News from Bioethics.com

How AI Is Battling the Coronavirus Outbreak

3 weeks 5 days

(Vox) – When a mysterious illness first pops up, it can be difficult for governments and public health officials to gather information quickly and coordinate a response. But new artificial intelligence technology can automatically mine through news reports and online content from around the world, helping experts recognize anomalies that could lead to a potential epidemic or, worse, a pandemic. In other words, our new AI overlords might actually help us survive the next plague.

DNA Sleuths Read the Coronavirus Genome, Tracing Its Origins and Looking for Dangerous Mutations

3 weeks 5 days

(STAT News) – As infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists race to contain the outbreak of the novel coronavirus centered on Wuhan, China, they’re getting backup that’s been possible only since the explosion in genetic technologies: a deep-dive into the genome of the virus known as 2019-nCoV. Analyses of the viral genome are already providing clues to the origins of the outbreak and even possible ways to treat the infection, a need that is becoming more urgent by the day: Early on Saturday in China, health officials reported 15 new fatalities in a single day, bringing the death toll to 41.

It’s Not Perfect, But It’s Hot: Quick Triage from Dr. Bot

3 weeks 6 days

(Managed Care Magazine) – P?atients who are worried about symptoms in the middle of the night don’t have to run out to an urgent care facility these days or fuss about landing an appointment to see their family doctor in the morning. Now help is available from the nearby smartphone, tablet, or laptop just by opening a “chatbot” in an app or online, entering the symptoms, and getting some idea of what may be wrong. Some of these increasingly sophisticated health apps are triaging their users and advising some people to go to the emergency department, while telling others to “worry not” and stay home. An opportunity for real-time consultation with a physician is often a feature. 

Psychology Still Skews Western and Affluent. Can It Be Fixed?

1 month 20 hours

(Undark) – In many cases, other research suggests, the population being studied does matter —often in subtle and profound ways — and Legare is not the first researcher to voice these concerns. Debates about the diversity of psychology subjects reached a peak around 2010, when a widely read paper charged that an overreliance on research from Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic societies — often shortened to the acronym “WEIRD” — amounted to a crisis for the behavioral sciences. At the time, it seemed possible that the field would undergo major reforms.

CDC Report Second U.S. Case of Novel Virus Spreading in China

1 month 21 hours

(STAT News) – A second case of the new infection emerging from China has been discovered in the United States — a woman who returned to Chicago from Wuhan on Jan. 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, cautioned that the country will likely see more cases and even some domestic spread from imported cases to contacts as this quickly expanding outbreak continues

Coronavirus: Chinese Hospitals in Chaos as Lockdown Spreads to Affect 33m People

1 month 21 hours

(The Guardian) – Hospitals in the Chinese city of Wuhan have been thrown into chaos and the movement of about 33 million people has been restricted by an unprecedented and indefinite lockdown imposed to halt the spread of the deadly new coronavirus. At least 10 cities in central Hubei province have been shut down in an effort to stop the virus, which by Friday had killed 26 people across China and affected more than 800. The World Health Organisation described the outbreak as an emergency for China, but stopped short of declaring it to be a public health emergency of international concern.

People Can Now Be Identified at a Distance by Their Heartbeat

1 month 1 day

(The Economist) – This system, dubbed Jetson, is able to measure, from up to 200 metres away, the minute vibrations induced in clothing by someone’s heartbeat. Since hearts differ in both shape and contraction pattern, the details of heartbeats differ, too. The effect of this on the fabric of garments produces what Ideal Innovations, a firm involved in the Jetson project, calls a “heartprint”—a pattern reckoned sufficiently distinctive to confirm someone’s identity.

The Torturers Wanted to Stop, But the CIA Kept Going

1 month 1 day

(The Atlantic) – A psychologist who helped the CIA torture people told a chilling story this week at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, where legal cases are proceeding against five defendants accused of murdering almost 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. James Mitchell, one of the architects and practitioners of waterboarding, still defends the interrogation method, which involves strapping human beings to a gurney, covering their nose and mouth with a rag, and forcing water into their nasal cavity and lungs as they squirm. The technique is intended to break people by subjecting them to the primal terror of drowning.

