News from Bioethics.com

Federal Study Finds Nation’s Assisted Suicide Laws Rife with Dangers to People with Disabilities

1 month 53 min

(National Council on Disability) – Today, the National Council on Disability (NCD) released the findings of a federal examination of the country’s assisted suicide laws and their effect on people with disabilities, finding the laws’ safeguards are ineffective and oversight of abuses and mistakes is absent. Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia have passed assisted suicide laws that make it legal for doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients diagnosed with terminal illness and with a prognosis of 6 months or less to live, if certain procedural steps are followed.

Woman with Severe Learning Disabilities to Have Abortion, Judge Rules

1 month 1 hour

(The Guardian) – A judge has given doctors the go-ahead to perform an abortion on a woman with severe learning disabilities who is 12 weeks pregnant. Mr Justice Williams heard that a GP had recently discovered that the woman, who is in her 20s but has the mental age of a toddler, was pregnant. He was told that a police investigation was under way.

Ohio Ban on Down Syndrome Abortion Blocked by U.S. Appeals Court

1 month 1 hour

(Reuters) – A divided federal appeals court on Friday said Ohio cannot enforce a 2017 law banning abortions when medical tests show that a fetus has Down syndrome. Upholding a preliminary injunction, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said the law was invalid under Supreme Court precedents because it had the purpose and effect of preventing some women from obtaining pre-viability abortions.

Doctors Look to Eye-Tracking to Improve Care

1 month 3 days

(The Wall Street Journal) – For Pat Quinn, eye-tracking technology is a lifeline to the world. Mr. Quinn, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is almost completely paralyzed. To speak, write, change the television channel or turn on the lights in his Yonkers, N.Y., home, he flicks his eyes over a computer screen. The device has an infrared camera below the display; he can “click” on files, links or letters on a keyboard by looking at them. “I honestly don’t know how patients remained active without this. I use it every second I am awake,” said Mr. Quinn, 36, through a voice synthesizer. 

With a New Guide to Tapering Opioids, Federal Health Officials Seek a Balanced Approach to Prescribing

1 month 3 days

(STAT News) – Federal health officials on Thursday released a guide for clinicians who are considering tapering patients’ opioid prescriptions, highlighting the benefits of safe reductions in dosages while warning against abrupt drops for people who have been on the drugs for long periods. The recommendations come amid concerns that some chronic pain patients’ dosages have been unsafely pulled back and that providers have sometimes abandoned patients. 

Scientists Chase Cause of Mysterious Vaping Illness as Death Toll Rises

1 month 3 days

(Nature) – Researchers and physicians alike were caught unprepared by the illness, which has now sickened about 1,300 US vapers and killed 26. Scientists are scrambling to find out why, and to save other vapers from the same fate. “Everything is rapidly evolving, says Brandon Larsen, a pulmonary pathologist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. “I could tell you something today and next week it could be totally wrong.” A paper published by Larsen and his colleagues in the New England Journal of Medicine on 2 October undercut a popular theory behind the outbreak — and underscored how far researchers still have to go to pinpoint its cause.

‘Alarming Upsurge’ in Measles Has Devastating Impact, WHO Warns

1 month 3 days

(Reuters) – Latest WHO global data show that reported cases of measles – which is one of the world’s most contagious diseases – rose by 300 percent globally in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2018. This follows consecutive increases over the past two years. 

These Women Say a Trusted Pediatrician Abused Them as Girls. Now They Plan to Sue.

1 month 4 days

(New York Times) – The state Office of Professional Medical Conduct received a steady stream of sexual abuse complaints about Mr. Copperman for nearly two decades, but did not strip him of his medical license until December 2000. By then, he was 65 years old and ready to retire. No criminal charges were ever filed. Mr. Copperman, 84, declined to comment for this story but in the past has denied any wrongdoing. His exams were thorough, he has said, and performed in accordance with standard medical practice. But Ms. Ribaudo and about 50 other former patients now hope to sue him for monetary damages under a new law in New York State, the Child Victims Act.

