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Well, at least one California county is trying. You have to give them that. In an effort to curb childhood obesity, Santa Clara county, California has banned toys from meals with over 485 calories, effectively fast food.

The rationale: this is an effort to make the overly salty, fatty, and generally non-nutritious meals less appealing to younger children. In other words, “ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes.”

But will such an act achieve the ultimate goal of preventing our children from being overweight and obese?

I hardly think so. Not that I want to knock any effort made to stem the tide of childhood obesity in this country, but I think that the fast food industry has such a strangle hold on the minds (and tastebuds) of our youth today that legislators and parents are going to have to do more than take away the toys in a Happy Meal to make children stop craving drive-thru chicken nuggets and french fries.…

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A PBS forum with Arthur Caplan and others asked the BIG question about rationing end-of-life care, and perhaps rationing in general: can we as a society ever agree as to what the rational goals of health care can be at the end of life?

To hear Caplan’s position, as well as the proponents and opponents of his view, watch the video below.

Summer Johnson, PhD

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The environmental craze has extended to the funeral industry–at least in California. You can now, apparently, “go out green” and find a way to find a “an eco-friendlier alternative to cremation and burial” called water resolution, says the Arizona Daily Star.

Want to reduce your carbon footprint even after you can no longer even take a footstep? Now you can use a process that uses just a few chemicals and that will reduce the body to a watery mixture that “can be safely washed down the drain or even used to water plants.”

“Gee, Sally, what did you do to that ficus tree?” “Oh, that’s Bob.”

But in all seriousness, cremation and embalming aren’t nearly as environmentally friendly as water resolution because it neither relies upon fossil fuels or formaldahyde which can seep into the ground.…

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This month's issue of Molecular Therapy- the premium journal covering developments in gene transfer- reports two deaths in recent cancer gene transfer studies. Both studies involved a similar anti-cancer strategy, in which a patient's T cells are genet...

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This month's issue of Molecular Therapy- the premium journal covering developments in gene transfer- reports two deaths in recent cancer gene transfer studies. Both studies involved a similar anti-cancer strategy, in which a patient's T cells are genet...

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Personalized medicine is supposed to usher an era in which treatments are tailored to individuals. And HER2 testing has long been seen as heralding the promise of personalized medicine: tumors that test positive for an amplified HER2 gene are more lik...

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Personalized medicine is supposed to usher an era in which treatments are tailored to individuals. And HER2 testing has long been seen as heralding the promise of personalized medicine: tumors that test positive for an amplified HER2 gene are more lik...

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The Nuffield Council is really scratching its head on that one–is money the only way to get people to give up parts of their bodies?

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Would payment for funeral expenses be okay to increase the rate of cadaveric organ donation?

What about upping the ante for getting men to spill their seed or to be able to pay women to undergo hormone injections to donate those precious ova?

Well, when all else fails in the UK, the Council has decided to consult the public–an idea rarely (if ever) tried here in the US. What–you mean the public could have some novel ideas about what would be morally acceptable?…

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Dear Faithful Readers: Teaching has cut my blogging to a trickle, though the teaching has now begun to taper off. My silence is not for want of major developments in the last two months. Among a few highlights:

Obama picks members for his Bioethics advisory panel: White house recently announced membership of its "Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues." The group is smaller than past Presidential panels. Its membership is lean on working bioethicists (3 or 4 who clearly fit the classic definition-- all others scientists, clinicians, federal employees, university administrators, or a disease advocate).

Health care reform (+ Translational Research) passes in the U.S.: Among the intriguing elements here is the relationship between reform and biomedical research. When Clinton proposed healthcare reform in the 1990s, there was much consternation in the research community that this would spell a retreat from investment in basic research. Indeed, failure to enact reform propelled a massive expansion of the NIH budget through the 1990s. This time around, healthcare reform has specifically integrated basic research. The law includes language creating a "Cures Acceleration Network" that would fund up to $15M/year in translational research (though the budget will depend on direct appropriation from Congress, and there is no certainty that it will be funded).

Gene Patents Voided: Following an ACLU challenge, a U.S. District Court Judge threw out Myriad Genetics' patent on BRCA1 and BRCA2 (genes associated with hereditary breast cancer; the company markets a $3K per pop test for mutations in the genes) by ruling that the genes are "products of nature." Products of nature are not patentable, though products purified from nature (e.g. enzymes, wood chemicals, etc.) are. The logic behind the decisions is that genes are better thought of as information rather than as chemicals, and that information extracted from the natural entities does not have distinct properties in the way that chemicals do. If ever there were a demonstration of the power of metaphors; suffice it to say, biotechnology companies will appeal. (photo credit: aurelian s 2008)


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Dear Faithful Readers: Teaching has cut my blogging to a trickle, though the teaching has now begun to taper off. My silence is not for want of major developments in the last two months. Among a few highlights:

Obama picks members for his Bioethics advisory panel: White house recently announced membership of its "Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues." The group is smaller than past Presidential panels. Its membership is lean on working bioethicists (3 or 4 who clearly fit the classic definition-- all others scientists, clinicians, federal employees, university administrators, or a disease advocate).

Health care reform (+ Translational Research) passes in the U.S.: Among the intriguing elements here is the relationship between reform and biomedical research. When Clinton proposed healthcare reform in the 1990s, there was much consternation in the research community that this would spell a retreat from investment in basic research. Indeed, failure to enact reform propelled a massive expansion of the NIH budget through the 1990s. This time around, healthcare reform has specifically integrated basic research. The law includes language creating a "Cures Acceleration Network" that would fund up to $15M/year in translational research (though the budget will depend on direct appropriation from Congress, and there is no certainty that it will be funded).

Gene Patents Voided: Following an ACLU challenge, a U.S. District Court Judge threw out Myriad Genetics' patent on BRCA1 and BRCA2 (genes associated with hereditary breast cancer; the company markets a $3K per pop test for mutations in the genes) by ruling that the genes are "products of nature." Products of nature are not patentable, though products purified from nature (e.g. enzymes, wood chemicals, etc.) are. The logic behind the decisions is that genes are better thought of as information rather than as chemicals, and that information extracted from the natural entities does not have distinct properties in the way that chemicals do. If ever there were a demonstration of the power of metaphors; suffice it to say, biotechnology companies will appeal. (photo credit: aurelian s 2008)


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