WHO Declines to Declare China Virus Outbreak a Global Health Emergency

1 month 1 day

(STAT News) – The World Health Organization on Thursday declined to designate the ongoing outbreak of a novel virus in China a global health emergency, saying that, for now, health officials are sufficiently equipped to combat the outbreak there and in other countries and that the agency does not need the additional authorities that come from such a declaration.

The Evidence on Travel Bans for Diseases Like Coronavirus Is Clear: They Don’t Work

1 month 1 day

(Vox) – It would be one thing if there were strong evidence that travel bans work. But the trouble is, they don’t appear to be helpful. At best, travel restrictions, and even airport screenings, delay the spread of disease but don’t impact the number of people who eventually get sick. Instead, they make it harder for international aid and experts to reach communities affected by disease. They are also expensive, resource-intensive, and potentially harmful to the economies of cities and countries involved.

An Ethical Future for Brain Organoids Takes Shape

1 month 1 day

(Quanta) – In the popular imagination, fueled by over-the-top descriptions of organoids as “mini-brains,” these questions often center on whether the tissue might become conscious and experience its unnatural existence as torture. The more immediate, realistic concerns that trouble experts are less sensational but still significant. It also doesn’t help that the study of organoids falls into an odd gap between other areas of research, complicating formal ethical oversight. Still, no one wants to see brain organoids’ potential discarded lightly.

Federal Government Backs Ohio on Down Syndrome Abortion Law

1 month 2 days

(ABC News) – The federal government took Ohio’s side Tuesday in a lawsuit over a state law prohibiting doctors from performing abortions based on a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome. “Nothing in Ohio’s law creates a substantial obstacle to women obtaining an abortion,” the Justice Department said in a filing, “and nothing in the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent requires States to authorize medical providers to participate in abortions the providers know are based on Down syndrome.”

WHO Postpones Decision on Whether to Declare China Outbreak a Global Public Health Emergency

1 month 2 days

(STAT News) – The World Health Organization on Wednesday delayed a decision on whether to declare the ongoing outbreak of a novel virus that originated in China a global health emergency, with the head of the agency saying experts needed more information first. Following a meeting of a WHO emergency committee, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said he had asked the committee to continue the discussion Thursday.

Diagnosed with Dementia, She Documented Her Wishes. They Said No.

1 month 2 days

(Kaiser Health News) – One key question is whether patients with dementia ? or those who fear the disease ? can say in advance that they want oral food and fluids stopped at a certain point, a move that would hasten death through dehydration. It’s a controversial form of what’s known as VSED ? voluntarily stopping eating and drinking ? a practice among some terminally ill patients who want to end their lives. In those cases, people who still have mental capacity can refuse food and water, resulting in death within about two weeks. Many states prohibit the withdrawal of assisted feeding, calling it basic “comfort care” that must be offered.

Cases of New Viral Respiratory Illness Rise Sharply in China

1 month 2 days

(Associated Press) – Chinese health authorities urged people in the city of Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings, after warning that a new viral illness that has infected more than 400 people and killed at least 17 could spread further. The appeal came as the World Health Organization convened a group of independent experts to advise whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.  The number of new cases has risen sharply in China, the center of the outbreak. Seventeen people have died, all in Hubei province, since the outbreak emerged in its provincial capital of Wuhan late last month, officials announced Wednesday night. They said the province has confirmed 444 cases there.

Her Own Birth Was ‘Fertility Fraud’ And Now She Needs Fertility Treatment

1 month 3 days

(NPR) – In the 1970s and 80s, Cline deceived dozens of patients and used his own sperm to impregnate them. He has more than 60 biological children — and counting. For Woock, as the story of her parentage sunk in, it was distressing for another reason: She wanted to start her own family and was having trouble conceiving. And now she needed to turn to the fertility industry that had so badly betrayed her mom.

