News from Bioethics.com

U.S. Health Officials Record 14 New Cases of Measles as Outbreak Slows

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(Reuters) – The United States recorded 14 new measles cases between June 27 and July 3, federal health officials said on Monday, signaling a slowdown in the spread of the disease that has infected 1,109 people this year in the worst U.S. outbreak since 1992. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it had seen a 1.3% increase in cases since the previous week and that it has recorded cases of the highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease in 28 states.

Teens Who Abuse Opioids Likely to Use Heroin, Study Says

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(UPI) – New findings show teens who use opioids to get high are more likely to use heroin after high school. More than 13 percent of young people who currently use prescription opioids recreationally also used heroin after high school, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. But nearly 11 percent of those who stopped using prescription opioids recreationally also moved on to heroin after graduation. That’s compared to only 1.7 percent of teens who didn’t get high on opioids during high school school but still used heroin after graduation.

Nerve Surgery Helps People with Paralysis Control Their Hands and Arms

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(New Scientist) – Surgeons have reanimated the hands and arms of people who are paralysed by connecting up working nerves to the injured ones, giving people the ability to use their phones, apply make-up and feed themselves again. The surgery is life-changing, says surgeon Natasha van Zyl at Austin Health, Australia. One of her patients is currently travelling in Europe, and another can now take his grandchild to the movies by himself – both are leading drastically more independent lives than either had before.

Why Are Menstruating Women in India Removing Their Wombs?

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(BBC) – Periods have long been a taboo in the country, menstruating women are believed to be impure and are still excluded from social and religious events. In recent years, these archaic ideas have been increasingly challenged, especially by urban educated women. But two recent reports show that India’s very problematic relationship with menstruation continues. A vast majority of women, especially those from poor families, with no agency and no education, are forced to make choices that have long-term and irreversible impacts on their health and their lives. 

DR Congo Ebola Death Toll Exceeds 1,600 Mark

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(Medical Xpress) – Deaths from an 11-month-old epidemic of Ebola in eastern DR Congo have crossed the 1,600 mark and a new fatality has been reported near the border with Uganda, the health ministry said on Friday. As of Thursday, the health authorities had recorded 2,382 cases of Ebola, of which 1,606 had been fatal, it said.

The Legal Limbo of Lost Embryos

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(Vox) – Freezer failures may be a first-world problem, but they’re not innocent lapses or harmless errors. Even if biological kids weren’t a sure thing, most fertility patients had a real chance that the malfunctions erased. In every other area of medicine, that loss of chance is usually enough to justify proportional recovery for whatever potential loss or causal contribution can be traced to a health professional’s misconduct.

Acne’s Wonder Drug Is a Mental-Health Puzzle

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(The Atlantic) – Meanwhile, a steady stream of research has continued to probe the question of whether isotretinoin causes depression and suicide. None of it has conclusively proved an answer. But a study published today in JAMA Dermatology contends that, for all the focus on these most dramatic side effects, dermatologists and psychiatrists might have overlooked other potential mental-health risks for patients taking the drug.

Attempt to Replicate Clinical Trials with Real-World Data Generates Real-World Criticism, Too

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(STAT News) – It’s one of the most seductive ideas in medicine: that “real-world evidence,” including data from electronic health record systems and even records of insurance payouts, could replace the far more expensive and time-consuming studies currently considered the gold standard. The Food and Drug Administration is required, under the 21st Century Cures Act, to explore this idea. And late last month, New York private health care company Aetion published the findings of a study in which real-world evidence was used to try to replicate the results of a specific randomized, controlled clinical trial. Did it work? It depends on who you ask.

Liver Donations Seen Feasible After Assisted Suicide

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(MedPage Today) – Just as organs harvested after a fatal drug overdose can often be safely transplanted, so may livers taken from individuals undergoing physician-assisted suicide, Belgian researchers reported in a JAMA research letter. In a retrospective single-center review, Diethard Monbaliu, MD, PhD, of University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium, and colleagues found the following 3-year outcomes for graft and patients’ overall survival, respectively, by type of donor death.

