News from Bioethics.com

UN: Opioids Cause Two-Thirds of Global Drug Deaths

1 month 3 weeks

(UPI) – About 217 million people worldwide abuse illicit drugs in 2017, representing a 30 percent jump from 10 years prior, according to new latest figures released Wednesday. Much of that came from an increase in opioid use, which spiked by 56 percent globally compared to previous estimates, according to a new report published by the United Nations.

China Organ Transplant Claims Raise Alarm About Research

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(Nature) – A startling report concluding that prisoners in China are being killed for their organs has renewed concerns about the origins of some organs used in research. On 17 June, the China Tribunal, a panel established by the non-governmental organization the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), concluded that prisoners in China, in particular those imprisoned for their political or religious views, have been killed for their organs for years. It said that the practice — which it branded a crime against humanity — probably still continues.

In Secret, Seniors Discuss ‘Rational Suicide’

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(Kaiser Health News) – A Kaiser Health News investigation in April found that older Americans — a few hundred per year, at least — are killing themselves while living in or transitioning to long-term care. Many cases KHN reviewed involved depression or mental illness. What’s not clear is how many of these suicides involve clear-minded people exercising what Davis would call a rational choice. Suicide prevention experts contend that while it’s normal to think about death as we age, suicidal ideation is a sign that people need help. They argue that all suicides should be avoided by addressing mental health and helping seniors live a rich and fulfilling life. But to Lois, the 86-year-old woman who organized the meeting outside Philadelphia, suicides by older Americans are not all tragedies.

Consumer Genetic Testing Companies Team Up to Lobby on Privacy Policy

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(STAT News) – Anticipating more federal scrutiny of genetic privacy policies, three leading consumer genetic companies have formed an advocacy group to defend their efforts to safeguard information about their customers’ DNA and separate themselves from perceived bad actors. The Coalition for Genetic Data Protection — launched by Ancestry, 23andMe, and Helix — will provide the companies a “collective voice” in talking to lawmakers, said its executive director, Steve Haro, a principal at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas. The group is advocating for a comprehensive genetic data privacy bill that aligns with the policies the companies follow and have espoused, he said.

Unproven Stem Cell Therapies Often Peddled by Doctors Without Training

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(Reuters) – At U.S. clinics advertising unproven stem cell treatments, roughly two-thirds of the clinicians may be physicians, but a new study suggests these doctors are often trained in specialties unrelated to the services they provide. “About half of the companies we examined offer unproven stem cell treatments for conditions (for) which they do not have a physician with the appropriate residency and fellowship training,” said senior study author Zubin Master, of the Biomedical Ethics Research Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Patent Office Reopens Major CRISPR Battle Between Broad Institute and Univ. of California

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(STAT News) – The U.S. patent office has declared an interference between a dozen key patents awarded to the Broad Institute on the genome-editing technology CRISPR and 10 CRISPR patent applications submitted by the University of California and its partners, according to documents posted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The declaration of an interference means that the patent office has determined that one or more patent applications describe inventions that are substantially the same as those for which patents have already been issued.

Freezing Embryos Doesn’t Boost IVF Success Rate Despite Common Use

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(New Scientist) – A commonly used fertility medicine technique of freezing embryos and waiting several weeks before using them is ineffective at boosting pregnancy rates, a trial has shown. The approach is growing in popularity, and in the US about a quarter of IVF cycles now use this “freeze-all” strategy, although this includes women who need it for health reasons. During standard IVF, women take medicines to encourage their ovaries to produce several eggs, which are then collected and fertilised with sperm in a dish. Any embryos are allowed to grow for a few days before one or two are transferred into the uterus in the hope one will implant and lead to pregnancy. Any spare embryos are frozen for future attempts.

CDC: U.S. Measles Cases Climb to 1,077

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(UPI) – Measles cases continue to pile up in the United States, as the nation has now reached 1,077 cases, which are spread through 28 states. The number is an increase of 33 from the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new record represents the highest number of measles cases since 1992. The disease had been declared eliminated in 2000.

