New Genetic Testing Bill: Potential for Progress or Potential for Discrimination?

According to a recent article published in The Atlantic, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce recently approved H.R. 1313, a bill that would allow employers to pressure their employees to undergo genetic testing and share the results as part of an employer’s “workplace wellness program.” If an employee opts not to share the results, he or she could be forced to pay significantly more for health insurance.

Proponents of the bill note that it simply builds on programs already in place from the Affordable Care Act; however, critics are worried that the bill will take away many of the privacy, discrimination and insurance protections of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (“GINA”).

From The Atlantic, “The GOP’s New Bill Would Seriously Disrupt Genetics Research”

Excerpt from article:

“‘People are already being discriminated genetically without mandatory genetic testing—that’s what sexism and racism is . . . . This [bill] would result in a higher resolution of discrimination and more individualized ways of targeting people.’ The dark mirror of personalized medicine is personalized discrimination.”

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When Defenders Bring Disease: The U.N. Cannot Cure Cholera Crisis After Causing the Epidemic

For more than six years, Haiti has been fighting a Cholera epidemic caused when Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers leaked waste into the water supply. In December, the former U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, apologized to the country and promised $400 million to help fight the epidemic. However, only a small portion of the goal ($2 million) was raised, with only six of the 193 U.N. members contributing funds. Several countries donated outside of the fund, but the money raised was far from the announced goal.

Experts speculate that the lack of funding may have been caused by competing concerns about other highly publicized emergency situations that required funding and U.N. resources. For instance, the Ebola outbreak in Africa seemed to be of higher interest to donors than the Cholera outbreak in Haiti. The damage from Cholera cannot be ignored, though, with 800,000 people in Haiti affected.

From The New York Times, “After Bringing Cholera to Haiti, U.N. Can’t Raise Money to Fight It”

Excerpt from article:

He finally acted after the organization’s independent investigator on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, said in a scathing report that the United Nations’ failure to take responsibility for the cholera crisis was “morally unconscionable, legally indefensible and politically self-defeating.”

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Must Doctors Comply with Unconventional Requests of Patients?

A growing interest in “transhumanism” has presented an ethical dilemma for doctors. Individuals, like the bioartist Stelarc, are seeking surgeons who will perform unconventional procedures such as surgically implanting an ear on a forearm. For various reasons, most doctors are unwilling to perform these procedures. However, bioethicist, Francesca Minerva, argues that doctors should comply with these requests as long as they are legal.  According to Minerva, it is not the responsibility of individual physicians, but the responsibility of the government to determine whether or not such procedures are beneficial to society.  She further explains that, until the government makes such determination by promulgating new laws and regulations, denying individuals the opportunity to “enhance” their bodies violates patient autonomy.

From Bioedge, “Is it ethical to refuse a patient surgery for body art?”

Excerpt from article:

‘According to the basic principle of respect for autonomy, patients are entitled to decide if undergoing a certain treatment is in their best interest. And what constitutes one’s best interest is, at least in large part, based on one’s own assessment.’ If a request is legal, an ethical doctor must comply.

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Researchers Restore Hearing in Deaf Mice by Inserting a Normal Copy of the Mutated Gene

Two recent publications in the Nature Biotechnology journal show that researchers were able to help deaf mice hear again after inserting a gene, Ush1c, into their ears. Initially, the mice were given Usher Syndrome type IC, which also causes deafness in humans. To combat the deafness this caused in the mice, the mice were then given a normal copy of the mutated gene. The mice, who were profoundly deaf, began to hear. This research has important implications for humans with hearing loss, in that approximately half of the cases of hearing loss in humans has a genetic component.

From, “Biologists help deaf mice hear again by inserting healthy genes into their ears”

Excerpt from article:

“[T]he work – and the field in general – is trying to answer one big question: ‘Can you manipulate the system to cure things that are wrong?’”

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Bioprinting Technology May Ease Donor Organ Deficit

Each year, about 120,000 Americans need organ transplants, yet the demand for donor organs far outweighs the supply. The solution: Bioprinting. A 3-D printer is used to dispense different cells, creating layers of cells that form tissue. So far, artificial organs are successfully functioning in animals. Mice, for instance, were able to conceive and give birth by means of prosthetic ovaries.

However, as this new industry emerges, so does the opportunity to capitalize on it. A company in China estimates that the market in America for artificial livers is approximately $3 billion annually. With that sort of potential for profits, larger companies have taken an interest in the future of bioprinting. Well-known companies are making significant progress printing skin for burns and ulcers. A company in Pennsylvania has developed a method to print skin directly onto the patient by spraying stem cells onto the area in need of new skin. Such interest by major companies is advancing this new technology.

From The Economist, “Printed human body parts could soon be available for transplant”

Excerpt from article:

But a lack of suitable donors, particularly as cars get safer and first-aid becomes more effective, means the supply of such organs is limited. Many people therefore die waiting for a transplant. That has led researchers to study the question of how to build organs from scratch.

