Tag Archives: study

Digital autopsies should be standard for probable natural deaths, says study

Digital autopsies should be the first-line approach in postmortem investigations of probable natural death, and should be offered free of charge to families, researchers have said.

About 90,000 autopsies requested by coroners are carried out in England and Wales every year, with the majority of deaths found to be a result of natural causes.

A switch to body-scanning techniques could prove valuable, say researchers, since a traditional autopsy can be upsetting for the bereaved and a number of religions, including Islam and Judaism, teach that a body should be buried quickly and not violated after death.

“The main benefit is about avoiding the autopsy,” said Bruno Morgan, co-author of the research from the University of Leicester. “The autopsy is not just a simple operation, it is opening [the body] up fully, taking all the organs out and slicing them all into pieces.”

CT scans have long been used to aid postmortem investigations, while more recently studies have explored targeted coronary angiography – another CT scanner-based technique that involves inserting a catheter into an artery and is used to reveal whether blockages are present in the coronary arteries, and to investigate the heart itself.

The latter is a major step forward, since one limitation of digital autopsies has been the difficulty of standard CT scans in establishing causes of death such as coronary heart disease.

[embedded content]

The latest study offers a large-scale comparison of the accuracy of the combined CT techniques to traditional autopsy.

“This paper is the first one that has come out and says this is as accurate as autopsy is in this setting. It works and therefore it is a valid alternative,” said Morgan.

Writing in the Lancet, researchers led by a team at the University of Leicester describe how they studied 241 cases of adults who had died suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes or had died a non-suspicious unnatural death.

Each was assessed by a postmortem CT scan, with targeted coronary angiography successfully carried out in 85% of the cases. Standard autopsies were then carried out for each case, with the pathologists not told about the findings from the body scans.

After excluding 31 cases, including 24 cases for which the cause of death was clearly traumatic, such as a gunshot wound, the team found that the body-scan approach gave a cause of death, based on “the balance of probabilities”, in 92% of cases.

In 11% of this group, results from either the scans or the autopsy were at odds with findings from a combination of the two. Further analysis revealed that these discrepancies were evenly split between errors in the body-scan approach and errors in the traditional autopsy.

The team say the gold standard for postmortem is the use of both traditional autopsy and body scans, but say the findings support a move to using digital autopsy as the first-line technique in cases of probable natural death. Should more evidence be required, they add, a traditional autopsy can subsequently be carried out.

The public are already allowed to request – usually at a cost of about £500, typically paid by the family – that digital autopsies are used for postmortem investigations where appropriate.

But Morgan says that option should be made available free of charge – a service currently only offered by a small number of councils.

“If you don’t want an invasive autopsy on yourself or on your family, you should be raising the debate and saying why can’t the council pay for this?” he said. “It strikes me that it is wrong that we should make people pay for something that is a statutory obligation,” he added.

Dr Mike Osborn, a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, said that postmortem investigations are vital in understanding why people die, as well as improving understanding of disease. But he acknowledged that autopsies can be distressing and clash with religious beliefs.

The development of digital autopsies, including those based on CT scans, he added, was exciting and important. While Osborn noted that some conditions still require a diagnosis from a traditional autopsy, he welcomed further research in the field to reduce the number of traditional autopsies required. “The accuracy of cross-sectional imaging postmortem has improved over the last 20 years and is likely to continue to do so,” he said. “The College fully supports further research in this area while reinforcing the need for thorough and robust governance in this emerging field.”

Digital autopsies should be standard for probable natural deaths, says study

Digital autopsies should be the first-line approach in postmortem investigations of probable natural death, and should be offered free of charge to families, researchers have said.

About 90,000 autopsies requested by coroners are carried out in England and Wales every year, with the majority of deaths found to be a result of natural causes.

A switch to body-scanning techniques could prove valuable, say researchers, since a traditional autopsy can be upsetting for the bereaved and a number of religions, including Islam and Judaism, teach that a body should be buried quickly and not violated after death.

“The main benefit is about avoiding the autopsy,” said Bruno Morgan, co-author of the research from the University of Leicester. “The autopsy is not just a simple operation, it is opening [the body] up fully, taking all the organs out and slicing them all into pieces.”

CT scans have long been used to aid postmortem investigations, while more recently studies have explored targeted coronary angiography – another CT scanner-based technique that involves inserting a catheter into an artery and is used to reveal whether blockages are present in the coronary arteries, and to investigate the heart itself.

