April 11, 2007

When do you stop being a child?

I was reminded the other day of a gripe which always annoys me when I notice it…

In this country we have to reach the age of 16 to smoke, get married with permission, have sex et c. We have to wait til 17 to drive and 18 to drink, vote, marry who we like and be perceived to be an ‘adult’. Fair enough. But why is it that we have to pay full adult fare on buses and trains with some companies at the age of 14 and full admission to many attractions and suchlike as early as age 12?!?


March 19, 2007

Child obesity: whose fault is it?

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6402113.stm

Several weeks ago 8-year-old Connor McCreaddie hit the headlines as a result of his excessive weight: he weighs over 14 stone AFTER having recently lost some weight and social services were threatening to remove him from the care of his mother, Nicola McKeown.

In her defence Ms McKeown said, “He refuses to eat fruit, vegetables and salads – he has processed foods. When Connor won’t eat anything else, I’ve got to give him the foods he likes. I can’t starve him.”

Brian Dow, from the School Food Trust, said, “Of course there’s an element of parental responsibility here, but it’s hard for a child to go out of the school gates now without being bombarded by messages about the wrong kinds of food. We also have an awful lot of peer pressure as well. I think what you see there is a child who’s probably addicted to the kinds of food that are making him obese.”

So, whose responsibility is it? Should his mother force him to eat healthily, or should he get to eat what he wants? Does Ms McKeown’s treatment of her son constitute maltreatment in any way? Is it worthy of him being removed from her care? Should we pile the blame on the adverts that ‘bombard’ us so frequently nowadays, or are they just a far-too-easy scapegoat?


March 14, 2007

'Hazard' lights?

As far as I can remember, hazard lights are to be used:
  • When your car breaks down or you’re involved in an accident
  • To warn other drivers that there’s an accident ahead that they may not have seen

They are NOT supposed to be used as an excuse for dangerous or illegal parking. It is particularly irritating, I find, when you can’t see that both indicator lights are flashing and thus you assume that the person is indicating to pull out in front of you!

Rant, rant, rant!


March 12, 2007

Health scares – do they worry you?

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6418771.stm

So… last week we read on the BBC News website that men who indulge in too many hot baths may be at risk of decreasing their fertility. All a bit scary. But is it just me or is there a new one of these scary stories every week? Do we really listen to these health reports that tell us for years that margarine is good for you but recently turn tail and laud the virtues of butter? Now, I’m all for thorough scientific research, but are these seemingly random snippets of discovery that make it to the headlines actually useful? And does anyone actually listen to them?


March 01, 2007

A return to the Blog!!!

I cannot quite believe quite how long it’s been since I last blogged… the evil Facebook monster has been eating up my time.

Thusly, to rectify this situation:

I was listening to Radio 4 in the morning a few days ago, and several eminent persons were having a discussion about religion. One of the speakers came out with the oft-heard line of argument, (to paraphase) ‘well I don’t believe in God, and don’t understand why others do, because I no-one can prove to me that he exists’. Despite not being of a religious bent myself any more this angle of thought always irritates me slightly. Surely the whole point of a ‘faith’ is that it cannot be proven: it is a ‘belief that is not based on proof’, according to Dictionary.com. Your strength of conviction that something is true when it cannot be substantiated is what makes you ‘religious’ or ‘faithful’. If there were proof for any particular religion this belief system would simply be truth and there would be no ‘faith’ required to believe in it.


December 11, 2006

To highlight

I’d just like to draw attention to my dear friend Vib’s latest entry with which I agree entirely and which I hope many people will read…

(unfortunately I seem to be unable to track back to the entry – Blogs doesn’t like me)

:-(


December 05, 2006

Fraud in the scientific world?

In response to Trev’s heartfelt pleadings and the fact that I haven’t blogged for a VERY long time…

An article decribing some of the comments of Warwick sociology professor Steve Fuller was printed on the front page of the Boar on 7th November (a long time ago, I know). In it, Fuller is said to advocate the use of fraudulent data in scientific research in order to tweak results and make conclusions more convincing. He has even defended the actions of South Korean professor Woo Suk Hwang, who pretended that he had managed to clone a human embryo. He decribes the approach he suggests as ‘idealising’ results rather than ‘fraud’.

The article also details a survey take by Nature in the US which suggests that a third of postgraduate researchers did not follow ethical guidelines in their research. Currently, when articles come to publication, the journal editors have to essentially take them on face value. Fuller argues that we shouldn’t put so much trust in our scientists.