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Heroin Deaths Outpace Gun Deaths Last Year


Heroin deaths have quadrupled since 1999, making it a bigger killer than guns in the United States. While addiction is a disease that health professionals are familiar with, the average American still believes addiction is a character flaw rather than a chronic disease. Over 20 million Americans have addiction issues and over 12 million abuse prescription opioids. With the number of Americans suffering from drug addiction rising, politicians are paying more attention to this crisis, with Congress recently allocating $1 billion to address the opioid epidemic.

From, “Heroin Deaths Topped Gun Homicides Last Year, Depressing CDC Data Shows”

Excerpt from article:

  “It doesn’t take long for prescription use to evolve into misuse.  According to a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey, a third of Americans who took a prescription opioid for two months or longer became addicted to or physically dependent on painkillers.”

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Is Medicaid Expansion Good for State Economies? A Michigan Case Study says so.

In 2017, the federal government is expected to cover 95% of Medicaid costs in states that have expanded their Medicaid programs pursuant to the ACA.

One study in Michigan highlighted three major trends: decreased state level spending on health services, increased economic activity in areas such as construction and retail services, and increased spending in consumer goods (the less Medicaid recipients spent on healthcare costs, the more they spent on other items).  Although the researchers concluded that the expanded Medicaid program benefited Michigan, the study did point to some potential limitations including new spending that actually results from cost shifting from states and consumers to the federal government.

From The New England Journal of Medicine, ” Economic Effects of Medicaid Expansion in Michigan”

Excerpt: “Similar economic benefits are almost certainly accruing to the other 30 states that have expanded Medicaid, but not to the 19 states that haven’t done so. State policymakers can consider these benefits along with health and financial effects for enrollees as they decide whether to continue or initiate Medicaid expansion.”

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The New Trump Presidency Brings Uncertainty to the Health Care Industry

As one of his first items of business after taking the Oval Office, President Trump signed an executive order “instructing federal agencies to grant relief to constituents affected by the Affordable Care Act.”  In an already unstable market, this order leaves many questions unanswered, not only for states and other lawmakers, but also for consumers, medical professionals, and insurance companies. Senate Republicans insist that they are working with the Trump Administration to ensure “an orderly process.” However, without a replacement plan in place, many stakeholders are concerned that several insurance companies will leave the state health insurance exchanges by 2018, and Trump’s executive order will result in anything but an “orderly” transition away from Obamacare.

From The Washington Post, “With executive order, Trump tosses a ‘bomb’ into fragile health insurance markets”

Excerpt from article:

The political signal of the order, which Trump signed just hours after being sworn into office, was clear: Even before the Republican-led Congress acts to repeal the 2010 law, the new administration will move swiftly to unwind as many elements as it can on its own — elements that have changed how 20 million Americans get health coverage and what benefits insurers must offer some of their customers.

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Successful Implantation of Ovary Frozen Prior to Puberty Gives Hope to Young Women Struggling with Fertility

For women who struggle with fertility as a result of damage to reproductive organs by radiation treatment for cancer and other health conditions, a breakthrough procedure in the United Kingdom may offer hope and a new alternative. Moaza Al Matrooshi became the first woman in the world to give birth to a child conceived from an ovary that was frozen before she entered puberty. Before undergoing chemotherapy for a blood disorder at the age of nine, Moaza decided to have her ovaries removed and frozen. Years later, at the age of twenty-four, she was able to give birth to a healthy baby after relying on in vitro fertilization to restore her fertility using the frozen ovaries. Moaza believes her pregnancy and childbirth are a true miracle.

From The Telegraph, “Woman Gives Birth to Baby Using Ovary Frozen in Her Childhood in ‘World First’

Excerpt from article:

“This is a huge step forward. We know that ovarian tissue transplantation works for older women, but we’ve never known if we could take tissue from a child, freeze it and make it work again.”

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“Females Finally Have Reproductive Autonomy in China – Or Do They? “

Over a year ago, President of China, Xi Jinping, reversed the one-child policy which limited couples to having one child and required all new mothers to receive an intrauterine device (IUD) as a form of birth control. Now, the Chinese government is encouraging couples to procreate in order to address concerns over the aging population and shrinking workforce.  It is encouraging women to remove their IUDs free of charge. However, the IUDs that most women in China received under the one-child policy can only be removed through surgery and many women remain bitter that it was not their choice to receive the IUD in the first place. They are outraged that the government has not apologized for controlling their reproductive autonomy and that, by encouraging them to undergo the surgery, the government is still pushing them towards making a particular decision they may not be interested in making.

From The New York Times, “After One-Child Policy, Outrage at China’s Offer to Remove IUDs”

Excerpt from article:

“The mass implantation of IUDs amounted to “involuntary, forced acts of mutilation,” Han Haoyue, a popular columnist, wrote in a post shared nearly 3,000 times on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. ‘And now, to say they are offering free removal as a service to these tens of millions of women — repeatedly broadcasting this on state television as a kind of state benefit — they have no shame, second to none.’”

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