(The Epoch Times) – Dr. Annika Tibell is one of the world’s most respected voices in the ethics of organ transplantation. Currently Chief Physician for the New Karolinska Hospital Project, commissioned this fall in the capital of Sweden, Dr. Tibell was the lead author for The Transplantation Society’s first policy statement on China in 2006, and was one of the founders of the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group, a major organization focused on transplantation ethics. In a recent interview, Tibell joined calls for a major international investigation into China’s organ transplant practices, where researchers believe that for over a decade prisoners of conscience have been the primary source of organs used to supply the massive and profitable industry.
(The Economist) – Wind the clock forward half a century and little has changed. In a new paper, this time published in Royal Society Open Science, two researchers, Paul Smaldino of the University of California, Merced, and Richard McElreath at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, show that published studies in psychology, neuroscience and medicine are little more powerful than in Cohen’s day. They also offer an explanation of why scientists continue to publish such poor studies. Not only are dodgy methods that seem to produce results perpetuated because those who publish prodigiously prosper—something that might easily have been predicted. But worryingly, the process of replication, by which published results are tested anew, is incapable of correcting the situation no matter how rigorously it is pursued.
(Science) – The University of Tokyo today announced it is launching an investigation into anonymously made claims of fabricated and falsified data appearing in 22 papers by six university research groups. An individual or group going by the name “Ordinary_researchers” detailed questions about data and graphs in more than 100 pages delivered to the university in two batches on 14 and 29 August. The university did not name the researchers or the publications that have come under suspicion, but the documents were also posted online in Japanese.
(Nature) – Two very different books on the epidemic have now emerged. Anthropologist Paul Richards’ Ebola is an original account of how Sierra Leone in general, and 26 villages there in particular, interpreted the epidemic and wider responses to it, and acted on it at its peak. Ebola’s Message has a broad interdisciplinary focus on West Africa’s outbreak. Covering aspects from media response to bioethics, it is edited by philosopher Nicholas Evans, molecular epidemiologist Tara Smith and computational epidemiologist Maimuna Majumder.
(Scientific American) – In my decade of teaching bioethics at Columbia University, I have always advocated for the application of five traditional guidelines to evaluate the ethics of an emerging biotechnology. These guidelines are: beneficence, maleficence, justice, autonomy, and respect for human dignity. Still, hovering in the back of my mind, there is another guideline to be considered called the “yuck factor.”
(Nature) – Zuckerberg and Chan have set themselves an audacious goal: eliminating, curing or preventing disease by the end of the century. They intend to get there by coaxing teams with diverse expertise to collaborate on developing new tools and technologies — something that scientists say is sorely needed. The $3-billion commitment announced today will cover the project’s first ten years.
(Scientific American) – The cosmos has never been particularly loquacious with its intentions, often requiring Brobdingnagian-sized ventures—from particle accelerators and space telescopes to genome and connectome projects—to tease out its deepest secrets. Can the same be done for death? A number of scientists and Silicon Valley billionaires think it can.
(Swissinfo.ch) – The majority of people living in German-speaking Switzerland expect to get support from their doctor on choosing how they want to end their life, according to a survey commissioned by the assisted-suicide organization, Exit.
(Medscape) – Oregon was the first state in the United States to enact a physician aid in dying law, known as Death With Dignity Act (DWD). Now, almost 20 years later, there is little evidence that it has been abused. Since the passage of the law in 1997, a total of 1545 people have been written prescriptions under the DWD in Oregon, and 991 patients have died from ingesting the lethal medications. A majority of the patients had cancer, said Charles Blanke, MD, professor of medicine, Knight Cancer Institute, at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland.
(Nature) – Geneticist George Church has pioneered methods for sequencing and altering genomes. He has been called a founding father of synthetic biology, and is probably the world’s leading authority on efforts to resurrect the extinct woolly mammoth. Now, a battle over who owns the patent rights to a revolutionary gene-editing technique could hinge, in part, on whether Church’s scientific skill could be considered ‘ordinary’. Such are the arcane and often bizarre issues the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) must consider in the fight over CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing. But the proceedings, which could drag out for years, have taken an ugly turn from scientific minutiae to accusations of impropriety.
(Wired) – Even a year ago, the idea of autonomous cars roaming American streets seemed farfetched, and automakers were claiming to be focused on “stepping stone,” incremental technology. That has changed. Carmakers are deploying robots, and federal regulators in charge of how humans drive are finally catching up. Today, US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced guidelines that define a new approach to regulating—and encouraging—self-driving cars.
(The Atlantic) – The United Nations said Tuesday it’s suspending humanitarian aid to Syria a day after an airstrike—carried out allegedly by Syria or Russia—struck an aid convoy headed to Aleppo. “As an immediate security measure, other convoy movements in Syria have been suspended for the time being, pending further assessment of the security situation,” Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UNOCHA, the UN humanitarian office, said in Geneva.
(New York Times) – The American Academy of Pediatrics last month issued a new policy statement, with an accompanying technical report, analyzing the issue of informed consent by pediatric patients. It discusses the question of formal informed consent, but also the question of assent, suggesting that even a child as young as 7 can express an informed agreement with proposed medical treatment, and that if the child is properly informed and involved in the discussion, this can “foster the moral growth and development of autonomy in young patients.”
(BBC) – A surgeon who wants to carry out the first ever head transplant says the first one could take place as early as next year. Prof Sergio Canavero has told Newsbeat he’s got lots of volunteers from the UK who want it done. The procedure would see the patient using a donor body and having their head fitted to it. However gruesome it sounds, Prof Canevero is confident the technology is now in place to make it a reality.
(ABC News) – The opioid crisis has led health officials to search for new and innovative ways to save lives, with many state officials focusing on giving more people, including first responders and community members, access to a life-saving opioid antidote called naloxone. Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced a competition to give opioid users a way to get access to naloxone via their phone.
(MIT Technology Review) – The problem is that the traditional system for clinical trials isn’t equal to the urgency patients like Gary face. To get into a clinical trial for gene therapy, patients must meet specific criteria set by drug makers. Among other things, the patients must fall into a certain age group and must have had symptoms for a defined period of time. Gary was fortunate enough to petition for the rules of one trial to be changed so he could enter. But many other people aren’t so lucky.
(Wired) – Human chimeras are mixtures of human cells with rodent, pig, or other animal embryos. It is important to note that this research does not directly use human embryos or fetuses, instead relying on pluripotent stem cells, which can be taken from a person’s skin and genetically engineered to be pluripotent—meaning they can develop into nearly any cell type. Human chimeras have great potential to enhance our understanding of human development.
(Scientific American) – Among the most dangerous of these thoughtless actions executed by our species is wild misuse of antibiotics. On September 21, the United Nations General Assembly is convening a special session to look at ways to curb use of precious medicinal drugs that are swiftly being outwitted by drug-resistant bacteria, making everything from a scraped knee to a bout of pneumonia far more dangerous and difficult to treat. But that focus, important as it is, remains limited to human use of chemicals and concern about their misuse to our species’ health.
(Haaretz) – In the course of construction and reorganization of the branch of the Max Planck scientific institute in Munich, dozens of human brains and portions of brains from experiments conducted during World War II, including many apparently from Jewish victims, have been discovered, Israeli Army Radio reported on Wednesday.
(NPR) – Couples who can’t conceive a child look for all kinds of alternatives in order to become parents, including surrogacy, when you pay a woman to carry and give birth to your baby. India is preparing to ban this practice altogether. As NPR’s Julie McCarthy reports, that move could protect women who serve as surrogates from exploitation, but it could also take an economic toll.