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The Secretive ‘Second World’ of Human Synthetic Biology

May 19, 2016

(The Guardian) – By their nature, it is often the most controversial, risky and ethically dubious research programmes that are conducted in secret, curtained-off from society in order to protect knowledge and technology not only from public scrutiny but also espionage or corporate theft. Therefore it should be no surprise that a behind-closed-doors meeting, convened last week at Harvard, on the prospect of synthesising the human genome, has caused a stir. The meeting was convened to discuss the prospects of coordinating a large collaborative venture to follow-up on the Human Genome Project (HGP), that would, over the next decade, seek to construct an entire human genome in a cell line.

Anti-Rejection Drug Prices Cut by 65%

May 19, 2016

(Times of India) – For a patient in need of an organ transplant, finding the right donor and undergoing the procedure is just half the battle won. Thereafter, living with the foreign organ comes with a huge price tag in way of immuno suppressants or antirejection drugs which the recipient has to depend on for the rest of his life. In a huge respite for such patients , the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority ( NPPA ) has reduced the rates of these drugs, with the cost of most-widely used Tacrolimus being slashed by 60-65%.

In Search for Cures, Scientists Create Embryos That Are Both Animal and Human

May 19, 2016

(Scientific American) – A handful of scientists around the United States are trying to do something that some people find disturbing: make embryos that are part human, part animal. The researchers hope these embryos, known as chimeras, could eventually help save the lives of people with a wide range of diseases. One way would be to use chimera embryos to create better animal models to study how human diseases happen and how they progress. Perhaps the boldest hope is to create farm animals that have human organs that could be transplanted into terminally ill patients.

3-Person Embryos May Fail to Vanquish Mutant Mitochondria

May 19, 2016

(Scientific American) – A gene-therapy technique that aims to prevent mothers from passing on harmful genes to children through their mitochondria — the cell’s energy-producing structures — might not always work. Mitochondrial replacement therapy involves swapping faulty mitochondria for those of a healthy donor. But if even a small number of mutant mitochondria are retained after the transfer — a common occurrence — they can outcompete healthy mitochondria in a child’s cells and potentially cause the disease the therapy was designed to avoid, experiments suggest.

Studies that Intentionally Infect People with Disease-Causing Bugs Are on the Rise

May 19, 2016

(Science) – Stricter safety procedures and new ways to weaken pathogens to reduce their risks are leading investigators in industry, universities, and government to take a new look at human challenge trials, which offer a powerful tool for studying diseases and potential therapies. There’s even a commercial company, hVIVO in London, that specializes in human challenges. Today, people are being deliberately infected with malaria, influenza, shigella, dengue, norovirus, tuberculosis, rhinovirus, Escherichia coli, typhoid, giardia, and campylobacter.

Consumer Nightmare: Theranos ‘Voids’ or Revises Tens of Thousands of Blood Test Results, WSJ Reports

May 19, 2016

(The Washington Post) – If you’ve had a blood test conducted by Theranos in 2014 or 2015, perhaps at a Walgreens store or medical center, you should probably contact your doctor. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the company has “voided” those two years of results from its supposedly revolutionary Edison blood-testing machines and that it is issuing tens of thousands of corrected reports to doctors and patients. “That means some patients received erroneous results that might have thrown off health decisions made with their doctors,” the newspaper cautioned.

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

May 19, 2016

The Journal of the American Medical Association (vol. 315, no. 18, 2016) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Convergence of Implementation Science, Precision Medicine, and the Learning Health Care System: A New Model for Biomedical Research” by David A. Chambers, W. Gregory Feero, and Muin J. Khoury
  • “The Emerging Zika Virus Epidemic in the Americas: Research Priorities” by Helen M. Lazear, Elizabeth M. Stringer, and Aravinda M. de Silva
  • “Hepatitis C Treatment Delivery Mandates Optimizing Available Health Care Human Resources: A Case for Task Shifting” by Channa R. Jayasekera, Sanjeev Arora, and Aijaz Ahmed
  • “Strolling with Recovering Addicts” by Mohamed Soliman and Hamza Jalal

A New Edition of The New England Journal of Medicine Is Now Available

May 19, 2016

The New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 374, no. 18, 2016) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Decriminalizing Mental Illness—The Miami Model” by J.K. Iglehart
  • “Reforming Solitary-Confinement Policy—Heeding a Presidential Call to Action” by C. Ahalt and B. Williams
  • “When New Medicare Payment Systems Collide” by R.E. Mechanic

Should Pediatricians Ask Parents If They’re Poor?

May 18, 2016

(NPR) – A single question asked at an annual checkup — whether parents have trouble making ends meet — could help pediatricians identify children at risk for serious health problems associated with poverty and the chronic levels of stress that often accompany it. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges members to ask if their patients’ families are struggling financially and then commit to helping them get the resources they need to thrive. And some communities are trying to make that happen.