New Guidelines Aim to Enlist Primary Care Physicians in Transgender Case

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(STAT News) – In a move that reflects a growing acceptance of transgender individuals in the U.S., the American College of Physicians on Monday issued its first guidelines on caring for transgender patients. This isn’t the first set of such guidelines. They go back at least 10 years, initially aimed at endocrinologists, the medical specialty to which transgender individuals were often referred. What is newsworthy about the new guidelines is the audience, “your critical mass of general internal medicine people who are primary care providers and also people who are family medicine doctors,” said Dr. Joshua Safer, professor of endocrinology and executive director of the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City.

As Ebola Outbreak Rages, the World Just Watches. Some Call It ‘Malignant Neglect’

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(Los Angeles Times) – The Ebola outbreak raging through Congo has sickened thousands of people and killed more than 1,500 — even as the number of new victims continues to climb. The situation is dire, but it’s hardly unprecedented. Less than five years ago, an epidemic in West Africa killed more than 11,000 people, shattering communities, destroying economies and leaving a generation of orphans behind. When it was over, world leaders took a solemn vow: Never again. Health officials studied the failures of their sluggish and haphazard response so they would recognize the warning signs of a crisis not to be ignored.

Scientists Make Model Embryos from Stem Cells to Study Key Steps in Human Development

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(NPR) – Scientists have created living entities that resemble very primitive human embryos, the most advanced example of these structures yet created in a lab. The researchers hope these creations, made from human embryonic stem cells, will provide crucial new insights into human development and lead to new ways to treat infertility and prevent miscarriages, birth defects and many diseases. The researchers say this is the first time scientists have created living models of human embryos with three-dimensional structures.

The American Medical Association Is Taking a More Aggressive Approach on Abortion Legislation

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(TIME) – The group, which represents all types of physicians in the U.S., has tended to stay on the sidelines of many controversial social issues, which, until recently, included abortion and contraception. Instead, it has focused on legislation affecting the practice and finances of large swaths of its membership. But, says AMA President Patrice Harris, the organization feels that, in light of new state laws in the U.S. that would force doctors who perform abortions to lie to patients—put “physicians in a place where we are required by law to commit an ethical violation”—it has no choice but to take a stand.

Mother of French Quadriplegic Brings Appeal to Keep Him Alive to U.N.

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(Reuters) – The mother of a quadriplegic French man who has been in a vegetative state for more than a decade brought her case to the United Nations on Monday, seeking diplomatic pressure for maintaining his life support. France’s top court ruled last Friday that Vincent Lambert should be allowed to die. The Cour de Cassation overruled an appeals court which in May had ordered doctors to keep Vincent Lambert alive, just 12 hours after medics had already switched off the man’s life support against his parents’ will.

Kentucky Students Lose Appeal in Chickenpox Vaccination Case

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(ABC News) – More than two dozen Catholic school students and their parents have lost their initial appeal in challenging a Kentucky health department’s efforts to control a chickenpox outbreak they claim infringed on their religious beliefs. A three-judge panel of the Kentucky Court of Appeals sided with a trial court judge who ruled in April that the Northern Kentucky Health Department acted within its authority.

CDC Panel Recommends Hepatitis A Vaccination Through Age 18 and for HIV Patients

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(CNN) – Amid a surge in hepatitis A cases across the United States, an advisory panel for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending vaccination against the virus for children and teens who have not been immunized, as well as HIV patients. Previously, hepatitis A vaccination was recommended for children ages 12 to 23 months.

Mini-Brains Grown from Stem Cells Don’t Think, But They Do Show ‘Complex’ Neural Activity, Research Say

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(CNN) – Floating disembodied conscious brains that issue commands to luckless human minions may be a cliché of science fiction, but they are a far cry from the primitive, lab-grown “cerebral organoids” that real scientists study today. New research suggests that contemporary mini-brains — even if inferior to their fictional counterparts — are still capable of a surprise or two. Evidence of dynamic activity, in individual and synchronized neurons, was seen across a network of cerebral organoids grown from stem cells in a preliminary study published Thursday in the journal Stem Cell Reports. 

