The Humanitas Project


Living in the Biotech Century

News, Resources, and Commentary

June 15, 2006



Why has “self-abuse” become a major problem at our elite colleges and universities?


Self-Mutilation Rampant at 2 Ivy League Schools


Survey: 17 percent at Cornell and Princeton purposely cut themselves



Sarah Rodey

M. Spencer Green / AP

Sarah Rodey, 20, a University of Illinois student, began self-injuring by cutting herself, a disturbing phenomenon that counselors say is happening at colleges, high schools and middle schools

“Nearly 1 in 5 students at two Ivy League schools say they have purposely injured themselves by cutting, burning or other methods, a disturbing phenomenon that psychologists say they are hearing about more often.


“For some young people, self-abuse is an extreme coping mechanism that seems to help relieve stress; for others it s a way to make deep emotional wounds more visible.


“The results of the survey at Cornell and Princeton are similar to other estimates on this frightening behavior. Counselors say it’s happening at colleges, high schools and middle schools across the country.


“Separate research found more than 400 Web sites devoted to subject, including many that glorify self-injury. Some worry that many sites serve as an online subculture that fuels the behavior—although whether there has been an increase in the practice or just more awareness is unclear.


“Sarah Rodey, 20, a University of Illinois student who started cutting herself at age 16, said some online sites help socially isolated kids feel like they belong. One of her favorites includes graphic photographs that the site warns might be ‘triggering.’”


The Associated Press/MSNBC – June 5, 2006




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An expanding emphasis on developing “targeted drugs”...


New Drugs for Cancer Could Soon Flood Market



“Big Pharma has discovered cancer.


“For several years biotechnology companies like Genentech and ImClone have garnered most of the attention at the nation’s largest cancer meeting with new so-called targeted drugs that were in general less toxic than traditional chemotherapy.


“But this year, the most significant data on targeted drugs is coming from the traditional big pharmaceutical companies.


“Doctors at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting here said Sunday that temsirolimus, an experimental drug from Wyeth, prolonged lives in very sick kidney cancer patients by about three and a half months, a finding that could pave the way for the drug’s approval next year. And new data on Pfizer’s Sutent could make that drug, which is already on the market, the first choice for treating kidney cancer.


“A day earlier, GlaxoSmithKline’s breast cancer drug Tykerb was the center of attention.


“Neither Glaxo, Pfizer nor Wyeth had much of a presence in the cancer business several years ago. But pharmaceutical companies have awakened to the scientific discoveries and business factors—particularly high prices—that have transformed an area they once considered more of a niche market....”


The New York Times – June 5, 2006 (Free Registration Required)


“Nearly one in five psychiatric visits for young people included a prescription for antipsychotics”—in spite of the lack of research on the use of these drugs in children...


Use of Antipsychotics by the Young Rose Fivefold



The use of potent antipsychotic drugs to treat children and adolescents for problems like aggression and mood swings increased more than fivefold from 1993 to 2002, researchers reported yesterday.


“The researchers, who analyzed data from a national survey of doctors’ office visits, found that antipsychotic medications were prescribed to 1,438 per 100,000 children and adolescents in 2002, up from 275 per 100,000 in the two-year period from 1993 to 1995.


“The findings augment earlier studies that have documented a sharp rise over the last decade in the prescription of psychiatric drugs for children, including antipsychotics, stimulants like Ritalin and antidepressants, whose sales have slipped only recently. But the new study is the most comprehensive to examine the increase in prescriptions for antipsychotics....”


The New York Times – June 6, 2006 (Free Registration Required)


A promising advance in heart transplant technology...


First Beating-Heart Transplant Gives Hope for Future Patients  



“Surgeons have successfully kept a human heart alive and beating outside the body, in a medical advance that could extend life-saving heart transplants to scores more patients.


“In the first successful beating-heart transplant performed in the UK, surgeons at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire kept the organ pumping blood for five hours after removing it from the donor. The heart was taken from Addenbrookes hospital, where the donor died, to Papworth where it was transplanted into a 58-year-old man who was close to death.


“The operation, performed a week ago, was a success and the patient, who has not been named, was ‘doing extremely well’ on a normal ward, Professor Bruce Rosenguard, who led the research team, said.


“‘We are extremely excited by the possibilities this offers us. Papworth is one of only four hospitals in Europe taking part in this trial and, if the system continues to prove successful, it could significantly increase the number of donor hearts available.’


“The donor heart was kept in a specially designed Organ Care System, about the size of a tea trolley, while it was transported between the two hospitals. Once attached to the system, with plastic tubes inserted into its vessels, the heart was revived to a beating state and infused with oxygen and nutrient rich blood.


“Five hours later, when it was transplanted into the eventual recipient at Papworth hospital, it was still as fresh as if it had just been removed....”


The Independent – June 5, 2006


Can we say “yes” to MaxSight and “no” to steroids, human growth hormone and other enhancements?


Contact Lens Designed to Give Athlete an Edge


Governing bodies watching to see if they do give advantage




Soccer player Camille Walters, 15, wears contact lenses specially designed to help athletes see better.