WHO Raises Possibility of ‘Sustained’ Human-to-Human Transmission of New Virus in China

1 month 3 days

(STAT News) – The World Health Organization on Tuesday raised the possibility that the new virus spreading in parts of China may be transmitting in an ongoing, sustained manner between people — which, if confirmed, would make it significantly more difficult to stop. The agency’s Western Pacific Regional office, which covers China and neighboring countries, said on Twitter that new information “suggests there may now be sustained human-to-human transmission.”

Health Officials Confirm First U.S. Case of China Coronavirus, Expand Screening

1 month 3 days

(Reuters) – A U.S. resident who recently traveled to China has been diagnosed with the newly identified coronavirus that has sickened more than 300 people and killed at least six in China, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Tuesday. The U.S. patient is responding well to treatment and was not severely ill, CDC and Washington State health officials said. 

Hospitals Give Tech Giants Access to Detailed Medical Records

1 month 3 days

(The Wall Street Journal) – Hospitals have granted Microsoft Corp., MSFT -0.36% International Business Machines IBM 0.62% Corp. and Amazon[dot]com Inc. AMZN 1.46% the ability to access identifiable patient information under deals to crunch millions of health records, the latest examples of hospitals’ growing influence in the data economy. The breadth of access wasn’t always spelled out by hospitals and tech giants when the deals were struck.

Benzodiazepines Might Be a ‘Hidden Element’ of the US’ Overdose Epidemic–And Doctor Visits for Prescriptions Are Increasing

1 month 4 days

(CNN) – Doctors have been increasingly prescribing benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” in recent years. Looking at data from 2014 to 2016, new research found this class of central nervous system depressants was prescribed at about 65.9 million office-based doctor visits. That’s a rate of 27 annual visits per 100 adults. The research, which analyzed data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, was published on Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Deadly Mystery Virus Reported in 2 New Chinese Cities and South Korea

1 month 4 days

(The New York Times) – The authorities in China reported a third death from a mysterious virus and more than 130 new cases over the weekend, including ones found in Beijing and southern China for the first time. One new case was also reported in South Korea on Monday. The jump in cases raised questions about how the virus is being transmitted and added to concerns about the spread of the illness ahead of China’s busiest travel season.

Research on Embryo-Like Structures Struggles to Win US Government Funding

1 month 4 days

(Nature) – Scientists can now create clumps of cells that resemble human embryos, raising hopes that they could study the elusive first stages of human development while avoiding the ethical concerns that make it difficult to study actual human embryos. But as these embryo models — in which human stem cells are transformed into embryo-like structures whose growth mirrors more advanced stages of embryo development — grow in popularity, US researchers say they are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain federal funding for such work.

Nations Dawdle on Agreeing Rules to Control ‘Killer Robots’ in Future Wars

1 month 4 days

(Reuters) – Countries are rapidly developing “killer robots” – machines with artificial intelligence (AI) that independently kill – but are moving at a snail’s pace on agreeing global rules over their use in future wars, warn technology and human rights experts. From drones and missiles to tanks and submarines, semi-autonomous weapons systems have been used for decades to eliminate targets in modern day warfare – but they all have human supervision.

Benzodiazepine Prescriptions Reach ‘Disturbing’ Levels in the US

1 month 1 week

(New Scientist) – Benzodiazepine drugs are prescribed at about 66 million doctor appointments a year in the US, according to a report by the US National Center for Health Statistics. This means that for every 100 adults that visit an office-based doctor over the course of a year, 27 visits will result in a prescription for a benzodiazepine. The figures, based on surveys conducted between 2014 and 2016, are “discouraging and disappointing”, says Lois Platt at Rush University in Chicago. “The statistics we have are disturbing, and everyone should be concerned about bringing them down,” she says.

Fake Drugs: How Bad Is Africa’s Counterfeit Medicine Problem?

1 month 1 week

(BBC) – The proliferation of fake medicines in Africa is a public health crisis that can no longer be ignored, according to a UK charity. There’s a meeting of seven African countries, in Togo, this week, to combat the problem. Congo, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Uganda, Ghana and The Gambia will discuss measures to clamp down on trafficking in fake medicines, says the Brazzaville Foundation. But how big a problem is counterfeit medicine in Africa, and what impact does it have?

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