Population control and abortion in Pakistan

Sindh, the second largest province in Pakistan, is setting up a Population Council for the purpose of implementing a population control programme.  Among the concerns voiced by supporters of the plan is that most people are reluctant to adopt contraception, and that many medical professionals object to abortion for religious reasons. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Pakistan (SOGP) organized a seminar on abortion, during which a spokesman for the Society stated that abortion is “purely a health issue and must not be confused with religion and culture.”  The assertion was inconsistent with a statement made at the conference that Islamic scholars permit abortion during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.  This at least implies some religious opposition to abortion after 16 weeks, and that the procedure is not “purely” a health issue. [Indo-Asian News Service; Pakistan Today]

Controversy over sex selective abortions in Canada

The Canadian Medical Association Journal has reported that sex selective abortion is being practised in Canada despite opposition from the public and from professional associations and regulators.  The accompanying editorial, which advocated refusing to disclose fetal sex until after the 30th week of pregnancy, was headed, “It’s a girl! could be a death sentence.”

Sex Selection Migrates to Canada CMAJ January 16, 2012 cmaj.109-4091
“It’s a girl!” could be a death sentence. CMAJ January 16, 2012, doi: 10.1503/cmaj.120021

British government asserts that legalization of assisted suicide must be decided by parliament, not by government policy

In response to a question about the recommendation of a private commission chaired by Lord Falconer, the British Secretary of State for Justice has stated that  assisted suicide should not be legalized by policy, but by a decision of Parliament enacted in legislation. [Hansard]


Misconduct in scientific research acknowledged in United Kingdom

A survey published in the British Medical Journal found that more than 10% of British scientists or physicians have witnessed intentional fabrication of data during research, and 6% were aware that research misconduct had not been properly investigated.  [Reuters]

Scientific misconduct is worryingly prevalent in the UK, shows BMJ survey BMJ2012;344:e377


Assisted suicide to be debated in British House of Commons

The Commons Backbench Business Committee has decided that the House of Commons in the United Kingdom will debate the assisted suicide guidelines published by the Director of Public Prosecutions in 2010.  The guidelines had the effect of leaving the regulation of assisted suicide in the hands of police and Crown Counsel, though the practice remained a criminal offence.  Conservative MP Richard Ottawa will ask the Commons to approve or reject the guidelines, and there is a chance that the debate could lead to legalization of the procedure in those cases excluded from prosecution by the guidelines. [BBC]

Warning that protection of conscience laws may enable euthanasia

Burke J. Balch, J.D., director of National Right to Life Committee’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics in the USA, has warned that protection of conscience laws like the  Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act and Mississippi’s Health Care Rights of Conscience Act are dangerous because they may permit health care workers to commit euthanasia by withdrawing or refusing to provide medical treatment for reasons of conscience. [NRTL News]


Mixed message from US government for victims of unethical medical research

From 1946 to 1948, American and Guatemalan physicians infected prostitutes and prisoners with syphilis without their knowledge or consent in order to test penicillin. The research was discovered by a Wellesley College professor in 2009, and lawyers for the victims filed a class-action lawsuit against the United States.  The Obama administration claims that the US is immune from such lawsuits, but has announced that it will spend $1 million to review new rules to protect medical research volunteers, $775,000 to fight sexually transmitted diseases in Guatemala, and will develop a system to compensate anyone harmed in medical research.  Lawyers for the Guatemalan victims say that the promised action is inconsistent with the claim of immunity. [Washington Post]

British member of European Parliament favours assisted suicide

Member of the European Parliament Roger Helmer has written in favour of assisted suicide on grounds beyond those recommended by a recent report by a private commission, advocating the availability of the procedure for those not terminally ill.  He explicitly argues that the cost of supporting people with advanced dementia is one reason to accept the practice. [TFA]

American College of Physicians acknowledges freedom of conscience

The American College of Physicians has acknowledged that physicians who object to “abortion, sterilization, contraception or other reproductive services . . . is not obligated to recommend, perform or prescribe them.”  The statement is in the most recent edition of the College’s Ethics Manual.  However, an objecting physician is obliged to advise a patient of “care options and alternatives, so that the patient’s rights are not constrained.”  Only if the physician is unwilling to provide this information is a transfer of care required.  [Secondhand Smoke]


United Kingdom report recommends compulsory referral for assisted suicide

A report produced by a privately established and funded Commission on Assisted Dying has recommended that assisted suicide be legalized in the United Kingdom for any competent person over 18 years old who is terminally ill and expected to live less than 12 months.  It also recommends that physicians who refuse to assist with suicide for reasons of conscience be compelled to refer patients to colleagues who will do so [P. 311, Report]. The eleven members of the Commission included Lord Falconer, a lawyer and former solicitor general, who acted as Chair.  The validity of the Commission has been challenged from the outset, and a number of groups, including the British Medical Association, refused to take part, though about 1,300 sources gave evidence. [BBC]