Tag: abortion

Bioethics News

He Edited a Human Embryo, With Startling Results

September 8, 2017

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ORTLAND, Ore. — Biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov knew he’d done something pretty big: He’d conducted the first experiment in the U.S. to edit a dysfunctional gene in a viable human embryo. That was sure to spark a debate about designer babies and draw ire from the anti-abortion groups that so vehemently oppose such research.

What Mitalipov didn’t expect, however, was the furious response from fellow researchers — who have aggressively picked apart not the ethics of his work, but…

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Pray Tell, What Does Harvey have to do with Abortion?

Nothing brings out the true color of people as clearly as a national catastrophe such as hurricane Harvey. “Beautiful” has been the color of the vast majority of people who have been victims of, or responders to, one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. Many people who watched their houses and possessions float away, who must have wondered how they will ever recover from their losses, nevertheless are painting the beautiful colors of faith, trust, courage, and patience. Many people who have put their own jobs and lives on hold to go down to Houston to help strangers in need, to pluck them out of the flood waters, to feed and shelter them, and to give them the proverbial shirt off their backs, are painting the beautiful colors of love, service, and sacrifice toward fellow human beings in need. Yes, Harvey has brought out many beautiful colors, as the vast majority of people have displayed the best of what human beings are capable of.

However, tragedies also bring out the true “ugly” colors of other people. Looters have broken into business and private dwellings and have wantonly stolen what did not belong to them. On some occasions, first responders have been robbed and even shot at. And when the flood waters recede and flood victims begin to rebuild their homes and lives, be assured that scammers will make the rounds, taking advantage of people in great need to pad their own greedy pockets with ill-gotten gain. Yes, Harvey has brought out many ugly colors, as a few people have displayed the worst of what human beings are capable of.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Abortion pills at home: the new sinister face of the global abortion business

Dutch website “Women on web” is offering to deliver abortion drugs based on mifepristone (RU-486) and misoprostol for use at home, through a simple request on their website (there are lots of sites like this, after which they ask for “a donation of at least 90, 80 or 70 euro”. The website literally states that “a medical abortion can be done safely at home as long as you have good information and have access to emergency medical care in the rare case that there are complications”. Both drugs legally require a medical prescription, so their sale on the internet is illegal.

Abortion pills at home

A woman who feels tempted to make an “abortion” request on this site should know that the side effects of RU-486 are common and objective (see HERE), particularly vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue [2]. In some cases, the intensity of the vaginal bleeding requires a blood transfusion  [3], [4]. A total of 607 adverse events were reported between September 2000 and September 2004 : 237 hemorrhages, which included 1 fatal, 42 life-threatening, 168 serious, and 68 requiring blood transfusions; 66 infections, which included 7 cases of septic shock, 3 of which were fatal while 4 were life-threatening; 513 patients required a subsequent secondary surgical intervention, 235 urgent and 278 non-urgent. The need to have a surgical abortion after failure of the chemical abortion can be considered a side effect, and occurs in between 1% and 10% of cases. This second surgical intervention can increase the risk of permanent sterility http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1345/aph.1G481a.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Jewish Guide to Practical Medical Decision Making

Check out
this new 368-page
book
 from Rabbi Jason Weiner: Jewish Guide to Practical
Medical Decision Making.


Due to rapid advances in the medical field, existing books on Jewish medical
ethics are quickly becoming outdated. 
Jewish
Guide to Practical Medical Decision Making
 seeks to remedy that by
presenting the most contemporary medical information and rabbinic rulings in an
accessible, user-friendly manner. 


Rabbi Weiner addresses a broad range of medical circumstances such as surrogacy
and egg donation, assisted suicide, and end-of-life decision making. Based on
his extensive training and practical familiarity inside a major hospital, Rabbi
Weiner provides clear and concise guidance to facilitate complex
decision-making for the most common medical dilemmas that arise in contemporary
society.


