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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Field Notes

Praise—and Some Concern—Over Nomination of Francis Collins to Lead Health Agency
There are two basic objections to Dr. Collins. The first is his very public embrace of religion. He wrote a book called The Language of God, and he has given many talks and interviews in which he described his conversion to Christianity as a 27-year-old medical student. Religion and genetic research have long had a fraught relationship, and some in the field complain about what they see as Dr. Collins’s evangelism. The other objection stems from his leadership of the Human Genome Project, which is part of the N.I.H. Although Dr. Collins was widely praised in 2003 when the effort succeeded, the hopes that this discovery would yield an array of promising medical interventions have greatly dimmed, discouraging many. (Gardiner Harris, The New York Times)
•TWITTER BUZZ: @jdudley I think that Obama's choice of Francis Collins to head the NIH is extremely pragmatic. Well done Prez.
•TWITTER BUZZ: @gingerpin AAAS CEO on Francis Collins, NIH director: "I like it." Collins has "tremendous skill" in communicating science. http://tinyurl.com/la4u9n RW
•TWITTER BUZZ: @geneticalliance commends the nomination of Dr. Francis Collins as New NIH Director http://bit.ly/wf1dK
•TWITTER BUZZ: @pzmyers Collins to head NIH: Oh, great. He's been appointed by Obama. He'll do a fine job…he's a competent adm.. http://tinyurl.com/nyfb96

Sperm-Like Cells Created Using Embryonic Stem Cells
Roger Highfield: Although this sounds like scientists "playing god", there are solid reasons to create artificial gametes – the technical term used by researchers to describe eggs and sperm. The feat will help us understand how the real things are made, shedding light on the causes of infertility. In turn, that could help doctors understand why chemotherapy can make men sterile. In the longer term, these advances raise hopes that there is another way for sterile men and women to have biological children. (Telegraph)

Appeals Court Says Pharmacies Have to Stock and Dispense Plan B Pill
Pharmacists are obliged to dispense the Plan B pill, even if they are personally opposed to the "morning after" contraceptive on religious grounds, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. (Carol Williams, Los Angeles Times)

Convent Sisters Approach Death With Dignity and Discernment
The Sisters of St. Joseph, a congregation in this Rochester suburb, animate many factors that studies say contribute to successful aging and a gentle death—none of which require this special setting. These include a large social network, intellectual stimulation, continued engagement in life and spiritual beliefs, as well as health care guided by the less-is-more principles of palliative and hospice care—trends that are moving from the fringes to the mainstream. (Jane Gross, The New York Times)

A Christian Argument for Assisted Dying
John Cartwright: There is no justification for a claim that Christianity must oppose the assisted death of a person who has made their own decision to die, provided that such a person can convince others that their desire to die is fully considered. I will make this argument given two conditions: first that the person is capable of making an educated decision, and second that their end-of-life experience includes full access to both pastoral and medical care. (guardian.co.uk)

Why Are G-8 Leaders So Behind in Meeting Humanitarian Aid Pledges?
A few countries, including Canada and the United States, will meet the aid targets for 2010 that they set in 2005. But France is falling short, and Italy—the host of the G-8 summit this year—is disastrously far behind. In a thoughtful book published this year, The Life You Can Save, Professor Peter Singer of Princeton University explores why we’re so willing to try to assist a stranger before us, while so unwilling to donate to try to save strangers from malaria half a world. (Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times)

Spencer School Board in Iowa Proposes New Religious Policy
The proposal, if adopted, will have schools offer elective classes that permit arguments against evolution and discussions on the Bible in history and literature. School officials say they want to set clear rules for religious expression. (Associated Press)