News from Bioethics.com

California Judge: Girl Deemed Brain Dead May Still Be Alive

2 months 1 week

(ABC News) – A California judge ruled that a teen girl declared brain dead more than three years ago after a tonsillectomy may still be technically alive, allowing a malpractice lawsuit against the hospital to proceed. Alameda County Judge Stephen Pulido ruled Tuesday that it’s up to a jury to determine whether Jahi McMath is alive, which would increase the amount of damages if jurors decide in the family’s favor.

Top New York Court Rules against Physician-Assisted Suicide

2 months 1 week

(ABC News) – New York’s ban on assisted suicide will stand after the state’s highest court on Thursday rejected arguments from terminally ill patients who say they should have the right to seek life-ending drugs from a doctor. The Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that state lawmakers had a rational reason for passing a ban on assisted suicide and that the ban doesn’t violate the state constitution.

Hurricane Health Toll: Texas Doctor Uses Lessons from Katrina

2 months 1 week

(Scientific American) – Harvey is the first major storm since the federal government revised emergency preparedness standards for hospitals, in response to Katrina and 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. Now, health care providers that receive Medicare or Medicaid dollars must have disaster preparedness plans, including relocation strategies for at-risk patients and mechanisms to maintain basic power. Berggren shared her distinctive perspective last week, drawing on her knowledge of Texas, her memories from New Orleans and knowledge as one of the country’s leading bioethicists. The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Massive Ebola Data Site Planned to Combat Outbreaks

2 months 1 week

(Nature) – More than 11,000 people died when Ebola tore through West Africa between 2014 and 2016, and yet clinicians still lack data that would enable them to reliably identify the disease when a person first walks into a clinic. To fill that gap and others before the next outbreak hits, researchers are developing a platform to organize and share Ebola data that have so far been scattered beyond reach. The information system is coordinated by the Infectious Diseases Data Observatory (IDDO), an international research network based at the University of Oxford, UK, and is expected to launch by the end of the year. At a meeting to discuss Ebola on 7–9 September in Conakry, Guinea, the team heading the platform will seek input from West African scientists, health officials and advocacy groups.

The First Drugs Designed to Fight Aging Are Ready for Human Testing

2 months 1 week

(Quartz) – Earlier this week, doctors at the Mayo Clinic and the Scripps Research Institute published a review article in the Journal of American Geriatrics calling and outlining designs for human clinical trials on the first class of drugs developed specifically to treat aging. The “geroscience hypothesis” is relatively new to the world of accepted science. It states that targeting the fundamental mechanisms of aging can help treat or delay the onset of age-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and various forms of cancers. The idea is to increase healthspan: the years in which people are viable, active members of society. The subtext though, is that these treatments also have the potential to delay aging itself.

IBM Pitched Its Watson Supercomputer as a Revolution in Cancer Care. It’s Nowhere Close

2 months 1 week

(STAT News) – But three years after IBM began selling Watson to recommend the best cancer treatments to doctors around the world, a STAT investigation has found that the supercomputer isn’t living up to the lofty expectations IBM created for it. It is still struggling with the basic step of learning about different forms of cancer. Only a few dozen hospitals have adopted the system, which is a long way from IBM’s goal of establishing dominance in a multibillion-dollar market. And at foreign hospitals, physicians complained its advice is biased toward American patients and methods of care.

Yemen’s Cholera Epidemic Hits 600,000, Confounding Expectations

2 months 2 weeks

(Scientific American) – Yemen’s cholera outbreak has infected 612,703 people and killed 2,048 since it began in April, and some districts are still reporting sharp rises in new cases, data from the World Health Organization and Yemen’s health ministry showed on Tuesday. The overall spread of the epidemic has slowed in the past two months, with the daily number of new suspected cases cut to around 3,000 in recent days.

Novartis Charged Much More in the U.S. for Some Drugs Than in Other Countries

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – In 2014, the most recent year for which data was available, Novartis (NVS) headquarters in Switzerland charged its U.S. subsidiary significantly more for four medicines than what its subsidiaries paid in roughly a dozen other countries. These included several well-to-do nations such as the U.K., Germany, and France. And the difference in pricing ranged anywhere from 45 percent to 176 percent, after adjusting for currency fluctuations and packaging.

