(BMJ) – Of 33 DCNM, [due care not met], cases identified (occurring 2012–2016), 32 cases (97%) were published online and included in the analysis. 22 cases (69%) violated only procedural criteria, relating to improper medication administration or inadequate physician consultation. 10 cases (31%) failed to meet substantive criteria, with the most common violation involving the no reasonable alternative (to EAS [euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide]) criterion (seven cases). Most substantive cases involved controversial elements, such as EAS for psychiatric disorders or ‘tired of life’, in incapacitated patients or by physicians from advocacy organisations. Even in substantive criteria cases, the RTE’s focus was procedural.
(Sacramento Bee) – Medical treatments for transgender people have gone “mainstream,” according to Richard Paulson, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Los Angeles and the president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. With that comes the prospect for a medical development that could shatter some of the most strongly-held beliefs for centuries about biological sex and the ability to conceive a child. In short, some scientists believe that transgender women — those who were assigned male at birth — could soon give birth.
(The Scientist) – The Expert Group on Scientific Misconduct at Sweden’s Central Ethics Review Board (CEPN) has found evidence of scientific misconduct in all six of Paolo Macchiarini’s synthetic trachea transplantation publications it reviewed. The papers reported on the implantations of three patients with artificial tracheae—all of whom died.
(Medscape) – History tells us that fears about designer babies are exaggerated when it comes to the alteration, deletion, or swapping of genes in human embryos, renowned bioethicist Alta Charo, PhD, said during a TEDMED 2017 talk in Palm Springs, California. “In fact, we’ve now had 50 years of responsible and useful advances in genetic screening, genetic testing and, most recently, genetic treatment,” said Dr Charo, who is professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a member of the National Academies’ Human Gene Editing Initiative.
(Undark) – Harvard medical geneticist Robert C. Green, reflective, cautious, and as decent as a scientist can sound, took to television last month to make people aware of an open trial at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which uses genomic sequencing to screen for variants that can predict 1,800 genetic conditions in newborns. The cutting-edge study foreshadows what genetic science might bestow to human health, but the more interesting takeaway is that the failure of the study to connect with the public — very few are enrolling — may signify a deepening distrust of biotech.
(NPR) – People who abhor the thought of being kept alive with feeding tubes or other types of artificial nutrition and hydration have, for years, had a way out: They could officially document their wishes to halt such interventions using advance directives. Even patients diagnosed with progressive dementia who are able to record crucial end-of-life decisions before the disease robs them of their mental capacity could write advance directives. But caregivers and courts have rarely honored patients’ wishes to refuse food and fluids offered by hand.
(U.S. News & World Report) – More than half of U.S. physicians have at least one symptom of professional burnout, Shanafelt said, and the problem is getting worse. “We are seeing increasing rates of distress,” he said, and that equates to decreased quality of care for the patient – burnout correlates with mortality rates. There are implications for the health care professional, too, such as increased odds of substance abuse, suicide and leaving the profession.
(Quartz) – Researchers at Imperial College London conducted a study on 200 patients who had one severely blocked artery to the heart, which starves the heart of oxygen and causes chest pain, especially when someone with the condition tries to exert themselves. For six weeks, the research team gave the participants statins and blood pressure medication, and then each patient underwent a routine procedure to insert a stent into the affected arteries. Except only about half of the patients actually got a stent.
(BBC) – Madagascar is facing the worst outbreak of plague in 50 years. There have been more than 1,800 cases and 127 deaths since the start of August, according to new figures. The island off the south-east coast of Africa is used to seeing about 400 cases of mostly bubonic plague in the same rural areas every year. But this year it has developed into the deadlier pneumonic version and spread to much more populated areas, including the capital.
(CNN) – Three new reports from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bring both good and bad news about Americans’ health. Death rates for heart disease, cancer and HIV are all down in the United States in the year ending mid-2017 compared to the same period last year, according to one report published Friday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Despite these “wins,” the overall mortality rate has increased from the same time last year, the report also indicated. This overall uptick includes the death rate for drug overdoses.