The latter is a major step forward, since one limitation of digital autopsies has been the difficulty of standard CT scans in establishing causes of death such as coronary heart disease.

[embedded content]

The latest study offers a large-scale comparison of the accuracy of the combined CT techniques to traditional autopsy.

“This paper is the first one that has come out and says this is as accurate as autopsy is in this setting. It works and therefore it is a valid alternative,” said Morgan.

Writing in the Lancet, researchers led by a team at the University of Leicester describe how they studied 241 cases of adults who had died suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes or had died a non-suspicious unnatural death.

Each was assessed by a postmortem CT scan, with targeted coronary angiography successfully carried out in 85% of the cases. Standard autopsies were then carried out for each case, with the pathologists not told about the findings from the body scans.

After excluding 31 cases, including 24 cases for which the cause of death was clearly traumatic, such as a gunshot wound, the team found that the body-scan approach gave a cause of death, based on “the balance of probabilities”, in 92% of cases.

In 11% of this group, results from either the scans or the autopsy were at odds with findings from a combination of the two. Further analysis revealed that these discrepancies were evenly split between errors in the body-scan approach and errors in the traditional autopsy.

The team say the gold standard for postmortem is the use of both traditional autopsy and body scans, but say the findings support a move to using digital autopsy as the first-line technique in cases of probable natural death. Should more evidence be required, they add, a traditional autopsy can subsequently be carried out.

The public are already allowed to request – usually at a cost of about £500, typically paid by the family – that digital autopsies are used for postmortem investigations where appropriate.

But Morgan says that option should be made available free of charge – a service currently only offered by a small number of councils.

“If you don’t want an invasive autopsy on yourself or on your family, you should be raising the debate and saying why can’t the council pay for this?” he said. “It strikes me that it is wrong that we should make people pay for something that is a statutory obligation,” he added.

Dr Mike Osborn, a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, said that postmortem investigations are vital in understanding why people die, as well as improving understanding of disease. But he acknowledged that autopsies can be distressing and clash with religious beliefs.

The development of digital autopsies, including those based on CT scans, he added, was exciting and important. While Osborn noted that some conditions still require a diagnosis from a traditional autopsy, he welcomed further research in the field to reduce the number of traditional autopsies required. “The accuracy of cross-sectional imaging postmortem has improved over the last 20 years and is likely to continue to do so,” he said. “The College fully supports further research in this area while reinforcing the need for thorough and robust governance in this emerging field.”

Digital autopsies should be standard for probable natural deaths, says study

Digital autopsies should be the first-line approach in postmortem investigations of probable natural death, and should be offered free of charge to families, researchers have said.

About 90,000 autopsies requested by coroners are carried out in England and Wales every year, with the majority of deaths found to be a result of natural causes.

A switch to body-scanning techniques could prove valuable, say researchers, since a traditional autopsy can be upsetting for the bereaved and a number of religions, including Islam and Judaism, teach that a body should be buried quickly and not violated after death.

“The main benefit is about avoiding the autopsy,” said Bruno Morgan, co-author of the research from the University of Leicester. “The autopsy is not just a simple operation, it is opening [the body] up fully, taking all the organs out and slicing them all into pieces.”

CT scans have long been used to aid postmortem investigations, while more recently studies have explored targeted coronary angiography – another CT scanner-based technique that involves inserting a catheter into an artery and is used to reveal whether blockages are present in the coronary arteries, and to investigate the heart itself.

The latter is a major step forward, since one limitation of digital autopsies has been the difficulty of standard CT scans in establishing causes of death such as coronary heart disease.

[embedded content]

The latest study offers a large-scale comparison of the accuracy of the combined CT techniques to traditional autopsy.

“This paper is the first one that has come out and says this is as accurate as autopsy is in this setting. It works and therefore it is a valid alternative,” said Morgan.

Writing in the Lancet, researchers led by a team at the University of Leicester describe how they studied 241 cases of adults who had died suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes or had died a non-suspicious unnatural death.

Each was assessed by a postmortem CT scan, with targeted coronary angiography successfully carried out in 85% of the cases. Standard autopsies were then carried out for each case, with the pathologists not told about the findings from the body scans.

After excluding 31 cases, including 24 cases for which the cause of death was clearly traumatic, such as a gunshot wound, the team found that the body-scan approach gave a cause of death, based on “the balance of probabilities”, in 92% of cases.

