On Bioethics

catholic moral standing on the special ethics of life

Archive for STUDY

VEGETATIVE STATE OFTEN MISDIAGNOSED

Doctors should use extreme caution in pulling the plug on patients in a vegetative state, according to reports presented at the European Neurological Society.Around 40% of patients in a Belgian study were wrongly diagnosed as being in a vegetative state when they were minimally conscious. And 10% of minimally conscious patients were actually communicating functionally. Furthermore, they found a strong tendency to underestimate levels of consciousness in brain injury patients. The level of misdiagnosis has not decreased in the last 15 years, says Dr Steven Laureys, from the University of Liège, in Belgium.

About one-fourth of patients who arrive at hospital in an acute vegetative state have a good chance of recovering a significant proportion of their faculties. And up to a half will regain some level of consciousness. Younger patients usually have a better prognosis.

People suffering traumatic brain injuries have a much better chance of some recovery. Some 70% of those with traumatic injuries were restored to some level of consciousness. People with non-traumatic injuries, such as oxygen deprivation, fared much worse. Only 36% in the study achieved comparable recovery.

“Our data show that acute vegetative state is certainly not rare among patients admitted to intensive care”, says Dr Laureys. “What is important to note is that it may be transient and that the prognosis for patients with impaired consciousness depends to a great extent on the nature of the brain damage.”

The study thus concluded that many doctors’ diagnostic skills remain poor and the level of misdiagnosis has not decreased in the last 15 years. “The study showed how very hard it is to disentangle the minimally conscious state from the vegetative state”, says Dr Laureys. ~ News-Medical.Net, Jun 20  

SPERM DONORS UNDERVALUED, SAYS STUDY

The fertility industry discriminates against sperm donors, says US sociologist Rene Almeling. Her article this month in the American Sociological Review describes striking inequities in the market for eggs and sperm which, she says, reflect “gendered stereotypes of selfless motherhood and distant fatherhood”.”Staff at egg agencies constantly thank women and encourage them to think about what a wonderful difference they’re making in the lives of recipients,” Almeling says. “The sperm bank staff is appreciative, but men aren’t told how amazing they are and what a great gift they’re giving. They’re treated more like reproductive service workers. They come in. They clock in and out. Their sample is checked for quality. And they’re only paid when they produce an acceptable sample.”

In the market for American gametes, men are typically paid between US$50 and US$75 per donation, while women are paid around $5,000, along with bonuses and thank-you cards. While it is commonly believed that sperm donors are readily available, in fact, few potential male donors meet the standards required by the clinics, while there is an oversupply of women donors. Almeling is investigating why the laws of supply and demand do not appear to work in the gamete market. ~ News-Medical.Net, May 27