News from Bioethics.com

Young Patients Make Up Half of Nonmedical Prescription Drug ER Visits

2 months 3 weeks

(UPI) – As the United States continues to grapple with the years long opioid epidemic, new research shows that an overwhelming amount of overdoses — at least among those who go to the emergency room — is occurring in young users. Adults under age 35 make up more than 50 percent of visits to emergency rooms for nonprescription drug use, according to a new report from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Japan Relaxes Rules on iPS Cell Research, Potentially Paving Way for Growth of Human Organs in Animals

2 months 3 weeks

(The Japan Times) – The green light has been given to a controversial research process that involves implanting human stem cells inside animals and could eventually lead to growing human organs for transplant inside animal hosts. The decision by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology on Friday to revise its guidelines means researchers in Japan can now apply for permits to carry out studies employing the technique, a ministry official said.

FDA Chief Gottlieb Resigns

2 months 3 weeks

(Reuters) – U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb said on Tuesday he plans to step down in a month, calling into question how the agency will handle critical issues such as e-cigarette use among teens and efforts to increase competition in prescription drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA, announced Gottlieb’s resignation on Tuesday.

Self-Driving Cars May Be Likelier to Hit Black People Than White People

2 months 3 weeks

(Vox) – The list of concerns about self-driving cars just got longer.  In addition to worrying about how safe they are, how they’d handle tricky moral trade-offs on the road, and how they might make traffic worse, we also need to worry about how they could harm people of color. If you’re a person with dark skin, you may be more likely than your white friends to get hit by a self-driving car, according to a new study out of the Georgia Institute of Technology. That’s because automated vehicles may be better at detecting pedestrians with lighter skin tones.

Gene Editing Is Trickier Than Expected–But Fixes Are in Sight

2 months 3 weeks

(Wired) – Of all the big, world-remaking bets on the genome-editing tool known as Crispr, perhaps none is more tantalizing than its potential to edit some of humanity’s worst diseases right out of the history books. Just this week, Crispr Therapeutics announced it had begun treating patients with an inherited blood disorder called beta thalassemia, in the Western drug industry’s first test of the technology for genetic disease. But despite the progress, there remain a host of unknowns standing in the way of Crispr-based medicines going mainstream, chief among them safety.

Mass Drug Administration Against Malaria Seen Effective

2 months 3 weeks

(SciDevNet) – Medical researchers say that mass administration of combination drugs can stop the transmission of malaria caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite and reduce its prevalence in South-East Asian countries, where resistance of the disease to artemisinin, the standard drug, has hampered elimination efforts. According to WHO, globally, there were 219 million cases of malaria in 2017, which resulted in 435,000 deaths. P. falciparum accounted for 97 per cent of the deaths in Africa, 71.9 per cent for both the Western Pacific and the Eastern Mediterranean, and 62.8 per cent in South-East Asia.

Ten Years After the ‘Berlin Patient,’ Doctors Announce a Second Person Has Been Effectively ‘Cured’ of HIV

2 months 3 weeks

(STAT News) – For the second time, doctors appear to have put HIV into “sustained remission” with a stem cell transplant — effectively curing the recipient. Their work, which was published in Nature and will be presented at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle on Tuesday, may encourage scientists working on new gene therapies based on similar principles and give hope to those living with the infection.

Nearly 200 People in Texas Immigration Detention Facilities Have Contracted Mumps

2 months 3 weeks

(CNN) – Nearly 200 people at immigration detention facilities across Texas have contracted mumps since October, officials say. The 186 patients range from 13 to 66 years old, the Texas Department of State Health Services said Tuesday.  Most of the cases were among detainees, though five workers also contracted the virus. The state health department does not believe that it has spread into the community.

It’s Old News That Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism. But a Major New Study Aims to Refute Skeptics Again

2 months 3 weeks

(STAT News) – A massive new study from Denmark found no association between being vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella and developing autism. In science and public health circles, that issue has long since been considered settled, with multiple studies over many years discounting the findings of a small study published more than 20 years ago that has since been expunged from the medical literature.