Embryo Experiments Take ‘Baby Steps’ Toward Growing Human Organs in Livestock

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(Science) – The perpetual shortage of human organs for transplant has researchers turning to farm animals. Several biotech companies are genetically engineering pigs to make their organs more compatible with the human body. But some scientists are pursuing a different solution: growing fully human organs in pigs, sheep, or other animals, which could then be harvested for transplants. The idea is biologically daunting and ethically fraught. But a few teams are chipping away at a key roadblock: getting stem cells of one species to thrive in the embryo of another.

Five Things We Found in the FDA’s Hidden Device Database

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(Kaiser Health News) – After two decades of keeping the public in the dark about millions of medical device malfunctions and injuries, the Food and Drug Administration has published the once hidden database online, revealing 5.7 million incidents publicly for the first time. The newfound transparency follows a Kaiser Health News investigation that revealed device manufacturers, for the past two decades, had been sending reports of injuries or malfunctions to the little-known database, bypassing the public FDA database that’s pored over by doctors, researchers and patients. 

‘Compelling Evidence’ Shows HPV Vaccine Is Working

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(Medscape) – The new meta-analysis included data from 60 million individuals and up to 8 years of postvaccination follow-up. It shows a significant reduction in HPV type 16 and 18 infections, as well as a significant reductions in diagnoses of anogenital warts in teenagers of both genders and young men and women. In addition, there was a significant 51% reduction in cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2+ (CIN2+) in girls aged 15-19 years and a 31% reduction in women aged 20-24 years.

You No Longer Own Your Face

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(The Atlantic) – This notion—of a “reasonable” expectation of privacy—guides researchers hoping to observe subjects in public.  But the very idea of what’s reasonable is a complicated one. Faculty at three universities—Duke, Stanford, and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs—are currently facing backlash after creating databases built using surveillance footage of students as they walked through cafes and on college campuses. You might reasonably expect being overheard in a coffeeshop, but that’s different than suddenly becoming a research subject, part of a data set that can live forever.

Med Students Are Doing Vaginal Exams on Unconscious, Non-Consenting Patients

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(Vice) – The practice of using non-consenting, unconscious patients as pelvic-exam training tools for medical students has continued to an unknown degree across the country since Silver-Isenstadt, now a pediatrician in Baltimore, first learned about it. It happens not only during gynecological surgeries, but also in the midst of unrelated procedures like stomach surgery. As a student, Silver-Isenstadt was ready to avoid doing such an exam at all costs, and his refusal became part of a movement to end the practice—an effort that would ultimately lead to statewide bans, first in California in 2003, then in Illinois, Virginia, Oregon, Hawaii, Iowa, Utah, and Maryland.  While some individual medical schools like Harvard ban it, the practice remains legal in 42 states.

Attorneys: Texas Border Facility Is Neglecting Migrant Kids

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(Associated Press) – A 2-year-old boy locked in detention wants to be held all the time. A few girls, ages 10 to 15, say they’ve been doing their best to feed and soothe the clingy toddler who was handed to them by a guard days ago. Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station. The bleak portrait emerged Thursday after a legal team interviewed 60 children at the facility near El Paso that has become the latest place where attorneys say young migrants are describing neglect and mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government.

Lessons Learnt from Doing Research Amid a Humanitarian Crisis

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(Nature) – Although most scientists face pressures and stress in their working lives, those whose work takes place in an evolving humanitarian emergency must cope with even greater responsibility and pressure. Nature speaks to three researchers about how their work has had a direct effect on saving people’s lives, and how science is done during a crisis. Their experiences and the scope of their research are diverse, but the researchers are united by the shared goal of using science to make an impact on the world and ultimately save lives.

Louisiana Reaches ‘Netflix-Model’ Deal to Tackle Hepatitis C

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(ABC News) – For years, Louisiana offered hepatitis C treatment to only the most severe cases in its Medicaid program and prisons, unable to afford broader access to the extremely high-priced medications. That will change in July, when the state begins a first-in-the-nation treatment model it says can cure tens of thousands who have the infectious, liver-damaging disease. Louisiana’s health department announced Wednesday what it called a “subscription model” deal with Gilead Sciences subsidiary Asegua Therapeutics.

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