In 11% of this group, results from either the scans or the autopsy were at odds with findings from a combination of the two. Further analysis revealed that these discrepancies were evenly split between errors in the body-scan approach and errors in the traditional autopsy.

The team say the gold standard for postmortem is the use of both traditional autopsy and body scans, but say the findings support a move to using digital autopsy as the first-line technique in cases of probable natural death. Should more evidence be required, they add, a traditional autopsy can subsequently be carried out.

The public are already allowed to request – usually at a cost of about £500, typically paid by the family – that digital autopsies are used for postmortem investigations where appropriate.

But Morgan says that option should be made available free of charge – a service currently only offered by a small number of councils.

“If you don’t want an invasive autopsy on yourself or on your family, you should be raising the debate and saying why can’t the council pay for this?” he said. “It strikes me that it is wrong that we should make people pay for something that is a statutory obligation,” he added.

Dr Mike Osborn, a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, said that postmortem investigations are vital in understanding why people die, as well as improving understanding of disease. But he acknowledged that autopsies can be distressing and clash with religious beliefs.

The development of digital autopsies, including those based on CT scans, he added, was exciting and important. While Osborn noted that some conditions still require a diagnosis from a traditional autopsy, he welcomed further research in the field to reduce the number of traditional autopsies required. “The accuracy of cross-sectional imaging postmortem has improved over the last 20 years and is likely to continue to do so,” he said. “The College fully supports further research in this area while reinforcing the need for thorough and robust governance in this emerging field.”

Digital autopsies should be standard for probable natural deaths, says study

Digital autopsies should be the first-line approach in postmortem investigations of probable natural death, and should be offered free of charge to families, researchers have said.

About 90,000 autopsies requested by coroners are carried out in England and Wales every year, with the majority of deaths found to be a result of natural causes.

A switch to body-scanning techniques could prove valuable, say researchers, since a traditional autopsy can be upsetting for the bereaved and a number of religions, including Islam and Judaism, teach that a body should be buried quickly and not violated after death.

“The main benefit is about avoiding the autopsy,” said Bruno Morgan, co-author of the research from the University of Leicester. “The autopsy is not just a simple operation, it is opening [the body] up fully, taking all the organs out and slicing them all into pieces.”

CT scans have long been used to aid postmortem investigations, while more recently studies have explored targeted coronary angiography – another CT scanner-based technique that involves inserting a catheter into an artery and is used to reveal whether blockages are present in the coronary arteries, and to investigate the heart itself.

The latter is a major step forward, since one limitation of digital autopsies has been the difficulty of standard CT scans in establishing causes of death such as coronary heart disease.

[embedded content]

The latest study offers a large-scale comparison of the accuracy of the combined CT techniques to traditional autopsy.

“This paper is the first one that has come out and says this is as accurate as autopsy is in this setting. It works and therefore it is a valid alternative,” said Morgan.

Writing in the Lancet, researchers led by a team at the University of Leicester describe how they studied 241 cases of adults who had died suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes or had died a non-suspicious unnatural death.

Each was assessed by a postmortem CT scan, with targeted coronary angiography successfully carried out in 85% of the cases. Standard autopsies were then carried out for each case, with the pathologists not told about the findings from the body scans.

After excluding 31 cases, including 24 cases for which the cause of death was clearly traumatic, such as a gunshot wound, the team found that the body-scan approach gave a cause of death, based on “the balance of probabilities”, in 92% of cases.

In 11% of this group, results from either the scans or the autopsy were at odds with findings from a combination of the two. Further analysis revealed that these discrepancies were evenly split between errors in the body-scan approach and errors in the traditional autopsy.

The team say the gold standard for postmortem is the use of both traditional autopsy and body scans, but say the findings support a move to using digital autopsy as the first-line technique in cases of probable natural death. Should more evidence be required, they add, a traditional autopsy can subsequently be carried out.

The public are already allowed to request – usually at a cost of about £500, typically paid by the family – that digital autopsies are used for postmortem investigations where appropriate.

But Morgan says that option should be made available free of charge – a service currently only offered by a small number of councils.

“If you don’t want an invasive autopsy on yourself or on your family, you should be raising the debate and saying why can’t the council pay for this?” he said. “It strikes me that it is wrong that we should make people pay for something that is a statutory obligation,” he added.

Dr Mike Osborn, a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, said that postmortem investigations are vital in understanding why people die, as well as improving understanding of disease. But he acknowledged that autopsies can be distressing and clash with religious beliefs.

