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Saturday, 9 October 2010

AUSTRALIAN ethics experts are currently debating whether partents should have the right to pick their child's sex.

AUSTRALIAN ethics experts are currently debating whether partents should have the right to pick their child's sex.
WHEN Diane Tully "found out she was pregnant with her fourth boy, she cried.
"I love my boys and I would never give any of them back. But I feel like I am being cheated out of the girl I have dreamed of for as long as I can remember,” she says.
Tully’s story is common. But does she have the right to choose?
That’s the question the Australian Health Ethics Committee is currently considering.
It banned sex selection for non-medical purposes through the IVF procedure pre-genetic diagnosis (PGD) in 2005 and the moratorium expires this year.
IVF specialists are lobbying for the ban to be lifted, arguing that it does no harm and, as long as it doesn’t cost taxpayers, couples should have the right to choose. And many parents who have at least two boys or two girls, and who long for a child of the opposite sex to “balance” their family, agree.
“Our Federal Government needs to look at families with three or more children of one sex and have some empathy for them… not just accuse them of ethical wrong for wanting a child of the other sex,” Tully writes in a forum.
A Melbourne mother of three boys who said in July she would go to Thailand to have a daughter was lambasted in the media.
Opponents say, if you allow couples to choose the sex of their child, what next? But why shouldn’t parents who have three girls or three boys enjoy reproductive autonomy? 
Associate Professor Justin Oakley, director of the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University, says it’s time for a public debate. 
But he predicts policy makers will place the issue in the too-hard basket as there are relatively few people who want to choose the sex of their children.
He says there is nothing wrong with parents hoping for a baby of one particular gender, but when that turns into a decision to discard an embryo of the unwanted sex, questions are raised about the embryo’s moral status.
Options are currently limited for couples wanting to sex select. They can travel overseas for PGD, try the Shettles method (see box, right) or simply take their chances.
Professor Gab Kovacs, international medical director of Monash IVF, says he has yet to see a valid argument for making the procedure illegal. 
“If a couple is so determined to have a boy or a girl that they’re prepared to go through IVF, and then they’re not allowed to do it and they have a child of the sex they don’t want, that child may not have the same amount of nurture as the preferred-gender child might have had. It’s in the child’s best interests to allow these couples to gender select.”
The Australian Health Ethics Committee “believes that admission to life should not be conditional upon a child being a particular sex”. 
But it permits the procedure in cases where parents suffer serious genetic diseases that can be passed to children of one gender.
The National Health and Medical Research Council says opposition to gender selection includes the fact that the parent-child relationship should be unconditional; that it contributes to discrimination against women; and that it harms men in some cultures by creating a shortage of women for them to marry.
On the other side of the argument, gender selection allows “family balancing”, enables parents to fulfil religious obligations or cultural expectations and is thought of as a matter of individual autonomy.
In their efforts to conceive a particular gender, some try naturopathy and follow “boy” or “girl” diets, chart their lunar cycles, change sexual positions and try douches.
Dr Gino Pecoraro, secretary of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says there is no science to support gender-selection diets but there is evidence that because male sperm weigh less, they swim faster, so you’re more likely to have a boy if you have sex closer to ovulation. 
Sydney naturopath Claudette Wadsworth says that for ethical reasons, she will only help couples with sex selection if they have two or more children.
The boy diet is salt-based and high in sodium and potassium, while the girl diet is meat- and dairy-based and is higher in calcium and magnesium. 
“Because the diet is restrictive, you don’t want to be on it for too long, and we put cautions on it,” Wadsworth says.
The diet is said to influence pH levels in the woman’s reproductive tract to help male or female sperm depending on the acidity or alkalinity. Women will also take supplements and chart their lunar cycles.
Sex selection with a naturopath costs hundreds of dollars, compared to $12,000 to $15,000 for an IVF cycle. 
“All these things – diet, abstinence, coital position, acid douches – none of them make any difference. They’re all just a con,” says Professor Kovacs. 
“Fifty per cent of the time it’s worth it because 50 per cent of the time it works.”
Labor’s Health Minister Nicola Roxon said earlier this year the government was not reviewing the ban on gender selection because it wants to make changes. 
“And at a personal level, I am very uncomfortable about the suggestions that such a change might be made,” Roxon said.
So couples who want to gender select and can’t afford an overseas trip might just have to rely on luck.

Iran to buy Russian nuclear medicine

Iran and Russia have had agreements on producing nuclear medicine, under which a Russian-made radioisotope sample will be sent to Iran for testing and if we find it up to our standards we will place a large order," Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said on Friday. 
He added that Iran is planning to manufacture up to over 20 forms of nuclear medicine and "if the Tehran reactor works permanently, we will be in a better position to meet national demand." 
Salehi told Fars News Agency that Moscow had proven a reliable partner in nuclear medicine, hinting at a controversial decision by the Kremlin to renege on a deal to deliver S-300 defense systems to Iran. 
He reiterated Iran's willingness to restart negotiations with the UN nuclear agency, Russia, France and the US. 
Salehi went on to stress that if the Vienna group continues to give Iran's trust-building efforts cold-shoulder, Tehran will provide fuel for its medical research reactor by September 2011. 
The Iranian official also announced plans for publishing Persian-language course books on nuclear energy for "associate and graduate students." 
Israel and its Western allies accuse Iran of following a military nuclear program -- a charge which Iranian officials refute, stressing that Tehran is only seeking the peaceful applications of nuclear energy. 
On May 17, Iran, Turkey and Brazil signed a landmark nuclear fuel swap declaration under which Iran announced readiness to exchange 1,200 kg of its low-enriched uranium on Turkish soil with fuel for a medical research reactor. 
Three weeks later the UN Security Council imposed a new round of US-engineered sanctions resolution against Iran's military and financial sectors. 
Earlier on Friday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle stressed that the time was right to restart talks aimed at resolving the standoff over Iran's nuclear program. 
"Following the cautious signals for talks coming from Iran, what's important now is to quickly start serious and constructive talks," Reuters quoted Westerwelle as saying on Friday. 

