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Activist Behind Planned Parenthood Videos Offered Probation

February 5, 2016

(ABC News) – An anti-abortion activist’s plan to reject a plea deal offering probation for charges related to making undercover Planned Parenthood videos likely means his goal is to use a trial as a public platform to criticize the nonprofit, according to legal experts. David Daleiden surrendered to authorities, posted $3,000 bond and made two court appearances Thursday on the felony and misdemeanor charges he faces before prosecutors offered him pretrial diversion, a form of probation that would keep him out of prison and ultimately have the charges dismissed.

Reproductive Technology Linked to Birth Defects, Childhood Leukemia

February 5, 2016

(Reuters) – Women who use in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other reproductive technologies may be more likely to have children with certain cancers or developmental delays than their peers who conceive the old-fashioned way, two new studies suggest.  The increased risk of complications may be due at least in part to advanced maternal age and other health factors that lead women to try assisted reproductive technology (ART) in the first place, say authors of both studies published today in Pediatrics.

Biotech Giant Publishes Failures to Confirm High-Profile Science

February 5, 2016

(Nature) – A biotechnology firm is releasing data on three failed efforts to confirm findings in high-profile scientific journals — details that the industry usually keeps secret. Amgen, headquartered in Thousand Oaks, California, says that it hopes the move will encourage others in industry and academia to describe their own replication attempts, and thus help the scientific community to get to the bottom of work that other labs are having trouble verifying. The data are posted online at a newly launched channel dedicated to quickly publishing efforts to confirm scientific findings.

‘We Can Do More,’ FDA Says in Announcing Overhaul of Approach to Opioid Painkillers

February 4, 2016

(Washington Post) – The Food and Drug Administration, which has been criticized as too willing to approve addictive narcotic painkillers and too slow to fight their abuse and overuse, said Thursday that it will overhaul policies addressing the powerful class of drugs. The announcement comes amid an epidemic of prescription drug and heroin overdoses, which now kill more Americans each year than automobile accidents.

Hospitals Can Be ‘Urban’ and ‘Rural’ at Same Time: U.S. Appeals Court

February 4, 2016

(Reuters) – The federal appeals court in New York struck down a U.S. regulation that made it harder for hospitals to provide better medical care at lower cost by claiming they were “rural” for some purposes and “urban” for others. Thursday’s decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a victory for hospitals in urban areas including the acute care Lawrence + Memorial Hospital of New London, Connecticut, which said the Department of Health and Human Services’ “reclassification rule” forced it to overpay for drugs that patients needed.

The Embarrassing, Destructive Fight over Biotech’s Big Breakthrough

February 4, 2016

(Scientific American) – The current brouhaha, triggered by Eric Lander’s now-infamous essay in Cell called “The Heroes of CRISPR,”  is the most entertaining food fight in science in years. The stakes are exceedingly high. CRISPR is the most important new technology to hit biology since recombinant DNA, which launched Genentech, made Swanson, along with his colleagues and investors, rich and brought molecular biology, long the province of academia, into the realm of celebrity and big money. In this context, the Cell essay has huge patent and prize implications.

Smirking Shkreli Refuses Lawmakers’ Questions, Calls Them ‘Imbeciles’

February 4, 2016

(Reuters) – Former drug executive Martin Shkreli smirked and brushed off questions about drug prices then tweeted that lawmakers were imbeciles on Thursday, when he appeared at a U.S. congressional hearing against his will. Shkreli, 32, sparked outrage last year among patients, medical societies and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton after his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of the drug Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent to $750 a pill. The lifesaving medicine, used to treat a parasitic infection, once sold for $1 a pill and has been on the market for more than 60 years.

Fertility Issues for Cancer Patients Can Also Bring Legal Headaches

February 4, 2016

(Reuters) – Reproductive technology has made it easier for cancer survivors to start families despite being infertile after treatment, but some patients may still find their future parenthood plans dashed by legal complications, says a group of U.S. doctors and lawyers. Some tumors, and many types of chemotherapy and radiation, can leave cancer patients infertile. Often, patients can postpone initial cancer treatments for a few weeks to pursue fertility preservation efforts, which might include egg or embryo freezing for women and sperm banking for men.

