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Deciding Death

Bioethics News - Tue, 10/03/2017 - 15:16

(US News & World Report) – This month, the New York Court of Appeals – New York’s high court – unanimously rejected an effort by activists to impose the practice there by judicial fiat. That decision from New York echoes a similar 2016 ruling by New Mexico’s Supreme Court that no “fundamental right to die” exists. The results in these two cases have certainly dealt a serious strategic setback to death-by-doctor efforts nationally, but the reasons the courts have given for refusing to accept doctor-aided death after having closely examined the arguments have been even more telling.

Chinese Scientists Fix Genetic Disorder in Cloned Human Embryos

Bioethics News - Tue, 10/03/2017 - 15:12

(Nature) – A team in China has taken a new approach to fixing disease genes in human embryos. The researchers created cloned embryos with a genetic mutation for a potentially fatal blood disorder, and then precisely corrected the DNA to show how the condition might be prevented at the earliest stages of development. The report, published on 23 September in Protein & Cell is the latest in a series of experiments to edit genes in human embryos. And it employs an impressive series of innovations, scientists say. Rather than replacing entire sections of genes, the team, led by Junjiu Huang at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, tweaked individual DNA letters, or bases, using a precision gene-editing technology developed in the United States.

Body Clock Scientists Win Nobel Prize

Bioethics News - Tue, 10/03/2017 - 14:56

(BBC) – Three scientists who unravelled how our bodies tell time have won the 2017 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine. The body clock – or circadian rhythm – is the reason we want to sleep at night, but it also drives huge changes in behaviour and body function.The US scientists Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young will share the prize. The Nobel prize committee said their findings had “vast implications for our health and wellbeing”.

Genome Editing of Human Embryos Broadens Ethics Discussions

Bioethics News - Tue, 10/03/2017 - 14:52

(The Conversation) – Much of the global discussion over the ethics of modifying human embryos has focused on whether the technique might be unsafe or used for non-medical purposes. Niakan’s recent project brings other aspects of this debate to light. How do scientists acquire the embryos they use in their research, and how are their projects approved?

Hurricane Harvey-Related Diseases Have Increased, Health Officials Warn

Bioethics News - Tue, 10/03/2017 - 14:35

(Newsweek) – Hurricane Harvey may be over, but the devastating damage left behind by the storm still lingers. As residents continue to cleanup, public health officials are now warning victims of possible home hazards. Officials in Harris County Texas are traveling to each residency, advising tenants to be cautious while they clean.

Artificial Organs Used in Operations without Approval for Humans

Bioethics News - Tue, 10/03/2017 - 14:22

(New Scientist) – Experimental implants manufactured at University College London were sent abroad and used on patients despite not having approval for human use, an inquiry has found. The implants included an artificial windpipe, a synthetic tear duct and an arterial graft. The inquiry, led by Stephen Wigmore of the University of Edinburgh at the request of UCL, was triggered by the university’s relationship with Paolo Macchiarini, a surgeon at the centre of a scandal in which six of eight patients who received synthetic windpipes died.

SJC to Weigh if Courts Can Force Sobriety on Drug Users

Bioethics News - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 14:11

(Boston Globe) – Eldred now alleges that the court violated her constitutional rights by ordering her to remain drug free, arguing that her substance use disorder makes it virtually impossible for her to control her drug use through sheer will. Early next month, her case will come before the state’s highest court, an unusual challenge that could force major changes in how the probation department treats addiction in criminal defendants amid an opioid crisis that has claimed thousands of lives and shows little sign of abating.

Nurturing Controversy: The Real Science Behind the Artificial Womb

Bioethics News - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 13:54

(Undark Magazine) – While not completely discounting the thought experiments that accompanied the CHOP announcement (and which have followed analogous efforts elsewhere), a variety of scientists and medical practitioners suggest that the challenges and limits of technology are too often being overlooked. For anyone agonizing over (or hoping for) an imminent “Brave New World,” the scientific realities are likely to prove eye opening.

