News from Bioethics.com

It’s Not Just Hospitals That Sue Patients Who Can’t Pay

7 hours 23 min

(Kaiser Health News) – Nashville General Hospital is a safety-net facility funded by the Tennessee capital city. For a patient without insurance, this is supposed to be the best place to go in a city with many hospitals. But for the uninsured, it may have been the worst choice in 2019.  Its emergency room was taking more patients to court for unpaid medical bills than any other hospital or practice in town. A WPLN investigation found the physician-staffing firm that runs the ER sued 700 patients in Davidson County during 2019.

The Coronavirus Is Picking Up Steam Outside China, Narrowing Chances of Eliminating It

7 hours 44 min

(STAT News) – There are worrying signs the coronavirus outbreak is entering a new phase, with spread outside of China — until recently at low levels — beginning to rapidly pick up steam. Experts point to the sharp rise of the number of cases in South Korea, which went from 30 cases on Monday to 204 by Friday, and to Italy, which had no cases at the start of Friday and 16 at the end of it. Five of the infected people in Italy are health workers.

Experts Say Confusion Over Coronavirus Case Count in China Is Muddying Picture of Spread

1 day 8 hours

(STAT News) – Infectious diseases experts are losing confidence in the accuracy of China’s count of cases of the novel coronavirus, pointing toward health officials’ shifting definition of cases over time. Confusion over how China is counting cases of infections is making it harder to know how coronavirus is spreading, even as China is officially reporting that the numbers of new cases reported in recent days have fallen sharply. Many suspect the decline may be attributed in part to shifting case definitions.

Scientists Question China’s Decision Not to Report Symptom-Free Coronavirus Cases

1 day 8 hours

(Scientific American) – Researchers are concerned that China’s official reports on the number of coronavirus infections have not been including people who have tested positive for the virus but who have no symptoms. They fear the practice is masking the epidemic’s true scale. But public health experts say China is right to prioritize tracking sick patients who are spreading the disease.

Powerful Antibiotic Discovered Using Machine Learning for First Time

1 day 8 hours

(The Guardian) – A powerful antibiotic that kills some of the most dangerous drug-resistant bacteria in the world has been discovered using artificial intelligence. The drug works in a different way to existing antibacterials and is the first of its kind to be found by setting AI loose on vast digital libraries of pharmaceutical compounds. Tests showed that the drug wiped out a range of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, including Acinetobacter baumannii and Enterobacteriaceae, two of the three high-priority pathogens that the World Health Organization ranks as “critical” for new antibiotics to target.

Europe’s Bid to Stay World’s Digital Cop Fizzles to Life

1 day 8 hours

(Politico) – Europe wants to keep writing the rules of the digital future, but a reality check may be in the offing instead. The EU’s latest bid for power in the online realm is a five-year digital policy blueprint unveiled with great ceremony Wednesday, one centered on data and artificial intelligence and patently designed to beat back American and Chinese dominance in tech. It’s meant to show how the bloc could harness its biggest competitive advantage — the world’s largest single market — to improve its economy and build a green future. And given the EU’s record as a serious player in digital politics, if not digital innovation, its latest brainstorms were digested eagerly in D.C. and California.

An Expert Booted Off the Diamond Princess Says Japan’s Coronavirus Control Is “Completely Chaotic”

2 days 10 hours

(Quartz) – As the number of people infected on the vessel steadily crept up, experts began questioning Japan’s strategy of continuing to enforce the quarantine on thousands of people in an enclosed space. While passengers were confined to their cabins, crew members shared living and working spaces and had minimal protective gear when interacting with passengers. As of yesterday, 542 people have been confirmed infected with coronavirus, or roughly 15% of everyone onboard.

First Baby Is Born Through New Egg-Freezing Technique

2 days 11 hours

(The Guardian) – A woman who was left infertile by cancer treatment has given birth to a baby after her immature eggs were collected, matured in a lab and frozen for use five years later. Fertility specialists at Antoine Béclère University hospital in Clamart near Paris said the healthy boy, named Jules, was the first baby to be born through the new procedure.

