News from Bioethics.com

National Guidelines Oppose Push to Allow Parents to Choose Sex of IVF Babies

3 months 3 days

(Sydney Morning Herald) – Australia’s peak medical council has knocked back a push to allow parents to choose the gender of their baby in new national guidelines. But the National Health and Medical Research Council left the door open for future changes, suggesting sex selection may be ethical. On Thursday, the NHMRC banned clinics from offering gender selection for non-medical purposes in its long-anticipated guidelines for assisted reproductive technologies (ART). The council’s working committee – the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) – had recommended the council consider condoning sex selection in certain circumstances.

The Go-To Gene Sequencing Machine with Very Strange Results

3 months 3 days

(Wired) – To find his unicorn, Sinha would have to dig deeper, into the proteins that would eventually define the cells. That would require him to sequence the RNA of thousands of seemingly identical stem cells from a collection Weissman had built. And like most geneticists working today, the machine he turned to was from Illumina: the San Diego-based company whose products sequence 90 percent of all genetic data. But instead of a true stem cell, Sinha stumbled onto something very different. Inconsistent results led him to identify an issue with the underlying operations of Illumina’s newer sequencers—an issue that could have contaminated the results of similar high-sensitivity data produced on the machines in the last two years.

Vienna Parliament Condemns Organ Harvesting in China

3 months 4 days

(The Epoch Times) – The city of Vienna became the first European capital to echo a European Parliament resolution which censures the Chinese regime for its organ harvesting crimes recently. The Vienna Provincial Parliament “condemns the systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from prisoners in the People’s Republic of China,” read the resolution, which was unanimously passed on April 7. The Chinese regime had carried out organ harvesting “without consent and affects large numbers of Falun Gong adherents and members of politically persecuted, religious, and ethnic minorities,” the resolution continued.

Identical Twins, Not-So-Identical Stem Cells

3 months 5 days

(Science Daily) – Salk scientists and collaborators have shed light on a long-standing question about what leads to variation in stem cells by comparing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from identical twins. Even iPSCs made from the cells of twins, they found, have important differences, suggesting that not all variation between iPSC lines is rooted in genetics, since the twins have identical genes.

Young Human Blood Makes Old Mice Smarter

3 months 5 days

(Nature) – A protein found in young human blood plasma can improve brain function in old mice. The finding, published on 19 April in Nature, is the first time a human protein has been shown to have this effect. It’s also the latest evidence that infusions of ‘young blood’ can reverse symptoms of ageing, including memory loss, decrease in muscle function and metabolism, and loss of bone structure. For decades, researchers have studied the effects of young blood on ageing in mice through a technique called parabiosis, in which an old mouse is sewn together with a younger one so that they share a circulatory system.

‘They’re Just Hiding’: Experts Say Puerto Rico May Be Underreporting Zika-Affected Births

3 months 6 days

(STAT News) – The number of babies born in Puerto Rico with microcephaly and other birth defects caused by the Zika virus appears to be unexpectedly low — so low that experts are beginning to question whether the actual count is being significantly underreported by authorities on the island. As Zika surged across the Americas last year, US health authorities warned that Puerto Rico was facing a perfect storm — and braced for a large number of pregnancies affected by the virus. But, to date, Puerto Rico has reported only 16 cases of congenital defects associated with Zika, even though more than 3,300 pregnant women are known to have contracted the virus and several times that number are believed to have been infected.

Secret Hospital Inspections May Become Public at Last

3 months 6 days

(Pro Publica) – The public could soon get a look at confidential reports about errors, mishaps and mix-ups in the nation’s hospitals that put patients’ health and safety at risk, under a groundbreaking proposal from federal health officials. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wants to require that private health care accreditors publicly detail problems they find during inspections of hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as the steps being taken to fix them. Nearly nine in 10 hospitals are directly overseen by those accreditors, not the government.

A Baby or Your Money Back: All about Fertility Clinic Package Deals

3 months 1 week

(New York Times) – Welcome to the fertility casino, which frequently presents the rarest of scenarios: A commercial entity offers a potentially money-losing proposition to customers in exchange for a generous supply of in vitro fertilization procedures. People pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege, and when they come out with a newborn in their arms they’re often thrilled to be on the losing end financially. So who wins? The house. Doctors (and third-party companies that help manage these programs and may take on any financial risk) keep careful track of their data. So they set prices at profitable points given the odds.