Former GP Spurs 20+ Retractions Over Forced Transplants from Chinese Patients

1 month 4 days

(Medscape) – Medicine’s loss was medical ethics’ gain. Now a professor of clinical ethics at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, Rogers’ work to draw attention to scientific research that used organ transplants from executed prisoners in China have led to at least 20 retractions, and counting. This past June, a people’s tribunal convened by the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), a nongovernmental organization for which Rogers chairs the international advisory committee, concluded that “forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale.” The Chinese government officially banned the practice in 2015, but estimates of the number of transplants in the country suggest it is still done.

Measles Outbreak Kills More than 4,000 in Congo This Year

1 month 5 days

(ABC News) – More than 4,000 people have died in Congo this year in the world’s largest measles outbreak, the United Nations children’s agency said Wednesday. The Central African nation is also battling an Ebola outbreak that has killed about half that number since August 2018.

Cybercriminals Are Targeting Healthcare Companies with Phishing Campaigns to Steal Sensitive Data

1 month 5 days

(The Next Web) – Healthcare providers are facing an unprecedented level of social engineering-driven malware threats, according to new research. The findings — disclosed by California-based enterprise security solutions provider Proofpoint US — discovered at least 77 percent of email attacks on the medical sector during the first three months of 2019 involved the use of malicious links.

U.S. Blacklists Chinese Artificial Intelligence Firms Over Abuses Against Muslim Minorities

1 month 5 days

(TIME) – The United States is blacklisting a group of Chinese tech companies that develop facial recognition and other artificial intelligence technology that the U.S. says is being used to repress China’s Muslim minority groups. A move Monday by the U.S. Commerce Department puts the companies on a so-called Entity List for acting contrary to American foreign policy interests. The blacklist effectively bars U.S. firms from selling technology to the Chinese companies without government approval.

Bronx Teenager’s Death Is the Youngest Vaping Fatality in U.S.

1 month 6 days

(The New York Times) – A 17-year-old Bronx boy whose death was disclosed by New York State officials on Tuesday is the first teenager in the United States to die of a vaping-related illness, according to federal and state data. The teenager died on Friday after being hospitalized twice in September with a vaping-related illness, becoming the state’s first fatality from the mysterious lung disease, according to state health officials.

Thousands Peacefully Protest French IVF Law, Avoiding Repeat of 2013 Violence

1 month 6 days

(Reuters) – An estimated 42,000 protesters took to the streets of Paris on Sunday, peacefully demonstrating against a draft law allowing lesbians and single women to conceive children with medical assistance, police said.  The bioethics law, which has cleared its first reading in parliament, would lift the current restriction limiting in vitro fertilisation (IVF) to heterosexual couples.

Hong Kong’s Undercover Medics Reveal Hidden Toll of Protests

1 month 6 days

(Associated Press) – With Hong Kong’s summer of protests now stretching into the fall and clashes becoming increasingly ferocious, medical professionals have quietly banded together to form the Hidden Clinic and other networks to secretly treat the injuries of many young demonstrators who fear arrest if they go to government hospitals. The person who messaged the network on the injured protester’s behalf later explained the youth’s wariness by saying, “Many of his friends have been detained when seeing doctors.”

Why IVF Has Divided France

1 month 1 week

(The Atlantic) – More than most countries, France is forever caught between theory and practice, Catholicism and Enlightenment science, tradition and innovation, universalism and individual rights. Perhaps nothing illustrates that tension better than the heated debate unfolding here over the biggest social issue on President Emmanuel Macron’s agenda: a bill that would lift some of France’s restrictions on access to fertility treatments. The proposed changes, some of which have already been approved and the rest of which are likely to pass, would grant single women, regardless of their sexual orientation, access to treatments such as in vitro fertilization and sperm donation, paid for by the national health system.

Swiss Doctor Says IVF Kids Are at Risk of Heart Problems

1 month 1 week

(SWI) – Urs Scherrer, professor emeritus of cardiology at the Inselspital in Bern, has been researching people conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) for the past decade. Those conceived in vitro are already showing the first signs of heart trouble, as Scherrer told Swiss public television, SRF. “We expect that their hearts don’t function optimally under exertion, as would the hearts of normally conceived people the same age,” Scherrer said. In the past, Scherrer was able to show that his in vitro test subjects already had an increased risk of developing high blood pressure requiring treatment as adolescents.