Another Way for Anti-Vaxxers to Skip Shots for Schoolkids: A Doctor’s Note

2 months 2 weeks

(Kaiser Health News) – Families who oppose mandated immunization for schoolchildren may be seeking medical exemptions to get around the new state law, which requires kindergartners entering public and private schools to be fully vaccinated regardless of families’ personal beliefs, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Traces of Crime: How New York’s DNA Techniques Became Tainted

2 months 2 weeks

(New York Times) – Now these DNA analysis methods are under the microscope, with scientists questioning their validity. In court testimony, a former lab official said she was fired for criticizing one method, and a former member of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science said he had been wrong when he approved their use. The first expert witness allowed by a judge to examine the software source code behind one technique recently concluded that its accuracy “should be seriously questioned.” Earlier this year, the lab shelved the two methods and replaced them with newer, more broadly used technology.

US Overdose Deaths from Fentanyl and Synthetic Opioids Doubled in 2016

2 months 2 weeks

(The Guardian) – The number of drug overdose deaths in the US increased by 21% last year, according to new statistics – with synthetic-opioid fatalities more than doubling in number. The National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) estimates that drug overdoses killed 64,070 people in the US last year, a rise of 21% over the 52,898 drug overdose deaths recorded in 2015. The epidemic of drug overdoses is killing people at almost double the rate of both firearm and motor vehicle-related death. The statistics posted on the CDC website are the latest available on the gathering opioid crisis. The agency says they will be updated on a monthly basis.

Hurricane Harvey’s Public-Health Nightmare

2 months 2 weeks

(The Atlantic) – Every flood disaster is also a public-health disaster, and even as Harvey dissipates over the Gulf Coast, the beginnings of that secondary calamity were on display in the Houston area. During the worst of the flooding, hospitals faced critical shortages of food and medicine, people with serious chronic diseases had to make difficult decisions between evacuation and sheltering in place, and hundreds of victims faced prescription shortages and mental-health issues. And based on the health problems people in New Orleans and elsewhere in the region faced after Hurricane Katrina, experts expect major public-health emergencies, environmental illnesses, and outbreaks will only intensify in the aftermath of Harvey.

Sanofi Quietly Pulls the Plug on Its Zika Vaccine Project

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – Vaccine giant Sanofi Pasteur has quietly pulled the plug on its Zika vaccine project, a move that underscores how difficult it may be at this stage to develop a vaccine against the virus. The company announced the move in a statement posted on its website at 3 p.m. Friday, pointing to a decision by a federal funding body to scale back spending on Zika-related research. Sanofi said BARDA — the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services — informed the company in mid-August that it was reducing its financial assistance for Sanofi’s Zika vaccine project.

Offshore Herpes Vaccine Trial under Investigation

2 months 2 weeks

(Scientific American) – The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has launched an investigation into the clinical trial for a herpes vaccine by an American company because it said its officials were not notified about the experiments. The vaccine research has sparked controversy because the lead investigator, a professor with Southern Illinois University, and the U.S. company he co-founded did not rely on traditional U.S. safety oversight while testing the vaccine last year on mostly American participants on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.

Human Stem Cells Fight Parkinson’s Disease in Monkeys

2 months 2 weeks

(Scientific American) – Scientists have successfully used “reprogrammed” stem cells to restore functioning brain cells in monkeys, raising hopes the technique could be used in future to help patients with Parkinson’s disease. Since Parkinson’s is caused by a lack of dopamine made by brain cells, researchers have long hoped to use stem cells to restore normal production of the neurotransmitter chemical. Now, for the first time, Japanese researchers have shown that human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) can be administered safely and effectively to treat primates with symptoms of the debilitating disease.

Harvey Evacuees Leave Their Belongings–And Health Records–Behind

2 months 2 weeks

(Wired) – Most of the time, siloed medical information is more of a nuisance than anything else. But when Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area last week, evacuations and rescue efforts forced patients to seek treatment anywhere they could. And most of the time, their health records didn’t go with them. That information void can be almost as catastrophic as the catastrophe itself.

Many Pediatric Studies Are a Waste of Time

2 months 2 weeks

(Scientific American) – Parents considering whether to enroll a sick son or daughter in a clinical trial often face a barrage of conflicting emotions. On one hand, they hope that the experiment will lead to a breakthrough in treatment. On the other, they must deal with the uncertainty and fear that come from willingly exposing their child to an unproven therapy that could turn out to be ineffective or even more harmful than standard treatment. What parents may not anticipate, however, is that their child’s contribution to scientific understanding could also be squandered on a study that is never completed or that fails to be published in the medical literature.

