(New York Times) – A national push to have end-of-life discussions before a patient is too sick to participate has focused largely on older adults. When patients are under 18 and do not have legal decision-making authority, doctors have traditionally asked anguished parents to make advanced-care choices on their behalf. More recently, providers have begun approaching teenagers and young adults directly, giving them a voice in these difficult decisions, though parents retain legal authority for underage patients.
(The Telegraph) – The first baby has been born in Europe from a new IVF procedure that checks embryos for devastating genetic disorders. Lucas Meagu was at high risk of inheriting a rare form of muscular dystrophy which would have left him with weak muscles making walking and everyday tasks difficult. However, a ground-breaking technique which is being pioneered by fertility doctors in London has allowed Lucas to be born fit, healthy and free of disease.
(The Telegraph) – On 1 April it will be 10 years since a UK law was passed allowing children to discover the identity of their sperm and egg donors once they turn 18, and since then the numbers volunteering to donate have fallen. In Spain donors can remain anonymous and there is no shortage. “IVI was able to find a donor with my own blond hair and blue eyes, something never offered to us in the UK,” Sophie said.
(Medical Xpress) – Australian researchers have found that so-called ‘triple-negative breast cancers’ are two distinct diseases that likely originate from different cell types. This helps explain why survival prospects for women with the diagnosis tend to be either very good or very bad. The Sydney-based research team has found a gene that drives the aggressive disease, and hopes to find a way to ‘switch it off’.
(Medscape) – The Social Issues Committee of the American Society of Human Genetics and the Public and Professional Policy Committee of the European Society of Human Genetics published a position document online March 18 in the European Journal of Human Genetics that includes recommendations for using noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) based on screening maternal blood for cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in a responsible manner that embraces future applications.
(The Atlantic) – But pharmaceutical firms were not the only entities with economic interests in the similarity and dissimilarity of generic drugs. As many physicians’ organizations began to argue, policymakers and insurance companies who supported generic substitution could also be accused of having an equal and opposite economic interest: the incentive to spend less money whether the quality of care was the same or not. These two mutually suspicious positions, pro-generic and anti-generic, hardened into fairly stable ideologies by the close of the 20th century.
(The Atlantic) – Women who opt to get an abortion in Arizona within their first two months of pregnancy may soon find themselves on the receiving end of some unusual advice from their doctors. A medical abortion, which works within the first nine weeks or so of gestation, involves taking two pills within a few days of each other. This week Arizona lawmakers passed a bill that would require doctors who perform such abortions to tell their patients that if they reconsidered their abortion after taking their first pill, they should return to the doctor for a procedure that can allegedly “reverse” the abortion.
(Yahoo!) – Boosting a person’s smarts through drugs or electrical or magnetic stimulation of the brain is becoming an increasingly widespread practice. Now, bioethicists are weighing in, saying that while such cognitive enhancement is neither bad nor good, it deserves more research.
(The Guardian) – Google has struck a deal with the healthcare company Johnson & Johnson to develop surgical robots that use artificial intelligence. Google’s life sciences division will work with Johnson & Johnson’s medical device company, Ethicon, to create a robotics-assisted surgical platform to help doctors in the operating theatre.
(The Phnom Penh Post) – Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday delivered Cambodia’s first ever convictions for organ trafficking, sentencing two men and a woman to a combined 35 years in prison for sending their relatives to have their kidneys harvested in Thailand.
(Scientific American) – Our society is running into problems with brain research. To identify new treatments for stroke, for instance, clinical trials need to enroll stroke victims. But the brain damage in these patients that makes them good candidates for trials can also render them incapable of consenting, in a valid, informed manner, to participation. So how can medical science advance?
(U.S. News and World Report) – The Sustainable Growth Rate is the formula the government uses for reimbursing doctors who treat Medicare patients; it ties payments to how fast the economy is growing. But Medicare spending started to grow faster than the rest of the economy in 2002, and Congress has passed short-term patches 17 times since 2003 to prevent cuts in payments to doctors that would have limited their ability to provide services to Medicare patients.
(BBC) – The authorities in Sierra Leone are enforcing a three-day lockdown to curb the spread of Ebola, with the entire population ordered to stay at home. There is a two-hour exemption on Friday to allow Muslim prayers and a five-hour window for Christians on Sunday. Volunteers are going door-to-door, looking for people with signs of the disease and reminding others how to stay safe.
(Medical Xpress) – Patients exposed to understaffed nursing shifts have a significantly greater chance of suffering conditions such as surgical wound infections, pressure injuries, urinary tract infections and pneumonia. This finding from an Edith Cowan University study that analysed two years of local hospital data involving 36,529 patients. In total, 17,025 (46.6 per cent) were exposed to at least one understaffed shift.
(Eurekalert) – Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) — adult cells reprogrammed back to an embryonic stem cell-like state–may better model the genetic contributions to each patient’s particular disease. In a process called cellular reprogramming, researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have taken mature blood cells from patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and reprogrammed them back into iPSCs to study the genetic origins of this rare blood cancer. The results appear in an upcoming issue of Nature Biotechnology.
(Reuters) – Physician-assisted suicide would be legal for terminally ill patients in California under a bill passed on Wednesday by a committee of the state Senate. The bill, passed by the Senate Health Committee, would allow patients who are mentally competent and have fewer than six months to live to obtain prescriptions for medication to end their lives.
(Newsweek) – In recent months, heartbreaking stories of Americans such as Brittany Maynard struggling with devastating diagnoses have captured our empathy—and launched a national conversation about physician-assisted suicide (PAS). In response, activists are using these stories to advance legislation that has otherwise been rejected by the people.
(Time) – It was an unusual murder trial, given that the victim’s wife and relatives were the killer’s staunchest defenders. But the support of Thomas Youk’s family was not enough to keep Jack Kevorkian out of prison. On this day, March 26, in 1999, the pathologist and highly public euthanasia proponent, whom TIME had called “Dr. Death” in a 1993 cover story, was convicted of murder for giving Youk a lethal injection to end his suffering from advanced Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
(Medical Xpress) – A major investigation into the views of volunteers on the consent process for medical research has been found to conflict with the standard practice required for consent in the UK. In the project led by the University of Exeter, sociologist Professor Susan Kelly has found that trust and personal relationships appear to play an important role in shaping people’s willingness to consent to research.
(CNN) – In medicine, finding a substance that attacks cancerous tumors without destroying the healthy tissue around it has long been the Holy Grail. From targeted remedies such as monoclonal antibodies to surgery, cancer has still managed to elude a treatment that discretely and separately attacks it alone. Nanotechnologies, however – the manipulation of matter at a molecular and even atomic scale to penetrate living cells — are holding out the promise of opening a new front against deadly conditions from cancer to Ebola.