Colombia Takes Medically Assisted Death into the Morally Murky World of Terminally Ill Children

2 months 3 weeks

(The Globe & Mail) – Colombia decriminalized medically assisted death in 2015, the first country in Latin America to take the step, but it went much further last May with a regulation that made the procedure available to children. It was a particularly striking decision in a socially conservative country where almost 80 per cent of people identify as religious Roman Catholics and where the population of evangelical Christians is growing rapidly; the churches, which vocally oppose euthanasia, are a powerful political force.

‘Gene-Edited Babies’ Is One of the Most Censored Topics on Chinese Social Media

2 months 3 weeks

(Nature) – The controversial topic of the first babies born from gene-edited embryos was one of the most censored on Chinese social media last year, according to researchers at the University of Hong Kong. On 11 February, media researchers Marcus Wang and Stella Fan posted an article to the news website Global Voices in which they describe a censorship project they are part of called WeChatscope.

Is Ethical A.I. Even Possible?

2 months 3 weeks

(New York Times) – As activists, researchers, and journalists voice concerns over the rise of artificial intelligence, warning against biased, deceptive and malicious applications, the companies building this technology are responding. From tech giants like Google and Microsoft to scrappy A.I. start-ups, many are creating corporate principles meant to ensure their systems are designed and deployed in an ethical way. Some set up ethics officers or review boards to oversee these principles. But tensions continue to rise as some question whether these promises will ultimately be kept.

An 11-Year-Old Assault Victim Was Forced to Have a C-Section in Argentina, Rights Group Says

2 months 3 weeks

(CNN) – A pregnant 11-year-old girl in Argentina was forced to have a cesarean section after she and her family had been requesting an abortion for weeks, a human rights group said.  Last month, the girl and her mother asked medics in the northern province of Tucumán for an abortion after confirming that she was pregnant, local rights group ANDHES said.  The group said the girl’s pregnancy continued for weeks before local authorities approved the procedure. A judge consulting on the case said this week that the girl could receive an abortion, CNN affiliate TN reported.

The Jail Health-Care Crisis

2 months 3 weeks

(The New Yorker) – Jails have a much higher turnover rate than prisons, where inmates generally serve long sentences. Prison wardens face their own problems, serving populations that suffer from chronic diseases and conditions related to aging, in addition to high rates of addiction and mental illness. Yet the crisis is particularly acute in jails, because large numbers of people booked into custody are in a state of distress or, like Laintz, will suffer withdrawal, which can require close monitoring and specialized treatment that jail wardens are not equipped to provide. Many jails are in rural or poor counties, where administrators complain that they have neither the resources nor the expertise to hire, train, and supervise doctors and nurses in the particular demands that their facilities require.

States Move to Restrict Parents’ Refusal to Vaccinate Their Kids

2 months 3 weeks

(NPR) – Michelle Mello, a professor of law and health research and policy at Stanford University, says the bar for claiming an exemption from vaccine requirements has been very low in many states. “You can believe that vaccines don’t work or that they are unsafe or they simply fly in the face of your parenting philosophy,” she says. But this winter’s outbreaks of measles across the nation are resulting in challenges to many exemptions: At least eight states, including some that have experienced measles outbreaks this year, want to remove personal exemptions for the measles vaccine. And some states would remove the exemption for all vaccines.

Is DNA Left on Envelopes Fair Game for Testing?

2 months 3 weeks

(The Atlantic) – In the past year, genealogists have been abuzz about the possibility of getting DNA out of old stamps and envelopes. In addition to MyHeritage, a British company called Living DNA began informally offering the service for $400 to $600 last year, and a small Australian start-up called Totheletter DNA, which specializes in DNA from envelopes and stamps, launched a similarly priced service in July. MyHeritage says its own service should debut later this year. (A spokesperson declined to comment on when Einstein and Churchill’s DNA profiles will be uploaded to the company’s site.)

Philippines to Charge Officials of Sanofi, Government over Dengue Vaccine

2 months 3 weeks

(Reuters) – The Philippine Department of Justice on Friday said it had found probable cause to indict officials from French drugmaker Sanofi and former and current Philippine health officials over 10 deaths it said were linked to use of a dengue vaccine. It recommended charges be filed in court for multiple counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, due to what it said were procedural lapses and irregularities in implementing a Philippine dengue immunization program using Sanofi’s Dengvaxia.

