The Economist backs surrogacy

The world’s most influential news magazine has given commercial surrogacy full-throated support. Under the headline “Carrying a child for someone else should be celebrated—and paid”, The Economist argues that a market for babies gestated by surrogate mothers, carefully regulated by governments, is a necessary development. Some countries, like Sweden, have banned it completely; others, like India, have banned foreign clients.

These restrictions are harmful [says The Economist in its leader]. By pushing surrogacy to the legal fringes, they make it both more dangerous and more costly, and create legal uncertainty for all, especially the newborn baby who may be deemed parentless and taken into care. Instead, giving the gift of parenthood to those who cannot have it should be celebrated—and regulated sensibly.

Getting surrogacy right matters more than ever, since demand is rising.

Oddly enough for a magazine whose bread and butter is statistics, there are few firm figures in The Economist’s discussion of the issue.… click here to read whole article and make comments





Cheap, effective alternative to IVF may be possible

The fertility industry could have a strong competitor after a cheap, simple, time-tested fertility remedy has been proved to be even more effective than IVF.

A 100-year-old medical technique which involves flushing the woman's fallopian tubes with an iodised poppy seed oil has been proven to have significant benefits for fertility, according to Australian and Dutch research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Known as the H2Oil study, the project compared the benefits of flushing the fallopian tubes with either an oil-based or water-based solution in 1119 women.

The procedure, known as hysterosalpingography (HSG), is a dye test of the fallopian tubes conducted under X-ray. The procedure was first carried out in 1917, and since the 1950s both water-based and oil-based solutions have been used.

"Over the past century, pregnancy rates among infertile women reportedly increased after their tubes had been flushed with either water or oil during this X-ray procedure. Until now, it has been unclear whether the… click here to read whole article and make comments





Moral enhancement won’t work, claim bioethicists

A recent study in the journal Bioethics finds that "moral enhancement technologies" are neither feasible nor wise, based on an assessment of existing research into these technologies.

The idea behind moral enhancement is to use biomedical techniques to make people more moral. Drugs, surgical techniques or neurological interventions are often mentioned as examples.

"There are existing ways that people have explored to manipulate morality, but the question we address in this paper is whether manipulating morality actually improves it," says Veljko Dubljevic, of North Caroline State University.

Dubljevic and co-author Eric Racine, of Montreal Clinical Research Institute, reviewed research on moral enhancement technologies to assess their effects and how they may apply in real-world circumstances. They examined four types of pharmaceutical interventions and three neurostimulation techniques:

  • Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that plays a critical role in social cognition, bonding and affiliative behaviors, sometimes called "the moral molecule";
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often prescribed for depression, but… click here to read whole article and make comments




Should a depraved killer be allowed to commit suicide?

The late Ian Brady is so unpopular in his native Glasgow that the city council has refused to allow his ashes to be scattered there. Brady was the notorious Moors murderer, who killed and sexually tortured five young people aged between 10 and 17, in the 1960s, together with his lover, Myra Hindley. He never showed remorse for his crimes. The trial judge described the couple as "two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity".

Brady spent the rest of his life behind bars, where he was at the centre of some bioethical issues.

He spent the first 19 years of his life sentence in solitary confinement in a prison. On one occasion, he offered to lead police to the grave of one of the victims if he were provided with the means to kill himself. This was refused. Prisoners do not have the right to commit suicide.

In 1985 he was diagnosed as a psychopath and transferred to a maximum… click here to read whole article and make comments





Dutch fertility doctor accused of using his own sperm

Dr Jan Karbaat was a leading fertility doctor in The Netherlands in the 1980s. Now it appears that he used his own sperm to help some of his patients get pregnant.

Dr Karbaat, who died in April at the age of 89, ran a sperm bank near Rotterdam from 1980 to 2009. About 10,000 children may have been conceived at his clinic.

Now 12 donor-conceived people, and 10 mothers, have sued for access to his DNA to see whether he is the biological father. Court officials have already seized some of his personal items to that a DNA test can be done.

Dr Karbaat’s clinic closed in 2009 after irregularities were detected in its record-keeping.

One of the parties to the lawsuit is Dr Moniek Wassenaar, 36, a psychiatrist. She questioned Dr Karbaat before he died and asked if she might actually be his daughter. He admitted that it was possible, she claims, because they resemble each other. Karbaat… click here to read whole article and make comments





Ontario passes assisted dying law

Ontario has passed detailed new legislation to facilitate Medical Assistance in Dying in the province.

