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Early Abortion Bans: Which States Have Passed Them?

June 6, 2019

(NPR) – This year has brought an unprecedented wave of new state laws that only allow abortions to be performed early in pregnancy — if at all. Most of the new laws — known as early abortion bans — explicitly outlaw abortion when performed after a certain point early in the pregnancy. The laws vary, with some forbidding abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, and some after eight weeks. Alabama’s law is the most extreme: It aims to outlaw abortion at any point, except if the woman’s health is at serious risk. So far in 2019, nine U.S. states have passed laws of this type, and more states are considering similar legislation.

Doctor Accused of Murder in 25 Patient Overdose Deaths

June 5, 2019

(ABC News) – A critical care doctor was arrested and charged with murder Wednesday in the deaths of 25 hospital patients authorities say were deliberately given overdoses of painkillers. The charges against Dr. William Husel, 43, form one of the biggest murder cases ever brought against a health care professional in the U.S. He pleaded not guilty to 25 counts of murder, and a judge set bail at $1 million.

Everyone Got the Dutch Euthanasia Story Wrong

June 5, 2019

(Quartz) – Although the death happened with the cooperation of her family, as well as the knowledge of the authorities (a member of parliament visited Pothoven the day before she died), her death does not qualify as a case of euthanasia. She was not force fed. And she was not kept alive against her will. But that is not the same as actively terminating her life, or helping her do so.

U.S. Health Agency Cancels Research Contract Involving Use of Fetal Tissue

June 5, 2019

(Reuters) – The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Wednesday it would cancel its research contract involving human fetal tissue from elective abortions with the University of California. The decision follows an audit of all HHS research involving human fetal tissue from elective abortions in light of “the serious regulatory, moral and ethical considerations involved,” the U.S. agency said.

Creating Eggs and Sperm from Stem Cells: The Next Big Thing in Assisted Reproduction?

June 5, 2019

(STAT News) – Until recently, the only way to make eggs or sperm was the old-fashioned way: in the ovaries and testes. In the not-too-distant future, it may be possible to use cells from almost any part of the body to create these germ cells, also known as gametes. This process, called in vitro gametogenesis (IVG), raises the possibility that babies could be made using muscle or liver or blood cells. While not yet ready for prospective human parents — so far it has only been accomplished successfully in mice — it raises major ethical and legal questions that we should start thinking and talking about now.

Expanded Potential Stem Cells of Both Pig and Human Cells Created

June 5, 2019

(GEN) – Scientists say they have developed a novel technique to create expanded potential stem cells (EPSCs) of both pig and human cells. These stem cells have the features of the first cells in the developing embryo and can develop into any type of cell, according to the research team from the LKS Faculty of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong (HKUMed), the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut in Germany. Their work (“Establishment of porcine and human expanded potential stem cells”), published in Nature Cell Biology, also offers great potential for studying human development and regenerative medicine, they added.

U.S. Infant and Maternal Mortality Rates: Shamefully (and Unnecessarily) Bad and Getting Worse

June 5, 2019

(Managed Care Magazine) – While overall U.S. infant mortality is lower than it was in the ’60s, how can the country that spends more per person on health care than any other in the entire world by far have made so little progress while rates in Singapore and elsewhere have improved? Indeed, the U.S. rate is now higher than infant mortality rates in Antigua or Cuba. Furthermore, the overall U.S. rate masks significant disparities. The infant mortality rate of non-Hispanic black infants is 11.2 per 1,000 live births, which is comparable to the rate in Libya or Tunisia. 

Organ and Tissue Donation in Patients Considering MAiD: New Guidance Helps Navigate Emerging Area

June 5, 2019

(Medical Xpress) – A new publication in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) aims to help health care teams navigate clinical and ethical issues that arise when patients choose to donate organs or tissue after medical assistance in dying (MAiD) or withdrawal of life-sustaining measures. Deceased organ donation is a common practice that saves or improves lives worldwide, and accounts for more than 3 in 4 of all transplanted organs in almost 2000 Canadians every year.

A Mismatch Made in America

June 5, 2019

(Managed Care Magazine) – Every day in hospitals and medical clinics across the country, physicians assume that when they click into an electronic medical record, they have an accurate picture of the patient’s health history, diagnoses, medications, test results, and other information. That is a false and sometimes dangerous assumption to make. The problem is called patient matching, and it would be considered health care’s dirty little secret except that lots of groups—the Joint Commission, National Academy of Medicine, ECRI Institute, National Patient Safety Foundation, Bipartisan Policy Center, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and others—have been talking about it for years.

FDA Wins Major Victory in Campaign Against Stem Cell Clinic

June 4, 2019

(CNN) – The US Food and Drug Administration won a major legal victory in its ongoing effort to crack down on clinics marketing bogus and potentially hazardous stem cell products. On Monday, a federal judge in Miami granted the FDA an injunction to prevent the Florida-based US Stem Cell Clinic from offering treatments designed to create stem cells from body fat and administering them intravenously or directly into the spinal cords of patients to treat Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other serious conditions.

