|UK – Abortion doctors may consult via Skype
|South Africa – State to oppose alternative medicine court action
|Belgium – Five killed in Belgium Every Day as euthanasia soarsSwitzerland – Group to allow assisted dying for not terminally ill elderlyUSA – More patients participating in Washington assisted suicide program
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|West Indies – AIDS expert fired for testifying on the harm of homosexualityAustralia – Relationship problems a leading cause of homosexual suicides UK – Psychiatrists in climb-down on ‘born gay’ claimUSA – Texas favors ‘reparative therapy’ for homosexuals
|IVF & Surrogacy
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|USA – Should doctors take part in executions?USA – The ethics of preimplantation diagnosisUK – Top employment strategies for discouraging conscientious objectionIsrael – Should we allow organ transplants from HIV positive donors?
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|USA – Many countries still do not consider child porn a crime
|South Africa – Child prostitute says punish my pimp
|Stem Cells & Cloning
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|South Africa – Call to suspend all dagga prosecutionsUSA – Pot patients don’t know what they’re gettingUSA – National study links marijuana use to adverse effectsGhana – Marijuana may affect fertility in young men
UK – Abortion doctors may consult via Skype
Doctors will be able to give an opinion by Skype or telephone on whether a woman is eligible for a government funded abortion. New Department of Health guidance states clearly that UK law does not require either of the two doctors who must approve an abortion to have a face-to-face interview with a woman. They must consider her case, but are not required to have personal contact with her. Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, was scathing about the new guidance: “A telephone consultation to ensure authorization – presumably with a pro-choice doctor – completely ignores the life-taking nature of abortion, makes a complete mockery of the original Act and would surely not be tolerated in any other branch of medicine.”
South Africa – State to oppose alternative medicine court action
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has been served with legal papers that seek to prove that alternative medicine is safe but a Health Department spokesman said they will oppose the matter. The Health Products Association of SA approached the High Court in Pretoria about new government regulations which they said could wipe 60 percent of products off the shelf. However, Mandisa Hela, registrar at the medicine controls council, told the newspaper that if the market was unregulated, it made it “possible to market unsafe products or products of doubtful efficacy”. Certain products labels did not disclose “unsafe” substances such as yohimbine, teas containing cocaine, and slimming products with dangerous levels of scheduled ingredients.
Belgium – Five killed in Belgium Every Day as euthanasia soars
Figures published in Sudpresse, Belgium’s leading French-speaking newspaper, showed that 1,816 cases of euthanasia were reported in 2013 compared to 1,432 in 2012, an overall increase of 26.8 per cent. ‘You could say that currently there are 150 cases of euthanasia per month in Belgium or, even more telling, five people euthanized a day,’ the newspaper said. Of the total number of cases in 2013, 51.7 per cent were male patients and 48.3 per cent were female. Anti-euthanasia campaigners have argued that safeguards have consistently proved to be meaningless.
Switzerland – Group to allow assisted dying for not terminally ill elderly
A Swiss organisation that helps people take their own lives has voted to extend its services to elderly people who are not terminally ill. Exit added “suicide due to old age” to their statutes at an annual general meeting held over the weekend, allowing people suffering from psychological or physical problems associated with old age to end their life. The move has been criticised by the Swiss Medical Association amid fears it will encourage suicide among the elderly.
USA – More patients participating in Washington assisted suicide program
The Washington state Department of Health in their annual report shows about 175 people were given lethal doses of medication between January 1 to December 31 in 2013. Participation rose by 43 percent in 2013 from 2012. The 173 prescriptions were written by 89 different physicians and were dispensed by 23 different pharmacists. Those who died after receiving the lethal medications were between the ages of 29 and 95. Following the trend in previous years, many of the patients listed their concern over the loss of independence as the reason for participating.
