BioBites: Robots in Reality, NY Man Accuses Girlfriend of Stealing Sperm for IVF, No Case for Killing Society’s Most Vulnerable, and More

by allison on November 30, 2011

Bioethical news articles for November 28th:

Heart Patient Appeals for Euthanasia: “Driven by abject poverty and unbearable pain, a bed-ridden woman in Ganjam district has appealed for euthanasia.
Jhunu Behera (38), a resident of K Barida village and a mother of four, has sought permission from the President and the Odisha Governor for euthanasia. ‘Instead of causing trouble to other members of my family, I want to die,’ she said in her letter sent recently to the President.”

No Case for Killing Society’s Most Vulnerable: “The case against Sean Davison has provoked debate about whether euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide should be legalised. Few would argue that Mr Davison was not motivated by a sense of love and duty for his mother in doing what he did – he thought he was doing the best thing for her. But, as far as the bigger picture is concerned, Mr Davison’s motivation is beside the point. It is drawing a very long bow to argue that this one “hard” case merits the legalisation of euthanasia. The case in favour of euthanasia is not without its own logic. Euthanasia advocates most commonly present the issue as being about freedom of choice. Legalising euthanasia will not adversely affect the choices of those who do not want to die in this way, it is argued. They remain free to act without interference. On the other hand, the prohibition of euthanasia unfairly prevents some (albeit a small minority) from exercising their personal choice; the values of one group are effectively forced on to others.”

Sean Davison and mother

Personhood? – Pro-Life Movement has Its Eye on California Embryos and the Law: “Voters in Mississippi earlier this month rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have classified a fertilized egg as a person. The controversial issue was so extreme that even pro-life supporters helped defeat it. But that doesn’t mean the amendment’s supporters, including Personhood USA, won’t try again. Indeed, California is among the states that will be the testing ground for this hot-button topic next year. It’s hard to believe that with so many pressing issues facing Californians and the nation — ballooning deficits, unemployment, climate change — that such a medieval measure should top of the agenda of any political group.”

The First Lab-Grown Hamburger will Cost $345,000: “How much would you pay for a hamburger? How about US$345,000? No, it’s not wrapped in edible gold leaf and held together with a skewer made out of a diamond stick pin that you get to keep. It’s an ordinary burger that doesn’t include the bun, lettuce, pickles or onions. It isn’t even super-sized. This may seem like price gouging on a monumental scale, but it’s actually the cost price for this particular burger. That’s because even though it is a real hamburger made from real meat, it doesn’t come from a cow at all. Dr. Mark Post, a vascular biologist at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, is one of a handful of scientists around the world working on the problem of cultivating meat artificially in a laboratory. The idea is to find a way to create the meat without the animal by growing it directly. Speaking to the Reuters news agency, Dr. Post estimates that, if he succeeds, his first burger will cost a staggering $345,000, but when the technique is perfected and scaled up to industrial levels, economies of scale should kick in and make lab-grown beef (or pork or chicken or fish) as cheap, if not cheaper, than its four-legged counterpart. He also believes that the advantages of in vitro meat, as it is called, are such that it will go a long way toward alleviating world hunger and saving the environment. It may even give the phrase ‘factory farming’ a whole new meaning.”

Robots in Reality: “Consider the following scenario: A scout surveys a high-rise building that’s been crippled by an earthquake, trapping workers inside. After looking for a point of entry, the scout carefully navigates through a small opening. An officer radios in, ‘Go look down that corridor and tell me what you see.’ The scout steers through smoke and rubble, avoiding obstacles and finding two trapped people, reporting their location via live video. A SWAT team is then sent to lead the workers safely out of the building. Despite its heroics, though, the scout is impervious to thanks. It just sets its sights on the next mission, like any robot would do. In the not-too-distant future, such robotics-driven missions will be a routine part of disaster response, predicts Nicholas Roy, an MIT associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics. From Roy’s perspective, robots are ideal for dangerous and covert tasks, such as navigating nuclear disasters or spying on enemy camps. They can be small and resilient — but more importantly, they can save valuable manpower.”

Professor Nicholas Roy

Simulated Patient Robots Provide Learning: “The scenarios can be simple or extremely complex but either way, work with the new patient simulators coming to Columbus Community Hospital will be as real as it can get. The simulators are high-fidelity, life-sized robotics ‘patients’ that mimic ailments and symptoms. The patient simulators can breathe, move their eyes, speak and have a variable pulse and heart rate. They react to doses of medication, injections, intravenous therapy and can even go into cardiac arrest. ‘The present health care environment presents a challenge for nurse educators and managers to ensure initial and continuing competence of staff nurses,’ said Linda Walline. CCH vice president of nursing. ‘The new CCH Simulation Lab will use innovative technology to provide nurses and student nurses with critical thinking skills necessary in today’s changing health arena.'”

