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FAMILIAL DISAUTONOMY (FAMILIAL DISAUTONOMIA): An autosomal recessively inherited disease, most commonly seen in Ashkenazi Jewish children. It was first described by Reily and Day in 1949, and in 1993 the responsible gene was located somewhere on chromosome 9, a fact which makes it possible to identify the carriers but not the diseased fetus. Patients with FD suffer from autonomic neuropathy affecting the glossopharyngeal or vagus nerves, baroreceptor response and other sensory and motor neuropathies. Orthostatic hypotension is the most disabling aspect of FD, others include disturbances of sweating, salivation, and swollowing. Treatment consists of symptomatic and preventive measures including medication, physiotherapy, behavioral, and family treatment. The ethical aproach for Familial Dysautonomy is a paradigm for most of the genetic diseases and includes different issues: 1.genetic screening. One must decide if it preferableto screen the whole population in Israel or just Ashkenazi Jews or just families with known members with FD who want to have children. 2.If one tests positive for FD during pregnancy, the physician must decide whether to recommend an abortion without knowing if the fetus is a carrier or a diseased child. In religious families, can we recommend an abortion without knowing the attitude of the patient`s spiritual guide towards abortions and even the discussion may cause the family anguish and perhaps shame and guilt feelings? 3. When there is a child born with FD who needs an expensive treatment, should a state, or state subsidized, health service pay for it at the expense of treatment for other diseases or should the cost be shared with the family? Should the state also have to pay for complementary medicine including herbal and oriental medicine, which in certain cases can help relieve some of the symptoms although it is not evidence based medicine? Other ethical aspects concern the medical staff: doctors, nurses, physiotherapists etc. who needs to maintain neutrality even if they object to abortions. If they make recommendations, and the family does not cooperate, they still must relate to the family and continue the treatment with intensity and compassion. There are many open questions and some of the answers depend on cultural, behavioral and religious opinions of families, medical staff and the public. (AZ)

FAMILY 1. any group of persons closely related by blood or choice like parents and their children including adopted 2. all those descended from a common progenitor 3. in biology the major subdivision of an order or suborder, commonly comprising several generations. (GK)

EXTENDED FAMILY In many developing countries, the family unit includes grandparents, aunts and uncles and even more distant family members that might live together in a common house and exert parenthood towards small children. Conversely, adults take care of their parents until death, taking over the costs of an extended household in these types of families. (GK)

NUCLEAR FAMILY Indicates the family made up of father, mother and children (biological or adopted). Many laws in developing countries, especially catholic, legislate for housing, subsidies, etc, for the nuclear family, ignoring the complex reality of different sorts of family units. Moreover, many of these laws recognize the father as the head of the nuclear family, whereas a great amount of these are fatherless families, where the mother is the head, but without prerogatives face to the law. (GK)

UNIPARENTAL FAMILY: A family made up of only one of both parents and its children. Today, in most uniparental families the parent who is missing is the father. Most of these families are to be found in third world countries, where their occurrence is the result of a fatal incident: in many cases the father is missing because he has abandoned his family, in others because he has been killed during war or violence bursts of different sources. Single women can also decide to have children, in which case the uniparental family is the result of a choice. (GK)

FAMILY PLANNING: Programs or services designed to help people avoid unwanted births or control the interval between pregnancies. (See CONTRACEPTION, Natural Family Planning Methods, POPULATION CONTROL). (DM)

FAMILY PRACTICE: The branch of medicine concerned with the provision of continuing, comprehensive health care for the entire family. (See GENERAL PRACTICE). (DM)


FAMINE: Famine is widespread risk of death by starvation and malnutrition; a devastating condition of insufficient food supply, usually combined with shortages of water and medicine. Famine affected countries have included Ethiopia, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea, exacerbated by drought, political mismanagement or conditions of war. Emergency food aid should be deployed efficiently and independently of any economic sanctions or political concerns. (See FOOD AID, FOOD CRISIS, MALNUTRITION) (MP)