HIV/AIDS & STI’s
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West Indies – AIDS expert fired for testifying on the harm of homosexuality
Professor Brendan Bain, who served as director of the regional coordinating unit of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network (CHART) at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, was fired after homosexual activist groups demanded he be removed from his job because of testimony he gave in 2010 in defense of Belize’s sodomy ban. My responsibility as a Public Health practitioner is to assess the cost of behavior, not just to the individual ‘actor,’ but also to the community,” Bain wrote. Bain argued that one such behavior is anal intercourse, which significantly increases the risk not only of HIV/AIDS, but other sexually transmitted diseases and cancer.
Australia – Relationship problems a leading cause of homosexual suicides
Dr. Delaney Skerrett led a team of researchers from the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention in studying suicides in Queensland. He found that a leading cause of suicide among “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex” (LGBTI) people is stress from their romantic partners. “We tend to assume that the psychological distress LGBTI people are often going through is due to family rejection. But it seems that’s not so much the case. The conflict seems to be largely related to relationship problems, with partners,” Dr. Skerrett said. In fact, “The numbers are telling us there’s a general acceptance at the family level.”
UK – Psychiatrists in climb-down on ‘born gay’ claim
In a dramatic policy change, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has altered its position on the nature of same-sex attraction. It now believes that same-sex attraction is not fully determined at birth. According to a new position statement, issued quietly, the Royal College now believes that sexual orientation is “determined by a combination of biological and postnatal environmental factors”. It also rejects the notion that sexual orientation is unchangeable, saying that “it is not the case sexual orientation is immutable”. Instead it recognizes that sexual orientation may vary during someone’s life.
USA – Texas favors ‘reparative therapy’ for homosexuals
Texas Republicans have adopted a party platform that includes support for voluntary psychological “therapy” for homosexuals who want to be heterosexual. The measure states that “We recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.” Spearheading the endorsement is Cathie Adams, president of the conservative Texas Eagle Forum. She stressed that the measure calls for allowing people to choose the treatment. “Nothing is mandatory,” wrote Adams. “If a person chooses counseling, then it should be made available. It’s a freedom issue.”
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USA – Should doctors take part in executions?
It is unethical for American physicians to participate in executions, according to a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Robert D. Truog, a bioethicist, I. Glenn Cohen, a law professor, and Mark A. Rockoff, a doctor, all of Harvard University, assert forcefully that “Regardless of whether execution is justified … it must never be perceived as a medical procedure.” The Harvard academics were responding to a study by the Death Penalty Committee of The Constitution Project, a group of eminent lawyers who oppose capital punishment. Recommendation 39 was that doctors should be involved in those executions which do happen in order to ensure that they are humane as possible – even if medical associations object.
USA – The ethics of preimplantation diagnosis
An article in the Journal of Medical Ethics argues for a novel, preference based assessment of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). Bioethicist Tomasz Żuradzki asserts there are situations where couples have a moral obligation to request PGD, “no matter what moral doctrine [they] subscribe to”. He imagines a situation where embryos have already been prepared for implantation. He departs from the traditional argument of future benefits for the baby to be born; and argues from the perspective of the ‘hypothetical preferences’ of the embryos. We must assume the embryos are rational, and that they would chose to be screened for genetic predispositions. Parents must honour these preferences of embryos, for “we should respect the hypothetical choices of rational agents.”
UK – Top employment strategies for discouraging conscientious objection
In a Journal of Medical Ethics article, bioethicist Francesca Minerva argues for limiting the number of conscientious objectors in Italian hospitals. She asserts that conscientious objection “prevents access to certain treatments”, and proposes to set up disincentives for objectors in hospitals such as offering higher salaries for non-objectors and establishing ‘conscientious objector quotas’. In response, Oxford ethicist and theologian Roger Trigg argues that conscientious objection is a necessary part of the practice of medicine: “Once we discount conscientious moral reasoning, medicine is reduced to a technical issue about procedures, without any regard to their effect on the greater human good.” Regarding abortion, he suggests that high rates of conscientious objection might indicate a need to reconsider the original policy.
Israel – Should we allow organ transplants from HIV positive donors?
