If you can change your sex, why can’t you change your age?

You might recall the case of Emile Ratelband, a 69-year-old Dutch “positivity guru”, who hit upon a stunt which put him in headlines around the world. He applied to a court to slash 20 years off his age because he felt 49. It was obviously a back-handed response to the transgender agenda of requesting a legal change in sex.

Mr Ratelband lost his case. "Mr Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly," a court ruled. "But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish… MORE

Are Western scientists crossing their fingers when they damn He Jiankui?

The rending of garments by horrified scientists after Chinese researcher He Jiankui announced that he had altered the germline of two babies was heard around the world. But was the outrage sincere? An article in Nature Biotechnology by two prominent genetic engineering sceptics suggests that it was not.

Donna Dickenson, of the University of London, and Marcy Darnovsky, of the Center for Genetics and Society, in Berkeley, California, point out that “the words and actions of key US and UK scientists” encouraged He to proceed. In particular, they point an incriminating finger at last year’s report on human germline… MORE

We don’t want to pay for oldies, say Belgians

According to reports in the Belgian media of a survey of attitudes towards health care, 40% of Belgians (more amongst Dutch-speakers than French-speakers) believe that the social security expenses need to be kept in check "by no longer administering costly treatments that prolong the lives of over-85s".

The obvious consequence of this, notes Le Soir newspaper, would be a two-tier health system. Poorer patients would have to make do with government medicine; wealthier patients would be able to cover the cost of operations and medicines. Le Soir says that in the Netherlands, pacemakers are no longer provided for people… MORE

Royal College of Physicians goes neutral on assisted dying

In the UK, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has adopted a neutral position on assisted dying following an on-line survey of its UK fellows and members. This represents a controversial change from the RCP’s traditional position of opposition.

Before the poll the RCP leadership set the threshold impossibly high for supporters of the traditional view. It set down that it would move to a neutral position unless more than 60% voted for or against legalisation of assisted suicide. Only about 19% of the RCP’s 36,000 members voted in the poll.

Opponents of a change were in a plurality… MORE

AJOB debates withdrawing and withholding

The current issue of the American Journal of Bioethics hosts a debate on whether withholding and withdrawing treatment are ethically equivalent. Intuitively most doctors feel that there is a difference between not using the plug and pulling it out – but should that “gut feeling” be respected? Most medical guidelines assume that there is none. For non-bioethicists, the question may seem arcane, but an affirmative answer has momentous consequences, especially in end-of-life care.

On the affirmative side are Dominic Wilkinson and Julian Savulescu, from Oxford University, and Ella Butcherine, from the University of Melbourne. They contend that “withholding… MORE

Aborted Alabama embryo sues for ‘wrongful death’

In a major first in America’s never-ending war over abortion, an Alabama judge has recognised the legal rights of an aborted foetus. This gives a man whose girlfriend had a chemical abortion at six weeks in 2017 the right to sue the manufacturer of the pill she used and the abortion clinic.

The decree explicitly states that “Baby Roe” is a person and allows the plaintiff, Ryan Magers, to name the foetus as a co-plaintiff in the suit for “wrongful death”. “It’s the first time in the country that an aborted foetus has been recognised as having legal rights,” his… MORE

India police bust embryo smuggling racket

Indian authorities are investigating a possible embryo smuggling and surrogacy racket after nabbing a Malaysian courier at Mumbai airport earlier this month.

The alleged smuggler told police that he had transported embryos from Malaysia – where surrogacy is illegal – to the Indo Nippon IVF Clinic, run by Dr Goral Gandhi, an embryologist whose website describes her as “the best embryologist in India”.

The clinic has denied involvement in the racket and says that rival clinics may have conspired to set Dr Gandhi up.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) which is investigating the case suspects that other… MORE

Dame Mary Warnock, IVF ethics pioneer, dies aged 94

British moral philosopher Dame Mary Warnock, a public intellectual who laid the foundation for assisted reproduction legislation in the UK, died this week aged 94.

Warnock, who lived and worked in Oxford for much of her life, was a prolific author as well as political commentator. She served as a crossbencher in the House of Lords from 1985 to 2015.

Warnock participated in multiple public and parliamentary inquiries, dealing with topics ranging from special education, environmental pollution, and animal experimentation. But she was best known for chairing the 1982-1984 Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology. The committee’s report… MORE

Scientists split over value of moratorium on editing the human germline

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Stem cell scientists have split over the future of genetic editing of the human germline. In a commentary in Nature several leading scientists have called for a global moratorium on heritable genome editing. This would not be a permanent ban but an international agreement not to greenlight germline editing leading to pregnancies “unless certain conditions are met”. The proposal was strongly backed by Francis S. Collins, the director of the US National Institutes of Health.

The proposal was motivated by the outcry following an experiment by Chinese scientist He Jiankui which resulted… MORE

Is it ethical to have children as climate Armageddon approaches?

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New York’s celebrity Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently told her 2.7 million followers on Instagram that it was a “legitimate question” to ask whether they should have children in an age of looming climate disasters.

“Our planet is going to face disaster if we don’t turn this ship around,” she said in a live video feed as she prepared dinner. “And so it’s basically like, there is a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult and it does lead, I think young people, to have a legitimate question. Ya… MORE

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