Monday, May 30, 2005

The Scandal that Rocked Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children

A review of the book by Miriam Shuchman about Canada's research ethics scandal, involving researcher Nancy Olivieri and one of Canada's largest drug manufacturers.

Monday, May 23, 2005

A response to Bush: RI Rep's pleas for ESCR and compassion

A long time friend of mine, Representative James Langevin, (D-RI), makes a compelling and eloquent argument for the advancement of embryonic stem cell research, in accordance with recently published National Academies Science guidelines. Jim has a rather unique perspective in this matter: At the age of sixteen, he was left paralyzed when a police officer's gun accidentally discharged and severed his spine. Because of his perspective, it has become one ofJim's callings in life to help those who are disabled or struggling with debilitating diseases and to help them look forward to enjoying longer, healthier and more productive lives. Balancing the potential harm with the potential good, Jim has decided to "err" on the side of helping those those that are suffering and in need of the help of science -- as have the Reagans and most Americans. Bush, it seems, is more intent on preserving idealogy rather than dealing with the everyday suffering of individuals, like those of Jim Langevin.

That doesn't mean that ESCR is totally ethically concern-free. To mention just a few, here are some concerns that we can and should continue to address and discuss: IVF embryos as a limited resource, the commodification of life, the long-term impact of IVF on women's bodies and the resulting children, are we "strip-mining" women's bodies for what we percieve to be gold? Or fuel for what we think might be the fountain of youth? What about umbilical cord stem cells? Are they not plentiful and totipotent? Just because we use ESCR now, doesn't mean that we will always want to or should. Just like the issue of fossil fuels vs. alternative fuel sources, we need to ask "at what cost?".

BUT, the for time being, when I listen to my friend and see the hope that he holds in his heart and in his mind for the capability of being able to walk again in this lifetime, it makes me realize that, at this time, it would be terrible injustice to him and others in his position, for Bush to veto a bill in support of stem cell research. As one of the previous authors in the AJOB blog said, the real energy is with the states right now, but it's not too late to see some serious progress, if the Feds move quickly.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Tomorrow is Sex Differences in Health Awareness Day

OK, so it's not the catchiest name anybody ever heard--but it's an important topic nonetheless.

It may not be a news flash to you, dear reader, but it turns out men and women are different. . . and that some of those differences can have serious health consequences for women.

The nonprofit Society for Women's Health Research focuses on women's health, broadly defined, and helps bring attention to gender disparities in research funding, women's representation in medical research, sex differences in diagnosis and treatment, and other key issues.

Check out SWHR's page, "10 Differences that Make a Difference" for a look at some examples:

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Multiple births, multiple headaches?

About a quarter of women who undergo IVF give birth to more than one baby. How's this for unintended consequences?

According to a study published in this month's edition of the journal Fertility and Sterility, women face increased psychosocial risks with each increase in birth multiplicity (singleton, twin, triplet) resulting from assisted reproduction. Based on survey responses from 249 women, researchers concluded that, for each additional multiple-birth child, the odds of having difficulty meeting basic material needs more than tripled. The odds of lower quality of life--as well as the odds of increased social stigma--more than doubled. Each increase in multiplicity was also associated with increased risks of maternal depression.

Anybody want to make a bet about whether physicians will share this information with women who seek infertility treatment? And if not, have women really had the opportunity to make an informed decision?

The study was performed by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the RAND Corporation. (Ellison MA et al. Psychosocial risks associated with multiple births resulting from assisted reproduction. Fertil Steril 2005;83(5):1422-1428.)

Can I Pick Your Brain?

Talk about a new issue for neuroethics: Scientists are reporting the ability to read someone’s mind by remotely measuring their brain activity, even extracting information from subjects that they are not aware of themselves. The good news is that this may be able to help doctors to determine the level of conscious in comatose patients. The bad news is that your innermost thoughts may no longer be private.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Not Your Typical Bioethics Gathering

The Inaugural Conference, IHEU- Appignani Center for Bioethics at the UN Plaza in New York City this past weekend, graciously hosted by Ana Lita, Director of Center. Having attended conferences at the conservative CBHD and the CBC, this was a group of progressive bioethicists and scholars, who are seeking to find the common ground with the conservative bioethics groups and make sure that the progressive voice of humanism is heard in the dialogue. The keynote speakers included Glenn McGee and Kathryn Hinsch of the Women’s Bioethics Project. Here are some highlights of Kathryn’s speech:

“Is there still time to effectively promote an alternative bioethics agenda? I believe the answer is yes…. We won’t be effective by merely dismissing legitimate concerns as scientifically ignorant or faith-based nonsense. And we need to do more than just say “yes” where the conservatives say “no.”

We have the power to shape to create a compelling alternative vision, one based on a different worldview and values. How do we do that? Here are a few thoughts to consider:

We must be willing to move beyond our historical ways of thinking about issues. Technology will change the nature of the facts and force us to reexamine the tenets of our underlying belief systems whether we identify as pro-choice, pro-environment or pro-science… For example, when one partner wants a frozen embryo donated to research and the other wants it implanted in another women’s womb – what is the pro-choice position here? We may want to see scientific progress continue but are there circumstances where it can do more harm than good? Our willingness to engage in a broad rethinking of the issues will help us map out powerful and compelling positions.

We must spend more time thinking about what kind of world we want to live in, and then build a philosophical framework around this vision rather than just weighing in issue by issue. We need less talk about technology and more talk about values. We have a responsibility to not cede all things moral to the religious right.

We must embrace strange political bedfellows, as bioethics does not necessarily follow a party line. Look at the Schiavo case—when else in history have Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, and Rush Limbaugh all agreed on a major issue? This is just the beginning. We must look at this as an opportunity; a strategic way to get reach out to groups that would not ordinarily align together.

We must work on issues that are really relevant to people’s lives, not just the sexy ones that get all the headlines. Broad issues that don’t seem frightening or hot enough to engage national media attention still deserve our focus, such as access to health care, poverty, and caring for children and the elderly.

And finally, we must think globally from the beginning; the issues we face do not have borders. This is an exciting time to be involved in bioethics.”

Other speakers ranged from James Hughes to Stuart Newman, making for a stimulating blend of views and discussion. In a manner akin
to the story of the Rabbi’s Gift, I try and meet and greet every individual at these conferences with an open mind and respect, and I was pleased to see that the majority of attendees and speakers approached the issues in like manner.

Welcome to the Womens' Bioethics Blog!

An offspring or "blogspawn" of and, welcome to our new blog!