Tag Archives | Medical Ethics

Can We Reverse The Aging Process By Putting Young Blood Into Older People?

The ethical debate is already aflame, but if it’s true that old people can cheat death and disease by taking on board younger people’s blood, there’s probably no stopping it. I mean if people will sell their organs, why not blood? The Guardian delivers a #longread on the research pumping up the excitement:

On an August morning in 2008, Tony Wyss-Coray sat in a conference room at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Palo Alto, California, waiting for his lab’s weekly meeting to begin. Wyss-Coray, a professor of neurology at Stanford University, was leading a young group of researchers who studied ageing and neurodegeneration. As a rule, the gatherings were forgettable affairs – the incremental nature of scientific progress does not lend itself to big surprises. But a lab member scheduled to speak that day had taken on a radical project, and he had new results to share.

Photo: MartinD (CC)


Saul Villeda, an ebullient PhD student with slick black hair and a goatee, had spent the past year engrossed in research that called to mind the speculative medical science of the middle ages.

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This Device Brings ‘Brave New World’ to Life

If you could have a device implanted in your brain that could bring instant nirvana at the press of a button, would you want it? Daily Beast says it’s coming and has neuroethicists in a bind:

Last week, a team of researchers developed a new implant that has the ability to wirelessly deliver drugs directly into the brain with the press of a button, like changing the channel on a TV.

BRAINADE! the Brain Grenade by Emilio Garcia

No wider than a strand of human hair, the device combines brain implants with a remote control drug delivery system. With the ability to genetically modify individual neurons, the implant inevitably calls up dystopian fictions from the likes of Vonnegut’s Harry Bergeron or Huxley’s Brave New World.

To demonstrate the amount of control this device is capable of, investigators made mice walk in circles by injecting a morphine-like drug directly into their ventral tegmental area (VTA), a brain region responsible for motivation and reward.

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Psychologists Shielded U.S. Torture Program

As if we didn’t know already (thank you Martha Davis and Doctors of the Dark Side), the medical establishment in the guise of the American Psychological Association, was complicit in the U.S. torture program. A new report is dissected by the New York Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency’s health professionals repeatedly criticized the agency’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation program, but their protests were rebuffed by prominent outside psychologists who lent credibility to the program, according to a new report.

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The 542-page report, which examines the involvement of the nation’s psychologists and their largest professional organization, the American Psychological Association, with the harsh interrogation programs of the Bush era, raises repeated questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

The report, completed this month, concludes that some of the association’s top officials, including its ethics director, sought to curry favor with Pentagon officials by seeking to keep the association’s ethics policies in line with the Defense Department’s interrogation policies, while several prominent outside psychologists took actions that aided the C.I.A.’s interrogation program and helped protect it from growing dissent inside the agency.

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One Man’s Desperate Quest to Cure His Son’s Epilepsy—With Weed

Sam Vogelstein. Photo by Elinor Carucci for Wired

Read Fred Vogelstein’s story of parenthood at Wired and weep:

This is Sam. He’s my son. His epilepsy caused him to have up to 100 seizures a day. After seven years we were out of options. Our last hope: an untested, unproven treatment. The only problem? It was illegal.

The hospital pharmacist slid three bottles of pills across the counter, gave my wife a form to sign, and reminded her that this was not the corner drugstore. The pharmacy knew how many pills had been dispensed, he said; it would know how many had been consumed; and it would expect her to return the unused pills before she left the country. The pharmacist made it clear that he was not only in touch with our doctor but with the company supplying the medication. They would know if she broke the rules.

Evelyn said she understood and slipped the brown glass bottles into her purse.

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This Is Why You Should Record Your Doctor While You’re Anesthetized

SurgeonImagine this: your anesthesiologist is charming until you’re out for the count, at which time she says “After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit.” Normally you’d never know, but the anonymous Virginia patient of Dr. Tiffany M. Ingham who recorded everything said during the operation found out exactly what the doctor thought of him, and more, as described by the Washington Post:

Sitting in his surgical gown inside a large medical suite in Reston, Va., a Vienna man prepared for his colonoscopy by pressing record on his smartphone, to capture the instructions his doctor would give him after the procedure.