Earlier this month, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of what is known as “Bill 84” – a bill that amends six several Ontario laws that potentially impede the implementation of federal law on euthanasia.

Among the various provisions, Bill 84 ensures that patients who receive euthanasia will be eligible for insurance and workplace safety benefits. Their deaths will not be documented as suicide, but rather will be attributed to an underlying illness or condition.

The legislation also limits public access to identifiable information on individuals and facilities who provide MAID, and ensures that practitioners and institutions are protected from civil liability, except in the case of negligence.

“It is critical that end-of-life care, including medical assistance in dying, is provided safely and compassionately”, Dr Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, said. “This legislation will help ensure that patients, health care providers… click here to read whole article and make comments





Trump to expand funding ban on abortion

US president Donald Trump has announced broader restrictions on funding for foreign aid organisations that assist with the provision of abortions.

In a new “expanded” policy unveiled on Monday, the Trump administration said it would apply the regulations of the controversial Mexico City Policy to “international health programs”, such as “those for HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria, global health security, and family planning and reproductive health”.

Previously, the Mexico City Policy had only been applied to family planning organisations that focused on contraceptives and maternal health. The policy will now affect approximately US$8.8 billion in funds, though Administration officials said it was too early to determine which international organizations will lose access to funds due a refusal to comply.

The Department of State emphasised the policy “does not reduce the amount of global health assistance the US Government makes available”.

Pro-life lobbyists praised the new policy, saying that it would ensure that foreign aid was “well-spent”. “No… click here to read whole article and make comments





Do donor children benefit from knowing their origins?

Folk wisdom, world literature and common sense suggest that donor-children benefit from knowing their biological origins.  

Yet a recent article in the journal Human Reproduction claims that there is no significant psychological difference between children who know they are donor-conceived and those who do not.

University of Ghent bioethicist Guido Pennings – who adamantly opposes retrospective changes to donor law – conducted a systematic review of empirical studies on the well-being of donor offspring. He argues that there is “no empirical evidence of differences in psychological well-being of donor offspring in disclosing or non-disclosing families”.

Pennings reviewed several studies conducted in the past two decades into disclosure among pre-adolescents and adolescents. The data, he says, shows “no negative consequences in the parent-child relationship or child development because of nondisclosure of the child’s donor origin”. On the contrary, certain studies suggest that “children who were told and whose mothers were distressed showed greater adjustment difficulties”.

Pennings also reviews data… click here to read whole article and make comments





UK star surgeon backs euthanasia despite danger of elder abuse

A renowned British neurosurgeon has strongly backed euthanasia and assisted suicide in the second volume of his memoirs, even if there is “collateral damage”. Henry Marsh has just published Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery. Mr Marsh (surgeons in the UK are called Mister rather than Doctor) was famous for operating on the brain with only a local anaesthetic to minimize damage to neural structures. A talented writer as well, he is well-known in the media.

He told the London Times in an interview about his latest book that he was exasperated by opposition to liberalising end-of-life legislation and described it as “grotesque”.

One of the most powerful arguments in the armoury of opponents of euthanasia is fear of elder abuse, that vulnerable older people will be made to feel that death is obligation for them. Mr Marsh pooh-poohs this notion.

"They argue that grannies will be made to commit suicide," he said. "Even if a few grannies… click here to read whole article and make comments





Doctors launch online pledge against torture

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has launched an online pledge for health professionals across the United States to reject torture as an absolute wrong which can never be sanctioned.

“At a time when human rights are increasingly under threat, we’ve launched this pledge to marshal the powerful voices of health professionals across the United States and reaffirm their ethical duties to honour human dignity,” said PHR’s executive director, Donna McKay. “After 9/11, health professionals were enlisted in carrying out and providing legal cover for torture, practices which President Trump has repeatedly expressed an openness to reintroducing as US policy. This pledge is an opportunity for all health professionals to rally together and say we will never go back to those shameful times.”

The online pledge commits health professionals to never support or participate in torture, to demand that the US government uphold the absolute legal prohibition against torture, and to urge their respective professional organizations to enforce ethical… click here to read whole article and make comments




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