected to carry out abortions when new laws on terminations come into effect, the Irish prime minister has said. Leo Varadkar said doctors, nurses or midwives could opt out of performing procedures on conscience grounds. However, entire institutions will not have that option.

‘I Wanted a Baby:’ Single Men Are Increasingly Having Biological Children Via Surrogacy

2 months 1 day

(Chicago Tribune) – With Father’s Day approaching, single fathers such as Guest are a reminder of how far modern men will go to become parents. He is one of the small but growing number of single men who are becoming fathers via surrogacy, in which a woman agrees to carry someone else’s baby. Surrogacy can cost more than $100,000 and involves finding a woman who wants to carry your child, achieving a pregnancy via in vitro fertilization, and navigating the emotional experience of pregnancy and childbirth with a surrogate who has her own needs, responsibilities and boundaries.

Two Vaccines Have Saved 1.45 Million Children’s Lives in the Last 15 Years

2 months 2 days

(Quartz) – The study, conducted by scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, focused on Hib and pneumococcus because they can cause meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis, and other serious health complications that contribute to the high rates of child mortality in developing countries. According to the study, in 2000, about 900,000 children worldwide died from infections related to the bacteria—most of them from pneumonia. In 2015, the estimate was 323,500 children.

The Stanford Prison Experiment Was Massively Influential. We Just Learned It Was a Fraud.

2 months 2 days

(Vox) – The Stanford Prison Experiment has been included in many, many introductory psychology textbooks and is often cited uncritically. It’s the subject of movies, documentaries, books, television shows, and congressional testimony. But its findings were wrong. Very wrong. And not just due to its questionable ethics or lack of concrete data — but because of deceit.

Researchers Infecting Test Subjects with Flu for $3,500: ‘You Have to Be Careful About Not Harming Them Too Much’

2 months 2 days

(Newsweek) – Researchers at St. Louis University have put a price on voluntarily coming down with the flu, and it’s set at $3,500 and a 10-to-12-day all-expense-paid vacation in a hotel. Coming off the heels of a particularly deadly flu season, researchers with the university’s Center for Vaccine Development got funding to run an experiment in which they will actually infect people with the flu. The goal is to test the effectiveness of the vaccine through what’s called a “human challenge study.”

Medicare Takes Aim at Boomerang Hospitalizations of Nursing Home Patients

2 months 2 days

(NPR) – With hospitals pushing patients out the door earlier, nursing homes are deluged with increasingly frail patients. But many homes, with their sometimes-skeletal medical staffing, often fail to handle post-hospital complications — or create new problems by not heeding or receiving accurate hospital and physician instructions. Patients, caught in the middle, may suffer. One in 5 Medicare patients sent from the hospital to a nursing home boomerangs back within 30 days, often for potentially preventable conditions such as dehydration, infections and medication errors, federal records show.

Are Google and Facebook Responsible for the Medical Quackery They Host?

2 months 2 days

(Undark Magazine) – The question is, when content on social media and similar platforms nudges people toward dangerous medical decisions, do those websites bear any responsibility? And if so, how should they regulate such reckless speech? These questions grow particularly stark with AIDS denialism. After all, convincing someone that the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and other U.S. sites was an inside job can make them sound a little whacky at parties. Convincing someone that AIDS is a hoax can kill them.

Alcohol Study Failed to Seek FDA Approval, Possibly Violating Federal Rules

2 months 3 days

(STAT News) – The controversy surrounding a study of whether moderate drinking might prevent cardiovascular disease isn’t over: If one interpretation of federal regulations is correct, the study may be in violation of Food and Drug Administration requirements meant to protect the health of research volunteers. STAT has learned that the study’s leaders failed to seek a form of regulatory approval intended to protect study participants and ensure they understand the possible health risks of the research.

Massachusetts Sues Opioid Maker, Executives Over Drug Crisis

2 months 3 days

(ABC News) – Massachusetts sued the maker of prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin and its executives on Tuesday, accusing the company of spinning a “web of illegal deceit” to fuel the deadly drug abuse crisis while boosting profits. Purdue Pharma is already defending lawsuits from several states and local governments, but Massachusetts is the first state to personally name the company’s executives in a complaint, Attorney General Maura Healey said. It names 16 current and former executives and board members, including CEO Craig Landau and members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue.