But as soon as he pressed play on his way home, he was shocked out of his anesthesia-induced stupor: He found that he had recorded the entire examination and that the surgical team had mocked and insulted him as soon as he drifted off to sleep.

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American Psychological Association Bolstered CIA Torture Program

It’s official: The American Psychological Association helped the US Government create the torture program so brutally rendered at places like Abu Ghraib and depicted so shockingly in the documentary Doctors of the Dark Side. James Risen (yes, that James Risen) reports for the New York Times:

The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists.

APA Report

The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed emails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

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India’s Generic Hepatitis C Treatment To Cost 1,000 Times Less Than In U.S.

Is there any excuse for pricing a sorely-needed drug that can cure a killer virus 1,000 times more in the U.S. than it will cost in India? From Techdirt‘s rather-exorbitant dept.:

As Techdirt explained back in 2009,  India has a long and complicated relationship with patents, but more recently, it has established itself as the leading “pharmacy of the developing world,” thanks to its generic drug manufacturers which are able to supply key medicines at affordable prices. A recent patent decision, reported here by Intellectual Property Watch, continues that tradition:

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Today’s rejection by the Patent Office Controller of India of a patent application by Gilead company for a key drug against hepatitis C is being hailed by advocates as a path to dramatically lower costs of treatment for the disease. Hepatitis C has made news for the emergence of exorbitantly priced medicines over the past year.

A press release on the news from Médecins Sans Frontières explains just how exorbitant:

The oral drug, which first received regulatory approval in the US in November 2013, and has been priced by Gilead at US$84,000 for a treatment course, or $1,000 per pill in the US, has caused a worldwide debate on the pricing of patented medicines.

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The CIA Experimented on Human Beings

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“Reframing the CIA’s interrogation techniques as a violation of scientific and medical ethics may be the best way to achieve accountability,” writes Lisa Hajjar at The Nation:

Human experimentation was a core feature of the CIA’s torture program. The experimental nature of the interrogation and detention techniques is clearly evident in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary of its investigative report, despite redactions (insisted upon by the CIA) to obfuscate the locations of these laboratories of cruel science and the identities of perpetrators.

At the helm of this human experimentation project were two psychologists hired by the CIA, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. They designed interrogation and detention protocols that they and others applied to people imprisoned in the agency’s secret “black sites.”

In its response to the Senate report, the CIA justified its decision to hire the duo: “We believe their expertise was so unique that we would have been derelict had we not sought them out when it became clear that CIA would be heading into the uncharted territory of the program.” Mitchell and Jessen’s qualifications did not include interrogation experience, specialized knowledge about Al Qaeda or relevant cultural or linguistic knowledge.

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The Military and CIA Interrogation Program Has Not Stopped

The Senate report on torture created a tsunami of media coverage this week. The American public hasn’t been so shocked by evidence of the U.S. torture program since the Abu Ghraib photos of 2004. The program is far worse than previously disclosed. Greater numbers of victims have been tortured for longer periods and in ways that rival the most infamous tortures in history (“rectal feeding”). But one falsehood gets repeated as fact by even in the most serious reporters, namely, that the torture program stopped years ago. It has not. The Appendix M of the 2006 Army Field Manual on interrogation methods allows military and CIA interrogators to continue torturing detainees, and the current force feeding of Guantanamo hunger strikers is so brutal it rises to the level of torture.

The Senate torture report has stunning news about the two psychologists who first devised and demonstrated the torture protocols. Until now we knew only that the CIA had provided Drs.… Read the rest

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Big Pharma Plays Hide-the-Ball With Data

newsweek big pharmaThe post-Barry Diller/IAC Newsweek is getting back into the business of serious journalism, apparently, with a scathing report on how drug companies are hiding research data that could harm their more dubious drug products:

…The consequences of exclusion or delay of trial data have ranged from frustration to mass fatalities. When one doctor in Italy was diagnosed with bone cancer, he wanted to know whether a stem cell transplant would offer hope of a cure. Four clinical trials had been conducted, but none had been fully published. “Why was I forced to make my decision knowing that information was somewhere but not available?” he wrote in the BMJ. “Was the delay because the results were less exciting than expected?”

The most infamous case of publication bias is a 1980 study in which heart attack patients were split into two groups: One group received a drug called lorcainide, while the other group received a placebo.

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