Skepticism Surfaces over CRISPR Human Embryo Editing Claims

2 months 2 weeks

(Science) – But such a feat has not been observed in previous CRISPR experiments, and some scientists are now questioning whether the repairs really happened that way. In a paper published online this week on the preprint server bioRxiv, a group of six geneticists, developmental biologists, and stem cell researchers offers alternative explanations for the results. And uncertainty about exactly how the embryos’ DNA changed after editing leaves many questions about the technique’s safety, they argue. (The authors declined to discuss the paper while it’s being reviewed for publication.)

My Son Has Autism. Discrimination Almost Cost Him His Life.

2 months 2 weeks

(The Washington Post) – Needing a lifesaving transplant is truly awful for any child and family. For children with a disability, the challenges are even more immense. Lief has autism and is a non-speaking person who types to communicate. He struggles with sensory disturbance, profound motor planning difficulties and perseverance behaviors.  Because of our son’s disability, the doctors at our local children’s hospital told us that no facility would perform the transplant, and we should prepare for him to die. A second hospital also refused to consider him.

Hacking Risk Leads to Recall of 500,000 Pacemakers Due to Patient Death Fears

2 months 2 weeks

(The Guardian) – Almost half a million pacemakers have been recalled by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to fears that their lax cybersecurity could be hacked to run the batteries down or even alter the patient’s heartbeat. The recall won’t see the pacemakers removed, which would be an invasive and dangerous medical procedure for the 465,000 people who have them implanted: instead, the manufacturer has issued a firmware update which will be applied by medical staff to patch the security holes.

Cholera Hits Camp for Displaced in Northeast Nigeria

2 months 2 weeks

(Reuters) – Cholera has broken out in northeast Nigeria at a camp for people displaced by the eight year conflict with Boko Haram, aid group Médecins Sans Frontières said on Thursday, bringing disease to communities already underfed and living in squalor. The outbreak in the city of Maiduguri, the epicenter of the fight against the Islamist insurgents, confirms aid groups’ fears that Nigeria’s rainy season could spread disease in camps for the internally displaced that are often already unsanitary.

In Mega-Shelter for Harvey Evacuees, Telemedicine Plans to Help Doctors Keep Up

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – Getting thousands of Houston-area families to shelters has been a massive humanitarian effort. But the aid doesn’t end there: Many of the displaced have chronic medical conditions like asthma or injuries from recent days that need medical attention. Providers of telemedicine are hoping technology can help step into the breach. At Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, which has begun to take residents displaced by flooding in Houston, emergency-room doctors at Children’s Health, a pediatric hospital based in Dallas, are seeing young patients remotely.

FDA Approves First Gene Therapy for Leukemia

2 months 2 weeks

(NPR) – The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday announced what the agency calls a “historic action” — the first approval of a cell-based gene therapy in the United States. The FDA approved Kymriah, which scientists refer to as a “living drug” because it involves using genetically modified immune cells from patients to attack their cancer. The drug was approved to treat children and young adults up to age 25 suffering from a form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia who do not respond to standard treatment or have suffered relapses.

Hurricane Katrina Left Survivors Vulnerable to Sexual Assault. Here’s How to Protect Harvey Evacuees.

2 months 2 weeks

(Vox) – The chaos during and after Hurricane Katrina left many people vulnerable to sexual assault, as William E. Thornton and Lydia Voigt note in a 2007 paper in which Neville’s story appears. As Hurricane Harvey continues to cause flooding along the Texas and Louisiana coast, some of the same risks apply as people are forced from their homes into shelters or into other temporary living arrangements that may not be safe. The good news: Aid workers have the lessons of Katrina to fall back on as they try to help the thousands of people displaced by this storm.

Pioneering Cancer Drug, Just Approved, to Cost $475,000–and Analysts Say It’s a Bargain

2 months 2 weeks

(STAT News) – The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a futuristic new approach to treating cancer, clearing a Novartis therapy that has produced unprecedented results in patients with a rare and deadly cancer. The price tag: $475,000 for a course of treatment. That sounds staggering to many patients — but it’s far less than analysts expected. The therapy, called a CAR-T, is made by harvesting patients’ white blood cells and rewiring them to home in on tumors. Novartis’s product is the first CAR-T therapy to come before the FDA, leading a pack of novel treatments that promise to change the standard of care for certain aggressive blood cancers.

Pages

Creative Commons License