Psychiatric Patients Requesting Euthanasia Are More Often Women: Study

2 days 11 hours

(Dutch News) – Large-scale research into euthanasia requests made by psychiatric patients shows women are over-represented, Trouw reported on Tuesday. The figures were collated by the Euthanasia expertise centre at the request of the health ministry which wants to gain an insight into the growing number of psychiatric patients seeking assisted suicide, the paper said.

Coronavirus Spurs Prejudice. History Suggests That’s No Surprise

2 days 11 hours

(Undark) -The recent marginalization of people who are or appear East Asian hardly stops with Kim. The now widely-reported coronavirus causing flu-like symptoms around the globe was first detected last December in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei Province. According to the World Health Organization, the rapidly spreading virus has now infected more than 45,000 people across 25 countries, and killed 1,115 (mostly in China), stoking racism and xenophobia. (On Thursday, China reported an even higher number of cases due to a new reporting method.)

Heart Doctors ‘Held Back Stent Death Data’

3 days 9 hours

(BBC) – Doctors working on a clinical trial for treatment of heart disease held back key data, Newsnight has been told. The Excel trial tested whether stents were as effective as open heart surgery at treating patients with a heart problem called left main disease. The data suggested more people fitted with stents were dying after three years. It was eventually published – but only after treatment guidelines that partly relied on the trial had been written. These guidelines recommend both stents and heart surgery for certain patients with left main disease.

China Is Being Accused of Mistreating Coronavirus Nurses for Propaganda

3 days 9 hours

(Quartz) – A video intended as a tribute to China’s female medical workers backfired as people instead vented their frustration over the way Chinese state-owned media outlets use women as tools for propaganda. The video, posted by Gansu Daily, a government-owned newspaper in Gansu province, showed over a dozen mask-wearing female nurses, who were weeping as their hair was shaved off. They were about to be sent to Hubei, the Chinese province worst hit by the coronavirus, where they would help treat patients.

Coronavirus: Largest Study Suggests Elderly and Sick Are Most at Risk

3 days 10 hours

(BBC) – Health officials in China have published the first details of more than 44,000 cases of Covid-19, in the biggest study since the outbreak began. Data from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) finds that more than 80% of the cases have been mild, with the sick and elderly most at risk. The research also points to the high risk to medical staff.

Columbia to Decide on Historic Abortion Ruling

4 days 10 hours

(ABC News) – Fourteen years after Colombia’s landmark decision to legalize abortions in some cases, the country is once more bracing itself for a historic vote.  The Colombian Constitutional Court has until Feb. 19th to decide whether it will legalize abortion for pregnancies up to 12 weeks. The current law allows for abortion in only three instances: if the mother’s life is at risk, if a fetus is malformed or if the pregnancy is a result of rape.

More Than 80 Clinical Trials Launch to Test Coronavirus Treatments

4 days 11 hours

(Nature) – China has more than 80 running or pending clinical trials on potential treatments for COVID-19, the illness caused by a coronavirus that has thus far killed nearly 1,400 people and infected more than 48,000 across China. New pharmaceutical drugs are listed beside thousand-year-old traditional therapies in a public registry of China’s clinical trials, which is growing every day. There is no known cure, and doctors are eager to help those with the disease — but scientists caution that only carefully conducted trials will determine which measures work.

Fresh Donor Egg Better Than Frozen for IVF: Study

4 days 11 hours

(U.S. News & World Report) – Fresh donated eggs appear to be better for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) than frozen ones, a new study suggests. Donor eggs provide the best chance of success for many women undergoing IVF, according to the authors. But it wasn’t clear whether using fresh or frozen donor eggs in IVF improves the chances of success, so a team from the University of Colorado and Duke University analyzed nearly 30,000 IVF cycles using donor eggs over three years.

Dying a Desperate Death: A Wuhan Family’s Coronavirus Ordeal

1 week 12 hours

(Reuters) – There were no doctors, nurses or medical equipment at the Wuhan hotel converted into a temporary quarantine facility for suspected coronavirus patients when brothers Wang Xiangkai and Wang Xiangyou arrived two weeks ago. The next day, Xiangkai, 61, woke to find that Xiangyou, 62, had died. The Wangs are among tens of thousands of families devastated by the coronavirus in Wuhan, where the medical system has been overwhelmed by the outbreak, despite massive reinforcements and two speedily built new hospitals. 