Autism’s Common Risk Genes Identified

2 months 3 weeks

(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – An international research effort headed by scientists from the Danish iPSYCH initiative and the Broad Institute has identified the first common genetic risk factors for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The genome-wide association meta-analysis, involving more than 18,000 individuals with ASD and nearly 30,000 controls, also identified genetic variations between different types of autism. The researchers suggest their findings could ultimately lead to new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

‘Miraculous’ Stem Cell Therapy Has Sickened People in 5 States

2 months 3 weeks

(Chicago Tribune) – Over the past year, at least 17 people have been hospitalized after being injected with products made from umbilical cord blood, a little-known but fast-growing segment of the booming stem cell industry, according to state and federal health officials and patient reports. Sold as a miracle cure for a variety of intractable conditions, the injections have sickened people in five states, prompting new warnings from health officials about the risks of unproven stem cell treatments. All but two of the illnesses have been linked to a single company: Liveyon of Yorba Linda, California.

CRISPR Offshoot Still Makes Mistakes Editing DNA, Raising Concerns about Its Medical Use

2 months 3 weeks

(Science) – Variations of the genome editor CRISPR have wowed biology labs around the world over the past few years because they can precisely change single DNA bases, promising deft repairs for genetic diseases and improvements in crop and livestock genomes. But such “base editors” can have a serious weakness. A pair of studies published online in Science this week shows that one kind of base editor causes many unwanted—and potentially dangerous—“off-target” genetic changes.

Is It Cruel and Unusual to Execute a Man with Dementia?

2 months 3 weeks

(The Atlantic) – That question—when can the state impose the ultimate penalty on a condemned prisoner who, because of dementia, can’t remember the crime?—is at issue in Madison v. Alabama, which the Court decided, 5–3, on Wednesday. It’s also a taste of the death-penalty jurisprudence of the future. Vernon Madison murdered an Alabama police officer in 1985. After several mistrials on constitutional grounds, he was convicted in 1998 and pursued federal habeas relief until 2015. Meanwhile, Madison’s health collapsed. After a series of strokes, he is now unable to walk, and is also incontinent and legally blind. He cannot recite the alphabet or rephrase a simple sentence. Perhaps most important legally, he can no longer remember the crime he committed.

Big Pharma Is Embracing Open-Access Publishing Like Never Before

2 months 3 weeks

(Nature) – Scientists who work in the pharmaceutical industry have begun to publish a higher proportion of their papers open access than academics who aren’t in industry, according to an analysis. In a literature analysis, researchers found that the proportion of open-access papers published by 23 large drug companies, such as Pfizer and Roche, almost doubled between 2009 and 2016, and has overtaken the proportion of freely available papers published generally in medicine-related fields. The study was posted to the SocArXiv preprint server on 7 February.

Listening to Older Patients Who Want to Stop Dialysis

2 months 3 weeks

(STAT News) – Older adults with advanced kidney disease who want to forgo dialysis often encounter similar resistance from physicians, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine by Wong and colleagues at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, where she’s an investigator. The researchers documented doctors’ reactions by reviewing medical charts of 851 older patients with chronic kidney disease who refused dialysis at the VA health system from 2000 to 2011. In their notes, physicians frequently speculated the patients were incompetent, depressed, suicidal or irrational.

Argentine 11-Year-Old’s C-Section Sparks Abortion Debate

2 months 3 weeks

(BBC) – News that doctors performed a caesarean section on an 11-year-old rape victim has reignited a debate on Argentina’s abortion rules. The girl became pregnant after being raped by her grandmother’s 65-year-old partner and had requested an abortion. However, her request was delayed by almost five weeks, and some doctors refused to carry out the procedure. Eventually doctors carried out a C-section instead, arguing it would have been too risky to perform the abortion.

For Future Offspring, Docs Save Eggs from Teen Transitioning Female-to-Male

2 months 3 weeks

(Medical Xpress) – You’re a 14-year-old transgender boy who has opted to block normal female puberty before it can begin. What happens if you and your parents decide to preserve some of your eggs, in case you want to have children later in life? In this real-life case, doctors were able to retrieve and freeze four viable eggs from the patient, who was born a girl, but identified as male. The findings were published in a report in the Feb. 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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