This Week in Bioethics

by Christopher White, CBC Director of Research and Education on November 6, 2015

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1. New Medicare Rule Authorizes End of Life Consultations

Last Friday the Obama administration issued a final rule that requires Medicare to pay physicians for end-of-life consultations. On its face, there is nothing necessarily harmful about this—and, indeed, many physicians and patients will benefit from this, as will families who will have an opportunity to discuss the various types of care and treatments at their disposal. What must me guarded against is any effort for these consultations to be used to encourage physician assisted suicide or to deny vital treatment to the elderly or vulnerable. We’ll remain vigilant—and so should you!

2. Sterile Men become Fathers Though Spermatid Injections

Earlier this week it was announced that 12 previously sterile men in the UK have become fathers through “injecting a very immature sperm directly into a woman’s egg.” This new technique “is designed to help men in which sperm production stops half-way through, when the cells are still round and before they take on their distinctive tadpole shape.” While the children appear to be healthy and without genetic abnormalities, only time will tell if this is truly a successful effort. Like many areas of assisted reproduction, the long-term risks to both the children and the parents remain to be seen.

3. Quebec Palliative Care Center to Offer Physician Assisted Suicide

A palliative care center in Quebec has announced that it will offer physician assisted suicide beginning in February 2016. Sounds like a release date for a movie doesn’t it? But sadly, no. The purpose of palliative care is to provide treatment for patients with serious illnesses and relief from pain—not to end their lives. As our friend Wesley Smith noted, this new measure “won’t be limited to the terminally ill, and will be available for a diagnosable condition that causes psychological suffering.” As this case now makes clear, the slippery slope that we’ve long warned about, has turned into a free fall.

4. Chinese Surrogacy Market Likely to Expand

Last week the Chinese government announced that they would end its long time, oppressive one-child policy, bringing much joy to many Chinese who are eager to grow their families, as well as to those on the outside who have long criticized the to policy as discriminatory and coercive. Regrettably, some have viewed this news as an opportunity to pursue surrogacy—and the industry is eager to capitalize on it. Most egregious is the hope that surrogacy can be used to achieve the desired sex of the second child. One oppressive policy ends and exploitation in another form takes off. For shame!

5. Long-time Physician Assisted Suicide Advocate Utilizes It

Dr. Peter Rasmussen, an early champion of physician assisted suicide, utilized the practice in Oregon this week where over a decade earlier he promoted its passage. Dr. Rasmussen was diagnosed in 2014 with a malignant brain tumor. We regret that Dr. Rasmussen’s legacy will be one that is defined by his perversion of the ideals of his profession.

This Week in Bioethics Archive

Image by Bill Smith via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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