FAQIH: From Arabic root, f.q.h. literally means a scientist, well-informed, clever. In the Islamic society Faqih is a person who is an Islamic scholar to teaches and guides to Islamic faith. Who spends years of study in Islamic law, jurisprudence, philosophy, ethics as well as being engaged in self-purification.Muslims can refer to him in order to find the answer for their religious questions. (AB)


FASTING: Abstaining from food (and drink). This practice is found in many of the world's religions and traditions. In some cases, the abstention is total, as in Jewish fasts, and the Muslim fast of Ramadan, and in other cases, the abstention is in limiting the range of foods eaten, as in some Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Generally, when the abstention is total, the time limit is sunrise to sunset, or 24 hours. If the abstention is partial, the duration of the fast may be a number of weeks, depending on the tradition. (AG)

FATWA: (Arabic fatã 'to instruct by a legal decision'). A generic term for any legal decision made by a Mufti or other Islamic religious authority. The term acquired familiarity in the West when in 1989 Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa sentencing the British writer Salman Rushdie to death for publishing The Satanic Verses which was considered by many Muslims as blasphemous and extraordinarily offensive. The word, however, does not necessarily mean a death sentence. (IP)

FAUNA: The community of all animals living in a place. Fauna and flora was traditionally used to refer to all organisms living in a place, but technically this would not include fungi, protists, bacteria, and archaea. (RW)

FBI: Federal Bureau of Investigation (U.S.)


FEAR: 1. (Middle English fer 'danger') the feeling of anxiety related to an identified source threatening potential personal harm or safety of another; apprehension of approaching danger 2. state of alarm generated by the neuroendocrine response to threat causing muscular and psychological tension that interferes with the normal processes of living. (See ADRENALINE, FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE, GENERAL ADAPTATION SYNDROME). (IP)

FEEBLE-MINDED: Little used pejorative term referring to arrested or incomplete development of the mind, including subnormality of intelligence ranging from slight to severe. Other outdated disparaging terms in this category are 'idiots', 'imbeciles' and 'mongols' that describe individuals having an IQ between 50 and 69. (See AUTISM, DOWN'S SYNDROME, FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME, INTELLIGENCE, INTELLIGENCE QUOTIENT). (IP)

FEEDBACK: ‘Feedback’ is the flow of changes through a system which come back in a circle to again affect the initial cause of the change. This ‘feedback loop’ is a continuous re-iterative cause-and-effect relationship between interactive elements and adjusting subsystems. ‘Positive feedback’ reinforces the original process and ‘negative feedback’ suppresses the original process. Automatic feedback control and cybernetics are important to adaptive intelligence in both humans and machines. ‘Reinforcing feedback’ increasingly alters the system away from its initial point as each change amplifies the next (e.g. population growth, epidemics, cancer, debts, self-advancement). ‘Balancing feedback’ dampens the effects of the change by amplifying an opposing force towards stabilization (e.g. thermostat and cruise control, predator/prey ecology, body temperature, hunger and health). Used more colloquially, a negative feedback loop may describe a relationship with an alternating cycle of critical reprisals; better is positive feedback, or the support and positive encouragement which builds health and relationships. (See CATALYST, COMPLEXITY THEORY, CYBERNETICS, FEEDFORWARD, POSITIVITY, SYSTEM DYNAMICS, THRESHOLD) (MP)

FEEDFORWARD: A sort-of ‘positive balancing feedback’, ‘feedforward’ drives a system towards a predicted desirable state. It refers to projecting an anticipation onto events to precipitate self-fulfilling change in the system. (See COMPLEXITY, CYBERNETICS, SYSTEMS THEORY) (MP)

FEMALE: 1. Organisms whose reproductive organs produce only female gametes; that is, eggs in animals or ovules in fruit-bearing plants. 2. may also be used as a derogative metaphor suggestive of 'weakness' or 'inferiority'. (See FEMINISM, MALE). (IP)

