Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Busy Bioethics News Week

Sometimes, the news just bubbles over with soooo many interesting bioethics topics of interest that we just can't keep up with blogging on all of them -- so, for this week, at least so far, here's a few stories that have captured our interests -- comments welcome!

Nanomedicine under a microscope - a general look at the potential implications of nanomedicine and ethical issues that arise as the technology develops.

Happiness for aging baby boomers? -- Sensing the future
Research which "suggests that aging baby boomers someday will live like the Jetsons, with technology keeping track of their health and providing ready assistance in everyday life, including helping them to drive and shop."

Livesaving Livestock or Frankenstein Science?: "Livestock whose genes have been manipulated could play a critical role in developing new medications and cheaper treatments for human ailments, scientists said Monday.

However, the use of transgenic animals, which have foreign DNA integrated into their genetic information, remains controversial and faces regulatory, economic and societal challenges."

It's all in your genes (but are you willing to relinquish your privacy?): "A revolution in genetics is leading to almost weekly discoveries about genes linked with diseases such as diabetes, but also creating a dilemma for medical scientists: Should they tell the patients whose DNA was used in the research that they may be at risk for a serious illness? At present, that's almost taboo because of privacy policies governing most medical research.

"Researchers are coming up with more and more information, but we're using 'privacy' and our own ingrained paternalism as excuses for not sharing information that could be important to [individual research] subjects," said Dr. Isaac S. Kohane, associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a researcher at Children's Hospital in Boston."

From the Christian Science Monitor: Population Explosion Fuse re-lit: "Prospects for stabilizing the world's soaring population have taken a blow. This development, if not reversed, will have huge economic, environmental, and political impacts on most people alive today.

Two years ago, the United Nations projected that the number of people on this planet would reach 8.9 billion by 2050. In March, the UN Population Division revised that projection to 9.2 billion."

I'll take one drug from Column A and one from Column B - Pharma's Rush to Test Drugs in China: "Despite ethical concerns, Big Pharma is recruiting more patients for clinical trials.
Feng Shuangquan, A 49-year-old peasant from the northeastern Chinese city of Baoding, entered his local hospital in April, 2006, suffering from liver failure. For the next two months, he was in and out of the hospital for blood transfusions, but doctors couldn't halt the deterioration. Finally, one of his doctors handed a note to Feng's wife, who was sitting by his side. Without even asking her to read it aloud, Feng knew the news was bad. "She didn't say anything," he recalls, "but I recognized everything from her face." The recommendation: Let Feng go home and die.
Another doctor on the team refused to give up. He had heard an American company was testing an experimental device in China that just might keep Feng alive. It was an artificial liver—the rough equivalent of a dialysis machine for kidney failure—developed by Vital Therapies Inc. (VTI) of San Diego. Admitted to the trial, Feng spent several days in a hospital bed while VTI's technology took over his liver's function and gave the diseased organ a chance to recover. Today, "my health is pretty good," Feng reports. "My life was saved." [Full Text]"

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