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Bioethicists Call for Oversight of Consumer ‘Neurotechnologies’ with Unproven Benefits

January 18, 2019

(Medical Xpress) – The marketing of direct-to-consumer “neurotechnologies” can be enticing: apps that diagnose a mental state, and brain devices that improve cognition or “read” one’s emotional state. However, many of these increasingly popular products aren’t fully supported by science and have little to no regulatory oversight, which poses potential health risks to the public. In a new piece published in the journal Science this week, two bioethicists from Penn Medicine and the University of British Columbia suggest the creation of a working group that would further study, monitor, and provide guidance for this growing industry—which is expected to top $3 billion by 2020.

Study Links Opioid Epidemic to Painkiller Marketing

January 18, 2019

(Reuters) – Researchers are reporting a link between doctor-targeted marketing of opioid products and the increase in U.S. deaths from overdoses. In a county-by-county analysis, they found that when drug companies increased their opioid marketing budgets by just $5.29 per 1,000 population, the number of opioid prescriptions written by doctors went up by 82 percent and the opioid death rate was 9 percent higher a year later.

A ‘Digital Pill’ for Cancer Patients Is Rolled Out for the First Time, in Hopes of Improving Outcomes

January 18, 2019

(STAT News) – A Silicon Valley company on Thursday announced what it described as the first “digital pill” program of its kind, one in which the chemotherapy pills taken by cancer patients are packaged with a sensor that can alert a physician, pharmacist, or caregiver after it has been swallowed. Seven patients — all of whom have colorectal cancer in stage 3 or stage 4 and are being treated in Minnesota — have been provided with the treatment since September, according to Proteus Digital Health.

Macular Degeneration Trial Will Be First Human Test of Nobel-Winning Stem Cell Technique

January 18, 2019

(STAT News) – The cause of AMD is well-known, the recipe for turning stem cells into retinal cells works like a charm, and the eye is “immunoprivileged,” meaning immune cells don’t attack foreigners such as, say, lab-made retinal cells. Yet more than a decade after animal studies showed promise, and nearly eight years since retinal cells created from embryonic stem cells were safely transplanted into nine patients in a clinical trial, no one outside of a research setting (or a rogue clinic) is getting stem cell therapy for macular degeneration.

Largest US Twin Study Probes Whether Nature or Nurture Makes Us Sick

January 18, 2019

(The Verge) – Data from a private insurance company has given scientists a new way to study whether nature or nurture matters more when it comes to staying healthy in the face of disease. Though the answer isn’t definitive or exact — it varies according to each of the 560 diseases that were studied — the technique holds promise for bringing more insights in the future. The traditional way of studying nature versus nurture relies on twins. Because identical twins share the same genetic code, comparing the health of twins can help determine whether genetic or environmental factors play more of a role in their health. Problem is, it can be hard to find many pairs of twins, so most twin studies use small datasets and look at one disease at a time. The new study, published this week in Nature Genetics, uses a database of 45 million people, including over 56,000 pairs of twins.

A Surgeon Reflects on Death, Life and the ‘Incredible Gift’ of Organ Transplant

January 18, 2019

(NPR) – Each organ responds to transplant in a different way. “The liver will start pouring bile. The lungs start essentially breathing,” Mezrich says. “Maybe the most dramatic organ, of course, is the heart, because you put it in and you kind of hit it like you hit a computer, maybe you give a little shock and it just starts beating, and that’s pretty darn dramatic.” Mezrich is an associate professor in the division of multiorgan transplantation at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. He reflects on his experiences as a transplant surgeon and shares stories from the operating room in his book, When Death Becomes Life.

Death on Demand: Has Euthanasia Gone Too Far?

January 18, 2019

(The Guardian) – If western society continues to follow the Dutch, Belgian and Canadian examples, there is every chance that in a few decades’ time euthanasia will be one widely available option from a menu of possible deaths, including an “end of life” poison pill available on demand to anyone who finds life unbearable. For many greying baby boomers – veterans of earlier struggles to legalise abortion and contraception – a civilised death at a time of their choosing is a right that the state should provide and regulate. As this generation enters its final years, the precept that life is precious irrespective of one’s medical condition is being called into question as never before.