The development of digital autopsies, including those based on CT scans, he added, was exciting and important. While Osborn noted that some conditions still require a diagnosis from a traditional autopsy, he welcomed further research in the field to reduce the number of traditional autopsies required. “The accuracy of cross-sectional imaging postmortem has improved over the last 20 years and is likely to continue to do so,” he said. “The College fully supports further research in this area while reinforcing the need for thorough and robust governance in this emerging field.”

Digital autopsies should be standard for probable natural deaths, says study

Digital autopsies should be the first-line approach in postmortem investigations of probable natural death, and should be offered free of charge to families, researchers have said.

About 90,000 autopsies requested by coroners are carried out in England and Wales every year, with the majority of deaths found to be a result of natural causes.

A switch to body-scanning techniques could prove valuable, say researchers, since a traditional autopsy can be upsetting for the bereaved and a number of religions, including Islam and Judaism, teach that a body should be buried quickly and not violated after death.

“The main benefit is about avoiding the autopsy,” said Bruno Morgan, co-author of the research from the University of Leicester. “The autopsy is not just a simple operation, it is opening [the body] up fully, taking all the organs out and slicing them all into pieces.”

CT scans have long been used to aid postmortem investigations, while more recently studies have explored targeted coronary angiography – another CT scanner-based technique that involves inserting a catheter into an artery and is used to reveal whether blockages are present in the coronary arteries, and to investigate the heart itself.

The latter is a major step forward, since one limitation of digital autopsies has been the difficulty of standard CT scans in establishing causes of death such as coronary heart disease.

[embedded content]

The latest study offers a large-scale comparison of the accuracy of the combined CT techniques to traditional autopsy.

“This paper is the first one that has come out and says this is as accurate as autopsy is in this setting. It works and therefore it is a valid alternative,” said Morgan.

Writing in the Lancet, researchers led by a team at the University of Leicester describe how they studied 241 cases of adults who had died suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes or had died a non-suspicious unnatural death.

Each was assessed by a postmortem CT scan, with targeted coronary angiography successfully carried out in 85% of the cases. Standard autopsies were then carried out for each case, with the pathologists not told about the findings from the body scans.

After excluding 31 cases, including 24 cases for which the cause of death was clearly traumatic, such as a gunshot wound, the team found that the body-scan approach gave a cause of death, based on “the balance of probabilities”, in 92% of cases.

In 11% of this group, results from either the scans or the autopsy were at odds with findings from a combination of the two. Further analysis revealed that these discrepancies were evenly split between errors in the body-scan approach and errors in the traditional autopsy.

The team say the gold standard for postmortem is the use of both traditional autopsy and body scans, but say the findings support a move to using digital autopsy as the first-line technique in cases of probable natural death. Should more evidence be required, they add, a traditional autopsy can subsequently be carried out.

The public are already allowed to request – usually at a cost of about £500, typically paid by the family – that digital autopsies are used for postmortem investigations where appropriate.

But Morgan says that option should be made available free of charge – a service currently only offered by a small number of councils.

“If you don’t want an invasive autopsy on yourself or on your family, you should be raising the debate and saying why can’t the council pay for this?” he said. “It strikes me that it is wrong that we should make people pay for something that is a statutory obligation,” he added.

Dr Mike Osborn, a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, said that postmortem investigations are vital in understanding why people die, as well as improving understanding of disease. But he acknowledged that autopsies can be distressing and clash with religious beliefs.

The development of digital autopsies, including those based on CT scans, he added, was exciting and important. While Osborn noted that some conditions still require a diagnosis from a traditional autopsy, he welcomed further research in the field to reduce the number of traditional autopsies required. “The accuracy of cross-sectional imaging postmortem has improved over the last 20 years and is likely to continue to do so,” he said. “The College fully supports further research in this area while reinforcing the need for thorough and robust governance in this emerging field.”

Digital autopsies should be standard for probable natural deaths, says study

Digital autopsies should be the first-line approach in postmortem investigations of probable natural death, and should be offered free of charge to families, researchers have said.

About 90,000 autopsies requested by coroners are carried out in England and Wales every year, with the majority of deaths found to be a result of natural causes.

A switch to body-scanning techniques could prove valuable, say researchers, since a traditional autopsy can be upsetting for the bereaved and a number of religions, including Islam and Judaism, teach that a body should be buried quickly and not violated after death.