Three Ways Synthetic Biologists Could Annihilate Zika and Other Mosquito-Borne Diseases

February 4, 2016

(The Conversation) – Using synthetic biology-based genetic engineering techniques, the British company Oxitec (owned by U.S.-based Intrexon Corp) has successfully added a genetic switch to Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the species that carries dengue and Zika. As long as the insects are fed the antibiotic tetracycline, the switch remains off and the bugs are fine. But remove the drug, and the switch is activated – preventing genes from working, and ultimately killing the mosquito.

‘It’s Only a Matter of Time Before People Control Time and Manner of Their Death’

February 4, 2016

(The Guardian) – It is only a matter of time before people in the UK have control over the moment and the manner of their death, according to a leading British medical ethicist, who says neither the medical profession nor the state has a right to block that choice. Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford University, says there will always be people who cannot be deemed mentally competent to make the choice to end their life.

For Boys Only? Panel Endorses Mitochondrial Therapy, But Says Start with Male Embryos

February 4, 2016

(Science) – An experimental assisted reproduction technique that could allow some families to avoid having children with certain types of heritable disease should be allowed to go forward in the United States, provided it proceeds slowly and cautiously. That is the conclusion of a report released today from a panel organized by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS), which assesses the ethics questions surrounding the controversial technique called mitochondrial DNA replacement therapy. More controversially, however, the panel recommended that only altered male embryos should be used to attempt a pregnancy, to limit the possible risks to future generations.

Mom Seeks Medical Expenses for Child with Cystic Fibrosis

February 4, 2016

(ABC News) – A jury in Montana heard opening arguments Wednesday in the case of a mother who is suing her health care providers because they failed to diagnose her unborn daughter’s cystic fibrosis, denying her a chance to have an abortion. Kerrie Evans of Gardiner is seeking nearly $14.5 million in damages from Park Clinic in Livingston, Billings Clinic’s Bozeman OB/GYN, nurse practitioner Peggy Scanson and Dr. William Peters — including $10 million for her daughter’s medical and psychological care. The girl, who’s nearly 6, has a severe form of cystic fibrosis.

Ethicists Approve ‘3 Parent’ Embryos to Stop Diseases, But Congressional Ban Remains

February 4, 2016

(Washington Post) – An elite panel of scientists and bioethicists offered guarded approval Wednesday of a novel form of genetic engineering that could prevent congenital diseases but would result in babies with genetic material from three parents. The committee, which was convened last year at the request of the Food and Drug Administration, concluded that it is ethically permissible to “go forward, but with caution” with mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRT), said the chairman, Jeffrey Kahn, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins ­University.

A New Edition of Science and Engineering Ethics Is Now Available

February 4, 2016

Science and Engineering Ethics (vol. 22, no. 1, 2016) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “The Convergence of Virtual Reality and Social Networks: Threats to Privacy and Autonomy” by Fiachra O’Brolchain, et al.
  • “Robotic Nudges: The Ethics of Engineering a More Socially Just Human Being” by Jason Borenstein and Ron Arkin
  • “A Survey of Expectations about the Role of Robots in Robot-Assisted Therapy for Children with ASD: Ethical Acceptability, Trust, Sociability, Appearance, and Attachment” by Mark Coeckelbergh, et al.
  • “Cochlear Implantation, Enhancements, Transhumanism and Posthumanism: Some Human Questions” by Joseph Lee
  • “The ‘Second Place’ Problem: Assistive Technology in Sports and (Re) Constructing Normal” by D.A. Baker
  • “Scientists’ Ethical Obligations and Social Responsibility for Nanotechnology Research” by Elizabeth A. Corley, Youngjae Kim and Dietram A. Scheufele
  • “Attitudes toward Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) for Genetic Disorders among Potential Users in Malaysia” by Angelina Patrick Olesen, Siti Nurani Mohd Nor, and Latifah Amin
  • “Ensuring the Quality, Fairness, and Integrity of Journal Peer Review: A Possible Role of Editors” by David B. Resnik and Susan A. Elmore
  • “Reflexive Principlism as an Effective Approach for Developing Ethical Reasoning in Engineering” by Jonathan Beever and Andrew O. Brightman