Mentally Ill Patients In Poor Countries Lack Treatment and Care

World Health Organisation chief Margaret Chan on Thursday vowed to "change the landscape" for mental health at the launch of a drive to counter neglect that is leaving millions of poor people without care.
About 75 percent of sufferers in poor and middle income countries are thought to be left out, fuelled by a lack of knowledge among ordinary doctors and nurses, social stigma, neglect, lack of funding, and an increasingly challenged rich country focus on psychiatric institutions, health experts said. 
"One in four people are affected by mental, neurological disorders or substance abuse in their lifetime," worldwide said WHO Assistant Director General Ala Alwan. 
The WHO estimates that 150 million people suffer from depression, 40 million from epilepsy, 20 million from dementia or Alzheimer's disease among a host of mental or neurological disorders. 
"Efforts to close the mental health gap have been impeded by a widespead assumption that improvements in mental health require sophisticated and expensive technologies, delivered in highly specialised settings by highly specialised staff," said WHO Director General Chan, 
"We face a misplaced perception that mental health intervention is a luxury," she added pledging to challenge that attitude. 
While high profile diseases grab attention, mental and neurological disorders are "swept under the carpet and brushed aside" even though they form 14 percent of global disease burden, Chan warned. 
A cornerstone of the drive is a new guide for ordinary doctors and nurses in developing and emerging countries to ease diagnosis and proper treatment of mental and neurological disorders, as well as drug and alcohol abuse.


Doc sans degree: Man says he's no quack

Bharat Sanandwala, the self-proclaimed doctor who was detained on Saturday for flouting norms set for medical practitioners, on Sunday revealed that he runs clinics in other cities of the state as well. He also maintained he was framed. 
Naranpura police station officials said that Sanandwala, who ran a health and naturopathy clinic in Vadaj, was handed over to the police by AMC's food and drugs department official Mukesh Patel. He was held for running the clinic illegally since he did not even have any medical degree. 
"During interrogation, Sanandwala said he practised naturopathy because he thought it did not require him to hold any medical degree. He offered various packages for ailments and beauty treatments and would place advertisements in newspapers for the same," said an official at the Naranpura police station. 
"His wife was a partner in this venture. Her role in this case is being investigated," the official added. Sanandwala ran other centres in Rajkot, Vadodara and Patan and used to supply medicines to drug stores across the state. Officials have not charged him under any section yet.
Source:Times of India 


Study Debunks 'Most Women Demand Cesarean' Myth

A new study has disproved a widely believed theory that women in labour demand Caesarean operations as they involve lesser pain. 
A research team at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists looked at data for more than 620,000 single baby births in England in 2008 at 146 NHS Trusts.
Of these, 147,726 were delivered by caesarean, the most common reason being medical. Nine out of 10 women with a breech baby had one, and 71 percent of women who had previously had a Caesarean opted to have another. 
Caesarean it is still regarded as major surgery, and like any major operation, it carries the risk of bleeding and infection, and the wound can also make it harder for a new mother to cope in the first few weeks following birth. 
As such, it is generally reserved for cases in which the risks of delivering clearly outweigh the risks of a Caesarean. 
"This research scotches the myth there is a large group of women clamouring for caesarean on demand," the BBC quoted Mary Newburn at National Childbirth Trust as saying. 
With the increasing number of Caesarean deliveries, researchers believe that the lack of a precise medical definition for either 'foetal distress' or for abnormal or difficult labour in general, could be responsible as some doctors and midwives may be less prepared to allow labour to continue naturally as potential problems are spotted. 
"Most women want to avoid major surgery if they have a good chance of a safe, straightforward birth, as is the case for the large majority of mothers," Newburn said. 
The study is published in the British Medical Journal.


Friday, 8 October 2010

Elevated Iron Levels In The Brain 'Speeds Up' Alzheimer's

Scientists have determined how iron contributes to the production of brain-destroying plaques found in Alzheimer's patients. 
The team from Massachusetts General Hospital researchers reports that there is a very close link between elevated levels of iron in the brain and the enhanced production of the amyloid precursor protein, which in Alzheimer's disease breaks down into a peptide that makes up the destructive plaques.
 Dr. Jack T. Rogers, the head of the hospital's neurochemistry lab who oversaw the team's work, said the findings "lay the foundation for the development of new therapies that will slow or stop the negative effects of iron buildup" in patients with the progressive neurodegenerative disease, symptoms of which include memory loss, impaired judgment, disorientation and personality changes. 
While it had been known that an abundance of iron in brain cells somehow results in an abundance of amyloid precursor protein, or APP, and its destructive peptide offspring, Rogers' team set out to open up new avenues for therapies by determining what goes on at the molecular level. 
In 2002, they identified the molecular location where APP and iron interact, a discovery that laid the groundwork for the work being reported now. 
Today it is clear that, under healthy conditions, iron and APP keep each other in check: If there's too much iron in a brain cell, more APP is made, and then APP and a partner molecule escort excess iron out.


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