Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bioethics and women's health*

Lots of exciting developments in research and public policy:

  • Stem cell research may be possible without harming embryos. An article in Nature and reports on NPR explain the new procedure that may quelch concerns by adamant pro-lifers.

  • Continuous birth control pills are viable options. This was casually encouraged by my doctors when I was in college, but it's nice to know that subsequent research shows no ill effects and repackaging of pills has been approved by the FDA.

  • A vaccine for several types of HPV, a virus linked to cervical cancer, may soon be available for young girls. The cancer may not quite go the way of polio, but it's an encouraging start.

  • Today's headliner: Plan B pills are now available over-the-counter, or at least behind-the-counter. Though it's nicknamed "the morning after pill," this is fundamentally different from RU-486: it prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation, not by destroying a fertilized egg.

    It's an exciting time in medical history. I'm the exact age of Louise Brown, the first "test-tube baby." So much has happened since the days of Margaret Sanger and eugenics. I hope that the field of bioethics can keep pace with the next twenty-some years of medical research.

    *Not just for women.


    Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

    1)...which still leaves us with the ethical question of what to do with all those unneeded embryos. For every one of those 'snowflake' children that Bush used as a human shield for his unethical veto, there's untold hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fertilized eggs just sitting in cold storage, or getting washed off of petri dishes.

    2) Thank God for this

    3) I haven't clicked through the link you provided, but it's my understanding that the holdup isn't the vaccine process, it's the assholes that think vaccinating young women against a virus that's spread through sexual intercourse somehow either condones or encourages promiscuity.


    12:47 PM  
    Blogger Jessica said...

    I asked my doctor, who happened to be attending a conference on the vaccine that weekend. Many people within the medical field want to learn more about it before advocating widespread use. Given how skeptical many parents are already about vaccines (fears about autism, etc.), the delay is understandable. Adding the promiscuity argument (ludicrous of course) definitely lengthens it. Still, I'm hopeful it may be an option before my daughter becomes a teenager.

    5:32 PM  
    Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

    Great news! I've read quite a bit about continuous birth control and it sounds like a great idea.

    6:49 PM  
    Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

    If there are medical reasons for withholding the vaccine, I'm all for that. Delaying its release, or even study, on the basis or morality is what I find repugnant.


    8:15 PM  
    Blogger Old Man Rich said...

    Ok, so scientists can remove a stem cell from an embryo without damaging the other 4 or 5 and, in theory, the undamaged embryo, with 20% missing, could be implanted into a woman & would be viable.
    So, if your a hopeful parent are you going to be happy with the 80% embryo, or do you want a whole one. My guess is the latter, especially since there is rather a glut of embryo's & the majority get destroyed anyway.

    I am fully in favour of stem cell research on unwanted embryo's. But I think this is just an attempt to weasle around the moral objections rather than deal with them.

    1:39 AM  

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