“When Camille Walters plays soccer, her normally brown eyes have a spooky red tint.


“The 15-year-old wears tinted contact lenses that block certain wavelengths of light and help athletes see better. Oh, and they look cool, too.


“‘It gives me more confidence because you feel intimidating and bigger and stronger, kind of an ego-booster,’ said Walters, who plays for Father Ryan, a Catholic high school in Nashville, Tennessee.


“Walters and a growing number of other athletes are wearing the MaxSight lenses, which were developed jointly by Nike Inc. and contact lens maker Bausch & Lomb Inc....” – June 7, 2006


The cash and the carnage that is Planned Parenthood...


Planned Parenthood Abortion Business Makes Nearly $900 Million Last Year

by Steven Ertelt



Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business, made nearly $900 million last year, according to its most recent annual report. The report showed the pro-abortion group made its second-highest profit ever and set new records for the number of abortions it did and the lowest rate of adoption referrals compared to abortions.


“According to its records, Planned Parenthood had a record income of $882 million dollars and a profit of $63 million, the second highest it has ever recorded.


“The report also shows Planned Parenthood did more abortions in a single year, 255,015, than ever before.


“It also set a new low for the number of women it referred for adoption compared to the number of abortions it performed. Planned Parenthood’s annual report shows it did 180 abortions for every one woman it sent to an adoption agency....” – June 5, 2005


Biotech cannibalism—creating human embryos that are destroyed to obtain their parts in hopes of producing cures for other humans...


Harvard Announces Private Project to Make Human Stem Cells

by Rick Weiss



“Harvard University announced yesterday the launch of a privately funded, multimillion-dollar program to create cloned human embryos as sources of medically promising stem cells.


“The collaborative effort, involving several Harvard-affiliated medical research centers, the New York Stem Cell Foundation and Columbia University, marks a new phase in the long-simmering U.S. culture war over stem cell research, pitting some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions against a vocal conservative movement that opposes the work.


“President Bush banned the use of federal funds for studies of new human embryonic stem cell colonies in August 2001, saying the creation and destruction of human embryos for research ran counter to a ‘culture of life.’ Since then, only the University of California at San Francisco has acknowledged doing research on cloning human embryos, also using private funding.


“The field lost much of its luster earlier this year when Korean claims of having done the first successful derivation of stem cells from cloned human embryos proved fraudulent....”


The Washington Post – June 7, 2006 (Free Registration Required)


A valuable look inside transplant medicine...


Death by Geography

by Alan Zarembo


Patients’ chances of getting new organs in time to save their lives vary vastly based on where they live. The situation is most dire for people needing livers.




INCOMING: Dr. Darrin Willingham prepares to put a liver on ice for patient Frank Evanac. St. Luke’s Hospital has the shortest waiting time in the United States, a median of six weeks. The nationwide figure is more than three years.  (Carolyn Cole / LAT)

“In the world of organ transplantation, location is everything.


“After waiting more than a decade for a liver, Jonathan Van Vlack was deteriorating. His gut swelled with fluid, and toxins accumulating in his blood made him forget his own name.


“Still, he wasn’t sick enough—not in New York, where about 2,000 people statewide were vying for the same scarce livers.


“‘He’s having a very difficult time right now,’ his wife, Laura, nervously e-mailed a friend in March 2005. ‘We really need that liver to come.’


“It never did. Van Vlack died in December, on his 53rd birthday.


“Frank Evanac was stalled in the same line. By age 53, he had been waiting four years for a liver, and he needed a kidney as well.


“After getting a tip at a Fourth of July party, however, he gave up on New York. Without telling his doctors, he moved in with his sister outside Jacksonville, Fla., and joined a new waiting list.


“Fourteen days later, a surgeon sewed in his new liver and kidney.


“Two very sick men. Two locations. Two fates.


“The national transplant system has long prided itself on the principle of fairness: Organs should go to the sickest or those who have suffered the longest....”


Los Angeles Times – June 11, 2006


The unethical consequences of the “quality-of-life” ethic...


Call for No-Consent Euthanasia


Doctors should be able to end lives swiftly and humanely, says professor



“One of the [Britain’s] leading experts on medical ethics today calls for doctors to be able to end the lives of some terminally ill patients ‘swiftly, humanely and without guilt’—even if they have not given consent.


“Len Doyal, emeritus professor of medical ethics at Queen Mary, University of London, takes the euthanasia debate into new and highly contentious territory. He says doctors should recognise that they are already killing patients when they remove feeding tubes from those whose lives are judged to be no longer worth living. Some will suffer a ‘slow and distressing death’ as a result.


“It would be better if their lives were ended without this unnecessary delay, Professor Doyal writes in an article in Clinical Ethics, published by the Royal Society of Medicine. He calls for the law and professional guidance to be changed.


“Critics said yesterday that the views of Prof Doyal, a member of the British Medical Association medical ethics committee for nine years, were the ‘very worst form of medical paternalism’.


