The National Health Service in the UK has refused to carry out a hysterectomy on a 15-year-old girl who suffers from cerebral palsy. Katie Thorpe's mother had requested the operation because menstruation would cause her daughter indignity. Mrs Thorpe said many disabled people supported her, and that the decision had been influenced by "the minority of the disability rights organisations" and by "political correctness". Scope, a charity for disabled people, opposed the operation because of its implications for other disabled children, and doubt over whether it would have been in Miss Thorpe's interests. [BBC, 17 January]
A couple who were advised to have an abortion on grounds of foetal disability have given birth to a boy. Miss Becky Weatherall and her partner Mr Kris Kramer, from west Wales, were told that their son was suffering from a rare brain disease, and would probably die soon after birth or survive profoundly disabled. "It was the abortion procedure that sealed my decision. I was told they would inject him through my stomach and I would give birth to him dead," Miss Weatherall said. She reportedly told the Western Mail that, if her son were going to die, she preferred it to be in his parents' arms. After the baby, Brandon, was born, an MRI scan showed that there was no damage to his brain. [PA on Channel 4, 17 January]
The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life has spoken of the importance of honesty in dealing with terminally ill patients. Addressing a conference on depression and cancer in Rome, Bishop Elio Sgreccia said that doctors should not hide the gravity of an illness, but should offer their patients both "clinical truth" and that of "the life that does not die". "The dying contribute maturity and value even to those who are at their side. [...] They become teachers of life," the bishop said. [Zenit, 16 January]
The Spanish minister for health, Professor Bernat Soria, has said that stem cells are likely to play an important role in pharmacology. Addressing a conference organised by EuroSTELLS, which aims to facilitate the study of stem cells, Professor Soria said that stem cells would be influential in the future of the pharmaceutical industry.[Bionity, 17 January] Our source does not make clear whether Professor Soria believes there is any advantage in using adult over embryonic stem cells, or vice versa, in this research.
The Japanese government is giving extensive funding to the development of a technique for obtaining stem cells from adult cells. The technique, pioneered by Dr Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, re-programmes adult cells into cells virtually identical to embryonic stem cells, and able to differentiate into any cell types. Dr Yamanaka will lead the research on induced pluripotent stem cells. [Nature, 16 January] The ethical acceptability of Professor Yamanaka's research has been questioned by US pro-life commentators who have pointed to references to cells from aborted babies in his work.
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