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Surprising scientific discoveries and the right to die

A round-up of the health news headlines on Friday 24 August

Women who suffer recurrent miscarriages could in fact be 'super-fertile', the Telegraph reports.

It might sound counterintuitive but the science makes sense: researchers have found that some women who repeatedly miscarry are actually too good at allowing imperfect embryos to implant in the uterus. These embryos may live long enough to show up as a pregnancy which is then miscarried. Only around 30% of natural conceptions lead to a baby.

Professor Nick Macklon, chair of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Southampton, who led the study, said women who suffer several miscarriages often "feel guilty that they are simply rejecting their pregnancy… But we have discovered it may not be because they cannot carry; it is because they may simply be super-fertile, as they allow embryos which would normally not survive to implant."

Another intriguing breakthrough is reported by the BBC: scientists have discovered an internal 'brush' that helps keep our lungs clean.

Inhaled pollutants are trapped in our lungs' mucus. It was previously believed that this mucus was kept away from our airways by a watery substance.

However, using imaging techniques, a team from the University of North Carolina have found a brush-like layer of bronchial epithelial cell cultures that stops the mucus from reaching the cilia.

This discovery could help scientists to better understand conditions such as cystic fibrosis, where it is suggested the "brush" fails to work properly.

Finally, following the recent tragic death by starvation of right-to-die campaigner Tony Nicklinson, the Guardian reports on an advance in a right-to-life case.

The Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust had claimed that a 55-year-old man from Greater Manchester, known only as L, was beyond recovery after suffering brain damage from a third heart attack. They wanted the court of protection to rule that they did not have to resuscitate him or put him on a ventilator if his condition became life-threatening.

However, his Muslim family told the court that they did not believe he was beyond all hope of recovery and that their religion insisted that he must be kept alive by any possible means.

The case took an unexpected turn yesterday when an independent neurologist, who was meant to give evidence in support of the hospital, said that video footage showed L was no longer in a persistent vegetative state.

The doctor submitted a witness statement overnight saying that when L's eyes were cleaned there was a "closing of eyes and grimacing". The case continues.

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