Two-Thirds of Poor U.S. Women Can’t Afford Menstrual Pads, Tampons: Study

January 18, 2019

(U.S. News & World Report) – A study of nearly 200 poor women living in the St. Louis area found that two out of three had to go without feminine hygiene products at least once over the prior year, due to cost. About one-fifth — 21 percent — said this happened on a monthly basis, and nearly half said they often had to make tough choices between buying food or period-related products.

A New Edition of Journal of Law and the Biosciences Is Now Available

January 18, 2019

Journal of Law and the Biosciences (vol. 5, no. 2, 2018) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “A Clash at the Petri Dish: Transferring Embryos with Known Genetic Anomalies” by Judith Daar
  • “The Tyranny of Choice: Reproductive Selection in the Future” by Sonia M Suter
  • “Uterus Transplantation in and beyond Cisgender Women: Revisiting Procreative Liberty in Light of Emerging Reproductive Technologies” by Amel Alghrani
  • “Creating Life after Death: Should Posthumous Reproduction Be Legally Permissible without the Deceased’s Prior Consent?” by Shelly Simana
  • “Privatizing Procreative Liberty in the Shadow of Eugenics” by Dov Fox
  • “Surrogacy, Privacy, and the American Convention on Human Rights” by Martín Hevia
  • “State Incentives to Promote Organ Donation: Honoring the Principles of Reciprocity and Solidarity Inherent in the Gift Relationship” by Mélanie Levy

 

A New Edition of Science and Engineering Ethics Is Now Available

January 18, 2019

Science and Engineering Ethics (vol. 24, no. 5, 2018) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “The Scientific Self: Reclaiming Its Place in the History of Research Ethics” by Herman Paul
  • “Differing Perceptions Concerning Research Integrity Between Universities and Industry: A Qualitative Study” by Simon Godecharle, Benoit Nemery, and Kris Dierickx
  • “Methods for Practising Ethics in Research and Innovation: A Literature Review, Critical Analysis and Recommendations” by Wessel Reijers et al.
  • “Social Freezing in Medical Practice. Experiences and Attitudes of Gynecologists in Germany” by Maximilian Schochow et al.
  • “Maqasid al-Shariah as a Complementary Framework for Conventional Bioethics: Application in Malaysian Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Fatwa” by Abdul Halim Ibrahim, Noor Naemah Abdul Rahman, and Shaikh Mohd Saifuddeen
  • “Technology Games: Using Wittgenstein for Understanding and Evaluating Technology” by Mark Coeckelbergh
  • “The Ugly Truth About Ourselves and Our Robot Creations: The Problem of Bias and Social Inequity” by Ayanna Howard and Jason Borenstein
  • “The Ethics of Virtual Reality Technology: Social Hazards and Public Policy Recommendations” by James S. Spiegel

 

Doctors Call California’s Probe of Opioid Deaths a ‘Witch Hunt’

January 17, 2019

(Los Angeles Times) – The Medical Board of California has launched investigations into doctors who prescribed opioids to patients who suffered fatal overdoses, in some cases months or even years later. The effort, dubbed “the Death Certificate Project,” has angered physicians in California and beyond, in part because the doctors being investigated did not necessarily write the prescriptions that led to a death. That makes it the most comprehensive project of its kind in the country.

FDA Moves to Fast-Track OTC Naloxone for Opioid Overdose

January 17, 2019

(Medscape) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced “unprecedented” steps to support companies in developing over-the-counter (OTC) naloxone to help reduce opioid overdose deaths. “With the number of overdose deaths involving prescription and illicit opioids more than doubling over the last 7 years to nearly 48,000 in 2017, it’s critical that we continue to address this tragedy from all fronts,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in a statement. This includes new ways to increase availability of naloxone, which typically can counter the overdose effects within minutes when administered quickly, said Gottlieb.

Why Vaping Is So Dangerous for Teens

January 17, 2019

(CNN) – Most of what we know about nicotine addiction in teens, we know from cigarettes. But experts say the technology and chemistry of vaping might pose an entirely different threat. “It turns out that e-cigarette use by kids doesn’t look the same at all,” said Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “How you’re delivering [nicotine] and how much you’re delivering … everything you change really matters.” Levy said she’s seen vape-addicted kids in her program showing what appear to be psychiatric symptoms rarely seen with traditional cigarettes or among adults.