FEMALE CONDOM or Femshield: is a relatively new barrier method of contraception which is female-based, gives protection against sexually-transmitted diseases including AIDS, and is not dependent on male erection and intromission. The Femshield consists of a polyurethane vaginal sheath lining the whole vaginal surface, is stronger and lighter than the latex rubber used in male condoms, easy to insert and is used in conjunction with a lubricant. Women find it very effective being attracted to their control of contraception and protection against disease (see CONDOM). (IP)


FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION is an ancient practice which is said to predate most modern religions, including Christianity and Islam on account of its not being mentioned anywhere in the Quran or the Hadith collection of Al-Bukhari; that is the collections of traditions about Muhammad and his companions. The practice as it endures today covers a graded series of alterations to the female genitalia, ranging from mild to most severe. "Sunna" or circumcision is the mildest form where the hood of the clitoris is removed only; clitorectomy involves the removal of the entire clitoris as well as the labia minora; infibulation involves the removal of the clitoris, labia minora, labia majora and parts of the vulva. After infibulation, the remaining tissue mass is sewn together with catgut or held together with thorns, leaving a tiny hole for urine and menstrual blood to pass through. Deinfibulation and reinfibulation occurs when it is decided that the woman should conceive and give birth. Genital mutilations cause local infections, generalized septicemia, life-long problems with urination and menstruation, chronic pain, suffering and death and is an extreme example of abuse resulting from culturally-driven control of female sexuality. Worldwide, it is estimated that 130 million girls and women, mostly African, have been affected by the practice and that a further 2 million are at risk every year. (IP+AG)

FEMICIDE: The killing of a woman, one who kills a woman. (See FETICIDE). (IP)

FEMINAZI: A contemptuous blended term for a radical feminist. The use of the word was originally associated, in the early 1990s, with the abortion debate and was applied to women who supported the pro-choice movement. The term has now spread outside the abortion issue into general use. (See FEMINISM). (IP)

FEMINISM (FEMINIST MOVEMENT): A widespread and extremely influential movement by women against male-dominated society. Feminists demand abolition of the double standard, removal of traditional stereotypes representing women as fragile, dependent and passive, equal pay for equal work and the right to social and sexual equality. (See FEMINAZI). (IP)

FERMENTATION: The process of growing microorganisms.

FERTILITY: The ability to reproduce. In women days 10-18 from the beginning of the menstrual period are considered the days of highest fertility. Fertility is the ability to produce a offspring or a progeny. Many factors are known to impair fertility such as environmental mimics of estrogen due to the use of chemical fertilizers, plastics, chemicals used during pregnancy. (See FERTILITY RATE, INFERTILITY). (IP,JA)

FERTILITY DRUGS: Compounds used to treat ovulatory dysfunction. These include clomiphene citrate, human gonadotropins, bromocriptine, glucocorticoids and progesterone. (IP)

FERTILITY RATE: The number of pregnancies per year per 1,000 women of childbearing age. (See FERTILITY, INFERTILITY). (IP)

FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME (FAS): a set of congenital psychological, behavioral and physical abnormalities in infants whose mothers consumed alcohol during pregnancy. The syndrome was first reported in 1968 by the French pediatrician Lemoine and his colleagues who described a distinct pattern of anomalies in babies born to families with a history of chronic alcoholism. The anomalies included growth deficiency, reduced brain size (microcephaly), a cluster of anomalous facial characteristics, cardiac defects, limb deformities, central nervous system dysfunctions resulting in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, delays in psychomotor and language development, poor visual memory and psychosocial maladjustment. The IQ of the children described was about 70; however, the severity of mental and physical disability is related to the degree of alcohol exposure in utero and to varying genetic susceptibilities in the fetus. Of all the characteristics of FAS, mental disability is the most damaging and consistent consequence, and alcohol is now the leading cause of intellectual disability in the western world, followed by Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy. The detrimental consequences of alcohol consumption during pregnancy have been known for centuries. Aristotle warned that "women drunkards" often gave birth to abnormal children and the consumption of alcoholic beverages by young married couples was prohibited in ancient Greek and old testament writings. (IP)