Uber Wants a Patent on Tech to Help Guess if a Rider Is Drunk

2 months 3 days

(Los Angeles Times) – Uber has a pending application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the technology that would help the ride-hailing giant tell drunk riders from sober ones. The idea is still in its early stages, and the company has no immediate plans to start using the technology as described in the application. But as with other uses of artificial intelligence, the technology also raises questions of how it would actually work, and how Uber could use and store data on the health and lifestyle choices of its users.

UN Security Council Sanctions Accused Libyan Human Traffickers

2 months 4 days

(UPI) – The United Nations Security Council sanctioned six accused leaders of human trafficking networks operating inside Libya on Friday — marking the first time traffickers have been put on an international sanctions list. According to the U.N., the six sanctioned individuals are Ermias Ghermay, Fitiwi Abdelrazak, Ahmad Oumar Al-Dabbashi, Mus’ab Abu-Qarin, Mohammed Kachlaf and Abd Al Rahman Al-Milad.

A Serious New Hurdle for CRISPR: Edited Cells Might Cause Cancer, Find Two Studies

2 months 4 days

(STAT News) – Editing cells’ genomes with CRISPR-Cas9 might increase the risk that the altered cells, intended to treat disease, will trigger cancer, two studies published on Monday warn — a potential game-changer for the companies developing CRISPR-based therapies. In the studies, published in Nature Medicine, scientists found that cells whose genomes are successfully edited by CRISPR-Cas9 have the potential to seed tumors inside a patient. That could make some CRISPR’d cells ticking time bombs, according to researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and, separately, Novartis.

Pressure Mounts on Drug Makers to Move Birth Control Over the Counter

2 months 4 days

(STAT News) – Drug makers are facing growing pressure to sell contraception without a prescription. And this weekend, the nation’s largest physicians group could join in the chorus calling to expand access to birth control. At the American Medical Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, delegates will vote on a resolution to encourage contraceptive makers to submit applications to the Food and Drug Administration to switch the status of their pills from prescription to over the counter. If it passes, the new policy would be directed more squarely at drug makers than the AMA’s current policy, which focuses on the FDA’s role.

Rapid Genome Sequencing Could Revolutionize Health Care for Acutely Ill Babies

2 months 4 days

(The Washington Post) – Kingsmore is trying to make the case that this technology should be standard care in every neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, in the nation. As part of a $25 million federal project that funds newborn sequencing research, the Rady team published the results of a study comparing traditional and this newest method in 42 infants with suspected genetic disorders. Rapid sequencing offered diagnoses for 18 babies, while standard genetic tests identified a disease in only four cases. Most important, the information from the advanced technique helped doctors recommend lifesaving surgeries or medications for 11 of the infants.

He Started Vaping as a Teen and Now Says Habit Is ‘Impossible to Let Go’

2 months 1 week

(Kaiser Health News) – Dr. Deborah Liptzin, a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, sees the evidence differently. E-cigarettes, she said, have become “the new way to get kids addicted to nicotine.” There’s been scant e-cigarette research, she noted, including on Juul and the ingredients in the e-liquids used in the devices. “They specifically use nicotine salts,” Liptzin said. “We have no research that I could find on nicotine salts that are inhaled, because it’s so new.”

French Emergency Room Tests Virtual Reality Path to Pain Relief

2 months 1 week

(Reuters) – The very thought of visiting a hospital emergency department is stressful enough for many people, even without the discomfort or pain of an examination or treatment. Enter an immersive virtual-reality program created by three graduates being used in France to relax patients and even increase their tolerance of pain – without resorting to drugs. “What we offer is a contemplative world where the patient goes on a guided tour, in interactive mode, to play music, do a bit of painting or work out a riddle,” said Reda Khouadra, one of the 24-year-olds behind the project.

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