1. Facilitating Shared Decision-Making 

A. Understanding Terminology: Key Concepts to Facilitate
Collaborative Decision-Making

B. Truth-Telling: When Painful Medical Information Should
and Should Not Be Revealed 

C. Mental Illness: Determining Capacity and Proper Treatment
in Accordance with Jewish Law  


2. How Much Treatment? 

A. Risk and Self-Endangerment: Determining the
Appropriateness of Attempting Various Levels of Dangerous Medical Procedures

B. Making Decisions on Behalf of an Incapacitated Patient

C. Pediatrics: Jewish Law and Determining a Child’s Consent
and Treatment 

D. Palliative Care and Hospice in Jewish Law and Thought


3. Prayer  

A. Is Prayer Ever Futile? On the Efficacy of Prayer for
the Terminally Ill 

B. Viduy: Confessional Prayers Prior to Death


4.  At the End of Life

A. Advance Directives and POLST Forms  

B. End-of-Life Decision-Making: DNR, Comfort Measures,
Nutrition/Hydration, and Defining “Terminal” in accordance with Jewish Law

C. Withholding vs. Withdrawing: Deactivating a
Ventilator and Cessation of Dialysis and Cardiac Defibrillators at the End of
Life

D. Case

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Sherif Girgis Exhorts Pro-Lifers to Eschew Straw-Men

Sherif Girgis has written a thorough response in Public Discourse to the viral “Philosophy Time” video in which James Franco and Elizabeth Harman discus the ethics of early abortion.  In the piece, “In Defense of Elizabeth Harman: Taking Pro-Choice Philosophers Seriously,” Girgis argues that rather than ridiculing Harman’s argument, pro-lifers should seek to thoroughly understand her position and its shortcomings. Girgis writes: Though ad hominem… // Read More »

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Fetal tissue and commerce

You may have seen in the general press that Indiana University is asking a federal judge to declare unconstitutional that state’s law banning research on the remains of aborted fetuses.  I noticed an article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).  An open-access account can be found here.

I oppose abortion, but I can imagine for the sake of argument that, if one allows for abortion, that it might be claimed that the tissue of an aborted unborn human could ethically be donated for research.  It seems to me that such an argument would construe this donation to be similar to donation of organs for transplantation.  In this case, the mother would be speaking for her (newly-deceased) unborn to make the decision, since the aborted one would not have decision-making capacity.

For such an action to be remotely ethical, donation of tissue could not in any way influence the decision to have an abortion–as, indeed, federal restrictions on fetal tissue research currently require.  There should be no profit to the donor or the abortion provider in the process.  In light of the Planned Parenthood brouhaha over this subject, I might suggest that the researchers seeking the tissue for research be required to bear any costs for the preparation of the tissue.  And something like the dead donor rule for organ transplantation would have to apply.  But that’s probably a trivial point in this case.  Never mind that the dead donor rule itself is under attack these days.

I imagine it’s clear that I don’t find this argument very persuasive. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Will CRISPR fears fade with familiarity?

With all these ‘test tube’ babies grown up, how have our reactions to the technology evolved? AP Photo/Alastair Grant

The first “test-tube baby” made headlines around the world in 1978, setting off intense debate on the ethics of researching human embryos and reproductive technologies. Every breakthrough since then has raised the same questions about “designer babies” and “playing God” – but public response has grown more subdued rather than more engaged as assisted reproductive technologies have become increasingly sophisticated and powerful.

As the science has advanced, doctors are able to perform more complex procedures with better-than-ever success rates. This progress has made in vitro fertilization and associated assisted reproductive technologies relatively commonplace. Over one million babies have been born in the U.S. using IVF since 1985.

And Americans’ acceptance of these technologies has evolved alongside their increased usage, as we’ve gotten used to the idea of physicians manipulating embryos.

But the ethical challenges posed by these procedures remain – and in fact are increasing along with our capabilities. While still a long way from clinical use, the recent news that scientists in Oregon had successfully edited genes in a human embryo brings us one step closer to changing the DNA that we pass along to our descendants. As the state of the science continues to advance, ethical issues need to be addressed before the next big breakthrough.

