(Fox News) – The illegal trade of human organs in the Middle East has surged recently as Syrian refugees seek money to afford smugglers’ fees for a Mediterranean Sea crossing to Europe. One young Syrian man, who gave his name as Mayar, fled his war-torn Syrian village for Cairo, hoping to be able to earn a living and support his family in that city. But that was unsuccessful. “By God, I don’t know how much money I can make from my kidney, but I have no other solution,” A refugee given the pseudonym “Mayar” said to Vocativ in a recent interview. “Life in Egypt is expensive.”
(The Epoch Times) – Investigative journalist and author Ethan Gutmann has been nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for his work exposing the mass harvesting of organs in China’s state-run hospitals from practitioners of the traditional spiritual practice Falun Gong. Gutmann, along with human rights lawyer David Matas and former Canadian member of Parliament David Kilgour, released last summer the report “Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: an Update,” which expanded on research published in Matas and Kilgour’s 2006 report “Bloody Harvest” and Gutmann’s 2014 book “The Slaughter.”
(NPR) – “Flesh is a dead format,” writes Mark O’Connell in To Be a Machine, his new nonfiction book about the contemporary transhumanist movement. It’s an alarming statement, but don’t kill the messenger: As he’s eager to explain early in the book, the author is not a transhumanist himself. Instead, he’s used To Be a Machine as a vehicle to dive into this loosely knit movement, which he sums up as “a rebellion against human existence as it has been given.” In other words, transhumanists believe that technology — specifically, a direct interface between humans and machines — is the only way our species can progress from its current, far-than-ideal state.
(Australian Broadcasting Co) – Arguably one of the first forms of enhancement was through improving their diet. The phrase “an army marches on its stomach” goes back at least to Napoleon, and speaks to the belief that being well fed enhances the soldier’s chances of winning a battle. But recent research has gone well beyond diet to enhance the capabilities of soldiers, like purposefully altering the structure and function of soldiers’ digestive system to enable them to digest cellulose, meaning they can use grass as a food.
(The Economist) – Alexa is one manifestation of a drive to disrupt an industry that has so far largely failed to deliver on the potential of digital information. Health care is over-regulated and expensive to innovate in, and has a history of failing to implement ambitious IT projects. But the momentum towards a digital future is gathering pace. Investment into digital health care has soared (see chart). One reason for that is the scale of potential cost-savings. Last year Americans spent an amount equivalent to about 18% of GDP on health care.
(New Scientist) – Artificial mouse embryos grown from stem cells in a dish could help unlock secrets of early development and infertility that have until now evaded us. Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz at the University of Cambridge and her team made the embryos using embryonic stem cells, the type of cells found in embryos that can mature into any type of tissue in the body. The trick was to grow these alongside trophoblast stem cells, which normally produce the placenta. By growing these two types of cell separately and then combining them in a special gel matrix, the two mixed and started to develop together.
Social Science & Medicine (vol. 177, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Barriers to Accessing Adequate Maternal Care in Central and Eastern European Countries: A Systematic Literature Review” by Elina Miteniece, Milena Pavlova, Bernd Rechel, and Wim Groot
- “Street-Level Diplomacy? Communicative and Adaptive Work at the Front Line of Implementing Public Health Policies in Primary Care” by Nicola Gale, George Dowswell, Sheila Greenfield, and Tom Marshall
- “International Synthesis and Case Study Examination of Promising Caregiver-Friendly Workplaces” by Shruti Ramesh, Rachelle Ireson, and Allison Williams
- “Adapting Public Policy Theory for Public Health Research: A Framework to Understand the Development of National Policies on Global Health” by Catherine M. Jones, Carole Clavier, and Louise Potvin
- “Knowledge and Power in Policy-Making for Child Survival in Niger” by Sarah L. Dalglish, Daniela C. Rodríguez, Abdoutan Harouna, and Pamela J. Surkan
- “Medicaid’s Lasting Impressions: Population Health and Insurance at Birth” by Heeju Sohn
- “Enacted Abortion Stigma in the United States” by Sarah K. Cowan
- “Do Hospital Boards Matter for Better, Safer, Patient Care?” by R. Mannion, H.T.O. Davies, R. Jacobs, P. Kasteridis, R. Millar, and T. Freeman
Clinical Pediatrics (vol. 55, no. 3, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Influence of Office Systems on Pediatric Vaccination Rates” by Rachael T. Zweigoron et al.
- “Patient and Caregiver Perspectives on Transition and Transfer” by Michele Herzer Maddux, Shawna Ricks, and Julie Bass
(BBC) – Facebook has begun using artificial intelligence to identify members that may be at risk of killing themselves. The social network has developed algorithms that spot warning signs in users’ posts and the comments their friends leave in response. After confirmation by Facebook’s human review team, the company contacts those thought to be at risk of self-harm to suggest ways they can seek help. A suicide helpline chief said the move was “not just helpful but critical”.