Patient Robots

Bizarre: NY Man Accuses Girlfriend of Stealing Sperm for In Vitro Pregnancy: “A lawsuit filed by a Long Island, NY city guy makes a whacky claim that his four-year-old set of twins were not conceived due to an unintended pregnancy after all, but were in-fact the result of a deliberate ploy by his ex-girlfriend, who stole his sperms and used it for In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure. Joseph Pressil (36), a telecom manager hooked up with an exotic dancer Anetria Burnett (34), while living in Texas. They were in a relationship for six months in 2007, but he claims, he was not interested in having any children with her. According to Pressil, Anetria then took matters into her hands with the view to staying in his Texas home and make a legal bid on his property going forward. He told New York Post that the term ‘gold digger’ would be an understatement where his former girlfriend was concerned. ‘She was trying to get community property and alimony. She’s ruthless,’ he stated angrily. Currently he is suing Anetria Burnett in Texas to gain custody of their sons. This incident was more than a nightmare, and in fact a ‘horror story,’ he said. In 2007, out of the blue when she announced she was pregnant, he said, he was little surprised, for he claims, they had used precautions in the form of condoms. However, when a DNA testing proved that he indeed was going to be the father, Pressil began paying $800 per month in child support. Despite that, he says, he still had his doubts about whether the children were his. He then figured, he would wait till the twins were born. ‘But when the kids were born, they looked just like me,’ so he decided to accept the reality. But the real shocker, according to Pressil was when he got a weird receipt in the mail for sperm Cryo-preservation. Puzzled at the mail, he called up the company that send him the papers. They referred him to a fertility clinic called the Advanced Fertility Centre of Texas. There the manager asked him to sign a release form. It is then, Pressil claims, he uncovered the shocking truth. His attorney in the suit Jason Gibson said that the lady was ‘taking [the semen in condoms] after the fact and running down to the clinic with it.’ Pressil and his girlfriend currently have joint custody of kids.”

Another Blunder at IVF Wales as Donor Eggs are Destroyed: “Another blunder at IVF Wales in Cardiff destroyed a batch of ‘exceptional’ eggs only hours after they were donated, leaving a couple devastated. The news was broken to the couple, who have been trying to have a baby for seven years, over the phone on the evening they returned from the clinic. Chris, 35, and Lorraine, 34, from Barry, south Wales, have decided to go public as part of their own quest for answers. They are now calling for urgent action to prevent others suffering the sort of heartache they have had to endure as a result of the clinic’s mistakes, and have begun legal proceedings. In total ten eggs were donated by Lorraine’s sister in February this year, which were described by consultants as ‘of exceptional quality’. But within hours, they received a call from IVF Wales telling them they had all been destroyed in what was described as a ‘mechanical error’. In a meeting at the clinic that evening, the couple, Lorraine’s sister, and their parents were told a pipette containing all ten eggs had hit a microscope during transfer to a dish.”

IVF: A Pact with the Devil?: “I have friends who have been condemned for not wanting children. It seems that, because they lead full, happy, satisfying lives, they are labelled as selfish. But I was so desperate for a baby that what I put my relationship, family and friends through was the most selfish thing I have done. Child-free couples have been referred to as self-indulgent, self-absorbed and immature, but I was all of these. Having a child was a fundamental part of what I had grown up to expect. But after four years of fertility treatment (which finally resulted in the birth of my daughter, Daisy, now two), I no longer recognised myself: the last few years of my thirties had been obliterated by the obsessive wish to conceive. I stepped on to the IVF roller-coaster level-headed and full of hope, but as the months went by and the treatments failed, I became someone completely different. My husband, Mike, and I had high expectations, and failing a cycle of IVF breaks your heart. The failure of our second cycle tipped me over the edge, and I began to fall apart. I can remember crying for hours on the bathroom floor with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Why had my body let me down? Why me? Why us? Mike was at his wits’ end, not knowing how to help me. Although you go through IVF as a couple, you react to it in different ways, and it put a huge strain on our relationship.”

IVF: A Pact with the Devil?

IVF a Blessing to Couples Over 50: “Madan Lal and Swarno Devi, both in their early 50s were busy with their 4-month-old boy on Sunday. Couples their age are usually looking for a suitable spouse for their children. However Swarno conceived after 30 years of marriage, after her menopause through IVF. The couple came from Kangra village, invited by Dr Sumita Sofat, along with 100 more couples to celebrate 16th anniversary of her infertility treatment centre.”

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