“The main benefit is about avoiding the autopsy,” said Bruno Morgan, co-author of the research from the University of Leicester. “The autopsy is not just a simple operation, it is opening [the body] up fully, taking all the organs out and slicing them all into pieces.”

CT scans have long been used to aid postmortem investigations, while more recently studies have explored targeted coronary angiography – another CT scanner-based technique that involves inserting a catheter into an artery and is used to reveal whether blockages are present in the coronary arteries, and to investigate the heart itself.

The latter is a major step forward, since one limitation of digital autopsies has been the difficulty of standard CT scans in establishing causes of death such as coronary heart disease.

[embedded content]

The latest study offers a large-scale comparison of the accuracy of the combined CT techniques to traditional autopsy.

“This paper is the first one that has come out and says this is as accurate as autopsy is in this setting. It works and therefore it is a valid alternative,” said Morgan.

Writing in the Lancet, researchers led by a team at the University of Leicester describe how they studied 241 cases of adults who had died suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes or had died a non-suspicious unnatural death.

Each was assessed by a postmortem CT scan, with targeted coronary angiography successfully carried out in 85% of the cases. Standard autopsies were then carried out for each case, with the pathologists not told about the findings from the body scans.

After excluding 31 cases, including 24 cases for which the cause of death was clearly traumatic, such as a gunshot wound, the team found that the body-scan approach gave a cause of death, based on “the balance of probabilities”, in 92% of cases.

In 11% of this group, results from either the scans or the autopsy were at odds with findings from a combination of the two. Further analysis revealed that these discrepancies were evenly split between errors in the body-scan approach and errors in the traditional autopsy.

The team say the gold standard for postmortem is the use of both traditional autopsy and body scans, but say the findings support a move to using digital autopsy as the first-line technique in cases of probable natural death. Should more evidence be required, they add, a traditional autopsy can subsequently be carried out.

The public are already allowed to request – usually at a cost of about £500, typically paid by the family – that digital autopsies are used for postmortem investigations where appropriate.

But Morgan says that option should be made available free of charge – a service currently only offered by a small number of councils.

“If you don’t want an invasive autopsy on yourself or on your family, you should be raising the debate and saying why can’t the council pay for this?” he said. “It strikes me that it is wrong that we should make people pay for something that is a statutory obligation,” he added.

Dr Mike Osborn, a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, said that postmortem investigations are vital in understanding why people die, as well as improving understanding of disease. But he acknowledged that autopsies can be distressing and clash with religious beliefs.

The development of digital autopsies, including those based on CT scans, he added, was exciting and important. While Osborn noted that some conditions still require a diagnosis from a traditional autopsy, he welcomed further research in the field to reduce the number of traditional autopsies required. “The accuracy of cross-sectional imaging postmortem has improved over the last 20 years and is likely to continue to do so,” he said. “The College fully supports further research in this area while reinforcing the need for thorough and robust governance in this emerging field.”

Digital autopsies should be standard for probable natural deaths, says study

Digital autopsies should be the first-line approach in postmortem investigations of probable natural death, and should be offered free of charge to families, researchers have said.

About 90,000 autopsies requested by coroners are carried out in England and Wales every year, with the majority of deaths found to be a result of natural causes.

A switch to body-scanning techniques could prove valuable, say researchers, since a traditional autopsy can be upsetting for the bereaved and a number of religions, including Islam and Judaism, teach that a body should be buried quickly and not violated after death.

“The main benefit is about avoiding the autopsy,” said Bruno Morgan, co-author of the research from the University of Leicester. “The autopsy is not just a simple operation, it is opening [the body] up fully, taking all the organs out and slicing them all into pieces.”

CT scans have long been used to aid postmortem investigations, while more recently studies have explored targeted coronary angiography – another CT scanner-based technique that involves inserting a catheter into an artery and is used to reveal whether blockages are present in the coronary arteries, and to investigate the heart itself.

The latter is a major step forward, since one limitation of digital autopsies has been the difficulty of standard CT scans in establishing causes of death such as coronary heart disease.

[embedded content]

The latest study offers a large-scale comparison of the accuracy of the combined CT techniques to traditional autopsy.

“This paper is the first one that has come out and says this is as accurate as autopsy is in this setting. It works and therefore it is a valid alternative,” said Morgan.

Writing in the Lancet, researchers led by a team at the University of Leicester describe how they studied 241 cases of adults who had died suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes or had died a non-suspicious unnatural death.