25% of Antibiotics Prescribed in the US Are Unnecessary

January 17, 2019

(Quartz) – When Alexander Fleming was awarded a Nobel prize for his discovery of the antibiotic penicillin, he knew there was a downside to the life-saving drug. In his 1945 acceptance speech, he warned (pdf) of the dangers of “exposing…microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.” And yet, almost three quarters of a century later, it seems many have forgotten his message. A new study published yesterday (Jan. 16) in the BMJ found that in 2016 in the US, roughly a quarter of all antibiotics prescribed were likely for conditions that aren’t caused by a bacterial infection. Conversely, only about 13% of antibiotic prescriptions were likely necessary.

Why We Need Fetal Tissue Research

January 17, 2019

(Science) – A vocal minority in the United States is intent on stopping federal funding for research using human fetal tissue, citing stem cell–based or other alternatives as adequate. This view is scientifically inaccurate. It ignores the current limitations of stem cell research and disregards the value of fetal tissue research in finding therapies for incurable diseases. If there is to be continued rapid progress in treating cancer, birth defects, heart disease, and infectious diseases, then we need fetal tissue research.

Rise in Serious Birth Defect Might Be Tied to Opioid Use, Study Says

January 17, 2019

(CNN) – A potentially deadly birth defect in which babies are born with exposed intestines is on the rise, and researchers are concerned that it might be tied to the opioid epidemic. The birth defect, called gastroschisis, happens early in a mother’s pregnancy when the walls of the baby’s abdomen don’t develop properly. While science hasn’t figured out the exact cause of the condition, there are risk factors. Teen mothers are more likely to give birth to a baby with the defect, as are women who drink and smoke. Now it appears there’s an association with prescription opioid use.

Three-Quarters of Doctors Feel Burnout, Experts Call It a Public Health Crisis

January 17, 2019

(UPI) – Stress among the nation’s doctors is causing burnout, leading experts to declare a public health crisis, new research says. About 78 percent of physicians feel “emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a diminished sense of personal accomplishment,” according to a recent survey published [the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Harvard Global Health Institute, the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association (MHA)]. The burnout problem is leading to doctors reducing hours or just fleeing the professional altogether.

Defense Dept. Grappling with Care for Ailing Guantanamo Detainees

January 17, 2019

(UPI) – The case of a medically impaired detainee has raised larger questions about whether the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is equipped to handle an aging and increasingly fragile population. Abd al Hadi al Iraqi was brought to the prison in 2007 with a pre-existing degenerative disc disease and has undergone five spinal surgeries over the past two years. Hadi, 57, has been charged with war crimes as an alleged commander of al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan after 9/11.

Suicide Risk Quadruples for People with Cancer, Penn State Study Finds

January 17, 2019

(The Philadelphia Inquirer) – People with cancer are four times more likely to take their own lives than people without the disease, according to a new study by Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine researchers. The risk of patients’ taking their own lives varied by the type of cancer they had, as well as such factors as age and gender.

A New Edition of Journal of Intellectual Disability Research Is Now Available

January 17, 2019

Journal of Intellectual Disability Research (vol. 62, no. 10, 2018) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Mobile Technology Use and Skills among Individuals with Fragile X Syndrome: Implications for Healthcare Decision Making” by M. Raspa et al.
  • “‘More People Talk to You when You Have a Dog’ – Dogs as Catalysts for Social Inclusion of People with Intellectual Disabilities” by E. Bould, C. Bigby, P. C. Bennett, and T. J. Howell
  • “Childhood Adversity, Health and Quality of Life in Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities” by A. F. Santoro, S. M. Shear, and A. Haber
  • “Correlates of Burnout among Professionals Working with People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities” by A. Finkelstein et al.
  • “The Exercise of Human Rights and Citizenship by Older Adults with an Intellectual Disability in Ireland” by D. McCausland, P. McCallion, D. Brennan, and M. McCarron

 

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