Canadian bioethicists call for organ donor euthanasia

Well, that didn’t take long. Euthanasia became legal in Canada in June and by December Quebec bioethicists had already published an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics calling for organ donation after euthanasia. In fact, they were reflecting the positive opinions of the both the Quebec government and Transplant Quebec.

The authors, Julie Allard and Marie-Chantal Fortin, bioethicists at the University of Montreal, argue that

“MAID (medical aid in dying) has the potential to provide additional organs available for transplantation. Accepting to procure organ donation after MAID is a way to respect the autonomy of patients, for whom organ donation is an important value. Organ donation after MAID would be ethically acceptable if the patient who has offered to donate is competent and not under any external pressure to choose MAID or organ donation”.

However, they insist that the decision to donate should be… click here to read whole article and make comments

Sperm and eggs grown in a Petri dish could revolutionise reproduction

The imminent arrival of eggs and sperm grown from skin cells makes legislative change imperative, three Ivy League professors argue in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

IVF was a game-changing technology, write Glenn Cohen, of Harvard Law School, George Q. Daley, of Harvard Medical School, and Eli Y. Adashi, of Brown University, but IVG – in vitro gametogenesis – could revolutionise reproduction.

Although at the moment IVG has only been successful in mice, it may only be a matter of time before scientists are able to make an ordinary skin cell revert to a pluripotent cell which can be grown into germ cell. This will provide scientists and IVF clinics with an “inexhaustible supply” of eggs and sperm.

That day is not around the corner. “Copious preclinical evidence of safety” will be needed. At the moment, “Whether human iPSCs have a propensity for genetic and epigenetic… click here to read whole article and make comments

Dutch IVF clinic tries hard, could do better

The eggs of 26 women at a Dutch IVF clinic may have been fertilised with the wrong sperm. The University Medical Centre (UMC) in Utrecht has warned its clients that a “procedural error” may have mismatched the sperm used to create their future child. Of the 26 women, nine have already given birth and four are pregnant. The embryos of the other 13 are still frozen and awaiting implantation.

The UMC is still not sure whether the mix-up occurred in every case, but it cannot rule out the possibility. It has apoligised, has launched an investigation, and is offering free counselling and a free DNA test to the affected women.

The embryos were created with ICSI, a method of fertilisation which is particularly popular in European clinics, even though it is associated with a slightly elevated risk of birth abnormalities. A single sperm is injected into… click here to read whole article and make comments

Destination Laos: the ever-changing surrogacy business changes again

The dreary design of the website and Facebook page of Find Surrogate Mother (aka surrogacy inc) makes depressing reading. The business describes itself as “a full service Surrogacy Agency in Manila, Philippines, helping to match Surrogate Mothers, Intended Parents, Egg Donors, Sperm Donors [which] provide[s] services for Heterosexual Couple, Gay Couple, Lesbian Couple, Single Woman, Single Man.”  

For desperately poor Filipino women, it must seem like a golden opportunity.

Unfortunately for them, the Filipino government is cracking down on what it describes as a "human trafficking syndicate". It detained four women on New Year’s Day as they were about to leave Manila for Phnom Penh, there to be impregnated with the sperm of men from Australia, Germany, China and Nigeria. They were to be paid US$10,000.

Philippine Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the police had uncovered "a new modus operandi of a human trafficking… click here to read whole article and make comments

“Anti-psychiatry” gets official recognition at U of Toronto

An institute at the University of Toronto has established the world’s first scholarship for anti-psychiatry. Bonnie Burstow, an anti-psychiatry activist, has endowed a matching scholarship for a research student at the UT’s  Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

According to a University press release, “The scholarship is being materialized at an opportune time. Key academics have demonstrated the enormous harm done by psychiatry … we have arrived at a moment where imminent action is called for, for we are now facing ‘an epidemic of iatrogenic [doctor-created] illness’.”