A Pain in the Night and a Harrowing Drive: A Crisis in Rural Health Care Puts Mothers-to-Be on a Risky Road

3 months 1 week

(STAT News) – It is a common story in rural America. Financial pressures, insurance problems, and doctor shortages forced more than 200 hospitals to close their birthing units between 2004 and 2014, according to the University of Minnesota’s Rural Health Research Center. That’s left millions women of reproductive age facing longer drives to deliver babies — who sometimes arrive en route. The long drives, understandably, increase anxiety. They also make mothers and babies less safe; studies show these distances bring with them increased rates of complications and infant deaths, as well as longer stays in neonatal intensive care units.

‘We Didn’t Expect This’: A Historic Yellow Fever Outbreak Spreads in Brazil

3 months 1 week

(STAT News) – The virus that de Moraes caught is part of a broader outbreak that has taken authorities here by surprise. Although Brazil experiences what is known as a “sylvatic” cycle of yellow fever — in which the virus is spread between mosquitoes and monkeys in the jungle — the current outbreak has fanned far beyond the Amazon jungle and out to the coast. It has confounded specialists, doctors, and health officials, and raised fears of an epidemic in Brazil’s urban areas that could be devastating if not quickly contained. It is the worst outbreak of yellow fever in this country in recent memory.

Miniature Liver on a Chip Could Boost US Food Safety

3 months 1 week

(Nature) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has started testing whether livers-on-a-chip — miniature models of human organs engineered to mimic biological functions — can reliably model human reactions to food and food-borne illnesses. The experiments will help the agency to determine whether companies can substitute chip data for animal data when applying for the approval of a new compound, such as a food additive, that could prove toxic. It is the first time that a regulatory agency anywhere in the world has pursued organs-on-chips as an alternative to animal testing.

A New CRISPR Breakthrough Could Lead to Simpler, Cheaper Disease Diagnosis

3 months 1 week

(The Washington Post) – On Thursday, Feng Zhang, one of the pioneers of CRISPR, and 18 colleagues published a paper in the journal Science showing how they had turned this system into an inexpensive, reliable diagnostic tool for detecting nucleic acids — molecules present in an organism’s genetic code — from disease-causing pathogens. The new tool could be widely applied to detect not only viral and bacterial diseases but also potentially for finding cancer-causing mutations.

Number of Official Cases of Euthanasia Rise 10% in the Netherlands

3 months 1 week

(Dutch News) – The number of official cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands rose 10% last year to 6091 and euthanasia now accounts for 4% of total deaths, the regional monitoring boards said on Wednesday. In 10 cases, the rules for euthanasia were not followed correctly, most of which involved a failure to properly consult a second doctor, the RTE annual report said. In one case, a doctor was reprimanded for ‘crossing the line’ with a patient suffering from severe dementia.

Yemen’s Worsening Humanitarian Crisis

3 months 1 week

(The Economist) – AFTER two years of war, a quarter of Yemen’s 28m people are on the brink of starvation. Attention is now turning to Hodeida (pictured), the country’s biggest port, through which the majority of food passes, especially to the rebel-held north where the bulk of the population lives. A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by Western nations, which sides with the president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, is finalising plans to invade and take the port.

In Turkey’s Cutthroat Hair-Transplant Tourism Industry, the Biggest Losers Are the Patients and Syrian Refugees

3 months 1 week

(Quartz) – The clinics get away with it, says Oguzoglu, because inspectors from the Health Ministry are more than willing to take bribes in exchange for a warning that an official inspection is coming. “Someone pays the big money,” he says, and when the inspection happens, the clinic makes itself look like its operating fully above board. The Health Ministry did not respond to Quartz’s request for comment. Cheap hair transplant surgery is one of the only things still bringing visitors to Turkey. In the wake of several terror attacks and a failed military coup, tourism in Turkey declined sharply in 2016. It hasn’t rebounded—except in one sector: hair transplant tourism.

Facial-Recognition Software Finds a New Use: Diagnosing Genetic Disorders

3 months 1 week

(STAT News) – The algorithms in general work on the same principles: measuring the size of facial features and their placement to detect patterns. They’re both trained on databases of photographs doctors take of their patients. The NIH works with partners around the world to collect their photos; FDNA accepts photos uploaded to Face2Gene. But they differ in a key way: Whereas the algorithm the NIH uses can predict if someone has a given genetic disorder, the Face2Gene algorithm spits out not diagnoses, but probabilities. The app describes photos as being a certain percent similar to photos of people with one of the 2,000 disorders for which Face2Gene has image data, based on the overall “look” of the face as well as the presence of certain features.

