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Toronto Study Questions ‘Reproductive Benefits’ of Newborn Genetic Tests

September 9, 2016

(The Toronto Star) – A majority of mothers ignore their newborn’s genetic screening results when deciding whether to get pregnant again, a new Canadian study suggests. The paper, published online Thursday in the journal Genetics in Medicine, questions the “reproductive benefits” of sharing certain genetic testing results with parents when “people don’t make use of the information or make inappropriate use of the information,” said Dr. Yvonne Bombard, a genomics health services researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital and lead author.

Mistrust of Vaccines Is Greatest in France

September 9, 2016

(Scientific America) – Public confidence in immunization varies widely across the world with the French the most skeptical about the safety of vaccines, according to a survey published on Friday. With outbreaks of measles, whooping cough and other infectious diseases occurring in recent years in places where the take-up of vaccinations has been low, the scientists behind the survey said its insights could help policymakers tackle such problems. The study took views from almost 66,000 people across 67 countries about whether they consider vaccines important, safe, effective and compatible with their religious beliefs.

5 Faces of India’s Proposed Surrogacy Ban

September 9, 2016

(CNN) – India may soon no longer be the place to go for childless couples wanting a baby. A new ban on surrogacy has been proposed by the country’s top government officials, who say that the system lacks clear and enforceable regulations and has been abused. The rules could change as soon as the end of 2016. We spoke to Indians affected by the proposed law to get a better understanding of how it could change their lives.

Stem Cell Therapy Restores Arm, Hand Movement for Paralyzed Man

September 9, 2016

(Medical News Today) – A 21-year-old man left paralyzed after a spinal cord injury has regained the use of his arms and hands, thanks to an experimental stem cell treatment performed by researchers from the Keck Medical Center at the University of Southern California. In March of this year, Kristopher (Kris) Boesen, from Bakersfield, CA, was involved in a car accident, in which he suffered severe trauma to his cervical spine that left him paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe without assistance.

The ‘Grassroots Campaign’ for ‘Female Viagra’ Was Actually Funded by Its Manufacturer

September 9, 2016

(New York Magazine) – Last August, the FDA delivered its approval, overturning its own internal reviewers’ recommendations. In an editorial accompanying the recent JAMA review, Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz, physician-researchers at Dartmouth Medical School and the founders of pharmaceutical education company Informulary, wrote that FDA administrators “overrode” scientists’ evaluations that the drug didn’t warrant approval. “When we looked at the new data for Addyi, it was hard to understand why the drug was approved the third time around because there was a new alarming drug interaction study — so alarming that it was stopped early because so many people had low blood pressure or fainted,” Schwartz said.

Pain Scales Often Fail to Capture What ER Patients Feel

September 8, 2016

(Reuters) – Asking patients in the emergency room to rate their pain on a visual scale or to rank it from zero to 10 doesn’t really convey what the patient is feeling, suggests a study from Sweden. Pain scales currently used in the ER focus on pain intensity, and miss other important aspects like the type of pain or whether it changes with body position, and many patients don’t really understand what the extremes of the pain scales would feel like, researchers found.

Gene Therapy for Sickle Cell Moves Closer as Scientists Clear Unexpected Obstacle

September 8, 2016

(STAT News) – Researchers have cleared the last scientific hurdle to a clinical trial of gene therapy to cure sickle cell disease, they reported on Tuesday, fueling hopes that they will begin enrolling patients early next year. But they dodged a bullet. The new study, conducted in mice, addressed a sometimes calamitous risk in gene therapy: the difficulty of changing only one thing when tweaking the DNA of a cell.

Early Palliative Care Improves Coping, Quality of Life for Patients with Incurable Cancers

September 8, 2016

(Eurekalert) – A randomized clinical trial found that introducing palliative care shortly after a diagnosis of certain metastatic cancers greatly increases a patient’s coping abilities, as well as overall quality of life. Researchers also found that early integration of palliative care results in an increase in discussions about patient end-of-life care preferences.

When Parents Disagree with Doctors on a Child’s Treatment, Who Should Have the Final Say?

September 8, 2016

(The Conversation) – Doctors and parents sometimes disagree about a child’s medical treatment. As the recent case of six-year-old boy Oshin Kiszko highlights, some disagreements between doctors and parents can’t be resolved by further information and discussion. Oshin has brain cancer. His doctors believe he should receive treatment aimed at curing his disease, while Oshin’s parents believe the potential benefits of treatment don’t justify side-effects and other negative outcomes for their son, such as the possibility of long-term health issues.

Should Employers Know You’re on Birth Control? Wellness Data Raises Concerns

September 8, 2016

(Dallas Morning News) – It may be time to take a step back and reevaluate how U.S. companies are using big-data gathered in employee wellness and other healthcare analytics programs, researchers from Houston say. Employers have more frequently been contracting with analytics firms that use data to encourage healthy behaviors and to project future health care costs in employer-sponsored health plans. But ethics and health policy researchers question the impact on  employee privacy.