(Scientific American) – The speed and effectiveness of the psychedelic experience Casey describes has caught the attention of the Food and Drug Administration, despite the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 1985 classification of MDMA as a Schedule I substance—the murderer’s row of illicit drugs that include heroin and are deemed to have no medical value. This past August the FDA granted MDMA “breakthrough therapy” status in the treatment of PTSD, meaning it may provide a substantial improvement over existing therapies. The agency will work closely with MAPS—a privately funded research institute founded 31 years ago in Santa Cruz, California—to design and conduct phase III trials starting next spring. This marks the first time psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be monitored in phase III trials for possible prescription use.
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) – While sitting in séances and pursuing Marabou storks may seem like extreme measures, the data researchers gather in the field — everything from the size and frequency of bat litters, to the levels of virus in their blood serum — is being used to build mathematical tools that scientists hope will achieve a landmark in human health. They want to predict an infectious outbreak before it happens.
(STAT News) – Several West Virginia municipalities are suing The Joint Commission, claiming the Chicago-based health care accreditation group downplayed the dangers of prescription painkillers and helped fuel addictions. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that the cities of Charleston, Huntington and Kenova and the town of Ceredo filed the class-action lawsuit Thursday in Charleston.
(BBC) – The Red Cross has confirmed that more than $5m (£3.8m) of aid money was lost to fraud and corruption during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Auditors found overpriced supplies, salaries for non-existent aid workers and fake customs bills. The disease, which raged between 2014 and 2016, claimed at least 10,000 lives. It required a massive humanitarian operation costing hundreds of millions of dollars to bring it under control.
(ABC News) – A first attempt at gene therapy for a disease that leaves babies unable to move, swallow and, eventually, breathe has extended the tots’ lives, and some began to roll over, sit and stand on their own, researchers reported Wednesday. Only 15 babies with spinal muscular atrophy received the experimental gene therapy, but researchers in Ohio credited the preliminary and promising results to replacing the infants’ defective gene early — in the first few months of life, before the neuromuscular disease destroyed too many key nerve cells.
(MIT Technology Review) – For over a decade, scientists have been trying to reverse heart failure by delivering a new gene to the heart that makes it better at pumping blood and supplying the body with oxygen. A major clinical trial testing this gene therapy flopped in 2015. But as gene therapy has finally become a reality for other diseases after years in the making, there’s now renewed interest in trying it again for heart failure.
(GEN) – A new blood system isn’t created from scratch—just something close to it. A single type of stem cell, a new study demonstrates, can fully repopulate the bone marrow and give rise to all the cell lineages that constitute a complete blood system. This blood-forming stem cell is distinguished by three cell-surface markers—or rather the presence of two markers and the absence of a third. By heeding these markers, scientists may improve transplantation procedures, as well develop better gene therapy and gene-editing approaches.
(Quartz) – Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about advertisements for thermograms falsely claiming the technology could be as good or better than mammograms. In 1982, the FDA approved thermograms for breast-cancer screening—but only in conjunction with regular mammograms. Although thermography is not harmful in and of itself, there’s no scientific evidence that actually can detect breast cancer on its own. Since 2016, the FDA has issued two warnings to companies advertising preventative breast cancer screenings.
(Scientific American) – CRISPR–Cas9 (or CRISPR, for short) has given scientists a powerful way to make precise changes to DNA—in microbes, plants, mice, dogs and even in human cells. The technique may help researchers engineer drought-resistance crops, develop better drugs, cure genetic disorders, eradicate infectious diseases and much more. Ask any biologist, and they’ll likely tell you that CRISPR is revolutionary. It’s cheap and effective, and in many cases, it works much better than older methods for making genetic modifications. Biologists will also tell you that CRISPR is very easy to use. But what does “easy to use” mean?
(Wired) – So what can help? There is a category of jobs today that is critical to our society. Many of us will employ the services of these workers, but these positions are all-too-often held in low esteem with poor pay and minimal career advancement prospects. Some are designing so-called social robots to take these jobs. Yet, these are jobs we categorically do not want machines doing for us, though machines could potentially assist humans. I am speaking of caregiving.