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A Rocky Period For Medical Aid-In-Dying In California

California Society of Anesthesiologists

While the recent legal battle has been a source of confusion and frustration for terminally ill Californians and their physicians, the eventual fate of this law remains unresolved. Even if there are no additional attempts to invalidate the law, it will “sunset” in 2026. Without further legislative action medical aid-in-dying will disappear from California yet again.


Genetic determinism rides again


It’s never a good time for another bout of genetic determinism, but it’s hard to imagine a worse one than this. Social inequality gapes, exacerbated by climate change, driving hostility towards immigrants and flares of militant racism. At such a juncture, yet another expression of the discredited, simplistic idea that genes alone control human nature seems particularly insidious. And yet, here we are again with Blueprint, by educational psychologist Robert Plomin.


Race, Ancestry, and Medical Research


The discussion of race and medicine in the United States is challenging and emotionally charged. Substantial disparities in health outcomes, based on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, continue to exist; additional reports of racial bias and profound insensitivity in research continue to emerge in the popular media. A renewed discussion of race as a biological vs social construct has begun and is complicated by emerging data on genetics, race, and ancestry.


How Stratification Unites Ethical Issues in Precision Health

AMA Journal of Ethics

The contributors to this issue address many of the ethical issues that arise in the context of precision health. Although none addresses the idea of stratification directly, the concept of stratification links their contributions together, since stratification is the basis of all precision health efforts. Stratification has only rarely been explored as a concept with ethical fallout and is often downplayed in favor of the label “precision.” Therefore, this editorial lays out how the ethical issues explored by our contributors and in precision health more broadly are united and organized by the concept of stratification.


Breakthrough Leukemia Treatment Backfires in a Rare Case

The New York Times
The groundbreaking treatment that genetically engineers a patient’s own cells to fight leukemia turned lethal in one patient, reversing his remission.


AAMC Statement on Proposed Changes to Public Charge Rule

The AAMC issued a statement on the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed changes to how and whether immigrants can be classified as a public charge. “The AAMC and the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals are opposed to any policy that discourages people from pursuing medical care to which they are legally entitled. The proposed new rule would create a system where individuals are penalized for using health programs for which they legally qualify and could cause them to forgo crucial medical care, bringing with it all the health consequences that could follow. Teaching hospitals treat a disproportionate share of Medicaid patients, and we know from firsthand experience that access to care is key to ensuring that the nation’s patients have the stability and continuity of care that leads to better health outcomes,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD.


Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Announces Conflict of Interest Task Force

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

The task force was announced in a statement from MSK President and Chief Executive Officer Craig Thompson, MD. It will be chaired by Debra Berns, MSK’s Senior Vice President and Chief Risk Officer.


Biologists irate at NSF’s new one-proposal cap


Last month, NSF’s biology directorate announced that researchers could submit only one proposal a year in which they are listed as a principal investigator (PI) or co-PI. The cap applies only to the directorate’s three core tracks and excludes several other NSF programs from which many biologists receive support… But 70 scientists have signed onto a letter asking the agency to reconsider the new policy, which they also complain was adopted without any community input.


Argentina’s economic crisis could trigger scientific ‘collapse,’ researchers warn


Argentine scientists are deeply worried about the effects of the country’s economic crisis on science. The government has proposed cutting research budgets in 2019 as part of an austerity push and it is behind in its financial commitments to institutes for this year, which means many labs lack the funds to pay for day-to-day operations.


Finland joins Europe’s bold open-access push


Finland’s national research funder has signed up to Plan S — a push by a group of European organizations to make a radical change to the way that research results are published. The Academy of Finland, which announced its move on 24 September, is the first organization to sign up since Plan S was launched by 11 funders earlier this month. The now 12-strong coalition demands that, from 2020, papers resulting from the research they fund are immediately free to read on publication.


2 Immunologists Win 2018 Nobel Prize In Physiology Or Medicine

James P. Allison, 70, and Tasuku Honjo, 76, won the prize for their discovery of cancer therapy that works by harnessing the body’s own immune system.


To overcome decades of mistrust, a workshop aims to train Indigenous researchers to be their own genome experts


Members of the Havasupai Tribe, shown in 2010 looking at blood samples previously taken from them, had to fight for access to their samples, in an episode that fueled suspicion between scientists and several Native American communities.


Health And Human Services Says It’s Reviewing Use Of Fetal Tissue For Research


The Department of Health and Human Services says it is reviewing all medical research involving human fetal tissue. HHS said this week that it will conduct an audit of “all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue” as well as “all research involving fetal tissue…”


Gene editing could eliminate mosquitoes, but is it a good idea?


Researchers used a gene editing tool, CRISPR, to wipe out a population of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the lab. Questions remain about how releasing this technology into the wild would impact the environment.