Beauty Queen Activist Urges UK to Act on China’s Alleged Organ Trade

September 8, 2016

(Reuters) – A Chinese-Canadian rights activist and Miss World finalist urged British lawmakers on Tuesday to take action against alleged organ-harvesting in China after being invited to screen her film about the trade in parliament. Beijing has repeatedly denied accusations by human rights researchers and scholars that it forcibly takes organs from prisoners of conscience. But actor and beauty pageant queen Anastasia Lin said China, which does not have a culture of organ donation, had consistently failed to explain where it sources the thousands of organs it uses in transplant operations each year.

A Cure for “Catch-All” Emergency Rooms

September 7, 2016

(The Atlantic) – Despite the many drawbacks to ER visits, law enforcement often has nowhere else to house people who are clearly experiencing mental-health crises but are not a danger to themselves or others. The emergency room, said Alamosa County Sheriff Robert Jackson, is “our catch-all.” Police here have few other options. The county jail is overcrowded, and just two officers in Alamosa have been trained in crisis intervention, which teaches officers to de-escalate situations involving people in mental-health crisis. Alamosa, a town of 10,000 people that serves as a hub for those seeking social services throughout Colorado’s isolated San Luis Valley, has just nine beds in its ER.

Cancer Experts Unveil Wishlist for US Government ‘Moonshot’

September 7, 2016

(Nature) – Advisors to the US Cancer Moonshot Initiative have produced a wide-ranging laundry list of research targets for the project — even as its funding remains uncertain. The 10 recommendations released on 7 September include the launch of a national clinical-trial network specifically targeted at therapies that harness the immune system and the creation of a 3D cancer atlas to catalogue how a tumour interacts with neighbouring normal cells.

Googling Our Medical Symptoms Is Making Us Sicker

September 7, 2016

(Quartz) – Every year, Americans spend at least $20 billion on unnecessary medical visits in the US. This is one of the drivers behind the spiraling cost of health care, which is predicted to soar to $5.5 trillion by 2024. The last thing you’d imagine is that the internet would have anything to do with this. But guess again. Medical doctors are already aware of the connection, because they see it every day. Patients arrive at offices and clinics with a “Google stack,” as it’s sometimes called: a pile of print-outs from the online research they’ve done that has led them to form their own amateur medical opinion.

Boom in Unproven Cell Therapies Intensifies Regulatory Debate

September 7, 2016

(Nature) – By the time Albini, an ophthalmologist at the University of Miami in Florida, had treated two more women who had been blinded by the same procedure, he knew that there was a systemic problem. Two of the women had been lured by a posting in a clinical-trial registry — even though there was no real trial to speak of — and none of the injections had been administered by a physician. The clinic offering the injections claimed that its procedure did not require approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in part because it used the patient’s own cells. Altogether, Albini found the cases shocking. “Any sort of review would have been helpful.”

World War I to the Age of the Cyborg: the Surprising History of Prosthetic Limbs

September 7, 2016

(The Conversation) – People have long dreamed of being smarter, stronger, faster. But now it seems that cutting edge technologies are out there, or in development, that might enable us truly to enhance our cognitive and physical capabilities. At the Paralympics, sprinters will be bounding down the tracks on running blades. Students are taking “smart drugs” and using cognitive enhancement devices in order to achieve better academic performance. These recent advances in science and technology have led to much discussion on the ethics of human enhancement, giving the impression that this is an era-defining moment, one in which the very definition of what it is to be “human” is being challenged. But such concerns over human enhancement are not new. Consider, for instance, the design and mass production of prosthetic limbs 100 years ago.

The Price of Infertility

September 7, 2016

(New York Magazine) – Even more difficult to talk about than the emotional pain of waiting, I’ve found, is the financial cost. No one wants to put a price on the ability to conceive, or think about how relative wealth or the details in our insurance plans can be the difference between having a child or not.

EpiPen Controversy Fuels Concerns Over Generic Drug Approval Backlog

September 6, 2016

(Kaiser Health News) – Consumers and Congress members pushing for cheaper alternatives to the EpiPen and other high-priced drugs are seeking answers about a stubborn backlog of generic drug applications at the Food and Drug Administration that still stretches almost four years. As of July 1, the FDA had 4,036 generic drug applications awaiting approval, and the median time it takes for the FDA to approve a generic is now 47 months, according to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, or GPhA. The FDA has approved more generics the past few years, but a flood of new applications has steadily added to the demand.

Chinese Women Head Overseas Freeze Their Eggs

September 6, 2016

(New York Times) – According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China, assisted reproductive technologies are denied to “single women and couples who are not in line with the nation’s population and family planning regulations.” Even married women must provide proof of marriage, a license to give birth and evidence either of infertility or of medical treatments that could impair fertility, such as chemotherapy. The restrictions have been driven in part by population controls that have been in place since 1979. The recent easing of those controls, allowing all families two children, do not apply to unmarried women.

WHO Strengthens Zika Safe Sex Guidance

September 6, 2016

(BBC) – Men and women returning from any area where the Zika virus is circulating should practise safe sex for at least six months to avoid the risk of spreading the disease, says the World Health Organization. The advice applies even if a person has no symptoms. It comes a few weeks after doctors discovered the virus in the sperm of an Italian man six months after he first had Zika symptoms. Zika is spread in bodily fluids.

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