News in Brief
Vision Improved by Adult Stem Cells
corneal disease patients in Australia gained significant vision
improvements after treatment with their own stem cells, according to
a report in the journal Transplantation.
an important step forward in treating patients with corneal types of
blindness, using adult stem cells,” David Prentice, founding member
of Do No Harm, the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, told
NRL News. “This improved technique grows the cells on an approved
contact lens that can be easily placed into the eyes of the
patients, and from which the adult stem cells can move onto the eye
and repair corneal damage.”
Researchers at the University of New South Wales reported that the
patients had diseases of the cornea, which is the transparent
outermost part of the eye. Adult stem cells taken from each
patient’s good eye grew on a special contact lens that was inserted
into the affected eye, the London Daily Mail reported.
contact lenses remained in the eyes for three weeks. During this
time, the healthy stem cells moved to the corneas and healed the
damaged cells, the researchers reported. “We’ve gone from patients
that have only been able to count fingers, you know, at a close
distance in front of their eye so to speak, to being able to read
letters on a standard visual chart,” medical scientist Dr. Nick Di
Girolamo told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
benefits of the treatment are many. The stem cells are harvested
from the patients themselves, without harming them and without the
need for anti-rejection drugs. The technique is also non-invasive
and inexpensive. The researchers plan to continue refining the
treatment, and may even expand to treat other parts of the eye.
focusing on corneal disease because of the accessibility of the
cornea,” Di Girolamo told ABC, “but it’s quite possible that using a
similar material to the contact lens material, you know in the
future that sort of material could be used as a carrier of different
stem cells such as retinal stem cells to the back of the eye.”
Abortion Law Opposed by Most Spaniards
to two different polls released June 1, a proposed abortion law in
Spain that would allow 16-year-old girls to abort their babies
without their parents’ knowledge is opposed by a majority of the
people, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
is strongly supported by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
However, even members of his Socialist Party told pollsters they are
against the minors’ abortion provision, according to the AP.
Zapatero government’s proposed law, which will be considered by
Parliament later in 2009, would allow abortion on demand up to 14
weeks and with an doctor’s approval until 22 weeks.
published in the El Pais newspaper showed that 64% of the general
public and 56% of Socialists oppose the portion of the law that
would allow girls as young as 16 to have abortions without parental
notification. According to a poll in La Vanguardia, 71% of Spaniards
said they oppose the provision, while 60% of Socialist voters are
also against it.
groups in Spain have said they will vocally oppose the proposed law.
The Spanish Family Forum, a coalition of Catholic associations, will
hold a demonstration in Madrid October 17, which is when Parliament
will debate the law, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“Abortion should never be legalised because it is an attack against
the right to life,” the coalition’s president Benigno Blanco told a
news conference, AFP reported.
Warns Planned Parenthood to Follow Law
officials have warned Planned Parenthood that it may face sanctions
unless it begins to follow a 2005 informed consent law, according to
the Argus Leader.
created specific disclosure forms that abortionists are supposed to
present to women before an abortion. The forms include language
intended to give women complete information, including phrases such
as, “That the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate,
unique, living human being,” the Argus Leader reported.
e-mail dated March 31, state officials notified Planned Parenthood
of Minnesota and the Dakotas, which runs an abortion clinic in Sioux
Falls, South Dakota, that it was in violation of the law because it
was not using the state-approved forms, according to the Argus
abortion facility violating any of the provisions of [state law]
places its abortion facility license at risk for suspension or
revocation,” wrote Anthony Nelson, administrator of the state Office
of Data, Statistics, and Vital Records, in the e-mail.
Parenthood staff have said that the language is too “ideological”
and that they should be “free to choose the specific text of the
disclosures they provide” as long as they include certain biological
facts, the Argus Leader reported.
response to the state’s e-mail, Planned Parenthood filed a federal
court injunction, its latest in a series of court challenges to the
law. After being passed in 2005, the law only began to be enforced
last year when the Eighth Circuit court overruled an earlier ruling
that enjoined the law, according to the Argus Leader.
is still moving through the courts, but the law is now in effect.