The initiative has come under fire in the Canadian press. National Post columnist Barbara Kay was savage in her criticism:

Real scholarship is “for” truth. The whole idea of any scholarly field being called “anti” anything is bizarre, and runs counter to the raison d’être of the university. The prefix “anti” tells us that Burstow’s program is merely organized political activism with… click here to read whole article and make comments

Spain, organ donation champion of the world

Spain is leading the world in deceased organ donation. An article in the American Journal of Transplantation explains how this happened.

In 1989, the Spanish Ministry of Health created the Organización Nacional de Trasplantes (ONT), a technical agency in charge of the coordination and oversight of donation and transplantation activities in Spain. It created a model of coordination in deceased donation that made the country evolve from 15 donors per million population to more than 30 per million in less than a decade.

The Spanish model relies on designated professionals (mostly intensive care doctors) who make donations happen when a potential donor dies. These professionals are supported in their work by ONT and regional coordination offices.

The Spanish model also makes it a priority to identify donation opportunities not only in intensive care units, but also in emergency departments and hospital wards. In addition, it considers organ donation… click here to read whole article and make comments

Ohio makes assisted suicide a felony

The Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio  

While several states in the US have passed legislation allowing assisted suicide, Ohio ended 2016 by passing an act making it a felony. Until now, courts could only issue injunctions against people who assisted others in killing themselves. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers of the State Legislature.

Helping someone die is now a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The measure passed along with a raft of other amendments to the criminal code, including making cockfighting a felony, reducing abortion limits from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, and permitting employees to keep guns in their cars while parked on company property. 

click here to read whole article and make comments

Finland set to debate euthanasia

A citizen's initiative to raise the issue of euthanasia in the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta) has passed the requisite 50,000 signatories required to trigger a parliamentary debate.

As in many countries, Finland has been dicing with euthanasia for some years now. The pro-euthanasia lobby, Exitus has been active since the early 1990s. As in many countries, the notional public support for euthanasia is above the two-thirds mark. Support amongst the nations doctors has also been steadily increasing in recent years with support and oppose numbers in the medical profession both at 46% in 2014.

As with all Finnish Citizen's Initiatives, the 'Euthanasia initiative on behalf of a good death' includes a prescription of the form of the Bill to be debated. The presented model is for euthanasia for people experiencing an 'incurable fatal disease, and death takes place in the near future'. The registered signatories now exceed 62000… click here to read whole article and make comments

American Psychiatric Association takes historic stand on assisted suicide and euthanasia

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has taken a strong stand against euthanasia. In a formal position statement approved by its board of trustees this month, it says:

The American Psychiatric Association, in concert with the American Medical Association’s position on Medical Euthanasia, holds that a psychiatrist should not prescribe or administer any intervention to a non-terminally ill person for the purpose of causing death.

This implies that it is not ethical for a psychiatrist to help a non-terminally ill person to commit suicide, either by providing the means or by direct lethal injection, as is being currently practiced in The Netherlands and Belgium.  

Although this binds only APA members, the APA is one of the world’s most influential professional bodies. The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) is considering a similar statement.

Dr Mark S. Komrad, of the APA ethics committee, says that the APA… click here to read whole article and make comments

All boxes ticked, UK rolls out 3-parent embryo treatment

Government regulators in the UK have given a green light to the creation of three-parent embryos to combat mitochondrial disease.

A regulatory framework has been in place since October 2015, but clinics had been advised to wait until after the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority had considered the opinion of an expert panel.

The HFEA Chair, Sally Cheshire, praised the cautious approach taken by the government.  

“Although it is tempting to rush ahead with new treatments, the UK approach of testing public opinion, putting the issue to parliament and carefully monitoring laboratory research has proved to be the most responsible and sustainable of introducing new, cutting edge treatments into the clinic. Such an approach has allowed us to balance innovation with safety, maintaining public trust as we go.”

Clinics must apply for permission to offer mitochondrial donation to patients. The HFEA will first… click here to read whole article and make comments

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