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Should a Human-Pig Chimera Be Treated as a Person?

March 24, 2017

(Quartz) – How should we respond to chimeras when we are uncertain of their moral status? At present, chimeras created in laboratories are destroyed as embryos. But in order to harvest organs, full gestation would be needed. When that happens, do the human-animal chimeras have a moral right to continued existence? If there is any doubt about the cognitive abilities of this new life form, we should check the chimera for its functionality. We should not assume it has the cognitive function of a normal pig. We should rear it humanely with social contact, and assess its function and abilities as it develops.

Researchers Just Uncovered a Simple Way to Help Combat the Opioid Epidemic

March 24, 2017

(Vox) – There’s another type of prescription drugs, besides opioid painkillers, that’s involved in thousands of drug overdose deaths in the US every year. The drugs are benzodiazepines, which are widely known by their brand names Xanax and Valium and commonly prescribed to help treat anxiety. These drugs were involved in nearly 9,000 overdose deaths in 2015, according to federal data. But there’s a catch: Such overdoses seem to be very closely tied to the opioid epidemic, with the majority of benzodiazepine overdose deaths involving both benzodiazepines and opioids.

South Africa to Try Japanese Drug Against Resistant Form of TB

March 24, 2017

(Reuters) – South Africa launched a new drug program to treat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) on Friday in a bid to combat the leading cause of natural deaths in Africa’s most industrialized economy. The Health Department said it will run a clinical research program for the drug Delamanid, made by Japan’s Otsuka Holdings Co Ltd, involving 400 patients over the next two years.“Resistance is very minimal to it. The added advantage of this drug is it is more tolerable,” Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told a briefing for World TB Day in Johannesburg.

Doctor Turns Up Possible Treatment for Deadly Sepsis

March 24, 2017

(NPR) – It’s hard not to get excited about news of a potentially effective treatment for sepsis, a condition that leads to multiple organ failure and kills more people in the hospital than any other disease. But there have been so many false promises about this condition over the years, it’s also wise to treat announcements — like one published online by the journal, Chest — with caution. The study, from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va., reported some remarkable success in treating patients who were at high risk of sudden death.

Debate Reignites Over the Contributions of ‘Bad Luck’ Mutations to Cancer

March 24, 2017

(Science) – How much of cancer is due to random “bad luck”? More than 2 years ago, a pair of researchers brought that question to prominence when they tried to sort out environmental versus inherited causes of cancer. They examined the extent to which stem cell divisions in healthy cells—and the random mutations, or “bad luck” that accumulate—drive cancer in different tissues. Their effort, which implied that cancer was harder to prevent than hoped and that early detection was underappreciated, sparked controversy and confusion. Now, the researchers are back with a sequel: a new paper that aims to parse “bad luck” risks by cancer type, and that brings in cancer data from other countries.

Aging Is a Disease. Gene Therapy Could Be the ‘Cure’

March 24, 2017

(Wired) – Parrish tried two therapies. One was a myostatin inhibitor, a drug designed to increase muscle mass, and the second was telomerase therapy, which lengthens the telomeres, a part of the chromosomes that protect genetic material from damage and allows the replication of DNA. Lengthening the telomeres can, at least in theory, extend cellular lifespan and make cells more resilient to damage.

Tests Show 3D Bioprinted Human Cartilage Cells Can Be Safely Implanted

March 24, 2017

(UPI) – Scientists in Sweden successfully implanted 3D bioprinted human cartilage cells in an animal model. Researchers hope the breakthrough paves the way for the technology’s use in human patients. “This is the first time anyone has printed human-derived cartilage cells, implanted them in an animal model and induced them to grow,” Paul Gatenholm, professor of biopolymer technology at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, said in a news release.

Meaningful Ways to Cope with Patient Death

March 24, 2017

(Medscape) – A recent Medscape article examined rituals used by hospice staff and others who care for patients at the end of life. “Rituals are symbolic activities that can provide comfort, meaning, and support and relieve anxiety associated with uncertainties, such as those faced at the end of life,” author Betty R. Ferrell, PhD, RN, wrote in the article. Such rituals can be a significant part of the healing process for patients and staff alike. Dr Ferrell explained that although certain rituals, such as memorial services, have been around for years, these rituals may occur sporadically and be of limited value to staff members. A recent online survey took a deeper look at personally meaningful rituals used by hospice nurses and other staff who work with patients at the end of life.

First Mutations in Human Life Discovered

March 24, 2017

(Science Daily) – The earliest mutations of human life have been observed by researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and their collaborators. Analysing genomes from adult cells, the scientists could look back in time to reveal how each embryo developed. Published in Nature, the study shows that from the two-cell stage of the human embryo, one of these cells becomes more dominant than the other and leads to a higher proportion of the adult body.

Palliative Care Linked to Fewer Repeat Hospitalizations

March 23, 2017

(Reuters) – Comfort care for advanced cancer patients is associated with fewer repeat hospitalizations and more hospice referrals, according to a study highlighting how this approach may offer chronically sick or terminally ill people a better quality of life. Researchers focused on terminal cancer patients who often end up receiving a lot of care during their final months of life; all were already hospitalized for serious medical issues. The study team tested what happened to these patients before and after the start of a new palliative care consultation program in the hospital.

