Ireland votes to legalise abortion

Ireland has legalised abortion by repealing the Eighth Amendment to its constitution. Turnout was strong, with about 60% of the electorate casting a vote after a long and hard-fought campaign on both sides.

According to exit polls, women were strongly in favour of repeal, with 70% in favour, and 30% against. About 65% of men voted in favour of repeal. The highest Yes vote was in the capital, Dublin, where some 77% voted to repeal.

Although supporters of a No vote hoped that rural voters would back their campaign, it appears that 60% of them voted to repeal.

The Eighth… click here to read whole article and make comments

Head of Dignitas charged with profiting from assisted suicide

The founder of Switzerland’s best-known assisted suicide group, Dignitas, 85-year-old Ludwig Minelli, has been charged with profiting from assisted suicide. Minelli has firmly denied the charges, denouncing them as “unfounded and incomprehensible”.

This is the first case of its kind in Switzerland, where assisted suicide has been legal since 1941, but with the proviso that the help must not be tendered “for selfish motives”.

The allegations concern the deaths of three German women. In one case, in 2010, Minelli allegedly charged a mother and daughter double suicide 10,000 Swiss francs each – much higher than the usual cost… click here to read whole article and make comments

‘Sugar War’ pits consumer choice against common good

In the 17th Century the Dutch Republic and Portugal fought a forgotten war lasting more than two decades over Brazilian sugar, in a conflict sometimes called the “Sugar War”. Nowadays the weapons in a new sugar war are less sanguinary, but the passions run just as high. At stake is the public health value of reducing obesity versus the freedom of industry to market high-sugar drinks and food.

Experts have been debating the role of sugar in a range of chronic disease since at least the 1960s. In 1972 journalist John Yudkin published a jeremiad against sugar, Pure, White and Deadly.… click here to read whole article and make comments

May doctors refuse IVF to LGBT individuals?

Rows over conscientious objection, at least in the Anglosphere, have revolved around reproductive rights and euthanasia. What about LGBT rights? Do healthcare workers have a right to object to providing procedures like IVF to LGBT individuals?

In a provocative article in Bioethics Abram Brummett, of St Louis University (Missouri), concludes that their claims would be very weak. It is a challenging contribution to a new battleground over conscientious objection.

What kind of people would seek refuge in conscientious objection? Brummett seems to believe that they would all be Christians who contend that “God has decreed the LGBT lifestyle to… click here to read whole article and make comments

The weaponisation of healthcare – a worldwide phenomenon

A new report from the NGO Safeguarding Health in Conflict warns of worsening attacks on warzone healthcare facilities around the world, and calls on the international community to take immediate action. The report states that “in 2017 there were at least 701 attacks on hospitals, health workers, patients, and ambulances in 23 countries in conflict around the world”.

Some of the more shocking examples in the report include:

- In January, a Nigerian army plane dropped two bombs on an internally displaced persons camp near the town of Rann during a vaccination campaign, killing 90 people, including at least… click here to read whole article and make comments

Concern mounts over biohacking “stunts”

The biohacking movement has come under increased scrutiny after the death of one of its best-known members last month.

Alan Traywick, 28, died in a spa in Washington DC on April 29. It is suspected that he took a dose of the drug Ketamine, lost consciousness and drowned. Traywick gained worldwide notoriety last February after injecting himself with a highly experimental herpes treatment in front of an aghast audience at a biohacking conference in Austin, Texas.

While Traywick’s death was not directly related to a biohacking stunt, the debate has intensified over whether biohacking -- body modification and augmentation… click here to read whole article and make comments

Legitimacy and healthcare policy

Do we all have to agree on bioethics policies for them to be legitimate?

Several eminent ethicists and political philosophers say “yes”. Over the last three decades, there have been multiple expositions of a view that legitimacy comes from democratic deliberation and agreement between reasonable agents. If a policy is to have normative and political force, it has to be the product of the rights sorts of procedures, and it must be sufficiently “public” so that all reasonable persons can accept it. Proponents of this general view include well-known names like Amy Gutmann, Dennis Thompson, Norman Daniels and… click here to read whole article and make comments

Is salt bad for you? Let’s feed prisoners low-salt food and see

A group of medical researchers has proposed a clinical trial in American prisons to test whether too much salt is bad for you. In an editorial in the journal Hypertension the researchers argue that major professional associations believe that a randomized clinical trial in a controlled environment is needed to settle the matter once and for all.  

The “controlled environment” is very difficult to create for “free-living” people, the editorial says, because most people eat processed food at home at dine out at restaurants. The idea of asking participants to eat only prepared meals containing set amounts of… click here to read whole article and make comments

Guernsey rejects assisted suicide

A back door to assisted suicide and euthanasia in the United Kingdom has been closed. After a three-day debate, the Parliament of Guernsey, a British Crown dependency in the English Channel, has voted 24-14 to reject an Oregon-style bill for assisted suicide.

The proposal was a private member’s bill proposed by Guernsey’s chief minister, Gavin St Pier. He released a statement expressing his regret that the measure had not passed:

"We believe that a majority of the population do support a change in the law. However, we live in a representative democracy and our parliamentary assembly, the… click here to read whole article and make comments

US states could use nitrogen to execute prisoners

Underground methods of illegal assisted suicide could be used as a model for capital punishment in the United States. The New York Times reports that states are looking for alternative methods of executing prisoners after some of them suffered greatly during lethal injections.

One solution is inhaling nitrogen, a method promoted by groups like the Final Exit Network in the US and Exit International in Australia. Nitrogen is not poisonous in itself, but in the absence of oxygen, a person will suffocate painlessly.

Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi allow nitrogen to be used for executions. Although there has been… click here to read whole article and make comments

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