Three Scientists Win Nobel Prize in Medicine for Discovering How Cells Sense and Adapt to Oxygen Levels

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(STAT News) – Dr. William Kaelin Jr. of Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Sir Peter Ratcliffe of the University of Oxford and London’s Francis Crick Institute, and Dr. Gregg Semenza of Johns Hopkins University identified “the molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen, … one of life’s most essential adaptive processes,” the committee said in its announcement. The discoveries have paved the way for understanding “how oxygen levels affect cell function in both health and diseases including anemia and cancer.”

Quebec Court Invalidates Some Requirements for Assisted Death

1 month 1 week

(Montreal Gazette) – In a groundbreaking ruling, a Superior Court judge has granted two Quebecers the right to seek medically assisted death after both had been turned aside by their physicians. Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu are both severely handicapped by degenerative illnesses that, while not immediately life-threatening, are eroding their quality of life. Both say they suffer paralysis as well as debilitating pain daily, while Truchon told the courts he has contemplated killing himself by hurling his wheelchair in front of a métro car.

Why Lifesaving Drugs May Be Missing on Your Next Flight

1 month 1 week

(New York Times) – Epinephrine, or adrenaline, is one of a handful of lifesaving drugs that are supposed to be “no-go” items for commercial passenger planes. According to federal regulations, flights are not supposed to take off without these medicines. Citing chronic drug shortages, however, the Federal Aviation Administration has granted airlines exemptions that permit passenger planes to fly without a complete medical kit if the airlines say they cannot replenish the drugs. The exemptions apply to international as well as domestic flights.

Why Hospitals Are Getting Into the Housing Business

1 month 1 week

(Kaiser Health News) – Legally and morally, hospitals cannot discharge patients if they have no safe place to go. So patients who are homeless, frail or live alone, or have unstable housing, can occupy hospital beds for weeks or months — long after their acute medical problem is resolved. For hospitals, it means losing money because a patient lingering in a bed without medical problems doesn’t generate much, if any, income. Meanwhile, acutely ill patients may wait days in the ER to be moved to a floor because a hospital’s beds are full.

Rodents with Part-Human Brains Pose a New Challenge for Bioethics

1 month 1 week

(Gizmodo) – Rapid progress in research involving miniature human brains grown in a dish has led to a host of ethical concerns, particularly when these human brain cells are transplanted into nonhuman animals. A new paper evaluates the potential risks of creating “humanized” animals, while providing a pathway for scientists to move forward in this important area.

‘I Love the Feeling’: As Vaping Injuries Climb, Doctors Struggle to Wean Youth Off Nicotine

1 month 1 week

(STAT News) – The 16-year-old looked sick. Tubes snaked around her face to deliver oxygen through her nose. Medication coursed into her veins through an IV. The culprit, her doctors said, was something in the e-cigarettes she used to inhale both nicotine and THC. Such reactions are rare though potentially serious: Of the 805 Americans reported to have this vaping-related lung injury, at least 12 have died. But last week, when Dr. Melodi Pirzada, the chief pediatric pulmonologist at New York University’s Winthrop Hospital, on Long Island, told the teenager she needed to quit vaping, the response came as a surprise. “She was one of the patients who looked at me and said, ‘OK, the THC, that is fine, but the nicotine — I really love the feeling that I get with it. I don’t know if I’m ready to give that up,’” Pirzada recalled.

Philippines Polio Cases a Warning for Vulnerable Ukraine

1 month 1 week

(Reuters) – The first cases of the child-crippling polio virus in the Philippines for 19 years are a warning for countries such as Ukraine, where low immunity offers fertile ground for viral epidemics, disease experts say. Ukraine already has a big outbreak of measles – one of the world’s most contagious diseases – with almost 57,000 cases and 18 deaths recorded in the first eight months of this year, according to health ministry figures.

Pediatricians Stat By Meds for ADHD, But Some Say Therapy Should Come First

1 month 1 week

(NPR) – When children are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, stimulant medications like Ritalin or Adderall are usually the first line of treatment. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines on Monday that uphold the central role of medication, accompanied by behavioral therapy, in ADHD treatment. However, some parents, doctors and researchers who study kids with ADHD say they are disappointed that the new guidelines don’t recommend behavioral treatment first for more children, as some recent research has suggested might lead to better outcomes.

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