This Week in Bioethics

by Matthew Eppinette, CBC Executive Director on December 22, 2017

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1. Frozen for 24 Years

A woman in Tennessee last month gave birth to a girl who was conceived in October 1992, and placed in frozen storage. This is the only known live birth from an embryo frozen for so long, but as we are always pointing out, good records are not being kept on much of anything related to reproductive technologies. So we don’t have any idea what the effects on the child will be as she grows and develops. As such, this falls squarely into the category of experimentation on a human being who is unable to consent. Paul Ramsey said such experiments should be “subject to absolute moral prohibition.”

2. Headlong into Death

Euthanasia has been legal in Quebec for two years now — and make no mistake, it is euthanasia; physicians inject lethal drugs into their patients — and the organization Vivre dans la Dignité (Living with Dignity) provides an update. In spite of numerous assurances to the contrary before the law was passed, the simple truth is that over the last two years the province “threw itself headlong into death as a solution to suffering.”

3. Anonymity is Dead

A fertility doctor in Indiana pleaded guilty to lying to investigators, but will not face any jail time. He told six adults who believed they were his children that he had donated his own sperm approximately 50 times.He had told his patients they were receiving sperm from medical or dental residents or from med students, and that no single donor’s sperm was used more than three times. It’s believed that he may have fathered as many 50 children over 40 years of medical practice. It was all discovered through DNA testing. A friend in our Anonymous Father’s Day Facebook community stated it well: “It’s the age of reckoning. Get ready, fair warning. Can’t stop it. Anonymity. Is. Dead.” See also: “Trend of gifting DNA tests might be more of a curse than a joy this Christmas, ethicist warns.”

4. #FakeNews only Worse

I’ve gotten several questions about the Italian doctor, Sergio Canavero, who claims to have performed the world’s first head transplant. First, you should know that his work involved dead bodies, so there’s no real transplant here. It’s simply #FakeNews. Second, well, Art Caplan sums it up well: “everything about Canavero’s activity is ethically wrong.”

He has been touting his head transplant for years via media comments and news conferences. His actual publications about his technique, his method for re-attaching the spinal cord, which is key to transplanting a head, or successful animal studies are next to nothing. There is not a chance this P.T. Barnum of transplantation could ever get approval for a test on a living human in North America, Europe or most of the rest of the world.

. . .

He continues to prattle on about head transplants while a huge number of people and their families await a breakthrough in neurological repair of the sort he says he can do. Only a fraud would ignore them.

That is what really hit me: if he could do any of the sort of work re-attaching the nerves in the spinal cord that he claims, there are hundreds of thousands of people who could benefit. But no one is benefitting. He’s simply making headlines. Not helping, not healing.

5. Matching Challenge Update

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Lagniappe

“In a world where we emphasize the creation of new products through rapid iteration and experimentation, we often forget to step back and make sure that the future we are racing to is one we truly want to create.”
 — Ann Miura-Ko, entrepreneur and venture capitalist

This Week in Bioethics Archive

Image by MadeByMike via flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

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