Big Sugar’s not-so-sweet research practices

Cristin Kearns, assistant professor at the UCSF School of Dentistry, stumbled across a decades-old research paper that shows a link between high-sugar diets and both high triglyceride levels and cancer in rats. But she had to stumble across the study because it was never published in a scientific journal. Oh, I almost forgot…the study was sponsored by the sugar industry. The implication, of course, is that the organization, now called The Sugar Association, buried the findings to avoid likely negative commercial implications. In response, The Sugar Association has stated that the study was never published, in part, because it was significantly delayed and over budget. In other words, they probably wouldn’t have published the study even if a high-sugar diet showed health benefits. As King George once said, “If you buy that I’ll throw the Golden Gate in free.”

A womb with a view

According to a recent study published in Nature Communications, scientists have developed—and successfully tested—an artificial womb that sustains and nurtures babies born prematurely. The “womb,” essentially a large sandwich bag with tubes, is designed to closely mimic the real thing in all important aspects. The bag is attached to an external machine that pumps in oxygen and nutrients and removes carbon dioxide—just like a placenta. So far, the device has been tested with preemie lambs with reportedly amazing results. According to Alan Flake, lead surgeon on the study, the lambs have exhibited “normal development in every way that we can measure it.” In three to five years Dr. Flake hopes to be testing the technology in human preemies. Here come the ethics questions!

That fine print ain’t so fine

It’s one thing to make a profit but it’s another to excessively charge uninsured patients nearly double the amount for the same diagnostic tests that insured patients receive. Two separate lawsuits filed in New Jersey and North Carolina allege that diagnostics firms, LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics purposefully made their billing forms difficult to interpret and routinely overcharged uninsured patients at rates far above the market price. Ouch. Plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement of fees and damages. Both lab companies maintain they haven’t engaged in any shenanigans. Is this where we begin to analyze the difference between what’s “legal,” “immoral,” and “amoral?”