(Sixth Tone) – Thirty years after China’s first hospice center opened its doors in Beijing, the country’s top health authority has finally released a set of standards for palliative care — or that which is intended to reduce pain from a disease rather than cure it. The new rules, issued by the National Health and Family Planning Commission in late January, specify that such facilities should be equipped with at least 50 beds, and that there should be at least one doctor, four nurses, and 12 caregivers for every 10 beds.
(CNN) – A new nanoparticle technology warmed cryopreserved heart valves and blood vessels without damaging the tissues, found a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine. According to the researchers, this means that cryopreserving human hearts and kidneys in organ banks — and making them available for later use in patients — is finally within sight.
(New York Times) – The secret is that informed consent in health care is commonly not-so-well informed. It might be a document we ask you to sign, at the behest of our lawyers, in case we end up in court if a bad outcome happens. Unfortunately, it’s often not really about informing you. In schools, teachers determine what students know through tests and homework. The standard is not whether the teacher has explained how to add, but instead whether the student can add. If we were truly invested in whether you were informed, we’d give you a quiz, or at least ask you to repeat back to us what you heard so we could assess its accuracy.
(STAT News) – Patient advocacy organizations carry out important work like funding research and lobbying on behalf of people with a certain health condition — but they also can be less than fully transparent, with some failing to publicly list their sources of funding, a new study finds. Why it matters: While drug and device companies are required by federal law to disclose all payments they make to doctors and teaching hospitals, they don’t need to tell anyone how much money they give to patient advocacy groups.
(New Scientist) – A TEENAGE boy with an inherited disease that affects millions worldwide seems to have been cured using gene therapy. The treatment appears to have stopped the painful symptoms of sickle cell disease, demonstrating the potential for gene therapy to treat common genetic diseases. The idea of gene therapy – using strands of DNA to compensate for a person’s malfunctioning genes – is almost three decades old. However, the approach has so far mostly been used to treat very rare diseases (see “Long road to success“). In contrast, sickle cell disease affects 100,000 people in the US alone. If the treatment proves successful in larger trials, it could bring gene therapy into widespread use.
(BBC) – Liberian nurse Salome Karwah was one of those named as Time magazine’s person of the year in 2014 for her frontline work against Ebola. She died in Monrovia last week after giving birth to a son. Her husband told the BBC that nurses were unwilling to touch her for fear of contracting Ebola – even though she recently tested negative for Ebola. The hospital has not commented, and officials say they are investigating the death.
(Reuters) – Juno Therapeutics Inc on Wednesday said it decided to shut down development of an experimental leukemia treatment from a highly promising new class of immunotherapy following an investigation into toxicity that led to a handful of patient deaths. The drug, JCAR015, uses a technology known as CAR-T being pursued by other companies as well. CAR-T therapy removes a key component of the immune system called T cells from a patient’s blood and re-engineers them to more efficiently attack cancer before returning them to the patient.
(The Telegraph) – An Indonesian domestic worker has claimed her kidney was stolen without her knowledge while she worked in Doha, Qatar, three years ago. Sri Rabitah, 25, told the Indonesian press on Monday that she only realised what had happened earlier this year when she returned to her home island of Lombok and went to hospital complaining of constant back pain. Doctors told the young mother that one of her kidneys was missing.
Journal of Medical Ethics (vol. 43, no. 3, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Social Values and the Corruption Argument Against Financial Incentives for Healthy Behaviour” by Rebecca C H Brown
- “Paying for Antiretroviral Adherence: Is it Unethical when the Patient is an Adolescent?” by Justin Healy, Rebecca Hope, Jacqueline Bhabha, and Nir Eyal
- “Health Incentive Research and Social Justice: Does the Risk of Long Term Harms to Systematically Disadvantaged Groups Bear Consideration?” by Verina Wild and Bridget Pratt
- “Incentives, Equity and the Able Chooser Problem” by Kalle Grill
- “Too Poor to Say No? Health Incentives for Disadvantaged Populations” by Kristin Voigt
- “Which Strings Attached: Ethical Considerations for Selecting Appropriate Conditionalities in Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes” by Carleigh B Krubiner and Maria W Merritt
- “Solidarity, Justice and Unconditional Access to Healthcare” by Anca Gheaus
- “Paid Protection? Ethics of Incentivised Long-Acting Reversible Contraception in Adolescents with Alcohol and Other Drug Use” by Tiana Won, Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby, and Mariam Chacko
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (vol. 55, no. 3, 2017) is available online by subscription only.
- “Is This Relevant? Physician Perceptions, Clinical Relevance, and Religious Content in Clinical Interactions” by Aaron B. Franzen
- “Bridging Science and Religion: How Health-Care Workers as Storytellers Construct Spiritual Meanings” by Don Grant, Jeff Sallaz, and Cindy Cain
(BBC) – Aid workers say fighting in Yemen has made it virtually impossible to ship humanitarian supplies to a key harbour when the country is at risk of famine. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has had to halt deliveries to the Red Sea port of Hudaydah. It said this was partly because it had not received security guarantees. The port has also been targeted by warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition which is backing Yemen’s government in its war with the rebel Houthi movement.