“Prof Doyal was a supporter of Lord Joffe’s assisted dying bill that would have allowed terminally ill patients to request a cocktail of drugs to end their lives early. Opponents of the bill shelved it by voting for a postponement for further debate. But Prof Doyal is now taking the debate a stage further.


“He argues that doctors are already effectively practicing euthanasia on patients who have no consciousness beyond the capacity to suffer pain and says this should extend to those patients who can no longer speak for themselves....”


The Guardian – June 8, 2006



“It is possible to kill the pain without killing the patient.”


Care Not Killing Responds to Professor Doyal’s Statement



“The Care Not Killing Alliance has responded to Professor Len Doyal’s controversial call to legalise non-voluntary euthanasia.


“Len Doyal, of the British Medical Association’s ethics committee, writing in the June edition of the Royal Society of Medicine Journal Clinical Ethics, had said doctor-assisted deaths were already happening and needed to be regulated. He also said the law should be changed to enable doctors to give lethal injections even if patients cannot consent.


“Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, said: ‘Doyal confuses euthanasia, in which the doctor actively ends the life of a patient under his care, with the appropriate withdrawal of treatment when its burden outweighs any benefit.


“‘The key issue ethically and legally is intention. Did the doctor intend to end the life of the patient or simply to ease their pain? Withdrawal of treatment is entirely appropriate when the burden that treatment imposes outweighs any benefit it brings. This is simply good medical practice. But to withdraw treatment with the intention of ending a patient’s life, as opposed to relieving their symptoms, is unethical. It is possible to kill the pain without killing the patient....’


Care Not Killing – June 8, 2006


The first step on the eugenic agenda—dehumanizing the victim of eugenic design...


Dolly Creator Calls for Embryo Cloning to Alter Disease Genes



“Embryos could be cloned and their genes altered to create babies free from serious illness, the leader of the team behind Dolly the sheep believes.


“Professor Ian Wilmut, director of Edinburgh University’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine, has until now opposed the cloning of humans.


“But in a new book, After Dolly, Prof Wilmut says that in the future, human embryos could be cloned and genetically altered to enable doctors to prevent hereditary diseases.


“Pro-life and ethics campaigners yesterday criticised the claims, branding the proposal ‘abhorrent’ and another step towards ‘designer babies.’


“Prof Wilmut says cloning an embryo of about 100 cells is not the same as cloning a person....”


The Scotsman – June 6, 2006


New drugs that will fundamentally alter our conception of a “healthy brain”...


A Dose Of Genius

by Joel Garreau


‘Smart Pills’ Are on The Rise. But Is Taking Them Wise?



“Studying with diligent friends is fine, says Heidi Lessing, a University of Delaware sophomore.


“But after a couple of hours, it’s time for a break, a little gossip: ‘I want to talk about somebody walking by in the library.’


“One of those friends, however, is working too hard for dish—way too hard.


“Instead of joining in the gossip, ‘She says, “Be quiet,”’ Lessing says, astonishment still registering in her voice.


“Her friend’s attention is laserlike, totally focused on her texts, even after an evening of study. ‘We were so bored,’ Lessing says. But the friend was still ‘really into it. It’s annoying.’


“The reason for the difference: Her pal is fueled with ‘smart pills’ that increase her concentration, focus, wakefulness and short-term memory.


“As university students all over the country emerge from final exam hell this month, the number of healthy people using bootleg pharmaceuticals of this sort seems to be soaring....”


Washington Post – June 11, 2006


Worth considering...


from Enough

by Bill McKibben



“[The] sense of man as constantly, inescapably, and quintessentially a striver, a builder, an engineer, a creator is deep and powerful. In the early days of the Enlightenment, the Marquis de Condorcet stirred Europe when he declared ‘the perfectibility of man is absolutely indefinite . . . the progress of this perfectibility henceforth above the control of every power that would impede it, has no other limit than the duration of the globe upon which nature has placed us.’ Our intelligence, wrote the philosopher Henri Bergson, ‘is the faculty of manufacturing artificial objects, especially tools to make tools, and of indefinitely varying the manufacture.’ We are cleverer beavers. As often, Gregory Stock puts the matter most directly: ‘To turn away from germline selection and modification without even exploring them would be to deny our essential nature and perhaps our destiny. Ultimately, such a retreat might deaden the human spirit of exploration, taming and diminishing us.’ Now that the continents are filled, ‘exploring human biology and facing the truths we uncover in the process will be the most gripping adventure in all our history.’ We must push forward. We have no choice. Enough is not a possibility for our species.


“If all this sounds grandiose, it’s in fact just the opposite. The reason the technotopians can talk so casually about the ‘posthuman’ future is that they find nothing particularly significant about the human present. According to them, we engage in this constant push forward not because we’re so high-minded or passionate or special, but because we’re not special at all. Because we literally have no choice. Nothing about us sets us apart from other organisms. Our bodies are ‘nothing more than bio-molecules interacting.’ Our brains, in the words of Marvin Minsky, are ‘meat machines.’”



This excerpt is from the final chapter of Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (Times Books, 2003), by Bill McKibben.




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