Netherlands Teen Raped as Child Is Legally Euthanized due to ‘Unbearable’ Pain

June 4, 2019

(New York Post) – In The Netherlands, kids ages 12 to 16 need permission from a parent to be euthanized and must have consulted a doctor, who agrees that their suffering is unbearable and likely to continue. But at 17, children no longer need their parents’ consent to apply to kill themselves. Pothoven turned 17 in December. The Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2001 — the year she was born.

Ebola Cases Pass 2,000 as Crisis Escalates

June 4, 2019

(Nature) – The number of Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has doubled in just over two months and has now passed 2,000, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). An estimated 2,008 people have been infected with Ebola in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces since the start of the outbreak in late July 2018, and 1,346 of those individuals have died. The numbers represent a rapid escalation of the crisis since the outbreak passed the 1,000-case mark on 24 March (see ‘Escalating crisis’).

Reproducibility Trial Publishes Two Conclusions for One Paper

June 4, 2019

(Nature) – How deeply an anaesthetist should sedate an elderly person when they have surgery is a controversial issue, because some studies link stronger doses of anaesthetic with earlier deaths. So it should reassure clinicians to see a study in the British Journal of Anaesthesia that investigates and rules out such a link — the published paper’s discussion section says so explicitly: “These results are reassuring.” Or are they? Another paper in the journal analyses the same results and reaches a different conclusion about death rates. It says the trial didn’t include enough patients to reach that conclusion — or any conclusion — on mortality.

Congress Revives Ban on Altering the DNA of Human Embryos Used for Pregnancies

June 4, 2019

(STAT News) – A House committee on Tuesday restored to pending legislation a ban on altering the genomes of human embryos intended for pregnancies, despite calls from some scientists to lift the ban and allow the Food and Drug Administration to review applications for new technologies. Lifting the prohibition could have opened the door to clinical trials of babies being made with genetic material from three people or with genomes that had been changed in ways that would be passed on to future generations.

Prices of the Most Common Prescription Drugs Nearly Doubled in Less Than a Decade

June 4, 2019

(Quartz) – The one issue most Americans can agree on is that the price of prescription drugs are out of control. An analysis from researchers at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, found that 48 out of 49—or 97%—of the most commonly prescribed drugs increased in price between January 2012 and December 2017. These price hikes occurred at least once per year, and the median overall increase was 76%.

HIV Patients at Higher Risk for Early Disease, Lack of Care

June 4, 2019

(UPI) – People living with HIV have higher rates of heart ailments, new research shows. Antiretroviral therapy used with HIV patients also opens them up to heart disease, sudden cardiac failure, heart failure and sudden cardiac deaths compared to people without the virus, according to a scientific statement published in Circulation.

Chinese Dissidents Are Being Executed for Their Organs Former Hospital Worker Says

June 4, 2019

(New York Post) – Zheng Qiaozhi — we will call him George — still has nightmares. He was interning at China’s Shenyang Army General Hospital when he was drafted to be part of an organ-harvesting team. The prisoner was brought in, tied hand and foot, but very much alive. The army doctor in charge sliced him open from chest to belly button and exposed his two kidneys. “Cut the veins and arteries,” he told his shocked intern. George did as he was told. Blood spurted everywhere. The kidneys were placed in an organ-transplant container.

California Man Becomes First ‘Death with Dignity’ Patient to Undergo Cryonic Preservation

June 3, 2019

(Gizmodo) – A terminally ill patient who opted for assisted death has undergone cryonic preservation at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. This preservation—the first of its kind—signifies an important milestone for cryonics advocates, who argue that the right to death, paradoxically, is a potential pathway to an eternal life.

I Have Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Critics of the $2 Million New Gene Therapy Are Missing the Point

June 3, 2019

(STAT News) – As someone who has lived with spinal muscular atrophy for all 30 years of my life, I was perplexed and disappointed that the recent approval of Novartis’ gene therapy Zolgensma was immediately overshadowed by outrage over the drug’s price: $2.125 million. The Food and Drug Administration’s decision was a pivotal day for those of us in the SMA community. Zolgensma, approved for children under 2, is the only one-dose treatment option for any category of SMA patients and has been highly effective in clinical testing so far.

Belgium Investigates Right-to-Die Group Offering ‘Suicide Powder’

June 3, 2019

(The Guardian) – Belgian prosecutors are to investigate a right-to-die group that has been offering advice on the use of a “suicide powder”. The Last Will group, which has about 23,000 paying members with an average age of 69, was blocked by the Dutch authorities last year from helping approximately 1,000 people purchase the lethal drug but continues to offer advice on legal ways to obtain it.

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