(U.S.A. Today) – The Utah Legislature took a step last week into territory where state lawmakers rarely tread. It passed a law giving children conceived via sperm donation access to the medical histories of their biological fathers. The law itself stirred no controversy. The oddity was that the legislature ventured into the area of “assisted reproduction” at all.
(New Scientist) – WILL it be a boy or a girl? For people undergoing IVF, the nutrient-rich liquid their embryos grow in could tip the balance. The finding adds to mounting evidence that the culture medium is playing a role in an embryo’s development and future health. Women undergoing IVF are treated with hormones that stimulate the release of eggs.
(The Conversation) – Research ethics have come a long way since the dubious and troubling research experiments of the 1940s, and the now infamous Milgram obedience experiments of the 1960s. The public today has reason to assume that human subjects involved in research are protected. But recent cases questioning the reasons for and the processes behind university ethics reviews suggest they could be holding back research, and for all the wrong reasons.
(News.com.au) – A DEATH row inmate who lost part of his brain in an industrial accident has been executed after a last minute stay of execution failed. Missouri prisoner Cecil Clayton received a lethal injection and died just eight minutes later. The 74-year-old’s lawyers appealed to both the US Supreme Court and the state’s governor Jay Dixon arguing he had a diminished mental capacity because of a brain injury.
(Nanotechnology Now) – In 1996, a trio of scientists won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their discovery of Buckminsterfullerene – soccer-ball-shaped spheres of 60 joined carbon atoms that exhibit special physical properties. Now, 20 years later, scientists have figured out how to turn them into Buckybombs. These nanoscale explosives show potential for use in fighting cancer, with the hope that they could one day target and eliminate cancer at the cellular level – triggering tiny explosions that kill cancer cells without affecting surrounding tissue.
The New England Journal of Medicine (Volume 372, No. 10, March 5, 2015) is now available online by subscription only.
- “International health care systems: A precious jewel – The role of general practice in the English NHS” by M. Marshall
- “Setting value-based payment goals – HHS efforts to improve U.S. health care” by S.M. Burwell
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy (Vol. 40 no. 2, March 2015) is now available by subscription only.
- “Morality at the Expense of Others: Equality, Solidarity, Taxes, and Debts in European Health Care” by Corinna Delkeskamp-Hayes
- “Healthcare and the Slippery Slope of State Growth: Lessons from the Past” by Alberto Mingardi
- “Value Reorientation and Intergenerational Conflicts in Ageing Societies” by Wim J. A. Van Den Heuvel
(The Telegraph) – France passed legislation on Tuesday giving doctors new powers to place terminally-ill patients in a “deep sleep” until they die, sparking controversy over whether euthanasia should be fully legalised. Eight out of 10 French people are in favour of allowing euthanasia and almost all – 96 per cent – back the “deep sleep” law, polls show. It will apply to patients who are conscious but in “unbearable” pain, whose treatment is not working or who decide to stop taking medication.
(Nature) – Research that uses powerful gene-editing techniques on human embryos needs to be restricted, scientists agree — but they are split over why. Some say that if safety fears can be allayed, such applications could have a bright future, and could help to eradicate devastating diseases. Others say that modifying the DNA of embryos, which means that the changes could be passed on to future generations, is an ethical line that should not be crossed.
(National Post) – As the nation awaits legalized doctor-assisted death, the transplant community is grappling with a potential new source of life-saving organs — offered by patients who have chosen to die. Some surgeons say every effort should be made to respect the dying wishes of people seeking assisted death, once the Supreme Court of Canada ruling comes into effect next year, including the desire to donate their organs.
(CBC) – Some health professionals are concerned that thousands of frozen embryos will be in limbo if the provinces goes ahead with Bill 20, which proposes to drastically scale back and restrict access to publicly-funded in vitro fertilization treatments. When a couple undergoes IVF, extra embryos are often frozen for later use. More than 15,000 embryos from about 3,000 patients are stored at the MUHC Reproductive Centre.
(The Irish Times) – Surrogacy is complex, often cumbersome and fraught with pitfalls, yet it is booming. It is becoming a global business, an expensive option for childless or same-sex couples seeking to start a family, although in the developing world little of the money involved trickles down to the surrogate mothers involved.
(The Cavalier Daily) – John D. Arras, University Porterfield professor of biomedical ethics and of philosophy and public health sciences, died of a stroke Mar. 16 in Galveston, Texas while on a spring break vacation. Arras authored numerous articles on bioethics, and his recent research focused on topics such as assisted suicide, public health ethics, research on human subjects, theories of global justice and social determinants of health.
(The Guardian) – “In its effects I believe that the pill ranks in importance with the discovery of fire,” wrote the British-American anthropologist Ashley Montagu in 1969, excited that the invention was already upturning “age-old beliefs, practices and institutions”. The bestower of this Promethean gift, and the hero of Jonathan Eig’s book, was an unlikely figure: Gregory Pincus, “a scientist with a genius IQ and a dubious reputation”.
(Nanotechnology Now) – Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, are developing a new type of bandage that does far more than stanch the bleeding from a paper cut or scraped knee. Thanks to advances in flexible electronics, the researchers, in collaboration with colleagues at UC San Francisco, have created a new “smart bandage” that uses electrical currents to detect early tissue damage from pressure ulcers, or bedsores, before they can be seen by human eyes – and while recovery is still possible.
(Nanotechnology Now) – Engineers at Oregon State University have used “additive manufacturing” to create an improved type of glucose sensor for patients with Type 1diabetes, part of a system that should work better, cost less and be more comfortable for the patient.
(Nature) – The portrayal of mental-health conditions (or, to be less semantically guarded, mental illnesses) in the media and popular culture has a significant influence on the way that many people view both the conditions and those who have them. Next to lawyers and police officers, physicians are among the most frequently fictionalized professionals, and psychiatrists feature heavily. Despite the well-quoted statistic that one in four people will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives, the medical reality is something more easily viewed at a distance, peeking through the silver screen at the misery of somebody else.
(Nature) – There are hundreds of infectious diseases out there that people could catch. More than 300 such conditions were discovered in the second half of the twentieth century alone. And how many of these diseases can scientists and clinicians protect against with a licenced vaccine? Fewer than 30. Those are not always the biggest killers, or the most terrifying. Vaccine development is driven not by the risk that a pathogen poses to people, but by the economic pay-off.
(New York Times) – Health insurer Premera Blue Cross said on Tuesday it was a victim of a cyberattack that may have exposed medical data and financial information of 11 million customers in the latest serious breach disclosed by a health-care company. It said the attackers may have gained access to claims data, including clinical information, along with banking account numbers, Social Security numbers, birth dates and other data in an attack that began in May 2014.
(Medical Xpress) – The world has made “tremendous progress” in combatting the deadly Ebola virus, the UN’s World Health Organization chief told AFP on Wednesday. Margaret Chan’s remarks come almost a week after the WHO announced that the death toll from the world’s largest Ebola outbreak had topped 10,000. Most of the deaths in the outbreak, which began in late 2013, have been in the West African nations of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.