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Hurricane Michael: Death Toll Continues to Rise Amid Searches

October 17, 2018

(BBC) – Areas of the US devastated by Hurricane Michael last week are continuing to count the storm’s cost as the number of confirmed dead rises. At least 27 deaths have been blamed on the hurricane across four US states – a number expected to increase further. A volunteer organisation has said it is trying to find more than 1,100 people believed to be unaccounted for. The storm destroyed buildings and flattened communities as it tore through the Florida panhandle region.

States Act to Safeguard Young Cancer Patients’ Chances to Have Children

October 17, 2018

(Kaiser Health News) – The question of fertility is often overlooked when young cancer patients are battling a life-threatening illness. And since health insurance doesn’t typically cover fertility preservation care, patients and their families may be deterred by the cost. But a growing number of states now require plans to cover such services when medically necessary treatment jeopardizes fertility.

Gilead’s HIV Prevention Pill Can Greatly Reduce New Infections in Targeted Rollouts

October 17, 2018

(STAT News) – For the first time, a study has confirmed that using the HIV-prevention pill can effectively thwart the virus in uninfected men by a significant amount, a finding that patient activists argue should spur public health officials to more aggressively push for wider access to the medicine. By giving men the PrEP pill on a rapid and targeted basis, the HIV diagnosis rate fell by 25 percent in just one year, from 295 cases in the fall of 2016 to 221 cases the following year, according to the study, which was published in The Lancet HIV journal.

Stephen Hawking Predicted That Genetically Engineered Superhumans Could Destroy Humanity

October 17, 2018

(Newsweek) – Before his death in March of this year, Stephen Hawking warned that genetic engineering could lead to the rise of a superhuman species, with disastrous consequences for the rest of humanity. The stark message is just one of many predictions outlined in the renowned theoretical physicist’s new book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, which was published today. According to the publishers, Hawking was regularly asked for his thoughts on the “big questions” by scientists, tech entrepreneurs, senior business figures, political leaders and the general public.

These Real-Life Cyborgs Are Changing Their Brains by Enhancing Their Bodies

October 17, 2018

(Quartz) – Researchers have found that new experiences carry on molding our brains, and how they learn, right the way through our lives. “Your brain remains plastic until your death,” says Adrien Peyrache, a neuroscientist at McGill University, who points to a 2011 study of London cab drivers, published in the journal Current Biology.

Stem Cell Transplant Effective as First Line in Aggressive MS

October 17, 2018

(Medscape) – More very encouraging data on the use of autologous stem cell transplant in multiple sclerosis (MS) have been presented. There was no evidence of disease activity post transplant in patients who previously had extremely aggressive disease. The case series of 20 patients was reported at the 34th Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) 2018 here by Joyutpal Das, MBBS, Royal Hallamshire Hospital Sheffield, United Kingdom.

Fewer Cases of Euthanasia Last Year; Doctors’ Concerns May Be to Blame

October 17, 2018

(Dutch News) – The number of reported cases of euthanasia has fallen for the first time since the practice was formalised in 2002, Trouw reported on Tuesday. There were 4,600 cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands in the first nine months of this year, a drop of 9% on the same period in 2017, Trouw said. Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the regional euthanasia monitoring committee, told the paper he is surprised at the reducation. ‘Given the greying of the population, an increase was to have been expected,’ he said.

‘Disease’ vs. ‘Difference’: A Question of Eugenics

October 17, 2018

(The Atlantic) – A new video from Jill Rosenbaum at Retro Report, in association with American Experience, premiering on The Atlantic today, depicts some major bioethics quandaries that have resulted from advances in genetic screening technology. With prenatal and carrier testing now available for hundreds of conditions, it’s more common than ever for prospective parents to undergo screening for a fetus or embryo. But the conditions tested for vary significantly in terms of severity and risk of heredity.

Survey Finds Widespread ‘Moral Distress’ Among Veterinarians

October 17, 2018

(NPR) – In some ways, it can be harder to be a doctor of animals than a doctor of humans. “We are in the really unenviable, and really difficult, position of caring for patients maybe for their entire lives, developing our own relationships with those animals — and then being asked to kill them,” says Dr. Lisa Moses, a veterinarian at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center and a bioethicist at Harvard Medical School.

As a Therapist, How Should I Grieve after a Patient’s Suicide?

October 16, 2018

(Mosaic) – Although recent figures are scarce, it is estimated that approximately half of psychiatrists and 1 in 5 psychologists in the USA experience a patient dying by suicide. In the UK last year there were 5,821 suicides registered: 10 deaths per 100,000 people. We know that the effects are devastating for family and friends left behind. Less is known about the reactions of professionals. What if the person who has died is your patient?

