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On Tuesday, medical device maker Medtronic Inc. announced that they will begin disclosing their consulting fees to doctors in 2011, says the Minneapolis Star. Slow down there, Speed Racer! Don’t go disclosing those dollar figures too quickly now! You wouldn’t want to allow your company a whole two years to change your consulting amounts as to allow your company time to appear as though you didn’t previously give massive amounts of cash to physicians who used and implanted your medical devices over those who did not, would you?

Call me cynical, but any company really committed to making these disclosures would do so immediately and open their books now and put them out into the sunshine for all to see.…

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02/24/2009 DBS for OCD? OMG!


As I read on the Triage health blog at the Chicago Tribune, deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been approved by the FDA as a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Medtronic was given “humanitarian device exemption” for its DBS device based on the data: 26 patients were shown to have a 40% reduction in their symptoms after using the device for a year.

It seems like a rather extreme therapy for such a disorder, and based on rather a small data set.

Plus this is certain to be precedent setting. It is the first time, according to Triage, that DBS has been approved for a psychological disorder.…

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When I wrote a week ago about Andrew Wakefield, I approached it from a research ethics perspective: about data falsification, the retraction of an article, the colleagues who didn’t stand by him on his Lancet paper, etc etc….but as the world continues to talk about this researcher who, amazingly, continues to stand his ground regarding his more than debunked theory about how the MMR vaccine causes autism–I have grown increasingly upset.


Because as long as Andrew Wakefield, the father of the antivaccine movement in the last decade, clings to his theory, so will the parents and families of children with autism.…

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If you have a book, article, or PhD to finish and you’d like to do it in Europe for a month or up to six months, the Brocher Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to giving scientists a community in which to do research, is accepting applications for visiting researchers now through March 2nd. The Brocher Foundation funds research on the ethical, legal and social issues of genetics, biotechnology, nanomedicine, bioart, and much, much more.

The call for stays can be found here.

To see more about stays at the Brocher Center, click here to view.

Summer Johnson, PhD…

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If it is actually the case that Andrew Wakefield faked, fudged, or whatever you want to call “making up” one’s data, in his original studies regarding the effects of vaccines on children who later came to have autism, as reported in the UK’s Times Online, then his research misconduct didn’t just set back scientific research 10 years–it set back an entire generation of children, their families, and a society grappling with autism, and that will do so for decades to come.


As Bad Astronomy’s post predicts, Wakefield’s outing–if it happens–may result in some losses from the antivaccination community, but it is unlikely that parents of children with autism are going to cease to cling to that explanation in the absence of an alternative one.…

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The year of 2009 has already started out to be a fascinating year for bioethics: divorcing spouses want internal organs back as part of settlement offers, Angelina Jolie look-alike gives birth to octuplets, and an inmate who is suing prison officials for force feeding him on his hunger strike. wouldn’t survive without unethical doctors who decide it might be a good idea to implant eight embryos into a woman’s uterus, crazy divorces, or any of the dozen other medical, scientific, and social oddities that crop up each day that we have the privilege of writing about. At the risk of appearing and sounding like “bought” bioethicists doing what we do (as some bioethicists themselves have claimed about the entire academic enterprise, ironically enough), a long overdue “THANK YOU” is here to our sponsors.…

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Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Los Angeles fertility clinic is offering parents the capacity to choose the traits of their child to allow them to make, um, “The Perfect Baby.”


The WSJ article, titled “A Baby, Please. Blond, Freckles — Hold the Colic”, describes precisely what McGee predicted in 1997, yes more than 10 years ago, parents would want to be able to do, what he calls the “under the hood” phenomenon. The idea that while parents are screening embryos for genetic diseases, they will also have the ability to select for gender or other traits, like eye and hair color.…

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Two recent stories about smokers have caught my eye. One, published from the University of Pennsylvania, has found that smokers paid $750 to quit smoking are 3 times more likely to quit smoking and be smoke free a year later as their unpaid counterparts. As MSNBC reports, the study implemented at the General Electric corporation had such dramatic results that it will be implemented nationwide next year. Now, the $750 only worked on 15% of the study participants, but that is still expected to result in a significant amount of health savings for GE in overall worker health, time lost, and other externalities that result from smoking cessation.…

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New research suggests that cotton candy may help re-grow human tissue such as bone, skin, or muscle, says MSNBC.


The technique is actually a bit to complicated for me to explain, but it sounds a bit like if one poured candy apple solution over cotton candy to create a complicated network out of the thin interwoven strands and what would be left inside would be an intricate network of blood vessels or skin.

A great concept…but does it work? So far it does in rats, so stay tuned, you may find cotton candy-based blood vessels or skin substitutes coming soon, right out of those crazy whirling machines from county fairs around the country.…

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A new report issued by the Center for Genetics and Society has been released titled, “Responsible Federal Oversight of New Human Biotechnologies: Opportunities for the New Administration”. The document, found here is a policy brief that clearly outlines the ways in which the new Obama administration can RIGHT NOW lift restrictions on funding for embryonic stem cell research, ensure comprehensive oversight of that research, and outlaw reproductive human cloning.

Going further, the report outlines the ways in which the Obama administration can promote a discourse that allows for a discussion that promotes a biotechnology friendly nation that is pro-science and technology and eventually leads to a nation that has oversight over assisted reproductive technologies (a little too late for that), better oversight of human subjects research, more consumer projections, and better international cooperation.…

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