Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cooperative and competitive conversations don't mix well

Cooperative conversations are quite different from competitive ones. Many people - men probably more than women - don't get this distinction, writes David Sanders in this posting at

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The joy of mess

Is untidiness primarily a male characteristic? I suspect it might be, though women are by no means immune. Anyway, if you're a messy person you can get some emotional backup from this article in the New York Times on a new movement extolling the virtues of mess: Saying Yes to Mess

Angry Harry

This picture is from Angry Harry's website which chronicles what angers Harry in the gender wars.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Woman loses frozen embryos case, will appeal

A High Court ruling in Ireland in November that frozen embryos do not have the same constitutional right to life as those carried in the womb, will be appealed to the Supreme Court. The decision means the woman who took the case cannot have the embryos, held in a fertility clinic, implanted in her against the wishes of her separated husband. (See Who owns frozen embryos following separation? below for background).

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Who owns frozen embryos following separation?

The question of who owns frozen embryos after a couple breaks up is about to be raised in the High Court in Dublin according to this story in The Sunday Times.

While together, the married couple had three frozen embryos stored in the Sims fertility clinic in Rathgar, Dublin. Now the couple has separated but the wife wants the embryos, produced during IVF treatment, implanted in her womb. The husband has refused.

The story echoes that of Natalie Evans and Howard Johnston which resulted in a European Court of Human Rights ruling last week. See this story in The Guardian for the details.Evans had her ovaries removed in 2001 because of pre-cancerous tumours. Since then she and her partner thave separated. She wants to have the embryos implanted in her womb as this provides her with her only chance of having a child. But Johnston has withdrawn his permission and the court has ruled that she cannot proceed without his consent.Explaining his position, Johnston told the Guardian: "Any child that may have resulted from this treatment, I would have been the father of that child but [would] have had nothing to do with its upbringing."I would have a child somewhere with no way of knowing how it was brought up. The way I look at it was that I have the right to start a family if and when I want to."

When a similar case arose in the United States a few years ago the judge ruled that if the frozen embryos represented a person's sole chance of ever becoming a parent then there could be an exception to the rule that consent on both sides was required, according to Dr Gillian Lockwood chairwoman of the British fertility Society ethics committee, quoted in this roundup of expert views in The Guardian.

In that same article, psychologist Oliver James appears to have confirmed Howard Johnston's fears: "I don't see that this child would have anything to do with him, apart from physically resembling him....I think he may have a mistaken belief in how much genetics play [a part] in determining who we are."Almost everybody who looks at the plight of Natalie Evans has sympathy for her and wishes that Howard Johnston would take a more sympathetic view. But how far should the ability to dispense with the consent of a partner go?"What is she fighting for, exactly?" asked Madeleine Bunting and Catherine Bennett in The Guardian."

The right of all women to use embryos created by assisted conception against the wishes of the estranged biological father? If so, it is a right that would, in fairness, have to be extended to similarly implacable would-be fathers, hoping to take spare embryos created with their own estranged partners and have them implanted - disregarding any lack of consent - in their new women partners, or in surrogates, then raised without the participation of the biological mother. No one, if they considered the interests of children created on this basis, could endorse that particular change in the law."

According to the Sunday Times the Irish case differs from the British one because the Republic of Ireland has a constitution which guarantees the right to life of the unborn child. The decision of the High Court which no doubt will end up in the Supreme Court will therefore be a landmark one.

Last year the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction (members) (report) recommended that the donation of sperm ova and embryos should be allowed in the Republic. It suggested that embryos outside the womb should have no constitutional and legal protection. Children born through surrogacy should be presumed to be the children of the couple who commissioned the treatment in the first place. Naturally, the government has done nothing about this. It is likely that in this area as in other tricky issues concerning reproduction in the past (contraception for instance) the making of law will be left largely to the courts.

And aside from the ethical issues involved there are others: if a woman is allowed to use the embryos donated by her former husband will the resulting child have inheritance rights vis-a-vis her former husband? Will it be possible to pursue the former husband for child support payments?

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Gravely ill have better quality of life than senior managers

According to a story by Gabrelle Monaghan in The Irish Times (premium content) senior managers in foreign companies in Ireland have a poorer quality of life than people living with terminal illnesses!

The cause? The increasing demands from their foreign bosses, instant communication and emails according Ciar¿n O'Boyle, professor of psychology at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin who examined 23 senior managers and 110 newly appointed managers.

He analysed their stress with a measure the college pioneered to examine the quality of life of hospital patients."For senior managers, the quality of life was lower than any group of patients we looked at, including those who are terminally ill and those with motor-neuron disease," Prof O'Boyle said."Newly appointed managers had a lower quality of life than patients with osteo-arthritis and peptic ulcers."

