BioBites: 7 in 10 S. Koreans Favor “Passive Euthanasia,” Women Egg Donors Needed for Pioneering Work, “Three-Person IVF” Technique Moves Closer, and More

by allison on January 23, 2012

Bioethical news articles for January 19th:

Seven in 10 S. Koreans Favor “Passive Euthanasia”: “Over 70 percent of South Koreans favor euthanasia for terminal patients when life-support is deemed meaningless, a survey showed Thursday. In the survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 72.3 percent of 1,000 respondents said they are in favor of removing life-support devices when there is little or no hope of recovery for a patient. Nearly 70 percent of those in favor cited emotional pain to other family members as their main reason for supporting what is known as ‘passive euthanasia,’ while 60.2 percent said economic burdens were a major factor.”

Surrogacy Bill to be Prepared for Icelandic Parliament: “The Icelandic parliament has voted to begin the process of making surrogate mothers legal. Alþingi yesterday passed a resolution calling on the Minister for Welfare to assemble a working group to prepare a parliamentary bill to allow surrogacy for benevolent purposes, i.e. not as a form of business. The parliamentary resolution was sponsored by Independence Party MP Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir; who told parliament the bill must be written firstly to satisfy the best interests and rights of the unborn children involved, secondly to serve the best interests, independence, rights and welfare of the prospective surrogate mothers and their families, and thirdly to serve the best interests of the prospective families the children would go to.”

Surrogacy in Iceland

Trent Arsenault, Prolific Sperm Donor, is a 36-Year-Old Virgin Pleasing Women Everywhere: “As if the story about Trent Arsenault — the Bay Area’s unstoppable Sperminator — couldn’t get more bizarre. To gasps, laughter, and applause from the studio audience on Anderson Cooper’s talk show, Arsenault, who has donated his seed for 14 children through his website TrentDonor, revealed that he is really a virgin. ‘I’ll probably be the 40-year-old virgin, except I’ll have 15-plus kids,’ he told Cooper. So the only thing Arsenault is making love to is a petri dish. This bit comes as a surprise not only because Arsenault is 36 years old, but because of his recorded sexual activity — featuring himself ejaculating in several NSFW online videos, which he claims are not porn, but documenting being a ‘donorsexual,’ the term he’s coined for someone who expresses their sexuality through sperm donation. SF Weekly called him to get a few more details on his sex life, or lack thereof. Arsenault said that the videos are how he expresses his sexuality. ‘So much of my sexuality is suppressed as a donorsexual since I’m not having intercourse, so those videos are how I’ve coped with my sex drive.'”

Trent Arsenault

Assisted Dying Status Quo Defended by Hertfordshire Age UK Chief: “THE chief executive of a Hertfordshire charity supporting the elderly has defended current legal guidelines for helping seriously ill people to commit suicide. Chief executive of Herts Age UK Marion Birch Currently assisted suicide is illegal, but prosecutions are rare under legal guidelines published in 2009. However, the system has come under fire following a report on the issue by a commission chaired by former justice minister Lord Falconer, calling it ‘inadequate’ and ‘incoherent.’ Marion Birch, chief executive of Hertfordshire Age UK, said the issue was particularly difficult in the case of elderly people. She told the Mercury: ‘There can be a lot of pressure for older people with terminal diseases to think they are causing a burden to society or their family. They may feel they have got to say “perhaps I need to go on my way now.” We have to be really careful and put safeguards in place.'”

