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Katrien Devolder

Marie Curie Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

Torture, but do no harm

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration redefined acts that were previously recognised as torture and thus illegal as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ (EITs). From then on subjecting detainees to, for example, forced nudity, sleep deprivation, waterboarding and exposure to extreme temperatures could be legal. The line between torture and EITs is a fine one: the classification depends on the level of pain experienced.  

A report issued by the advocacy group ‘Physicians for Human Rights’ has revealed that to ensure that the aggressive interrogation practices conducted by the CIA qualified as EITs they were monitored by doctors and other medical personnel who guaranteed that the legal threshold for  ‘severe physical and mental pain’ was not crossed (NY Times, 6 June 2010).

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Umbilical cord blood donation: opt out or work on Sundays?

cord blood (UCB) contains haematopoietic stem cells, which can be used for the
treatment of several
lethal disorders, including leukaemia
and several types of anaemia.
Other sources of haematopoietic stem cells are bone marrow and ordinary peripheral
blood. Unlike bone marrow donation, which requires general anaesthesia, UCB
donation does not cause any inconvenience or significant risks for the donor. Peripheral
blood contains very few stem cells. Another major advantage of using UCB stem
cells is that less genetic similarity is required between donor and recipient.
This increases the chance of finding a ‘match’ and thus of the transplantation
being successful.

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