In a controversial article in the Journal of Medical Ethics
three Israeli bioethicists from leading academies in Israel, argue there are times when it would be ethically permissible for doctors to transplant organs from HIV positive individuals to uninfected recipients. “If the potential recipient demonstrates full awareness of the risks of receiving an organ from an HIV-positive donor, he or she has the right via the principle of autonomy to accept those risks along with the potential life-saving benefits… to deny patients the right to take on the risk of HIV, when transplantation is the best and often the only recourse available to them, would then be a unique limit on autonomy.”
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USA – Many countries still do not consider child porn a crime
During the past seven years a 100 countries have enacted new laws to protect children from child pornography. However, according to the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), 53 countries still have no law and do not consider child pornography a crime. The number of countries deemed to have sufficient law has climbed from 27 in 2006 to 69 in 2012. Yet, 53 countries still have no law at all that specifically criminalizes child pornography. “The problem of child pornography is widely misunderstood,” said Ernie Allen, President and CEO of ICMEC. “These are crime scene photos, images of a child being sexually abused. Every time these images are traded, distributed or downloaded, the child in the photo is re-victimized.
Prostitution & Trafficking
South Africa – Child prostitute says punish my pimp
A schoolgirl, who started prostituting herself at 13-years-old for R50 per sexual encounter, said she wanted to see nothing more than her pimp punished. “I am still angry with him. I will never forget what he did [to me] even when I sleep. I would truly like for him to be punished for that”. She was responding to a question in court about whether she was angry at, the man who allegedly operated a prostitution ring out of Durban’s Inn Town Lodge. Zweni, Dr Genchen Rugnath, Rugnath’s wife Ravina, Nonduzo Dlamini, and Bhabha Dubazini are accused of running a brothel using girls as young as 12. They have pleaded not guilty to 156 charges, including assault, rape, sexual exploitation of a child, and racketeering.
Stem Cells & Cloning
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South Africa – Call to suspend all dagga prosecutions
The Western Cape High Court is to decide on an application to stay the prosecutions of people facing dagga-related charges. The applicant, Jeremy Acton, leader of the Dagga Party of SA, was in court when Judge Nolwazi Boqwana heard argument on Friday. Acton asked that the court order a temporary halt to the prosecution of people across the country facing charges over dagga possession or dealing pending the outcome of a legal challenge against the legislation that criminalises dagga. Thomas Bokaba, SC, for the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, argued that the effect of such a “far-reaching” order would be the “decriminalisation” of dagga.
USA – Pot patients don’t know what they’re getting
Testing shows that marijuana strains are not what they purport to be in name, chemical content and genetics. Jessica Tonani, CEO of Verda Bio, a small Seattle biotech company, is researching the consistency and variety in so-called ‘medical-marijuana’ strains. One popular strain widely known for its high-Canabanoids (CBD) is called Harlequin. But when Tonani and a leading Seattle lab analyzed 22 samples from various growers and dispensaries, five of them were high in THC and had virtually no CBD. This means people trying to take ‘medicine’ were just getting high instead, perhaps during work time or behind the wheel. “You don’t want a 6-year-old with epilepsy being put on a bus under the influence of a psychedelic chemical,” Tonani said.
USA – National study links marijuana use to adverse effects
An analysis of studies on the effects of marijuana use published in the New England Journal of Medicine establishes that the drug can reduce teens’ IQ, impairs driving, and that today’s version is more potent than in the past. The review, authored by scientists from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), links the drug to several significant adverse effects including addiction. Research shows that marijuana impairs critical thinking and memory functions during use and that these deficits persist for days after using. “Physicians in particular can play a role in conveying to families that early marijuana use can interfere with crucial social and developmental milestones and can impair cognitive development,” said lead author and NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow.
Ghana – Marijuana may affect fertility in young men
If you’re a cannabis user and you’re trying for a baby … stop.” This advice comes from Dr. Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom and lead author of a new study that suggests using marijuana could increase a man’s risk of fertility problems. The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, looked at how a man’s lifestyle affects his sperm morphology: the size and shape of sperm. Researchers collected data from 1,970 men who provided semen as part of a fertility assessment.
Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of Doctors for Life International