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Several groups are pursuing gene transfer strategies against Parkinson's disease. No small task, because for these approaches to work, investigators have to deliver vectors deep inside the brain using surgery. I have previously written that early phase...

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Several groups are pursuing gene transfer strategies against Parkinson's disease. No small task, because for these approaches to work, investigators have to deliver vectors deep inside the brain using surgery. I have previously written that early phase...

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The President’s Commission on Bioethical Issues released the Executive Summary of its Report on the Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies. (To read the full report, click here.)

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Just in time for the holiday season (when most of our waistlines are expanding), the pages of AJOB this month we are discussing the ethical issues of shrinking our waistlines using bariatric surgery. Hofmann’s article stresses many, as yet, unaddressed issues with this increasingly popular and unfortunately increasingly necessary procedure while a number of commentator’s address broader social, political, and cultural issues surrounding the use of this procedure.

The December issues other Target Article discusses what has (and has not) changed in the abortion debate in the last 30+ years. Manninen in her article explores which legal and ethical arguments still are relevant today, and which have (or ought to have) faded into obscurity.…

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Comics & Medicine: The Sequential Art of Illness conference

9-11 June 2011
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Chicago, Illinois

This second international interdisciplinary conference* aims to explore the past, present, and possible future of comics in the context of the healthcare experience. Programs in medical humanities have long touted the benefits of reading literature and studying visual art in the medical setting, but the use of comics in healthcare practice and education is relatively new. The melding of text and image has much to offer all members of the healthcare team, including patients and families. As such, a subgenre of graphic narrative known as graphic medicine is emerging as a field of interest to both scholars and creators of comics.

We are pleased to confirm two important keynote speakers: David Small, author of 'Stitches' and Phoebe Gloeckner, author of 'A Child's Life'.

We invite proposals for scholarly papers (15 minutes), poster presentations, and panel discussions (60 minutes), focused on medicine and comics in any form (e.g., graphic novels, comic strips, graphic pathographies, manga, and/or web comics) on the following—and
  • graphic pathographies of illness and disability
  • the use of comics in medical education
  • the use of comics in patient care
  • the interface of graphic medicine and other visual arts in popular culture
  • ethical implications for using comics to educate the public
  • ethical implications of patient representation in comics by
  • healthcare providers
  • trends in international use of comics in healthcare settings
  • the role of comics in provider/patient communication
  • comics as a virtual support group for patients and caregivers
  • the use of comics in bioethics discussions and education
We also welcome workshops (120 minutes) by creators of comics on the process, rationale, methods, and general theories behind the use of comics to explore medical themes. These are intended to be “hands-on” interactive workshops for participants who wish to obtain particular
skills with regard to the creation or teaching about comics in the medical context.

We envision this gathering as a collaboration among humanities scholars, comics scholars, comics creators, healthcare professionals, and comics enthusiasts.

300 word proposals should be submitted by Friday, 28 February 2011 to Proposals may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats with the following information and in this order: author(s), affiliation, email address, title of abstract, body of abstract. Please identify your presentation preference: 1) oral presentation; 2) poster presentation; 3) panel discussion; or 4) workshop. While we cannot guarantee that presenters will receive their first choice, we will attempt to honor people’s preferences,
and we will acknowledge the receipt of all proposals submitted. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed by an interdisciplinary selection committee. Notification of acceptance or rejection will be completed by 14 March 2011.

This event is co-sponsored by the Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the Department of Humanities at Penn State College of Medicine, and the Science, Technology and Society Program of Penn State University, and
is supported by a grant from the Charles Schulz Foundation.

*Information about the 2010 conference, “Comics and Medicine: Medical Narrative in Graphic Novels,” in London, England can be found at

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In 1965, two twin boys were born, Brian and Bruce. At six months, one of them began to have trouble with urination and had a circumcision which was unfortunately incorrectly performed, leaving his genitalia non-functional.

This forced his parents to make a tough decision about sex assignment. Ultimately, they had to answer a question ultimately that seems primitive in this day and age: “Could we really raise a little boy without a penis?”

The Reimer’s decided they could not and took the advice of one Dr. Money who believed that nurture would overcome nature if Bruce’s parents simply raised him as Brenda.…

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Paul Root Wolpe, Editor of AJOB Neuroscience, discussed the Octomom case with Atlanta’s Fox 5 News late last week and took on a cadre of thorny ethical questions in his 10 minute interview.

Wolpe answered questions regarding whether it is ever okay to implant 12 embryos into a woman (gee, I wonder!), whether assisted reproduction should be more heavily regulated, and do the thousands of happy healthy families around the US justify the creation and destruction of embryos? (He was on Fox after all….)

To watch the entire video, click below.

Summer McGee, PhD

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The November issue of AJOB is available at This special thematic issue addresses the issue of pain agreements between patients and physicians and the ethical issues raised by creating contractual relations between those using opioids and those prescribing them.

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How are pain agreements/contracts different from informed consent?
What are the moral responsibilities of patients not to divert their medications and of physicians to prevent such diversion? Do pain agreements achieve that goal?
What effect do such agreements have on the physician-patient relationship?

These questions and more are but a few of the thorny issues raised, and potentially answered in this important issue of AJOB.…

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On this World AIDS Day, Arthur Caplan reminds us in his MSNBC column that there have been many forward strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS but where we have clearly failed is dealing with HIV/AIDS in our prison population. In general, health care in many prisons is not up to snuff in places like California due to, as the recent court battles in the Supreme Court suggest, overcrowding and insufficient resource.


But more than that, as Caplan notes, “prisons are disease incubators” for other reasons such as poor hygiene, risky sexual contact, drug use and more. 2% of US prisoners have HIV and another 20% of those with HIV pass through our correctional system, says Caplan.…

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