domingo, 15 de mayo de 2016

Medicine in India #2 – IVF

Medicine in India #2 – IVF

Medicine in India #2 – IVF for septuagenarians

A woman in India thought to be in her 70s has given birth to a baby boy, sparking outcry in the country and drawing international media attention. Daljinder Kaur gave birth to her son Arman Singh last month, after receiving treatment from a rogue fertility clinic in northern state of Haryana.

The woman’s son is healthy, and Daljinder says she is now a happy mother. “God heard our prayers. My life feels complete now,” she told The Guardian.

Yet most fertility specialists say it was unethical and reckless to provide the woman with IVF treatment. “It is outrageous,” Hrishikesh D. Pai, the former president of the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction, told The Australian. “It is inappropriate to do it and it is not in the best interests of the parents or the unborn child to do it.”

Others see controversies like these as indicative of broader regulatory problems in the Indian medical system.

“The whole world is looking at India and saying we can’t regulate ourselves,” Dr Narendra Malhotra, head of the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction, told the Guardian. “We put forward guidelines for ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) clinics seven years ago. No government has taken them seriously, and a bill has been pending for seven years.”

There are also concerns that the child will be an orphan in just a few years. “Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it, just to make world records”, Dr. Malhotra said. 
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The Global Priorities Project and the Future of Humanity Institute, both based at Oxford University, recently produced a Global Catastrophic Risk 2016 report. It’s less gripping than the Left Behind novels about the Second Coming of Christ (with titles like The Rapture: In the Twinkling of an Eye/Countdown to the Earth's Last Days), but, in its own dry, detached way, no less scary.
According to the Oxford experts’ calculations, extinction of the whole human race is reasonably likely.  Scientists have suggested that the risk is 0.1% per year, and perhaps as much as 0.2%. While this may not seem worthwhile worrying about, these figures actually imply, says the report, that “an individual would be more than five times as likely to die in an extinction event than a car crash”.
What sort of calamities are we talking about? Collision with an asteroid, the eruption of a super-volcano, extreme climate change, a bio-engineered pandemic, or even a super-intelligent computer declaring war on wetware humanity.
Tiny probabilities add up, so that the chance of extinction in the next century is 9.5% -- which is worth worrying about. And of course, a mere global catastrophe, involving the death of a tenth of the population, is far more likely. That is a very startling statistic.
However, even at Oxford they make mistakes. Within days of issuing the Global Catastrophic Risk 2016 report, the experts were eating humble pie. A mathematician reviewed its calculations and concluded that “the Future of Humanity Institute seems very confused re: the future of humanity”. The authors had to give more nuance and context to their most startling statistic. It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the ethics of existential risk. 

Michael Cook



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