Most Caregivers Favour Assisted Dying for Alzheimer’s Patients: Survey

Bioethics News - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 13:42

(Montreal Gazette) – In the first study of its kind in Canada, an overwhelming majority of Quebec caregivers say they’re in favour of extending medical assistance in dying to those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The survey by Université de Sherbrooke epidemiologist Gina Bravo found that 91 per cent of respondents support the idea of assisted dying for individuals suffering from dementia who are at the terminal state of their illness, showing signs of distress and who have an advance written directive. What’s more, 72 per cent said they were for assisted dying even for Alzheimer’s patients who did not sign a written directive before their illness.

Genetically Modified Approaches to Fighting Malaria Succeed in New Tests

Bioethics News - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 13:32

(Washington Post) – Today, bed nets and insecticides help control the mosquito-borne disease transmission, and drugs prevent infection or blunt malaria’s symptoms. But the disease continues to take its toll. In 2015, there were roughly 212 million cases of malaria and 429,000 deaths. And the disease has become increasing resistant to drugs. In recent years, one new tool — genetic modification — has appeared especially promising. Two studies published Thursday in the journal Science illustrate the potential of genetic engineering for fighting the disease. Both studies were conducted at Johns Hopkins University’s Malaria Research Institute.

‘Chemical Surgery’ Used to Mend Harmful Mutations in Human Embryos

Bioethics News - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 13:04

(The Guardian) – Researchers in China have used a procedure described as “chemical surgery” to mend harmful mutations in human embryos for the first time. The scientists found that it was possible to repair a faulty gene that gives rise to a serious blood disorder called beta thalassemia which can be caused by one misspelling in the DNA code. None of the embryos treated in the experiments were used to produce babies, and doing so would be illegal in the UK and many other countries. But the work proves that the method, known in genetics as “base editing”, could be an effective way to prevent inherited diseases.

Two Patients Show the Promise of a Historic Treatment, with an Equally Historic Price Tag

Bioethics News - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 12:52

(CNBC) – The outcomes for Kaitlyn and Justin are part of the mysteries of medicine: why a cutting-edge therapy works for years for one person, and just months for another. Notably, this situation has been worked into Kymriah’s pricing. If the treatment is controlling patients’ cancer after a month, its price tag is $475,000. “The CAR-T therapy is administered to all patients who need it,” Novartis’ Bradner explained. “If the medicine is working at a fixed period of time, then Novartis is compensated. And if it doesn’t, then we feel good at having provided this chance for that patient.”

Students Look to Vending Machines for Better Access to Morning-After Pill

Bioethics News - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 12:45

(New York Times) – It has been four years since the federal government lifted the age limit for the morning-after pill, but college students across the country say gaining access to it remains fraught with confusion and difficulty. Now some colleges think they have found a solution: vending machines stocked with the morning-after pill. Stanford University unveiled one this month, following in the footsteps of several other colleges, including the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of California, Davis, which made headlines after it installed a “wellness” machine this year that sells the generic version of Plan B, as well as pregnancy tests, feminine hygiene products, Advil, Claritin and other items.

Deus ex Machina: Former Google Engineer Is Developing an AI God

Bioethics News - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 12:39

(The Guardian) – Anthony Levandowski, who is at the center of a legal battle between Uber and Google’s Waymo, has established a nonprofit religious corporation called Way of the Future, according to state filings first uncovered by Wired’s Backchannel. Way of the Future’s startling mission: “To develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”

AI Hacks Are Trying to Turn Code into Intelligence Like Alchemists Tried Turning Lead into Gold

Bioethics News - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 12:31

(Quartz) – For more than a century, alchemists tried to graft the attributes of gold—yellow, fusible, inert, malleable—onto a single substance. Modern AI advocates are doing just the same, taking the attributes of “intelligence”—raw computational power, recognizing faces, mapping spaces, processing language, spotting patterns—and hoping that if we smush them together in a very powerful computer, somehow it will magically add up to what we call “intelligence.” But you can’t make gold from lead. And you can’t make intelligence from code.

Researchers Use Nanotechnology to Treat Cancer

Bioethics News - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 12:27

(NBC News) – The ceramide nanoliposome is infused into the body. Because of the tiny size and structure, the nanoparticles travel easily through the body and can slip into tumors, killing the deadly cells and leaving healthy cells intact. James Adair formed a separate company, Keystone Nano, to continue the research, especially for cancers that have few other effective treatments, like liver cancer.