CDC Expresses Concern Over Mysterious Surge in Polio-Like Paralysis Cases

October 16, 2018

(STAT News) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expressed frustration and concern Tuesday about a puzzling surge in cases of polio-like paralysis, mostly in children, being reported across the country this year. The agency said 127 cases of acute flaccid myelitis have been reported so far in 2018. To date, 62 of those cases, from 22 states, have been confirmed; investigations of the others are ongoing. The mysterious increase in cases of AFM, as it’s called, was first spotted in the late summer and autumn of 2014. There have been cases each year since, but the numbers have been higher on alternate years. This year is one of them.

Reproduction Revolution: How Our Skin Cells Might Be Turned into Sperm and Eggs

October 16, 2018

(The Guardian) – If eggs and thus IVF embryos could be produced easily and in large numbers, says Greely, that could change the landscape of assisted conception when combined with the option of genetic screening. This can be done ever more cheaply and quickly for embryos and is currently permitted in the UK for identifying those carrying certain genetic disease mutations. With such technologies in place, says Greely, “the stage is set for very, very widespread use of embryo selection”.

Why Gene Editing Could Create So Many Jobs

October 16, 2018

(BBC) – The 44-year-old from Phoenix, Arizona, who has lived with a rare, life-threatening genetic condition known as Hunter’s Syndrome since birth, last November became the first person in the world to undergo a new type of treatment that edits genes inside his body. Minute “molecular scissors” were added to his bloodstream to snip the DNA in his liver cells and insert a gene to repair the defective one he has carried all his life.

If Your Medical Information Becomes a Moneymaker, Could You Get a Cut?

October 16, 2018

(NPR) – Hospitals and health plans are increasingly using the huge amount of medical data they collect for research. It’s a business worth billions of dollars, and sometimes those discoveries can be the foundation of new profit-making products and companies. When a company profits from your data, should you get a cut?

Healthy Mice from Same-Sex Parents Have Their Own Pups

October 15, 2018

(Nature) – For the first time, researchers have used the DNA from two mouse mothers to create healthy pups, some of which matured and had their own offspring. The scientists also produced baby mice using the combined genetic material from two fathers, although those pups only lived for a couple of days. The method the team used to create the pups, described in a study1 published on 11 October in Cell Stem Cell, reveals important genetic factors necessary for the development of healthy embryos. But scientists are sceptical that the technique could ever be applied to people.

As Doctors Working on Nauru, We Thought We Were Helping. Now I Know We Were Not

October 15, 2018

(The Guardian) – When I worked on Nauru as a medical officer for refugees and asylum seekers, I never saw myself as part of the problem. But since I returned to Australia I have increasingly come to question my role in a system that is antithetical to medical ethics. The ongoing human rights travesty that is indefinite mandatory detention and the treatment of asylum seekers there never seems to be far away from the news. Since returning I’ve watched the Australian Medical Association, the United Nations, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and all the other major medical colleges and charities speaking out against the system.

Harvard and the Brigham Call for More than 30 Retractions of Cardiac Stem Cell Research

October 15, 2018

(STAT News) – Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have recommended that 31 papers from a former lab director be retracted from medical journals. The papers from the lab of Dr. Piero Anversa, who studied cardiac stem cells, “included falsified and/or fabricated data,” according to a statement to Retraction Watch and STAT from the two institutions.

When a DNA Test Reveals Your Daughter Is Not Your Biological Child

October 12, 2018

(The Atlantic) – There are other sides to the story, too. The creator of DNA NPE Friends, Catherine St Clair, recently created a group for the fathers. One such father is Christopher, whose real name we are withholding at his request. Earlier this year, after buying his now-15-year-old daughter an AncestryDNA test, Christopher found out that he is not her biological father. His wife had an affair. (They also have a 13-year-old son, who is his biological child.) Two and a half weeks after the discovery, he filed for divorce. We spoke about how revelation has changed his family, what it’s like to parent a teen going through this, and the particular difficulties of talking about this as a man.

Dementia and Guns: When Should Doctors Broach the Topic?

October 12, 2018

(Kaiser Health News) – While gun violence data is scarce, a Kaiser Health News investigation with PBS NewsHour published in June uncovered over 100 cases across the U.S. since 2012  in which people with dementia used guns to kill themselves or others.  The shooters often acted during bouts of confusion, paranoia, delusion or aggression — common symptoms of dementia.  Tragically they shot spouses, children and caregivers. Yet health care providers across the country say they have not received enough guidance on whether, when and how to counsel families on gun safety.

Prescription for Millions of Opioid Pills Lead to Charges Against 5 Doctors

October 12, 2018

(New York Times) – It was not hard to tell when the doctor was in at the Staten Island office of Carl Anderson. Noisy crowds of people, some with visible signs of drug addiction, stood in long lines at all hours of the night, seeking prescriptions for oxycodone pills, the authorities said Thursday. Sometimes, the noise outside Dr. Anderson’s office got so loud that it prompted neighbors to call the police, and more than once ambulances were called to treat pill-seeking patients, a series of new indictments show. Several patients, including two of his employees, overdosed and died, the authorities said.

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