Three Euthanasia Cases Face Investigation in Netherlands

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(The Guardian) – Three euthanasia cases involving women with psychiatric conditions and dementia are under investigation in the Netherlands, the Observer can reveal. Prosecutors confirmed that the deaths, in 2017 and 2018, were being investigated for potentially breaching strict conditions in the 2002 law that allows people in the Netherlands to ask a doctor to help them die.

British Judge Orders Disabled 22-Week Pregnant Woman to Have Abortion

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(Fox News) – A British judge ordered Friday that an abortion be performed on a mentally disabled woman who is 22 weeks pregnant, despite objections from the woman and her mother. Justice Nathalie Lieven admits in the ruling of the “heartbreaking” case that it’s an “immense intrusion” to order the abortion against the woman’s will, but argued that it’s in the best interest of the woman.

Leaps and Boundaries: The Rise of China as a Science Superpower

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(The Sydney Morning Herald) – That push to science superstardom is yielding dividends. Last year China overtook the US as the world’s largest producer of scientific papers. And it is propelled, says Nie, by a number of key traits in Chinese culture. Scientism, a veneration of science as key to social progress, is widespread. Anti-traditionalism, celebrated annually in the May 4 movement, elevates science and even democracy over traditional Confucian values such as “filial piety” – respect for parents and ancestors. And there is another popular attitude in China which has a disturbing resonance in the West. “He Jiankui’s experiment is part of the eugenics discourse,” says Nie.

People of Color Are Less Likely to Receive Organ Transplants

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(Undark) – Patients who experience organ failure need a transplant to improve their odds of survival and to achieve a better quality of life.  However, getting an organ transplant is often accompanied by several challenges, many of which can be attributed to factors like the state of an individual’s living circumstances, their economic status, and where they were born. As a result, many racial and ethnic minorities, such as African Americans, Latinx individuals, and Native Americans, must unjustly wait longer for a much-needed new organ — or never receive one at all because of these barriers to care.

Meet the Ebola Workers Battling a Virus in a War Zone

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(Nature) – That is a difficult task in the eastern DRC, where more than a dozen armed groups have killed millions of civilians over the past 25 years. The region’s residents have also endured decades of mineral exploitation, controversial interventions from the United Nations and foreign governments, and political corruption. Now, Ebola responders are asking for the trust of communities that had never heard of this strange and terrifying disease before the current outbreak — and many residents are wary.

Missouri Orders Lone Abortion Clinic to Close; Judge Keeps It Open for Now

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(Reuters) – Missouri health officials on Friday refused to renew the license of the state’s only abortion clinic, but the facility will remain open for now as a judge left in place an injunction blocking its closure.  At a brief state circuit court hearing on Friday, Judge Michael Stelzer said it might be days before the court would come to a decision on whether the state could shut its only abortion clinic, which is operated by women’s healthcare and abortion provider Planned Parenthood. 

Cancer in Children Born Through IVF: Is the Risk Real?

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(Medscape) – Each year, the 1-2 million in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments performed worldwide result in 8 million children. The safety of fertility treatments has been evaluated from the early days of assisted reproduction technology (ART), and reports about the risk for cancer among children conceived through ART have been conflicting. A recent study assessed the risk for cancer among the offspring of subfertile women seen in fertility clinics in the Netherlands. Of 47,690 live-born children, 231 (93 conceived with ART and 138 conceived without ART) were diagnosed with cancer during a median of 21 years of follow up.

CRISPR Babies: When Will the World Be Ready?

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(Nature) – But he had begun studying biology in the army in the hope of learning more about the disease. He found out about a process called preimplantation genetic diagnosis or PGD. By conceiving through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and screening the embryos, Carroll and his wife could all but eliminate the chance of passing on the mutation. They decided to give it a shot, and had twins free of the Huntington’s mutation in 2006. Now Carroll is a researcher at Western Washington University in Bellingham, where he uses another technique that might help couples in his position: CRISPR gene editing.