‘Nobody Talks about It Because Everyone Is on It’: Adderall Presents Esports with an Enigma

1 week 12 hours

(The Washington Post) – The use of Adderall, a drug often prescribed by doctors to treat patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or other substances that help people focus like Vyvanse and Ritalin, have long been associated with students pulling all-nighters and cramming for a test or finishing a research paper. More recently, though, they’ve been used by competitive gamers as a kind of performance enhancer to sharpen their response times and reflexes during game play. While at least one esports league regularly tests for these as banned substances, others have left them unchecked. As the appeal of competitive gaming continues to rise — with robust prize purses and lucrative sponsorship deals hanging in the balance — gamers across multiple esports properties have recounted stories of Adderall use by themselves or others.

China Virus Death Toll Nears 1,400, Six Health Workers Among Victims

1 week 13 hours

(Medical Xpress) – The death toll from China’s virus epidemic neared 1,400 on Friday with six medical workers among the victims, underscoring the country’s struggle to contain a deepening health crisis.  Nearly 64,000 people are now recorded as having fallen ill from the virus in China, with officials revealing that 1,716 health workers had been infected as of Tuesday.

China Launches a Crush of Clinical Trials Aimed at Covid-19

1 week 1 day

(Wired) – Now, researchers in China are racing to launch more systematic tests of these repurposed medicines. Since January 28, scientists have registered 19 clinical trials in China, and at least a few have already begun dosing patients. With initial results expected as early as April, the swift leap into clinical research is an important one for frontline health workers desperate for hard evidence about which therapies work best. The trick will be making sure that evidence stacks up.

Our Phones Can Now Detect Health Problems from Parkinson’s to Depression. Is That a Good Thing?

1 week 2 days

(Vox) – Deducing details of a person’s health through how often they text or when they leave home is called digital phenotyping, and it’s a rapidly growing area of research. Phenotypes, generally speaking, are the traits, like behavior and appearance, derived from how your genes interact with your environment. Today, these environmental interactions happen not just in the physical world, but online, too. Some researchers are now even using the term as a catch-all for the data people leave behind on the internet, social media, and other technology. The smartphones, Fitbits, sleep trackers, and other connected devices that constantly surround us generate an incredible amount of rich social and behavioral data.

U.S. Health Officials Await Invite to Assist with Coronavirus in China

1 week 2 days

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday it had not yet been invited to send experts to China to assist with the investigation of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 1,100 people. The United States has been waiting for approval to send its experts as part of a World Health Organization (WHO) team, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a conference call.

UN: Congo’s Ebola Outbreak Slows But Still Global Emergency

1 week 2 days

(ABC News) – The World Health Organization said although signs are now “extremely positive” in Congo that the Ebola outbreak is winding down, the epidemic remains a global health emergency. To date, Ebola has killed more than 2,200 people in Congo, making it the second-deadliest epidemic in history. The decision to maintain WHO’s global emergency declaration for Ebola came after a meeting Wednesday of WHO’s Ebola expert committee. 

The Coronavirus Cruise Ship Quarantine Is a Scary Public Health Experiment

1 week 2 days

(Vox) – The cruise ship quarantine is not just a human rights or justice issue, though; it’s a public health problem, too. In this case, people who aren’t yet sick and who may not have been exposed to the new coronavirus are being held together in close proximity with people who may already have the disease. Layer on top of that the fact that we don’t yet know exactly how this virus spreads; all we know is that respiratory viruses like it — MERS and SARS — spread mainly through exposure to droplets, from coughing or sneezing.

The World’s Scariest Facial Recognition Software, Explained

1 week 3 days

(Vox) – Law enforcement has been using facial recognition for a while. But Clearview’s technology represents a scary step further than anything we’ve seen before, according to reporting from the New York Times. The secretive company says it’s created a database of over 3 billion images that have been scraped from all corners of the internet, including social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. From just a snapshot or video still, Clearview claims its app lets a police officer identify a face and match it with publicly available information about the person, within just a few seconds. 

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