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Obama Seeks Funds to Fight Zika; Sees No Cause for Panic

February 10, 2016

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama will ask the U.S. Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funds to fight Zika at home and abroad and pursue a vaccine, the White House said on Monday, but he added there is no reason to panic over the mosquito-borne virus. Zika, spreading rapidly in South and Central America and the Caribbean, has been linked to severe birth defects in Brazil, and public health officials’ concern is focused on pregnant women and women who may become pregnant.

Planning for End-of-Life and Palliative Care Among African-Americans

February 10, 2016

(Eurekalert) – A new model developed to examine the relationship between factors that impact how African Americans approach advance care planning (ACP) reveals how little is known about improving ACP in this population and points to new approaches to improve care and quality of life. The model is described in an article published in the special issue “Palliative and End-of-Life Care for African Americans” of Journal of Palliative Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.

IVF Industry Criticized for ‘Misleading Claims, Aggressive Marketing’

February 10, 2016

(Australian Broadcasting Co) – Insiders in the IVF industry have criticised clinics for using misleading claims and aggressive marketing in the increasingly cut-throat, multi-million dollar sector. Consumer watchdog the ACCC is currently reviewing dozens of IVF clinics amid mounting complaints about the lack of transparency of IVF success rates, with consumers saying they are in the dark about their chances of conceiving at different clinics.

Discovery May Lead to Better Egg Screening and IVF Outcomes

February 10, 2016

(Medical Xpress) – Experts in in-vitro fertilization (IVF) from UC San Francisco have discovered a pattern of protein secretion during egg maturation that they say has the possibility of leading to a new, non-invasive test to evaluate the fitness of eggs before they are fertilized in the clinic. In studies of mouse and human eggs, Hakan Cakmak, MD, an assistant professor with the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and the Center for Reproductive Sciences at UCSF and a team of investigators from the same department and center, led by Marco Conti, MD, a professor and the director of the center, have discovered a previously unrecognized pattern of protein secretion by a woman’s eggs that normally occurs during their maturation.

Sure Genomics Wants to Sell Private Genetic Profiles for $2,500, But It’s Really Testing the FDA

February 10, 2016

(The Verge) – Sure Genomics, a startup based in Utah, launched a genetic testing service today that costs a whopping $2,500 upfront, with an additional $150 subscription fee that guarantees DNA analysis updates every six months. The price is unusually high for a direct-to-consumer genetics company, since 23andMe and Ancestry offer genetics reports for $199 and $99, respectively. But Sure Genomics says it’s worth it; customers who pay the fee will get their entire genome sequenced, and unlike others, the startup says it won’t sell anonymized genetic information to third parties to turn a profit

Top U.S. Intelligence Official Calls Gene Editing a WMD Threat

February 10, 2016

(MIT Technology Review) – It is gene editing’s relative ease of use that worries the U.S. intelligence community, according to the assessment. “Given the broad distribution, low cost, and accelerated pace of development of this dual-use technology, its deliberate or unintentional misuse might lead to far-reaching economic and national security implications,” the report said.

Unethical Cancer Trials in India May Have Killed 254 Women, Claims American Doctor

February 9, 2016

(Scroll.in) – Cervical cancer is recognised as one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among Indian women, killing an average of 72,000 women every year. Since 1997, however, at least 254 such deaths may have occurred because Indian women from lower-income groups were misinformed and not given basic pre-cancer screening tests even as they participated in research studies on cervical cancer. This is a contention that Dr Eric Suba, an American pathologist and medical ethics proponent, has been making for several years in relation to three major long-term cervical cancer studies conducted in India between 1997 and 2012.

Proving Zika Link to Birth Defects Poses Huge Challenge

February 9, 2016

(Nature) – Public-health authorities are investigating whether the Zika virus has caused an apparent surge in the number of infants born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, in at least seven countries. But conclusively determining whether the mosquito-borne virus is to blame could take months to years, researchers say. Concerns first arose in Brazil, which in November declared a national public-health emergency. As of 2 February, officials there had investigated 1,113 of 4,783 suspected cases of microcephaly reported since late last year, and confirmed that 404 of those could be linked to Zika. On 1 February, a committee convened by the World Health Organization said that a causal link between Zika and microcephaly is “strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven”.

Johns Hopkins Becomes First Center in Country to Offer HIV-Positive to HIV-Positive Organ Transplants

February 9, 2016

(Washington Post) – The rules governing organ procurement, patient eligibility, ranking of wait lists and accreditation of hospitals that can perform transplants are extremely complex in the United States, and until recently the use of organs from HIV-positive individuals had been illegal. That changed with the passage of the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act or HOPE Act, which was signed into law in late 2013.

Liberia’s Ebola Widows Learn to Become the New Breadwinners

February 9, 2016

(Reuters) – Liberia, the hardest-hit nation with 4,800 deaths, was declared Ebola-free for a third time last month.  As the West African country begins to recover from the crisis, many women like Sweet are struggling to face a future without their husbands or fathers – the main breadwinners in their families. About half of Liberia’s 6,000 Ebola survivors are women. Besides financial hardships, many must also endure rejection from their friends, families and communities.

What Does “Dead” Mean?

