Canadian report discusses expanding eligibility for euthanasia

A long-awaited discussion paper on three controversial extensions to Canada’s euthanasia law has been released. It was only two-and a-half years ago, in June 2016, that Bill C-14 was passed amending the Criminal Code to legalise both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Now the government is already considering expanding eligibility.

Three important and contentious issues were passed over at the time. This report, by the Council of Canadian Academies, a government advisory board, reviews the pros and cons without making any recommendations.

The three areas are requests for euthanasia by mature minors, advance requests, and requests where mental illness is the… MORE





First baby born from uterus of a deceased donor

Currently, uterus donation is only available for women with family members who are willing to donate. With live donors in short supply, using wombs from deceased donors might give more women the option of pregnancy.

This now possible: the first baby gestated in a uterus from a deceased donor, has been born in Brazil. Previously, there have been 10 other uterus transplants from deceased donors attempted in the USA, Czech Republic and Turkey, but this is the first to result in a livebirth. The first childbirth following uterine transplantation from living donors occurred in Sweden in September 2013.

The new… MORE





Peter Singer defends academic freedom

Utilitarian bioethicist Peter Singer is best-known as a defender of controversial issues like euthanasia, infanticide and animal rights. But another side of the controversial philosopher is defending academic freedom.  

In a recent essay in the website Quillette, Singer speaks up for a young academic under attack for his views on IQ. Noah Carl has been awarded a Fellowship at St Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge. He studies how intelligence and other psychological characteristics affect beliefs and attitudes. His most cited paper is “Verbal Intelligence is correlated with socially and economically liberal beliefs”.

IQ research is… MORE





Down from the ivory tower

A pro-abortion bioethicist from Brazil points out in Developing World Bioethics that in some countries, freedom of speech is less of a concern than personal safety for academics.

Debora Diniz, an anthropologist and law professor at the University of Brasilia, is a co-founder and researcher at Anis: Institute for Bioethics. She notes that Latin America and the Caribbean is “the most dangerous region in the world for human rights defenders. She writes:

In my case, being an academic who is engaged in women’s reproductive rights has led me to an unprecedented situation as an academic in Brazil: I… MORE





Trump Administration restricts foetal tissue research

The use of tissue from aborted foetuses has become the latest bioethics controversy under the Trump Administration.

The Department of Health and Human Services has asked scientists working in government facilities to stop procuring human foetal tissue for their research, although they can continue using tissue that they already have.

Instead, the Administration is encouraging scientists to investigate other avenues, such as pluripotent stem cells. It plans to offer US$20 million in funding over the next two years “to develop and/or further refine human tissue models that closely mimic and can be used to faithfully model human embryonic development… MORE





Research integrity, Chinese style

As if Chinese scientists needed any reminders of how seriously their government regards research misconduct after the He Jiankui debacle, they now face the prospect of becoming an un-person in society.

According to Nature,“under the new policy, dozens of government agencies will have the power to hand out penalties to those caught committing major scientific misconduct, a role previously performed by the science ministry or universities. Errant researchers could also face punishments that have nothing to do with research, such as restrictions on jobs outside academia, as well as existing misconduct penalties, such as losing grants and awards.”

China… MORE





Euthanasia deaths in Quebec rising rapidly

Quebec’s euthanasia law came into effect three years ago, in December 2015. Since then, 1,664 Québécois have been euthanised, according to a report tabled in the Quebec parliament. A total of 845 persons were euthanised in the 9 months from July 2017 to March 2018, compared to 638 for the 12 months from July 2016 to June 2017.

Oddly enough, the reporting periods are quite different. A better way to compare them, then, (pending clarification) is by month. On a monthly basis the number of people who received “medical aid in dying” in Quebec rose from 53 per month in… MORE





China’s first law of science: do not embarrass the government

South China Morning Post, Nov 29: “The top official said the ministry was firmly against the experiment of genetically edited babies, and will punish researchers involved in the project once the investigation is completed.”

China’s Ministry of Science and Technology has either completed its investigation in record time or decided it couldn’t wait to punish He Jiankui for embarrassing the Chinese government by producing the world’s first gene-edited babies.

Dr He, one of the country’s most prominent, wealthiest, and most successful scientists, has disappeared; his office is closed; his lab is closed; and his website is down. Justice, or… MORE





Nothing unethical to see here, move along, please

While He Jiankui is probably chilling out in a Chinese jail, he is being roasted by scientists and bioethicists around the world. His offence was to alter the human germline deceptively and without the proper paperwork.

But at the same time, Antonio Regalado, of the MIT Technology Review, points out that scientists at Harvard University are steaming ahead with projects which involve modifying the germline.

The dean of Harvard Medical School, George Q. Daly, told the same conference where He unveiled his research, that “this is a transformative scientific technology with the power for great medical use.” 

Regalado also… MORE





Are plants intelligent?

In 2008, a Swiss ethics commission published a discussion paper which suggested that plants had “dignity” which should be respected. Since Article 120 of the Swiss constitution says that “the Confederation … shall take account of the dignity of living beings”, this created both consternation and mockery in the media.

Nothing daunted, some members of the commission went on to formulate the Rheinauer Theses on the Rights of Plants. These proposals guaranteed plants reproductive rights, a right to be independent, a right to evolution, a right to survival as a species, a right to respectful research and development, and… MORE




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