As China builds biotech sector, cash floods U.S. startups


Brii is one of many biotech startups riding a wave of money from Asia that so far this year has poured $4.2 billion into private U.S.-based biotech companies. That is over 43 percent of the total amount of venture funding invested in the biotech sector, according to PitchBook, up from just 11 percent in 2016.


Veterans Struggling After Sexual Assault Increasingly Turn To Service Dogs


Service dog providers are seeing an influx of applications from veterans like Michel who have experienced sexual trauma while in the military. But the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides veterinary benefits for service dogs assigned to people with physical disabilities, does not currently recognize psychiatric service dogs as a proven therapy for mental illness.


Cornell nutrition scientist resigns after retractions and research misconduct finding


Brian Wansink, the Cornell University nutrition researcher known for probing the psychology behind human eating habits, has resigned after a university misconduct investigation, and following the retraction this week of six of his papers.


UK doctors win battle with drug giants over cheaper eye medicine


Drug giants Novartis, Bayer and Roche lost a bid to stop British doctors from recommending a cheaper drug option for people with an eye disease that causes blindness.


Human genome could contain up to 20 percent fewer genes, researchers reveal

Science Daily
A new study reveals that up to 20 percent of genes classified as coding (those that produce the proteins that are the building blocks of all living things) may not be coding after all because they have characteristics that are typical of non-coding or pseudogenes (obsolete coding genes). The work once again highlights doubts about the number of real genes present in human cells 15 years after the sequencing the human genome.


California Sues AbbVie Over Alleged Arthritis Drug Kickbacks


California’s insurance regulator is suing AbbVie Inc., alleging that the pharmaceutical giant gave illegal kickbacks to health-care providers in order to keep patients on its blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira.


Here’s what we know about CRISPR safety – and reports of ‘genome vandalism’

The Washington Post

Using genome editing to treat human diseases is very tantalizing. Correcting inherited genetic defects that cause human disease — just as one edits a sentence — is the obvious application. This strategy has been successful in tests on animals. But a few recent scientific papers suggest that CRISPR is not without its problems. The research reveals that CRISPR can damage DNA located far from the target DNA we are trying to correct.


Are We Being Misled About Precision Medicine?

The New York Times

Doctors and hospitals love to talk about the cancer patients they’ve saved, and reporters love to write about them. But deaths still vastly outnumber the rare successes.


Nearly 30 percent of patients prescribed opioids had no recorded pain diagnoses

PBS News

Nearly 30 percent of U.S. patients prescribed opioids by doctors over the course of a decade had no recorded pain diagnosis, according to a new letter published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.


A plan to advance AI by exploring the minds of children

MIT Technology Review

The project brings computer scientists and engineers together with neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists to explore research that might lead to fundamental progress in artificial intelligence. Tenenbaum outlined the project, and his vision for advancing AI, at EmTech, a conference held at MIT this week by MIT Technology Review.


AI may detect depression just from your voice


During a conversation, humans can grasp a friend’s mood or intent by relying on subtle vocal cues or word choice. Now, researchers at MIT say they have developed an algorithm that can detect if the friend is depressed, one of the most widely suffered — and often undiagnosed — conditions in the U.S.


NIH gets $2 billion boost in final 2019 spending bill


Congress has approved a $2 billion raise, to $39.1 billion, for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in a 2019 spending bill approved by House of Representatives and Senate negotiators last night. As expected, the 5% boost matches the Senate’s proposed spending level and surpasses a $1.25 billion increase in a draft bill passed by the House.


Medicine’s Financial Contamination

The New York Times

The fall from grace last week of Dr. José Baselga, the former chief scientific officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, illuminated a longstanding problem of modern medicine: Potentially corrupting payments by drug and medical device makers to influential people at research hospitals are far more common than either side publicly acknowledges.


‘Lots of lads I know wouldn’t give it a shot’: the men starting care careers

The Guardian

Wilding is one of the small – but slowly growing – number of male care workers in the UK; men make up just 18% of the social care workforce – an increase of two percentage points since 2015… A staggering 85% of men, and 76% of men aged 16-25, say they are unlikely to start a career in adult social care, while 35% of the public think working in a care home is a “woman’s career”.


Drug executive: It’s a ‘moral requirement’ to charge patients the highest price

Los Angeles Times

In his interview with the Financial Times published Tuesday, Mulye defended Martin Shkreli, the former drug company CEO who became the face of the industry’s profiteering in 2015 when he jacked up the price of a generic anti-parasitic drug needed by HIV patients by more than 5,000%. “I agree with Martin Shkreli that when he raised the price of his drug he was within his rights because he had to reward his shareholders,” Mulye told the FT. (Shkreli is currently serving a prison term on fraud charges unrelated to the price hike.)


A Deadly Virus Threatens Millions Of Pigs In China


In a little more than a month, some 897 pigs have died and nearly 20,000 have been culled to try and prevent the virus from spreading.