(The Guardian) – The chief prosecutor appointed to a specialist court in The Hague investigating the alleged trafficking of human organs during the Kosovo war has said he will follow any evidence that is uncovered. David Schwendiman, a former US federal prosecutor who has worked in Bosnia and Afghanistan, acknowledged the “political sensitivity” of the EU-backed inquiry, the remit of which covers alleged atrocities between 1998 and the end of 2000, “when they amount to a war crime or crime against humanity”.
(Reuters) – In the decade after Belgium legalized doctor-assisted death, the number of patients using it to end their lives rose nearly eight-fold, according to records of the national euthanasia control committee. Most patients choosing this way to die between 2003 and 2013 were younger than 80 and had cancer. But the largest increases in euthanasia cases over that period was among people older than 80, those without cancer and those not expected to die in the near future, researchers report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
(The Wall Street Journal) – Federal health officials will soon be requiring scientists and companies to make public more details of a broader range of medical research studies, even if the results are disappointing to the researchers or to companies sponsoring the research. A rule published Friday from the Department of Health and Human Services will expand the requirements for clinical trials’ publication to include most studies of products not yet licensed by the Food and Drug Administration.
(Nature) – The European Commission has announced long-awaited plans to make it easier for researchers to harvest facts and data from research papers — by freeing the computer-aided activity from the shackles of copyright law. Software can rapidly analyse millions of online articles and data sets at speeds humans can’t match, an activity known as text and data mining (TDM). Scientists hope that this could reveal patterns in scientific knowledge and generate new hypotheses.
(New York Times) – Against a growing outcry over the surging price of EpiPens, a chorus of prominent voices has emerged with a smart-sounding solution: Add the EpiPen, the lifesaving allergy treatment, to a federal list of preventive medical services, a move that would eliminate the out-of-pocket costs of the product for millions of families — and mute the protests. Dr. Leonard Fromer, a clinical professor of family medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, just promoted the idea in the prestigious American Journal of Medicine. A handful of groups are preparing a formal request to the government.
(The Guardian) – His situation was desperate, but a thought kept nagging him. After reading a New York Times article describing how Baclofen eased the muscle spams of a cocaine addict, he developed a hunch that the drug – a relaxant typically used to treat patients with multiple sclerosis – might help him. With nothing left to lose, he decided to turn himself into a guinea pig, reasoning that it was “more dignified to die during my own clinical experiment than it was to die of alcoholism”. In 2004, he started taking small, and then increasing doses of the drug. He was astonished when, a few weeks in, his cravings disappeared. He simply had no desire for a glass of wine any more.
Medical Law International (vol. 16, no. 1–2, 2016) is available online by subscription only.
- “Non-Disclosure of Genetic Risks: The Case for Developing Legal Wrongs” by Victoria Chico
- “Living Tissue and Organ Donation by Minors: Suggestions to Improve the Regulatory Framework in Europe” by Kristof Van Assche, Kristof Thys, Thierry Vansweevelt, Gilles Genicot, Pascal Borry, and Sigrid Sterckx
- “Council of Europe: Guide on the Decision-Making Process Regarding Medical Treatment in End-of-Life Situations” by Denard Veshi and Gerald Neitzke
(UPI) – For doctors, it can be difficult to tell the difference between brain cells killed by cancer treatment and recurrent brain cancer using patient’s MRI scans. Computers, however, appear to be far more accurate. A computer program accurately diagnosed dead cells and brain cancer at nearly twice the rate of doctors, suggesting similar software could be used to improve treatment selection, according to a study published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology.
(UPI) – The number of U.S. children who die from cancer has fallen 20 percent since 1999, and leukemia is no longer the top killer, a new federal government report shows. The decline continues a trend that began back in the 1970s, experts said. What’s new is that leukemia — the most common type of childhood cancer — is no longer the leading cause of cancer deaths. Survival among children with leukemia has improved to the degree that brain cancer now tops the list.