From Coast to Coast: Africa Unites to Tackle Threat of Polio

March 23, 2017

(World Health Organization) -More than 190 000 polio vaccinators in 13 countries across west and central Africa will immunize more than 116 million children over the next week, to tackle the last remaining stronghold of polio on the continent. The synchronized vaccination campaign, one of the largest of its kind ever implemented in Africa, is part of urgent measures to permanently stop polio on the continent.

New Stem Cell Method Produces Millions of Human Brain and Muscle Cells in Days

March 23, 2017

(Medical Xpress) – Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute scientists and their collaborators at the University of Cambridge have created a new technique that simplifies the production of human brain and muscle cells – allowing millions of functional cells to be generated in just a few days. The results published today (23 March) in Stem Cell Reports open the door to producing a diversity of new cell types that could not be made before in order to study disease.

With Patients Demanding Experimental Drugs, ‘Right to Try’ Is Becoming the Law of the Land

March 23, 2017

(STAT News) – Some physicians, ethicists, and regulatory officials say the laws could harm more patients than they help — but many are reluctant to publicly oppose the laws for fear of being seen as opposing any one patient’s quest to save his or her life. Lawmakers, critics say, can stand on high moral ground as champions of the dying, while opponents struggle to demonstrate potential harms to faceless patients.

The Findings of Medical Research Are Disseminated Too Slowly

March 23, 2017

(The Economist) – ON JANUARY 1st the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did something that may help to change the practice of science. It brought into force a policy, foreshadowed two years earlier, that research it supports (it is the world’s biggest source of charitable money for scientific endeavours, to the tune of some $4bn a year) must, when published, be freely available to all. On March 23rd it followed this up by announcing that it will pay the cost of putting such research in one particular repository of freely available papers.

Economic Shocks Are More Likely to Be Lethal in America

March 23, 2017

(The Economist) – Ms Case and Mr Deaton have now updated their work on these so-called “deaths of despair”. The results, presented this week at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, are no happier. White middle-age mortality continued to rise in 2014 and 2015, contributing to a fall in life expectancy among the population as a whole. The trend transcends geography. It is found in almost every state, and in both cities and rural areas. The problem seems to be getting worse over time. Deaths from drugs, suicide and alcohol have risen in every five-year cohort of whites born since the 1940s. And in each group, ageing seems to have worse effects.

Don’t Allow Genetic Stop-And-Frisk

March 23, 2017

(Newsday) – If you think the government wouldn’t target you as a suspect because of who is in your family, you might soon be proven wrong. A New York forensic oversight agency wants to unilaterally expand the use of the offender DNA database to convert relatives of those on file into default suspects. This is familial searching, and the state Commission on Forensic Science wants to allow its use — though it is not clear it has the legal authority. Some states have outlawed it, some use it without legislative authority, and more have taken no action.

Doctors Consider Ethics of Costly Heart Surgery for People Addicted to Opioids

March 22, 2017

(NPR) – Milford is part of a group of opioid addicts whom doctors describe as the sickest of the sick: intravenous drug users, mostly people who use heroin, who get endocarditis. Some aspects of their treatment present an ethical dilemma for doctors. Cardiologists, surgeons and infectious disease doctors can fix the infection, but not the underlying problem of addiction. And when patients who are still addicted to opioids leave the hospital, many keep injecting drugs, often causing repeat infections that are more costly and more challenging to cure.

Sale of Cambodian Breast Milk to Mothers in US Criticized by UN

March 22, 2017

(The Guardian) – The UN children’s fund has strongly criticised the sale by a commercial company of breast milk donated by Cambodian mothers to women in the US, warning it could lead to the babies of poor and vulnerable women becoming malnourished. Unicef condemned the trade by Utah-based company Ambrosia Labs as the Cambodian government intervened. Cambodia’s customs department said the finance minister, Aun Porn Moniroth, had signed a letter blocking further exports, according to the Associated Press in Phnom Penh. Talks will be held to decide whether the business should be allowed to resume.

Predatory Journals Recruit Fake Editor

March 22, 2017

(Nature) – Many predatory journals hoping to cash in seem to aggressively and indiscriminately recruit academics to build legitimate-looking editorial boards. Although academic pranksters have successfully placed fictional characters on editorial boards, no one has examined the issue systematically. We did. We conceived a sting operation and submitted a fake application for an editor position to 360 journals, a mix of legitimate titles and suspected predators. Forty-eight titles accepted. Many revealed themselves to be even more mercenary than we had expected.

Words and Experience Matter to Surrogates Making End-of-Life Decisions

March 22, 2017

(Medical Xpress) – Many people do not prepare advanced directives for their end-of-life medical care, so family members must make treatment decisions on their behalf. A new study in the journal Health Communication reveals that both medical terminology and prior experience can influence how surrogates feel after determining whether to administer life-prolonging measures.

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