Birth of the test-tube baby era

Louise Brown was born in the U.K. on July 25, 1978. Known as the first “test-tube baby,” she was a product of IVF, a process where an egg is fertilized by sperm outside of the body before being implanted into the womb.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Reproducing the Speculative: Reproductive Technology, Education, and Science Fiction by Kaitlyn Sherman

Walter, a Synthetic, quietly makes his rounds in the brightly lit, pristine interior of the Covenant, a Weyland Corporation Spaceship. Fingers pressed to the translucent, impermeable glass, he checks the status of each crew member as they rest in their cryochambers, suspended in chemically-induced comas until they reach their destined planet in seven years and four months’ time. The ship’s artificial intelligence system, Mother, chimes, “Seven bells and all is well.” Reassured of their security, Walter moves on to the next zone, where another 2,000 cryochambers contain sleeping colonists from Earth. This zone also features a panel of drawers, each housing dozens of embryos—over 1,100 second-generation colonists. They are packed individually into river-stone sized ovoids; clear, solid, egg-like. Amid the rows, an embryo has died, and its artificial uterine-sack is clouded and dark. Observing it briefly, Walter takes it from its socket with a set of tongs and places it into a biohazard bin. The Covenant is on a mission to colonize a habitable, distant planet. Their ship contains everything that could be useful in setting up a new colony: terraforming vehicles, construction materials, and human life itself. Even though these frozen embryos aren’t yet actively developing, they reflect a technology that allows for such a feat, while ensuring a population boom that is not dependent upon the limited space of mature female colonists’ wombs.

This scene is part of the opening sequence of the latest film in Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise. Alien: Covenant (2017) is the most recent science fiction film to illustrate advances in reproductive technologies, especially that of ectogenesis, or external gestation and birth.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Artificial Womb Maintains Lamb Preemie Lives, Signals Hope for Human Preemie Care

Using an artificial womb, a team of researchers affiliated with the University of Western Australia have effectively incubated premature lambs for seven days, signaling potential future advancements for human preemie care options. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a paper this past week detailing the ex-vivo uterine environment (EVE) therapy technique devised by the researchers, which involves putting the premature lamb in a bath of amniotic fluid that includes an artificial placenta.

The conditions of EVE therapy mimic those of an actual womb, including increased gas exchange and nutrient delivery for the prematurely delivered lamb. For an infant developing outside the womb prematurely, the unfavorable conditions can lead to adversely affected development or complications.

“At its core, our equipment is essentially is a high-tech amniotic fluid bath combined with an artificial placenta. Put those together, and with careful maintenance what you’ve got is an artificial womb,” Local Chief Investigator and UWA Associate Professor Matt Kemp said. “By providing an alternative means of gas exchange for the fetus, we hoped to spare the extremely preterm cardiopulmonary system from ventilation-derived injury, and save the lives of those babies whose lungs are too immature to breathe properly. The end goal is to provide preterm babies the chance to better develop their lungs and other important organs before being brought into the world.”

Sparking bioethical questions regarding pregnancy, abortion, and perhaps even conception, the research is certainly promising for infant health, yet consequently complex in its potential ramifications. The paper follows one published in April by the Center for Fetal Research in Philadelphia, in which premature lambs survived for four additional weeks  prior to delivery.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The ‘Weird’ First Fortnight of the Foetus: Implications for the Abortion Debate

Guest Post: William Simkulet
Paper: The Cursed Lamp: The Problem of Spontaneous Abortion

For many people, the moral status of abortion stands or falls whether or not a human fetus is morally comparable to you or I; whether its death is a significant loss.  Many people believe human fetuses have a right to life from conception, and thus conclude that there is good reason to think induced abortion is seriously morally wrong.  Judith Jarvis Thomson challenges this belief, constructing a scenario where she believes it is morally acceptable to end the life of a person because although he has a right to life, his right to life does not give him a right to use your body.  Her example should be familiar:

Violinist:  You wake up in the hospital, surgically attached to a violinist.  Your doctor explains that last night the Society of Music Lovers kidnapped the two of you and performed the surgery.  The violinist has a serious condition that will result in his death soon unless he remains attached to your kidneys for the next 9 months (you alone are biologically compatible).

The violinist has a right to life, and surely you are free to let him remain attached to your body to save his life.  It would be a great kindness for you to do so, but Thomson says that the violinist’s right to life does not give him the right to use your body.  Anti-abortion theories that focus on the moral status of the fetus neglect to show why the fetus’s moral status – its argued for right to life – would give it a right to use the woman’s body.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.