FETAL REDUCTION: The deliberate therapeutic removal of one or two fetuses following the diagnosis of a multiple pregnancy. Multiple pregnancy is not solely a specific risk of in vitro fertilization treatments, where two or three-embryo transfers are permissible, but also because the incidence of multiple births has been steadily increasing in all developed countries since the early 1980s. Preterm delivery and low birth weight are the main causes of increased morbidity and mortality in the neonatal period. The average duration of pregnancy is 38 weeks for singletons, 37 weeks for twins, 33.5 weeks for triplets and 31.5 weeks for quads. Parents of multiple-birth children face not only a significant higher risk of one of their children having a disability but a further specific risk owing to the fact that compared to singletons, there is a 3-7 fold higher incidence of cerebral palsy in twins and over ten-fold higher incidence in triplets. The perinatal mortality rate in twins is nearly five times higher than in singletons and in triplets eight times higher. The main contributor to the high morbidity and death rate in multiple births is prematurity and its complications. It is easy to see that for some couples faced with the risk of death or disability to one or more of their children, a fetal reduction may seem the best option; but this is not an easy or uncontroversial solution as it too carries its own risk of medical and emotional complications. (See INTRAUTERINE GROWTH RETARDATION, PREMATURITY, SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME). (IP)

FETAL GERM CELLS (FG): Germ cells of fetal origin. (JA)

FETAL THERAPY: In utero therapy. (DM)

FETOGENIC PERIOD: In humans lasts from week 9 to birth where important developments are general body growth, histological and functional development of organs and the histological development of the central nervous system (CNS). Approximately 38 weeks post-conception in humans (40 weeks post=last menstrual period). Brain development, however, occurs during the entire period of fetal differentiation and through the first 2 years of postnatal life. Drug abuse during gametogenic, embryonic and fetogenic periods may harm normal growth and development in the offspring and increase its changes of being born with birth defects, low birthweight, and mental/behavioral deficits (see embryonic period, teratology, embryo and fetus). (IP)

FETUS: Fetus A stage in human development / embryonic development in uterus. The developing human individual from the ninth week after fertilization until birth. (DM+JA)

FERTILIZATION: The event that initiates the development of an oocyte into embryonic development, normally triggered by the entry of a sperm into the oocyte. (IP)

FERTILIZATION: the fusion of a sperm (male gamete) and an egg (female gamete) to form a zygote. (JA)

FINGERPRINTING: The technique of DNA fingerprinting is used to uniquely characterize individual organisms, foods, or biological samples, based on their DNA composition (can also fingerprint chemicals and proteins). (DM+GK)

FIQH: The science of Muslim religious law or Islamic jurisprudence. The first scholar to write a treatise on Fiqh was Shafi'i (d. 820). Four main schools of Muslim law have survived to modern times among the Sunni. These are: Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafi'i. Each of these is regarded as equally valid by Orthodox Muslims. The Shi'i have their own systems of Muslim law. (AG)

FIREWALL: A protective layer of software to protect a corporate intranet or private citizen from access by outsiders, hackers or the Internet at large. Firewalls monitor in- and out-going traffic and may consist of multiple layers of security software, authentication services, packet filters, one-way connections, encryption programs, tunnel servers and application proxy firewalls. (See INTERNET PRIVACY, INTRANET) (MP)

FIRST WORLD: Slightly condescending term for the developed nations, or wealthy North. The first world includes Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and sometimes including industrialized countries like Singapore and Taiwan, democratic states like Israel and South Africa, and/or emerging capitalist economies such as Russia. The wisdom of being first depends on what’s ahead and what you leave in your wake. In many respects the First World may be overdeveloped, requiring demilitarization, dematerialization and more responsible ethical standards for custody of the global environment. (See DEMATERIALIZATION, DEMILITARIZATION, DEVELOPED NATIONS, DEVELOPMENT, ENVIRONMENTAL CODE OF CONDUCT, FOURTH WORLD, NORTH, OVERDEVELOPED NATIONS, SECOND WORLD, THIRD WORLD) (MP)

FIRST WORLD NATIONS: Countries belonging to the so-called FIRST WORLD.

