This Week in Bioethics

by Christopher White, CBC Director of Research and Education on May 8, 2015

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1. Johnson & Johnson Creates Bioethics Panel for Trial Drugs

The major pharmaceutical manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, announced this week the formation of a bioethics panel to make decisions on trial drugs. The program would allow for the potential use of non-FDA approved drugs for patients with terminal illnesses. While there are many ethical issues at stake here—and such a program must be handled with great care and caution—we’re at least grateful to see the conversation shifting from how to care for patients with terminal diseases, rather than how to use the power of medicine to kill them. This program offers hope, whereas physician assisted suicide kills that, as well.

2. South Africa Medical Association Warns Against Physician Assisted Suicide

The South Africa Medical Association (Sama), the largest doctor’s association within the country, issued a strong warning to their physicians this week against physician assisted suicide. According to the chairman, Dr. Grootboom, the ethical rules of the Health Professions Council of SA, which all doctors are bound to uphold, forbid the practice—hence his warning that even if the practice is legalized within the country, doctors should still not use their skills to kill patients. In his stern warning, he reminded his fellow physicians: “You must remember, ethics take precedence over the laws of the country. There are lots of countries that sent people to the gas chamber.”

3. New Zealand Attorney Advocates for Physician Assisted Suicide as a Human Right

Lecretia Seales, a public law specialist who also has terminal brain cancer, is arguing before the New Zealand High Court that physician assisted suicide should be considered a fundamental human right. The entire notion of human rights is buttressed on the support of life and enshrining certain protections surrounding life. The idea that physician assisted suicide, which necessarily includes ending a life, could be a human right is preposterous. We’re saddened by Ms. Seales’s condition and hope that she receives the proper care that she needs during this time of illness so that she can truly live her life to the fullest during this stage.

4. Australia Seeks to Regulate Surrogacy

The Northern Territory government of Australia is considering a bill that would outlaw commercial surrogacy in the region, but allow for altruistic surrogacy with the surrogate mothers still being compensated for their related expenses of carrying the child. The major backer of the bill is the pro-surrogacy group, Surrogacy Australia. As we have seen continuously, this type of regulation never works—especially when it the industry itself that is proposing its own sort of regulation. Children are still intentionally severed from the biological bonds and the vulnerable women will still be exploited by the practice. The real solution is not regulation, but a full ban on the practice.

5. CBC in the News

A new article in The Telegraph highlights the fact that U.S. army wives are the most sought after surrogates in the world. CBC President Jennifer Lahl is quoted on the risks of egg donation and surrogate pregnancies. As Jennifer notes, “There’s a higher risk of pre-eclampsia and maternal hypertension associated with gestating with donor eggs . . . and a much higher chance of multiple births due to a more-the-merrier approach to transferring fertilised embryos.” As per usual, the CBC has become the go-to voice in sounding the alarm over the risks of reproductive technologies—and we won’t be silenced!

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