Saved by Fetal Heart Surgery
first time in Canada, a baby survived fetal surgery to correct a
narrowed heart valve and is now thriving. Océane McKenzie, born at
six pounds, one ounce one month after the surgery, is expected to
return home to Gatineau, Quebec, soon, according to the Ottawa
it opens up all sorts of opportunities for the future ... it’s
something we can offer to other babies,” Dr. Greg Ryan, chief of the
fetal medicine unit at Mount Sinai Hospital, told Canadian Press
(CP). “I think the important thing is getting the message out to the
referring physicians that this is something that’s now available in
parents, Vicki and Ian McKenzie, discovered that their unborn baby
girl had critical aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the left
ventricle’s main outlet valve, at 30 weeks into the pregnancy, the
Ottawa Citizen reported. If not treated, the baby could have died of
heart failure or the condition would have developed into hypoplastic
left heart syndrome, with a 10-year survival rate of only 65%,
according to CP.
the procedure had not yet been successful in Canada, doctors at the
Hospital for Sick Children and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto
believed that the McKenzies’ baby was a good candidate for the
surgery. “It can only be offered to a few babies in utero who are
detected at the correct stage and when their aorta hasn’t yet
narrowed too much,” Dr. Edgar Jaeggi, head of the fetal cardiac
program at the Hospital for Sick Children, told CP. “This baby came
to us at just the right time.”
operation took place just three days after the diagnosis, on March
19. The doctors inserted a needle into Vicki McKenzie’s womb and
then into the baby’s heart. A tiny balloon catheter was placed into
the aorta, where it would widen the valve, according to the Toronto
survived the surgery and was born one month later on April 15. She
has since undergone two more operations to further widen the valve,
and may need an aorta transplant when she is older, the Ottawa
Citizen reported. But her parents, along with two older brothers,
are thrilled she is doing well and can come home.
after two months, we can say we’re a lot more relaxed and confident
that she is going to be home and live a normal life,” Vicki McKenzie
told CP. “Modern science, modern medicine is amazing. And we’re so
happy it was able to give us a chance to be a family of five.”
Sued for Non-Treatment of Disabled
advocacy group Disability Rights Wisconsin filed a lawsuit May 14
against University of Wisconsin (UW) Hospital for failing to treat
pneumonia in two developmentally disabled patients, according to
Wisconsin State Journal. The group is seeking a change in the
hospital’s practices to conform to state law, which Disability
Rights contends requires treatment unless the patient is in a
“persistent vegetative state.”
the patients died, while one survived after the family intervened.
Although UW Hospital claimed it was acting in the patients’ best
interests, Disability Rights attorney Mitch Hagopian “worried some
UW Hospital doctors may be too quick to suggest withdrawing
treatment from a developmentally disabled person they perceive to
have a low quality of life,” the State Journal reported.
“Wisconsin Right to Life commends Disability Rights Wisconsin for
raising this important issue on behalf of patients who cannot speak
for themselves,” said Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin
Right to Life. “The statement by UW Hospital that they were acting
in the ‘best interests of the patients’ is hollow, given that one of
the patients died, and the other reported being subjected to undue
pressure to withdraw treatment.”
lawsuit concerns two unidentified patients, a 72-year-old referred
to as “J.L.” and a 13-year-old called “M.E.” Both had developmental
disabilities. J.L. came to the hospital with pneumonia May 1, 2008,
and in discussion with Dr. Julia Wright about his quality of life,
the family agreed not to treat him, according to the State Journal.
woke the next morning and asked for food, family members changed
their minds and wanted to resume treatment. They allege in the
lawsuit that Wright was reluctant to agree to their wishes, the
State Journal reported. Eventually, however, Wright restarted
treatment and J.L. returned to his nursing home and recovered.
other case, the developmentally disabled teenager’s mother had
agreed with UW Hospital doctors to limit his treatment because of
“poor prognosis and poor quality of life,” according to the State
Journal. When his long-term care facility Bethesda Lutheran Homes
wanted to give antibiotics for his pneumonia in November 2006,
hospital doctors declined to give the order. The home gave the
medicine anyway, but his parents transferred him to UW Hospital
where the antibiotics, food, and fluids were withdrawn and the child
died, according to the newspaper.
that UW Hospital has been sued for denying care to patients with
developmental disabilities who are not dying puts that entity
squarely on the slippery slope to devalue the lives of those
considered to have no meaning,” Lyons said. “Not only did officials
at the hospital approve a plan to perform late-term, elective,
dismemberment abortions at one of its facilities, it is now on
record as applying the same lack of respect for the lives of those
Euthanasia Bill Proposed in Australian State
Parliament in Tasmania, Australia, will consider a euthanasia bill
in August, according to The Age. If passed, it would be the only
state in Australia to allow terminally ill people to legally kill
Northern Territory had previously passed a euthanasia law in 1995,
and four people died under its provisions before the federal
Parliament overturned it two years later, The Age reported.
Tasmanian bill would legalize euthanasia with the requirements that
the patient be terminally ill, “be assessed by a psychiatrist, have
second medical opinions on their condition and also be a resident of
Tasmania for at least 12 months,” according to The Examiner.
and religious groups condemned the attempt to bring euthanasia to
the state. “Going down the pathway of euthanasia is literally a way
to death, not to life for our society—and it will bring great harm
to Tasmania,” said Anglican Bishop John Harrower, according to The