The research comes as Ireland observes Work/Life Balance Day, a Government initiative supported by State agencies that's aimed at encouraging companies to communicate or improve their work-life balance policies for staff. The managers examined for the study "work for global organisations and are so busy responding to demands - they're money rich and time poor", the professor said. "Technology such as Blackberries and e-mail has really allowed the urgency of demands to get the upper hand."If a company's parent is based on the west coast of the US, it creates a whole time-lag problem and a need for availability. There is the increasing sense that people are expected to be available 24/7."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Men and women differ in their reactions to stress

According to this report on American men are more likely than women to react to stress through sleep disturbance, anger or irritation. Women are more likely to feel nervous, to cry or to feel fatigue. Significant numbers of people react to stress by smoking or over-eating. This is because when stressed we seek comfort rather than what is good for us, according to Rajita Sinha, director of the Research Program on Stress, Addiction and Psychopathology at Yale University School of Medicine.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Sexes respond differently to heart attack symptoms

Irishmen are seven times more likely than Irish women to drive themselves to hospital while having a heart attack, according to according to a report in The Irish Times (premium content) by its Medical Correspondent, Dr Muiris Houston, on new research.The study also found that it took women five times as long as men to go to an emergency department after their symptoms first started.

Researchers from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Trinity College Dublin looked at 890 patients admitted to six Dublin teaching hospitals with a confirmed heart attack.Some 50 per cent of people experiencing a heart attack will die before they reach hospital with the survival of the remaining half dependant on seeking medical help quickly, researchers found.The research, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, found it took women an average of 14 hours to get to hospital after the initial symptoms of a heart attack began, compared with just 2.8 hours for men.

Those who referred themselves to hospital experienced the shortest delays; patients referred by their GPs took on average five hours to get to hospital compared with 1.7 hours for those who self-referred.Patients with private medical insurance experienced shorter delays in getting to hospital. It took this group 1.7 hours to reach a casualty department while those with medical cards had an average delay of 2.4 hours.

Some 7 per cent of men and 1 per cent of women drove themselves to hospital, despite having chest pain or other serious symptoms. Many said they were too embarrassed to go in an ambulance or that ambulances should be used for more urgent cases.

Author Dr Sharon O'Donnell said: "Driving during a heart attack is obviously extremely dangerous for both the driver and the general public."People who drove themselves to hospital said they did it because it was the quickest way to get to the hospital, they felt well enough to make the journey, and they would have pulled over if necessary."However, she noted that many patients felt they were close to collapse when they arrived in the casualty department.

Commenting on the longer times it took women to get to hospital compared with men, Dr O'Donnell said a previous paper by the same researchers found that women with heart attacks waited longer than men to be admitted and treated."This means that women not only took longer to be treated, they also took considerably longer to get there in the first place. Prompt treatment is essential in heart attacks and these delays mean that women are more likely to suffer complications."

Asked why this might be, she said: "Women do not see themselves as heart attack victims. While men typically get sudden chest pain radiating down the left arm, women may get symptoms such as nausea, fatigue and shortness of breath."Dr O'Donnell said the overall message from the research was "no matter what your gender, if you suspect you are having a heart attack, take an aspirin and an ambulance".

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Domestic abuse affects almost one fifth of men, research suggests

Almost one third of people attending a doctors' practice in Galway, Ireland, have experienced domestic violence, with almost 20 per cent of men affected by abuse in the home, new research has shown, writes Dr Muiris Houston, Medical Correspondent of The Irish Times (premium content). The study also found a high rate of domestic abuse among pregnant women. Six per cent of patients currently suffer abuse.

Dr Caitriona Waters, a GP registrar with the Galway General Practitioner Training Scheme, surveyed 200 patients at a Galway city practice last August.

Overall, some 31.5 per cent of the men and women had experienced domestic violence in the past, while 6 per cent of patients reported they were current victims of abuse, Dr Houston reports. Of the 18 pregnant women studied, three were experiencing domestic violence at the time.The study, which is the first to assess the prevalence of domestic violence among men in a general practice setting in the Republic, found that one in five men had a history of abuse in the home. Some 39 per cent of women who responded had experienced domestic violence in the past.

"I was particularly interested in looking at male victims of domestic violence when I undertook this research," Dr Waters said."The figure of 18.2 per cent may be an underestimate. There are probably more men out there experiencing domestic abuse, but it is difficult for them to volunteer this information. In addition, males do not attend GPs as frequently as female patients."

Of those who have experienced domestic abuse in the past, 68 per cent said they had been psychologically or emotionally abused. Verbal and physical abuse each occurred in more than half of cases.Some 28 per cent had experienced social abuse, in which the victim is dominated or criticised in public. Almost one in five victims had been sexually abused, while 13 per cent had suffered economic abuse in which access to money and the freedom to spend was controlled by the abuser.

Just 20 per cent of those who had experienced abuse in the past had disclosed the fact to a GP, although three in four had told someone close to them of their predicament.Among the reasons for not disclosing domestic violence to medical professionals were fears of the consequences for their children as well as a sense of shame and embarrassment.

Commenting on Dr Water's study, Prof Tom O'Dowd, professor of primary care and public health at Trinity College Dublin and co-author of a 2002 study that found a 40 per cent prevalence of domestic violence among women in the Republic, said: "This is an important study. It is sad but unsurprising that pregnant women are so highly represented."The figure for male domestic violence is a little lower than that emerging from research currently under way in our own practice."