Parents ‘Devastated’ as Court Says Doctors Should Not “Artificially Prolong’ Boy’s Life

May 18, 2016

(The Guardian) – The parents of a “profoundly neurologically disabled” two-year-old boy say they are devastated by a high courtdecision to allow medics to provide only palliative care, saying they believe nurses mistook his smiles for grimaces. “profoundly neurologically disabled” two-year-old boy say they are devastated by a high courtdecision to allow medics to provide only palliative care, saying they believe nurses mistook his smiles for grimaces.

Antibiotics Built from Scratch

May 18, 2016

(Nature) – A 64-year-old class of antibiotics that has been a cornerstone of medical treatment has just refreshed dramatically. More than 300 members have been added to the macrolide class, synthesized from scratch by dogged chemists searching for ways to overcome antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In work described today in Nature, a team of chemists built the drug erythromycin, a key member of the macrolides, from scratch. In doing so, they were able to generate hundreds of variations of the molecule that would not have been feasible by merely modifying erythromycin.

A Simultaneous Liver-Kidney Transplant? Not So Fast

May 18, 2016

(Medscape) – Hello. This is Jeffrey Berns, editor-in-chief of Medscape Nephrology. I’m here with one of my colleagues, Dr Peter Reese, assistant professor of medicine and a transplant nephrologist. He is also chair of the Ethics Committee at the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which is the organization that oversees organ transplantation in the United States. There has been a proposal by UNOS to change the rules for transplantation of kidneys in patients who are being given a liver transplant—or in other words, a simultaneous liver-kidney transplant. Peter, maybe you can first tell our viewers what the problem is. Why does UNOS think there is a need to change the rules for simultaneous liver-kidney transplants?

Abortion Rate in England and Wales Hits Five-Year High

May 18, 2016

(The Guardian) – The number of abortions carried out in England and Wales last year was the highest in five years, driven by growing numbers of women in their 30s and 40s who are terminating a pregnancy, official figures show. More women are having multiple abortions, according to the annual statistics released by the Department of Health. Almost four in 10 terminations are now carried out on women who have undergone the procedure before. Fifty women had each had eight terminations, the figures revealed.

Self-Injectable Contraceptives Could Be Life-Saver in Africa: Health Experts

May 18, 2016

(Reuters) – Self-injectable contraceptives, which are being trailed in Uganda and Senegal, could revolutionize women’s lives in rural Africa and dramatically cut maternal and newborn deaths, health experts said on Tuesday. The disposable $1 device consists of a small needle connected to a plastic bubble containing the contraceptive Depo-Provera which can be squeezed to inject a dose that lasts three months.

Hospitals in the Most Miserable Country in the World Have Turned into Battlefield Clinics — But There Is No War

May 18, 2016

(Business Insider) – Venezuela’s hospitals are failing. In a bombshell New York Times report, Nicholas Casey outlined how the country’s economic crisis has led to a huge public-health emergency. “Hospital wards have become crucibles where the forces tearing Venezuela apart have converged,” Casey wrote. “Gloves and soap have vanished from some hospitals. Often, cancer medicines are found only on the black market. There is so little electricity that the government works only two days a week to save what energy is left.”

Korea to Drop Ban on Stem Cell Research

May 18, 2016

(The Korea Times) – The Korean government will lift its seven-year ban on human stem cell research. The National Bioethics Committee conditionally approved CHA Medical Group’s research plan, allowing the company to use up to 600 human eggs by 2020. Under the approval, the company has to abide strictly by related laws and develop a research monitoring system.

Doctors Don’t Die Differently Than Anyone Else, CU Anschutz Researchers Say

May 18, 2016

(Eurekalert) – A new study from researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus appears to disprove the increasingly popular notion that doctors die differently than everyone else, using fewer interventions that often have little value. In fact, the researchers said, their national study found that physicians use more hospice care, spend more time in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and just as much time in hospitals when compared to the rest of the population.

Dogs Test Drug Aimed at Humans’ Biggest Killer: Age

May 18, 2016

(New York Times) – While the diseases that now kill most people in developed nations — heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer — have different immediate causes, age is the major risk factor for all of them. That means that even treatment breakthroughs in these areas, no matter how vital to individuals, would yield on average four or five more years of life, epidemiologists say, and some of them likely shadowed by illness. A drug that slows aging, the logic goes, might instead serve to delay the onset of several major diseases at once.

A New Edition of Hastings Center Report Is Now Available

May 18, 2016

Hastings Center Report (vol. 46, no. 3, 2016) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Why Bioethics Needs a Disability Moral Psychology” by Joseph A. Stramondo
  • “Implicit Cognition and Gifts: How Does Social Psychology Help Us Think Differently about Medical Practice?” by Nicolae Morar and Natalia Washington
  • “Just What Is the Disability Perspective on Disability?” by Tom Shakespeare

A New Edition of Journal of Applied Philosophy Is Now Available

May 18, 2016

Journal of Applied Philosophy (vol. 33, no. 2, 2016) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Exploitation in International Paid Surrogacy Arrangements” by Stephen Wilkinson
  • “Is There a Right to Surrogacy?” by Christine Straehle
  • “Lessons from Law about Incomplete Commodification in the Egg Market” by Kimberly D. Krawiec
  • “Licensing Parents in International Contract Pregnancies” by Andrew Botterell and Caroly McLeod

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