Each was assessed by a postmortem CT scan, with targeted coronary angiography successfully carried out in 85% of the cases. Standard autopsies were then carried out for each case, with the pathologists not told about the findings from the body scans.

After excluding 31 cases, including 24 cases for which the cause of death was clearly traumatic, such as a gunshot wound, the team found that the body-scan approach gave a cause of death, based on “the balance of probabilities”, in 92% of cases.

In 11% of this group, results from either the scans or the autopsy were at odds with findings from a combination of the two. Further analysis revealed that these discrepancies were evenly split between errors in the body-scan approach and errors in the traditional autopsy.

The team say the gold standard for postmortem is the use of both traditional autopsy and body scans, but say the findings support a move to using digital autopsy as the first-line technique in cases of probable natural death. Should more evidence be required, they add, a traditional autopsy can subsequently be carried out.

The public are already allowed to request – usually at a cost of about £500, typically paid by the family – that digital autopsies are used for postmortem investigations where appropriate.

But Morgan says that option should be made available free of charge – a service currently only offered by a small number of councils.

“If you don’t want an invasive autopsy on yourself or on your family, you should be raising the debate and saying why can’t the council pay for this?” he said. “It strikes me that it is wrong that we should make people pay for something that is a statutory obligation,” he added.

Dr Mike Osborn, a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, said that postmortem investigations are vital in understanding why people die, as well as improving understanding of disease. But he acknowledged that autopsies can be distressing and clash with religious beliefs.

The development of digital autopsies, including those based on CT scans, he added, was exciting and important. While Osborn noted that some conditions still require a diagnosis from a traditional autopsy, he welcomed further research in the field to reduce the number of traditional autopsies required. “The accuracy of cross-sectional imaging postmortem has improved over the last 20 years and is likely to continue to do so,” he said. “The College fully supports further research in this area while reinforcing the need for thorough and robust governance in this emerging field.”

Seeking medical abortions online is safe and effective, study finds

A study into women who seek abortion pills online in the face of strict laws against terminations has found that almost 95% safely ended their pregnancy without surgical intervention.

Experts say the study underscores the safety of medical abortion, and highlights that women who go on to experience symptoms of possible complications do follow advice to seek medical help at clinics or hospitals.

“This is abortion entirely outside the formal healthcare setting: it is an online telemedicine model, but this research shows that it can be both safe and highly effective,” said Abigail Aiken, assistant professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Worldwide about 43,000 women die each year as a result of not having access to safe and legal abortions.

Abortion in Ireland is currently legal only if a termination saves a woman’s life. In Northern Ireland abortion is also allowed if there is a permanent or serious risk to the woman’s mental or physical health.

However, the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act means that women can face life imprisonment for administering a drug to induce miscarriage, as the 1967 Abortion Act was not adopted in Northern Ireland.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Aiken and an international team of researchers reveal how they probed the outcomes for women in Ireland and Northern Ireland who had sought the abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol through Women on Web – a digital community that provides medical consultations, abortion drugs and online support.

Of the 1,636 women who were sent the drugs between the start of 2010 and the end of 2012, the team were able to analyse self-reported data from 1,000 individuals who confirmed taking the pills. All were less than 10 weeks pregnant.

The results reveal that almost 95% of the women successfully ended their pregnancy without the need for surgical intervention. None of the women died, although seven women required a blood transfusion and 26 needed antibiotics.

Of the 93 women who experienced symptoms for which the advice was to seek medical attention, 95% did so, going to a hospital or clinic.

“When we talk about self-sought, self-induced abortion, people think about coat hangers or they think about tables in back alleys,” said Aiken. “But I think this research really shows that in 2017 self-sourced abortion is a network of people helping and supporting each other through what’s really a safe and effective process in the comfort of their own homes, and I think is a huge step forward in public health.”

But while Aiken said that previous research found that women in Ireland and Northern Ireland have welcomed being able to buy abortion pills online, she pointed out that the approach was far from the ideal solution for women wishing to end their pregnancy.

“I think that even though it is a positive thing for public health, it is not a positive thing for women’s lives because they still have to feel like criminals,” she said.

Aiken added that the study had limitations, not least that it relied – albeit through necessity – on self-reported information, and did not have data for more than 450 women who were sent the abortion medication but made no further contact with Women on Web.

Richy Thompson, director of public affairs and policy at the British Humanist Association, welcomed the study, but said covert online access to abortion pills wasn’t enough.