Government to Seek Public Views on Changing the Law to find Cures for Inherited Diseases: “The public will be asked if they think the law should be changed to allow science to move a step forward so a cure could be found for potentially fatal inherited diseases, the Government has announced today. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has been asked to lead a public discussion to ask if a new scientific procedure, which could prevent women with mitochondrial disease from passing the illness to their children, should be introduced. This will be launched later this year. Mitochondrial disease is a genetic condition that affects an individual’s mitochondria – the part of the body’s cells that produces the energy they need to function. The disease affects everyone differently, but symptoms include poor growth, loss of muscle coordination, visual and hearing problems, mental disorders, heart disease and liver disease. The condition affects approximately one in 5,000 adults. One in 6,500 babies are born with a severe form of the disease that can lead to death in early infancy. There is no cure. It is estimated that around 12,000 people live with a mitochondrial disease in the UK and scientists estimate that the treatment could save the lives of around ten children affected by severe forms of the disease a year. A proposed procedure would use IVF to fertilise the egg of a woman affected by mitochondrial disease with her partner’s sperm. The genetic material of the fertilised egg that determines the characteristics of the potential child would then be transferred to the shell of an egg donated by a woman who has healthy mitochondria. This procedure would not be allowed under the current law.”

Stem Cells Offer Hope to Victims: “A young Illinois man shattered his spine in a motocross bicycle crash. He seemed doomed to life in a wheelchair. But research doctors at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital injected him with embryonic stem cells in hope of growing healthy, new, replacement spinal cord tissue. He began showing improvement. However, as the Chicago Tribune reported, the victim — and others sharing his plight — sank into limbo when Geron Corp. abruptly halted the stem cell research project. The pharmaceutical firm apparently decided it can earn bigger profits from cancer drugs, and also can avoid controversy associated with embryonic stem cells. This is tragic for the patients whose hope for cures were undercut. It’s also a setback for medical science, because stem cells offer bright opportunity to defeat several horrible ailments.”

Women Egg Donors Needed for Pioneering Work: “North East women are being asked to consider donating their eggs for research in order to push forward a pioneering technique which could eliminate serious inherited disorders. Despite about 100 women already coming forward to support the research, Newcastle fertility experts need more eggs to progress the work into becoming an accepted treatment. Mitochondrial diseases are passed on by the mother and the new technique, which has been developed at Newcastle University, would reduce the risk of transmission of these disorders. This would allow the mother to give birth to a healthy child and eliminate mitochondrial diseases from the family line. The call follows two announcements which will have major implications for the Newcastle work; firstly, that the Wellcome Trust has given £4.4 million to Newcastle University to help develop the technique so that it is ready to be used in patients, and secondly, that the Government are to hold a public consultation into changing the law so that families could benefit from the new treatment. But, the work could be held back if they don’t have enough eggs for the research.”

“Three-Person IVF” Technique Moves Closer: “Public opinion will help decide the future of a controversial genetic technique to stop serious conditions being passed from mother to child. It replaces defective genetic material in the egg in order to eliminate rare mitochondrial diseases. After the consultation into ‘three-person IVF,’ ministers will decide whether to allow it in patients. A £5.8m centre at Newcastle University, funded by the Wellcome Trust, will investigate the technique’s safety. Inherited defects Mitochondria can be found within almost every human cell, and provide the energy they need to function. Like the nucleus of the cell, they contain DNA, although in tiny quantities. Approximately 1 in 5,000 babies is born with inherited defects in their mitochondrial DNA, the effects of which can be very severe, or even fatal, depending on which cells are affected. Continue reading the main story ‘Start Quote Every year we see hundreds of patients whose lives are seriously affected by mitochondrial disease.’ Prof Doug Turnbull, Newcastle University Scientists believe they have found a way to substitute the defective mitochondria and hopefully prevent the child from developing a disease. They take two eggs, one from the mother and another from a donor. The nucleus of the donor egg is removed, leaving the rest of the egg contents, including the mitochondria, and is replaced with the nucleus from the mother’s egg. The resulting embryo has properly functioning mitochondria from the donor, and should, in theory, be healthy.”

“One Embryo Cuts Chances of IVF Success”: “Childless women have a better chance of success with IVF if they ignore official guidelines and use two embryos rather than one, researchers say. The study challenges the view of IVF watchdog the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which says no more than one embryo should be implanted because of the risk of multiple births. Such births, it says, are more likely to be premature and lead to disability. But the latest research, by British scientists, found that data from more than 33,000 IVF births showed two embryos maximised the chances of having an IVF baby. Using three embryos however is no better than two, and the study found it was linked with an increased risk of birth complications.”


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