A New Edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association Is Now Available

February 4, 2016

The Journal of the American Medical Association (vol. 315, no. 5, 2016) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” by Karen B. DeSalvo, Richard Olson, and Kellie O. Casavale
  • “Academic Health Systems’ Third Curve: Population Health Improvement” by A. Eugene Washington, Molly J. Coye, and Ebony Boulware
  • “Role of the FDA in Affordability of Off-Patent Pharmaceuticals” by Jeremy A. Greene, Gerard Anderson, and Joshua M. Sharfstein

A New Edition of Journal of Medical Ethics Is Now Available

February 4, 2016

Journal of Medical Ethics (vol. 42, no. 2, 2016) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Conscientious Objection and Healthcare in the UK: Why Tribunals Are Not the Answer” by Christopher Cowley
  • “Not So New Directions in the Law of Consent? Examining Montgomery v. Lanarkshire Health Board” by Anne Maree Farrell and Margaret Brazier
  • “HIV and the Right Not to Know” by Jonathan Youngs and Joshua Simmonds
  • “Harm Is All You Need? Best Interests and Disputes about Parental Decision-Making” by Giles Birchley
  • “Vulnerability, Therapeutic Misconception and Informed Consent: Is There a Need for Special Treatment of Pregnant Women in Fetus-Regarding Clinical Trials?” by Maria Kreszentia Sheppard
  • “Obtaining Informed Consent for Genomics Research in Africa: Analysis of H3Africa Consent Documents” by Nchangwi Syntia Munung, et al.

The Hidden Harms of Antidepressants

February 3, 2016

(Scientific American) – Antidepressants are some of the most commonly prescribed medications out there. More than one out of 10 Americans over age 12—roughly 11 percent—take these drugs, according to a 2011 report by the National Center for Health Statistics. And yet, recent reports have revealed that important data about the safety of these drugs—especially their risks for children and adolescents—has been withheld from the medical community and the public.

Health Officials Say a Person in Texas Has Become Infected with the Zika Virus Through Sex

February 3, 2016

(Associated Press) – Health officials on Tuesday reported that a person in Texas has become infected with the Zika virus through sex in the first case of the illness being transmitted within the United States amid the current outbreak in Latin America. The unidentified person had not traveled but had sex with a person who had returned from Venezuela and fallen ill with Zika, Dallas County health officials said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a statement saying lab tests confirmed the non-traveler was infected with Zika.

U.S. Panel Green-Lights Creation of Male 3-Person Embryos

February 3, 2016

(Scientific American) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should approve clinical trials to transfer DNA from healthy human eggs to diseased embryos, the US National Academy of Medicine said today. The controversial gene-therapy technique involves replacing an embryo’s energy-producing mitochondria with healthy mitochondria from the egg of a second woman. The aim is to prevent the transmission of diseases caused by mutations in mitochondrial DNA. But concerns about the safety of mitochondrial replacement, and the psychological and social implications of children with three genetic parents, have given U.S. regulators pause.

A New Vision for Dreams of the Dying

February 3, 2016

(New York Times) – For their primary study, published in The Journal of Palliative Medicine, the researchers conducted multiple interviews with 59 terminally ill patients admitted to acute care at Hospice Buffalo, a facility furnished in warm woods, with windows that frame views of fountains, gazebos and gardens. Nearly all the patients reported having had dreams or visions. They described the majority of their dreams as comforting. About one in every five was associated with distress, and the remainder felt neutral.

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