“That still doesn’t help women who have to access an abortion later on and so cannot use pills, and those women currently have to go to Britain in order to have an abortion and are charged up to £900 by the NHS,” he added. “Also, it does not remove from those women the risk of prosecution for having obtained abortion pills.”

Indeed, one ongoing case is that of a woman from Northern Ireland who was prosecuted for obtaining abortion pills for her daughter after a GP reported her to the police.

“Hopefully this research will only reinforce the need to end the legal injustice that women, while perhaps being able to access safe abortion pills in practice, nonetheless can face prosecution for doing so,” said Thompson.

Mara Clarke, founder of the Abortion Support Network, which helps women from Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man travel to the UK for terminations, agreed. “More and more people contacting us are expressing fear of criminal prosecution,” she said, adding that women should beware of online scammers when searching for abortion pills.

While Clarke welcomed further evidence of the safety of the two drugs, she stressed that organisations such Women on Web and the Abortion Support Network are only a plaster on the problem facing women.

“Anything that helps women have terminations safely and encourages them to have terminations safely is ace in my book, but my end goal is for the abortion support network to be put out of business by law reform,” she said.

Common painkillers may raise risk of heart attack by 100% – study

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Risk of myocardial infarction is greatest in first month of taking NSAIDs such as ibuprofen if dose is high, say researchers

Commonly prescribed painkillers including ibuprofen increase the likelihood of having a heart attack within the first month of taking them if consumed in high doses, a study suggests.

All five nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) examined could raise the risk as early as the first week of use, an international team of researchers found.

Related: Should I stop taking Ibuprofen?

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Study looks at cannabis ingredient’s ability to help children’s tumours

British scientists are investigating whether a compound found in cannabis could be used to shrink brain tumours in children.

The study of the effects of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, was prompted by a growing number of parents giving it to children with a brain tumour after buying it online. The lead researcher, Prof Richard Grundy of Nottingham University’s children’s brain tumour centre, said in the last six months there had been a surge in parents administering it without medical advice in the belief it might help.

While no research has been done into how CBD can help children’s brain tumours, some work has been done looking at how cannabis-based molecules can help adult cancer patients. Products containing cannabidiol can be bought online, although recent changes mean companies now require a licence to sell them.

“New ways to treat childhood brain tumours are urgently needed to extend and improve the quality of life in malignant brain tumour patients, so we are excited at the prospect of testing the effect of cannabidiol on brain tumour cells,” said Grundy.

Brain tumours kill more children in the UK than any other type of cancer. Around 1,750 under-18s each year are diagnosed with cancer, of which about 400 are cancers of the brain and spinal cord.

The study, thought to be the first of its kind in the world, will seek to establish whether CBD reduces tumours. The researchers will grow cells from different brain tumours in lab conditions, some with the addition of cannabidiol molecules and others without. They will then compare how the presence of tumour cells differs in both samples through a technique called cell staining. This will help them see how many of the cells are dividing and whether any are dying.

Grundy said: “We expect the cells – brain tumour and normal brain – grown in our standard conditions to be healthy and actively dividing. We expect that normal brain cells grown in cannabidiol will remain healthy. However, we expect the brain tumour cells grown in cannabidiol to stop growing and die.”

Katie Sheen, of the Astro Brain Tumour Fund, which is co-funding the study, said if it proved to be successful CBD could be a gentler, less toxic way of treating cancer than chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Dr Wai Liu, a research fellow at St George’s University of London, said: “We have performed experiments using CBD in leukaemia and it can deactivate signalling pathways, making cells more responsive to chemotherapy.”

He said some drug companies combined CBD with psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with positive responses, especially when combined with chemotherapy.

Liu added: “All cells need to communicate and these communications get jammed up, and CBD tries to correct this by restoring them. This ultimately results in these cells being able to undergo cell death.”

“People think that children’s cells are more flexible so there is a possibility that CBD may have a slightly different effect. We will only be able to understand the precise mechanism and value of this treatment when studies like this are done.”

Among those supporting the project are the parents of William Frost, a four-year-old who was diagnosed with a ependymoma brain tumour in 2014 and is being treated at the Nottingham centre. William’s father, Steve, said: “We were told halfway through 2016 that nothing more could be done for William. We couldn’t bear to accept the news and decided to look into alternative treatments.

“We started William on a low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet and cannabidiol. Six months later William’s tumour had shrunk by two-thirds. He is slowly improving and attending school part-time.”