Top Scientists Revamp Standards to Foster Integrity in Research

3 months 1 week

(NPR) – It’s been 25 years since the National Academy of Sciences set its standards for appropriate scientific conduct, and the world of science has changed dramatically in that time. So now the academies of science, engineering and medicine have updated their standards. The report published Tuesday, “Fostering Integrity in Research,” shines a spotlight on how the research enterprise as a whole creates incentives that can be detrimental to good research.

No, Companies Shouldn’t Pay Women to Freeze Their Eggs

3 months 1 week

(Wired) – A family-friendly workplace allows sufficient time off for childbirth and baby-bonding, flexibility regarding business travel, and other support. To be successful, it must include fathers. Unfortunately, all of the attention given to egg freezing may be diverting employers from making critical structural changes that would keep talented and highly educated women in the pipeline.

In the Tennessee Delta, a Poor Community Loses Its Hospital–And Sense of Security

3 months 1 week

(Washington Post) – The demise of Haywood Park Community Hospital three years ago this summer added Brownsville to an epidemic of dying hospitals across rural America. Nearly 80 have closed since 2010, including nine in Tennessee, more than in any state but Texas. Many more are considered fragile — downstream victims of federal health policies, shifts in medical practice and the limited tolerance of distant corporate owners for empty beds and financial losses. In every rural community, the ripple effects of a lost hospital are profound, reverberating beyond the inability of would-be patients to get immediate care. Many of the best jobs in town vanish.

Mighty Morphed Brain Cells Cure Parkinson’s in Mice, But Human Trials Are Still Far Off

3 months 1 week

(STAT News) – Mice that walk straight and fluidly don’t usually make scientists exult, but these did: The lab rodents all had a mouse version of Parkinson’s disease and only weeks before had barely been able to lurch and shuffle around their cages. Using a trick from stem-cell science, researchers managed to restore the kind of brain cells whose death causes Parkinson’s. And the mice walked almost normally. The same technique turned human brain cells, growing in a lab dish, into the dopamine-producing neurons that are AWOL in Parkinson’s, scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute reported on Monday in Nature Biotechnology.

Charlie Gard Case: Doctors Can Withdraw Baby’s Life Support

3 months 1 week

(BBC) – Doctors can withdraw life support from a sick baby with a rare genetic condition against his parents’ wishes, a High Court judge has ruled. Specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital said eight-month-old Charlie Gard has irreversible brain damage and should be moved to palliative care. His parents Connie Yates and Chris Gard, from London, had wanted to take him to the US for a treatment trial. They said they were “devastated” by the decision but intended to appeal.

In a World First, Singapore’s Highest Court Rules That Parents Deserve Kids with Their Genes

3 months 2 weeks

(The Conversation) – Blood is thicker than water, or so the saying goes, reflecting the value we put on biological relationships. But is it something the law should recognise? Singapore’s Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that asks this very question, and it gave a fascinating answer: parents have a strong interest in “genetic affinity” with their children, one that can merit compensation if subverted. Genetic affinity is an entirely new legal standard. It has no clear precedent in any jurisdiction. But the court made a compelling argument that it has a sound basis in the way we value family and heredity.

Study: Oregon Patients Using Physician-Assisted Suicide Steadily Increase

3 months 2 weeks

(The Oregonian) – The number of patients using the nation’s first physician-aided suicide program, Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, has continued to grow since voters first approved the law nearly two decades ago. A new study shows a 12 percent yearly increase in lethal prescriptions from 1998 to 2013, with an unexplained jump of nearly 30 percent in 2015. The research doesn’t include 2016 numbers, which haven’t been released yet.

Physician-Assisted Suicide an Issue for Nominee Gorsuch

3 months 2 weeks

(CNN) – Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has frustrated legislators on both sides of the aisle with his refusal to talk specifics on several major issues he could rule on if he’s confirmed. But one matter on which his past writings offer a detailed picture of his views is medical aid in dying, sometimes referred to as physician-assisted suicide. In 2006, Gorsuch wrote “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” a 311-page book in which he “builds a nuanced, novel, and powerful moral and legal argument against legalization,” the book proclaims on its back cover. Gorsuch also addressed questions on the polarizing issue during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings.

Study Finds Large Data Breaches at U.S. Hospital

3 months 2 weeks

(UPI) – Researchers at Michigan State University have found the personal data of patients may be at risk of data breaches in U.S. hospitals. The study found nearly 1,800 incidences of large data breaches in patient information over a seven-year period from October 2009 to December 2016. Researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on data breaches at hospitals and healthcare providers.

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