Doctors Consider Ethics of Costly Heart Surgery for People Addicted to Opioids; Lab-Grown Mini-Organs Help Model Disease, Test New Drugs; Artificial Intelligence Is Learning to Predict and Prevent Suicide; Sale of Cambodian Breast Milk to Mothers in US Criticized by UN and more…
March 24, 2017 Donate to CBHD
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Doctors Consider Ethics of Costly Heart Surgery for People Addicted to Opioids
(NPR) — Milford is part of a group of opioid addicts whom doctors describe as the sickest of the sick: intravenous drug users, mostly people who use heroin, who get endocarditis. Some aspects of their treatment present an ethical dilemma for doctors. Cardiologists, surgeons and infectious disease doctors can fix the infection, but not the underlying problem of addiction. And when patients who are still addicted to opioids leave the hospital, many keep injecting drugs, often causing repeat infections that are more costly and more challenging to cure …
Sale of Cambodian Breast Milk to Mothers in US Criticized by UN
(The Guardian) — The UN children’s fund has strongly criticised the sale by a commercial company of breast milk donated by Cambodian mothers to women in the US, warning it could lead to the babies of poor and vulnerable women becoming malnourished. Unicef condemned the trade by Utah-based company Ambrosia Labs as the Cambodian government intervened. Cambodia’s customs department said the finance minister, Aun Porn Moniroth, had signed a letter blocking further exports, according to the Associated Press in Phnom Penh. Talks will be held to decide whether the business should be allowed to resume …
Determined Parents Are Moving the Needle on Gene Therapy
(MIT Technology Review) — Frase is very likely the reason why the same treatment is now about to be tested in humans. In recent years, gene therapies have become safer and better at hitting their intended targets in the body, leading to a handful of remarkable cures in clinical trials. Advocates for rare-disease patients—especially determined parents like Frase—are increasingly seeking to start gene-therapy programs. They are establishing patient advocacy organizations, raising money for research, and even founding their own biotechnology startups to find treatments where few or none currently exist …
San People of Africa Draft Code of Ethics for Researchers
(Science) — The San people of Southern Africa are among the closest living relatives of our hunting and gathering ancestors. Scientists have flocked to study their age-old rituals and ancient genetic fingerprints. Now, after more than a century of being scrutinized by science, the San are demanding something back. Earlier this month the group unveiled a code of ethics for researchers wishing to study their culture, genes, or heritage …
Artificial Intelligence Is Learning to Predict and Prevent Suicide
(Wired) — For years, Facebook has been investing in artificial intelligence fields like machine learning and deep neural nets to build its core business—selling you things better than anyone else in the world. But earlier this month, the company began turning some of those AI tools to a more noble goal: stopping people from taking their own lives. Admittedly, this isn’t entirely altruistic. Having people broadcast their suicides from Facebook Live isn’t good for the brand …
Early Adoption Not an Option for Research Rule Changes
(Bloomberg) — Changes to human research subject protection regulations known as the Common Rule shouldn’t be followed before they officially take effect next January, an HHS attorney said. “You cannot start applying it right now. The current rule applies until the revised rule becomes effective,” Laura M. Odwazny told a room full of health lawyers March 9 in Baltimore. Odwazny is the attorney who advises the Health and Human Services Office for Human Research Protections, which administers the Common Rule …
3 Women Blinded by Unproven Stem Cell Treatments
(NPR) — Scientists have long hoped that stem cells might have the power to treat diseases. But it’s always been clear that they could be dangerous too, especially if they’re not used carefully. Now a pair of papers published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine is underscoring both the promise and the peril of using stem cells for therapy. In one report, researchers document the cases of three elderly women who were blinded after getting stem cells derived from fat tissue at a for-profit clinic in Florida. The treatment was marketed as a treatment for macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness among the elderly. Each woman got cells injected into both eyes …
Lab-Grown Mini-Organs Help Model Disease, Test New Drugs
(Science) — To the naked eye, the little globs of cells are undifferentiated masses, smaller than sesame seeds. Put them under a microscope, though, and these lab-grown miniature organs show striking complexity: the tiny tubules of a kidney, the delicate folds of cerebral cortex, or a mucousy layer of intestinal lining. Now—after nearly a decade of figuring out how to make cells grow, organize, and specialize into 3D structures similar to human tissues, scientists have created a veritable zoo of “organoids,” including livers, pancreases, stomachs, hearts, kidneys, and even mammary and salivary glands …
Note: News stories and events do not necessarily represent the Center’s views. For additional commentary on many of the issues they raise, please see the CBHD web site at Please visit for daily posts on bioethics news and issues.
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