February 9, 2016

(Scientific American) – As I spoke those words, I couldn’t help but think it odd that I have to explain what it means to be dead. Shouldn’t it be obvious if someone is dead or alive? It’s not always and there are at least two kinds of death. Circulatory death occurs when your heart stops working. Without circulating blood, vital organs don’t function. Brain death occurs when your brain stops working. The brain controls movements, thoughts, and personality. With modern technology a brain dead person can have a heartbeat, move in response to certain stimuli, and vital organs can function. To many, a brain dead person seems alive.

IVF Treatment: South African Agency Flies Egg Donors to Australia

February 9, 2016

(Sydney Morning Herald) – A group of young South African women are due to arrive in Australia this month for an all-expenses paid trip of a lifetime – but there’s a catch. They have to leave their eggs behind. The fertile white women are coming to serve as egg donors for local IVF patients who are desperate for babies.

FDA Moves to Crack Down on Unproven Stem Cell Therapies

February 9, 2016

(STAT) – LOS ANGELES — Federal regulators are preparing to crack down on scores of clinics across the United States that offer pricey stem cell therapies for conditions ranging from autism to multiple sclerosis to erectile dysfunction without any scientific evidence that they work. As many as 200 stem cell clinics have cropped up in recent years, peddling injections, facelifts, and treatments for a number of devastating conditions. They have avoided heavy regulation, in part because they use cells extracted from a patient’s own body and because they don’t do much to those cells before reinjecting them.

N.W.T. Not Ready to Implement Assisted Dying Law, Say Health Care Leaders

February 9, 2016

(CBC News) – According to Hendricks, there are fundamental questions integral to the unique geographical and cultural aspects of the N.W.T. that still need to be answered. “I have not seen any consideration of what some First Nations and Inuit perspectives might be on this issue, or what it might look like in remote health care settings.” In November, a provincial-territorial expert advisory group published a final report with advice and recommendations for the provinces and territories on the implementation of physician-assisted dying, but Hendricks says those national recommendations don’t reflect the reality of the N.W.T.

California Considers Funding Controversial Research: Editing Genes in Human Embryos

February 9, 2016

(STAT) – OAKLAND, Calif. — The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine was created in 2004 to fund stem cell research, after the federal government stopped paying for most experiments with human embryos. Now the state agency is considering underwriting another controversial use of embryos that the federal government won’t support — editing their genes. Officials of the state agency, known as CIRM, discussed guidelines and safeguards for this type of research last week at a meeting of an internal committee that evaluates standards for research funding but made no decision about supporting such work.

Variation in Hospice Visits for Medicare Patients in Last Two Days of Life

February 9, 2016

(Medical Xpress) – Medicare patients in hospice care were less likely to be visited by professional staff in the last two days of life if they were black, dying on a Sunday or receiving care in a nursing home, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine. Hospice programs do not have any mandated minimum number of required visits for the most common level of hospice care referred to as routine home care (RHC). However, a hospice program must deliver the highest possible quality of care for the dying person and support family members in their role as caregivers with the payments they receive from Medicare.

Lack of Research Keeps End-of-Life Care in Status Quo

February 8, 2016

(Eurekalert) – Randomized controlled trials often are considered the gold standard of research studies that help guide the medical care of patients across the world. However, in hospices, randomized controlled trials are difficult to conduct since patients are so close to the end of their lives, causing a gap in research that could improve the quality of hospice care overall. Now, a University of Missouri School of Medicine researcher has found that only 10 randomized controlled trials have taken place in U.S. hospices since 1985. The researcher said more randomized trials by hospice researchers could lead to improved care for hospice patients.

Standard Method for Deriving Stem Cells May Be Better for Use in Regenerative Medicine

February 8, 2016

(Medical Xpress) – Scientists at the UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research have discovered an important naturally occurring process in the developing human embryo that can be lost when embryonic stem cells are derived in the lab.  The discovery provides scientists with critical information regarding the best method for creating stem cells for regenerative medicine purposes, such as cell transplantation or organ regeneration. The discovery also provides insight into how information that is passed from an unfertilized egg to an embryo may impact the quality of the embryo and subsequently, the birth of healthy children.

Sydney University Forced to Reveal Emails in Chinese Organ-Donation Link Scandal

February 8, 2016

(Sydney Morning Herald) – The head of China’s organ-transplant program cautioned the University of Sydney that controversy over his appointment to an honorary position could damage reforms to end China’s horrific practice of removing organs from executed prisoners. The university has been forced to release internal emails about its reappointment of Dr Huang Jiefu, then China’s vice-minister of health, as an honorary professor between 2008 and 2014, despite protests from some staff the university shouldn’t be associated with China’s organ-transplant program.

Stem Cell Treatment Result in Diabetes Cure

February 8, 2016

(Fort Worth Star Telegram) – Johnson & Johnson, continuing its long quest for a type I diabetes cure, is joining forces with biotech company ViaCyte to speed development of the first stem cell treatment that could fix the life-threatening hormonal disorder. They’ve already begun testing it in a few diabetic patients. If it works as well in patients as it has in animals, it would amount to a cure, ending the need for frequent insulin injections and blood-sugar testing.

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