FISH: 1. a common term that refers to aquatic animals. 2. Several classes of aquatic vertebrates generally characterized by poikilothermy (cold-blooded), gills, fins, and a streamlined body. Among extant taxa, these include the teleost fishes (Sarcopterygii lobe-finned fishes and other vertebrates; and Actinopterygii ray-finned fishes) and the Chondrichthyes the sharks, rays, sawfish, and chimeras; and the more primitive lampreys (Hyperartia) and hagfishes (Hyperotreti). (RW)

FISHER: 'Fisher' is replacing 'fisherman' as a gender-neutral term describing a person occupied with the task of catching fish. (MP)


FISHING QUOTA: The fishing or vessel quota is a sustainable fisheries management method for allocating fishery property rights and sharing the 'total allowable catch' among rightful fishing parties. Fishing quotas may be transferable, seasonal, area-specific, species-specific and/or enforceable by law. (See QUOTA, THRESHOLD MANAGEMENT, TOTAL ALLOWABLE CATCH) (MP)

FIVE ELEMENTS: In traditional Chinese belief, the world is composed of five elements: water, fire, wood, metal, and earth. In addition to the elements themselves, the way in which they interact with each other is very important, and this plays a role in traditional Chinese medicine and astrology. In the traditional Chinese calendar, each year is assigned an animal and an element. There are 12 animals and 5 elements, and so, all the possible combinations are exhausted after 60 years, when a new cycle of years begins. For this reason, the 60th birthday in Chinese tradition is very significant. (AG)

FIVE RELATIONSHIPS: The relationships in Confucius' teaching which define inter-personal relations in society. The five relationships are: relationship between a father and son, ruler and minister, husband and wife, elder brother and younger brother, friend and friend. This framework defined by Confucius had profound impact upon the countries and cultures of East Asia. (AG)

FLAGELLA: Long hair-like structures on a cell or microorganism enabling movement or manipulation. (See CILIA) (MP)

FLEMING, ALEXANDER: (1881-1955) Sir Alexander Fleming was a Scottish-born bacteriologist who studied and worked at St Mary’s Hospital, London. He was a pioneer in vaccines, antiseptics and antibiotics, being the first to use human anti-typhoid vaccines, and the discoverer of the antibiotic penicillin. He shared the 1945 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with his collaborators in the isolation of penicillin, Sir Ernst Boris Chain (born in Berlin, 1906-1979) and Sir Howard Walter Florey (born in Adelaide, 1898-1968). (See ANTIBIOTIC) (MP)

FLORA: The community of all plants living in a place. Fauna and flora was traditionally used to refer to all organisms living in a place, but technically this would not include fungi, protists, bacteria, and archaea. (RW)

FLOTSAM: 1. Any accumulation of semi-useless or discarded bits and pieces. 2. Washed-up or floating wreckage of ships, stray cargo, driftwood and other interesting sea-wreckage. (See JETSAM) (MP)

FLOWER: Flowers are the reproductive structure of angiosperm plants, comprised of protective sepals, colorfully attractive petals, the female pistil with stigma, style and ovary, and the male stamen with filament and anther. The beauty of the flower has made it a much-loved symbol of peace and romance. (See ANGIOSPERM, FLOWER POWER) (MP)

FLOWER POWER: The ‘love thine enemy’ concept of non-violent interaction with security forces, epitomized by the hippy culture and anti-war movement. (See HIPPIES, PEACE MOVEMENT) (MP)


FODDER: Anything given on farms or sold for non-human animal consumption. Compare FOOD. (DM)


FOLIC ACID is a vitamin of the B complex group essential for cell growth and reproduction. The need for folic acid increases in pregnancy, infancy and periods of stress where a daily intake of 400 mg before conception and during early pregnancy lowers the risk of fetal neural tube defect (see spina bifida). Rich dietary sources are deep green leafy vegetables such as spinach, liver, beans, nuts and whole-grain cereals and bread (see SPINA BIFIDA). (IP)

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