On Henry VIII and the mystery of the missing male heirs

“There are so many women in the world, so many fresh and young and virtuous women, so many good and kind women. Why have I been cursed with women who destroy the children in their own wombs?” So complains Hilary Mantel’s fictional version of Henry VIII – and this Sunday marks the date, 477 years […]

What happens when we can’t afford to be prepared?

The emergence of the H7N9 bird flu virus has rekindled memories of our last flu pandemic – just as the United States is debating whether it can afford to prepare for the next one. Remember the H1N1 flu scare of 2009? I always will, because pregnant women were vulnerable to becoming severely ill or dying […]

Uninformed consent, revisited

Early in my pregnancy, a research assistant sat down next to me in the waiting room of my doctor’s office, where I was scheduled to undergo a routine checkup. She asked me if I wanted to take part in a research study and described the study’s goals, risks and benefits. After I agreed to join […]

Name that UFO (Unidentified Floating Object)

In which we ask our enlightened readers to solve a household mystery. Scene: The Check-Hayden kitchen. Erika (opens the refrigerator): Hm, this apple juice has been in here for a while. I should probably just finish it off.

Uninformed consent

Last year, after years of writing about research studies, I agreed to become a research subject myself. I agreed to allow a local medical center to use my tissue, health records, fluids, cells, and other “specimens” for research. Not only that – I also allowed the researchers to use the same types of information and […]

Trust no one, and other lessons I learned from physics reporters

As I’ve been thinking about the challenges facing science journalism, a little voice in my head has been murmuring, “Yes, but isn’t all this navel-gazing a bit biology-centric?” Number one on my list of lessons from the “limits of DNA” story is that datasets are getting bigger, and few of us reporters are well-equipped to […]