Children at Risk of Having Their Organs Harvested Flee to UK to Escape Criminal Gangs

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(The Telegraph) – Lungs, kidneys, livers, hearts and corneas are among the most sought-after organs and are sold on the black market around the world for thousands-of-pounds. Victims are often political prisoners or vulnerable, poor people. Almost 20 children and adults have been reported to UK authorities in recent years. Last year saw a record number of suspected victims claiming that they had been subjected to one of the most gruesome and harrowing forms of human trafficking and modern slavery.

Genetics Research Gets Help from Social Media

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(Reuters) – Researchers have harnessed the power of social media to build a genetic database, according to a new report. The “Genes for Good” project, which turned to Facebook to recruit people to fill out surveys and send in saliva samples for DNA analysis, has thus far collected data from more than 27,000 volunteers.

Miracle Machine Makes Heroic Rescues–And Leaves Patients in Limbo

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(Kaiser Health News) – Experts caution that as ECMO becomes more available, it is also being used as a last-ditch attempt to buy more time for dying patients with poor chances of survival. ECMO is not designed to be a destination, but a bridge to somewhere — recovery, transplantation or an implanted heart device. But when patients are too sick to reach those goals, ECMO can become a “bridge to nowhere,” leaving the patient in limbo, possibly even awake and alert, but with no chance of survival outside the intensive care unit. Medical teams and families can be fiercely divided over when to pull the plug.

Artificial Intelligence Could Revolutionize Medical Care. But Don’t Trust It to Read Your X-Ray Just Yet

2 months 1 day

(Science) – Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to upend the practice of medicine, boosting the efficiency and accuracy of diagnosis in specialties that rely on images, such as radiology and pathology. But as the technology gallops ahead, experts are grappling with its potential downsides. “Just working with the technology, I see lots of ways it can fail,” says Albert Hsiao, a radiologist at the University of California, San Diego, who has developed algorithms for reading cardiac images and improving their quality. One major concern: Most AI software is designed and tested in one hospital, and it risks faltering when transferred to another.

Low-Income African Countries ‘Pay 30 Times More’ for Drugs

2 months 2 days

(BBC) – African countries with small to medium-sized economies pay far more money for less effective drugs, a leading health expert has told BBC Newsday. In countries such as Zambia, Senegal and Tunisia, everyday drugs like paracetamol can cost up to 30 times more than in the UK and USA. Drug markets in poorer countries “just don’t work”, said Kalipso Chalkidou from the Centre for Global Development.  She said “competition is broken” due to a “concentrated supply chain”. 

U.S. Teen Suicides Rising, Especially Among Boys

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(Reuters) – For nearly a decade, suicide rates have been climbing among U.S. teens, with an especially pronounced increase in boys recently, a new study suggests. Rates among teens began to increase in 2007, with an even sharper rise between 2014 and 2017, the last year for which there is data, according to the report published in JAMA. Rates among young adults also rose during this period, the researchers reported. The rate among teens had been rising faster in girls than in boys until 2015, when the rate among boys rose sharply.

Plastic Surgery Clients Are Getting Younger–and Doctors Say Selfies Are to Blame

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(Quartz) – Plastic surgery clients are trending younger globally, and doctors and psychologists are pointing to the rise of social media as playing a role. According to a report in the South China Morning Post, not only is the number of aesthetic plastic surgery cases—including cosmetic procedures like rhinoplasty, facelifts, and lip augmentations—on the rise globally, but the average age of clients is also dropping. Of the 22 million Chinese who underwent cosmetic procedures in 2018, clients under age 28 accounted for 54% (nearly 12 million) of patients.

China Is Harvesting Organs from Detainees, Tribunal Concludes

2 months 2 days

(The Guardian) – An independent tribunal sitting in London has concluded that the killing of detainees in China for organ transplants is continuing, and victims include imprisoned followers of the Falun Gong movement. The China Tribunal, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who was a prosecutor at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said in a unanimous determination at the end of its hearings it was “certain that Falun Gong as a source – probably the principal source – of organs for forced organ harvesting”.

WHO Says Ebola Outbreak Is Not an International Public Health Emergency

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(NPR) – The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo “does not meet the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” the World Health Organization said Friday. The agency said that while the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo constitutes a health emergency for that country and the region, the risk of it spreading beyond that region is low.

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