Should we take the scientists’ word for it? Should there be some kind of vetting system aiming to identify fraudulent research? Would measures of this kind ‘slow the pace of science down prohibitively’, as Fuller puts it? How easy would it be possible to maintain some kind of uniform standard in this vetting system? Does the fact that some kind of scientific fraud takes place already, and that eradicating it would be very difficult, justify its existence to the extent that we shouldn’t do anything about it? If you allow some kind of fraud (the ‘tweaking’ of results, for instance) how do you then stop it from going beyond just ‘tweaking’? Can we then trust the scientists to ‘tweak’ their results in the direction of the actual truth (inaccuracies can happen either through intentional bias or just because the data subtly suggests something that on further investigation actually turns out to be fictitious)?


October 20, 2006

Face transplants – an ethical and practical dilemma

The other day I sat down (a relatively rare occurrance at the moment) and watched the Horizon programme about Isabelle Dinoire, the first person to receive a face transplant. Isabelle was mauled by her pet dog, an horrific incident which left her without her lips, part of the flesh on her chin and the bottom half of her nose. Nearly a year ago she underwent the first ever face transplant operation, which was a success.

Whilst Isabelle was, herself, incredibly positive about the operation and its results, a huge amount of contraversy and argument has surrounded the proceedure.

  • Whilst the majority of transplant operations that are currently carried out routinely are life-saving, face transplants are not essential to survival in any way. It the proceedure a luxury that we don’t need?
  • On the other hand, as a result of the way she looked, Isabelle’s life changed dramatically. For example, she had to wear a mask over her face when she went out. Is this deterioration in quality of life enough of a justification?
  • A vastly important consideration in any transplantation proceedure is the risk of rejection. The immune system of the recipient will attack the transplanted tissue unless strong immunosuppressant drugs are taken by the for the rest of their lives. These drugs make the patient more susceptible to infection and increase the risk of cancer. Despite these drugs, there is still a 5% risk of rejection.
  • Along similar lines, a disfigured person (for example a burn victim) will often have large amount of skin and facial tissue left, and may have already undergone many operations to improve their appearance, facial function and comfort. To carry out a face transplant on that patient will mean removing all of their skin and a large amount of the soft tissue order for them to receive the new face. If their immune system then rejects it they would be in a far worse situation than they were before the operation.
  • The other, less tangible, issue is a psychological one. The face is associated far more with identity than any other part of the body. Although the transplanted tissue moulds to the bone structure of the recipient, the face will still be considerably different from their own. Is this too much of a hurdle to jump for some patients? In contrast, some might say that the patient might have already undergone so much adjustment to become accustomed to their disfigured state that making the jump to transplantation is not so great.

August 31, 2006

Obesity and IVF: what do you think?

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5296200.stm

Yesterday the British Fertlity Society announced recommendations for all seriously obese and underweight women to be refused IVF on the NHS, something that some Primary Care Trusts already practise, in an attempt to homogenise the availability of treatment throughout the country.

Why is it that obese women are being refused IVF? A representative from the BFS has cited a reduced chance of falling pregnant and an increase in complications during the pregnancy itself. Why, then, are women smokers allowed IVF so freely? According to one news report yesterday smokers do have an equal chance of falling pregnant as completely healthy women, but the increased chance of complications is significant. If the mother has a medical condition that causes or at least exacerbates her obesity should she be treated any differently? Should we merely consider the probability of conception or also bear in mind the long-term health of the mother and child?

Or is this starting to infringe on our civil liberties?

The BFS also recommended that single women and same sex couples should be given the same priority as heterosexual couples.

Some PCTs are reported to take into account social factors when deciding if IVF is permitted, including whether either parent has already had children from a previous relationship and whether they have undergone IVF privately before turning to the NHS. Should these factors be taken into account? What if the couple have already had children together and want more?

Should the NHS fund IVF at all? Is having children a right? Is it equal to the right to life-saving treatment of injuries and diseases, bearing in mind that the money for all treatments comes from the same budget, and that the NHS has been beleaguered with many much-publicised financial strains? Or is it a luxury that the parents themselves should fund? Or do you agree with Dr Gillian Lockwood of the BFS ethics committee, that “the fourth richest country on earth should be able to afford effective fertility care for its citizens”.

What do you think?


August 14, 2006

Sperm and responsibility

I'm currently listening to an interesting programme on Radio 4 about the current 'crisis' in sperm donation. Recent law changes have given the children of sperm donors the right to trace their fathers once they reach adulthood. Unsurprisingly, this has significantly decreased the numbers of sperm donors to a critical point.

  • Should a child have the automatic right to find out who their parents are, even in the formerly anonymous and random act of sperm donation?

  • Are the recent changes morally important as they encourage potential donors to really consider the consequences their contribution rather than being principally swayed by the monetary advantages? Is it necessary for a potential donor to consider these issues so seriously?

  • What are the motivating factors for sperm donation and have they now changed?

  • If we accept that the change in the law is morally right how can we overcome the current crisis in sperm availability?

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