(U.S. News & World Report) – Scientists report they have successfully transplanted reprogrammed monkey stem cells into the eyes of other monkeys without the need for anti-rejection drugs. The techniques used in this study have been in development for some time. The long-term goal is to replace damaged tissues or organs one day with healthy new ones grown in a lab using stem cells.
(The Guardian) – As we confront similar questions around artificial intelligence (AI), we must distinguish between fear of new technologies and concern about their implications. The latter plays an important role in cultivating the right conversations to ensure that new technologies are deployed ethically and responsibly.
(BBC) – The failure to successfully prosecute a single case of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK is a “national scandal”, the Commons home affairs select committee has said. In a report, the MPs said it was “beyond belief” that no-one had been convicted of FGM, 30 years after the practice was made illegal in the UK. It said the duty to report FGM “must be enforced with stronger sanctions”. The Home Office said it was tackling FGM by strengthening the law.
(UPI) – Opioid-based painkillers are the standard for pain treatment, but the drugs have been linked to an epidemic of misuse and addiction, and are costing Americans billions of dollars beyond the health conditions they are meant to treat. The overuse, misuse and abuse of opioid-based painkillers is costing the United States about $78 billion per year for additional care, lost work productivity and the criminal justice system, according to a new study published in the journal Medical Care.
(The Telegraph) – The editor of the BMJ has written to the Chief Medical Officer asking for an independent review of statins following years of controversy. Dr Fiona Godlee has asked Dame Sally Davies to intervene after medical journal The Lancet published a review claiming the drugs were safe and effective and warning that their harms had been exaggerated. The Lancet said that thousands of people had been misled into stopping their medication after two articles appeared in the BMJ questioning their use and warning of side-effects.
(The Atlantic) – The United Nations is having trouble getting aid deliveries to Syria in the midst of a cease-fire between government troops and rebel forces, Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, said Thursday in Geneva. “We have a problem,” de Mistura said in public remarks about the delivery of much-needed humanitarian relief to civilian populations. Despite the on-going cease-fire, which went into effect this week following a U.S.-Russian agreement, de Mistura cited a lack of cooperation by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
(Reuters) – Fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, the jury is still out on whether firefighters who worked at the World Trade Center site have increased odds of developing cancer, a U.S. study suggests. Some previous research has linked working at the site with higher rates of certain cancers than are seen among people who weren’t at the World Trade Center during that time. The current study, however, found firefighters who responded to the attacks in New York don’t appear to have a greater cancer risk than firefighters from San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia who were not part of the 9/11 emergency response – with the exception of two cancer types.
(Managed Care Magazine) – Mylan Pharmaceuticals––currently the target of public and congressional ire over its hefty price increases for the EpiPen––had the second-highest executive compensation among all U.S. drug and biotech firms during the past five years, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. The big paydays are unusual in view of the company’s small size in the U.S. drug industry, where it is No. 11 by revenue, the article notes.
(Medscape) – Early implementation of palliative care can improve quality of life (QOL), mood, coping, and the frequency of end-of-life discussions for patients with newly diagnosed lung and gastrointestinal (GI) cancer, according to new findings. The study also found that early integration of palliative care resulted in an increase in discussions about patient end-of-life care preferences. However, the effect of palliative care interventions, when compared with standard care, differed by cancer type, noted lead author Joseph Greer, PhD, clinical director of psychology and a research scientist in the Center for Psychiatric Oncology and Behavioral Services at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
(The Guardian) – Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the alleged theft of thousands of DNA samples from a research laboratory in Sardinia that had been collected more than a decade ago as part of a study into longevity. The launch of the inquiry comes weeks after rights to the DNA samples were apparently sold to a British biotechnology company called Tiziana Life Sciences in a bankruptcy deal that has been vigorously opposed by some citizens and local politicians.
(Nature) – Likewise, the citizens of dozens of European cities have no idea that their sewage is being sifted through right now, officially to protect them; or that the police are studying the results to track crime. The toilet bowl and its contents, once extremely private, are becoming very public indeed. It’s called wastewater-based epidemiology. Improved sensing techniques and analysis have made the contents of sewers and waste pipes a powerful source of data.