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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 21 August 2000

21 August 2000

21 August 2000 The Italian National Bioethics Committee has pointed out that the British government's decision to support human cloning directly contravenes a European convention signed in Oviedo. Britain was itself among the signatories. Giovanni Berlinguer, president of the committee, said that to produce cloned human embryos for experimental purposes "would be a grave blow to Europe's concept of morality". He went on to say that his governmental body supported research into ethical alternative sources for stem cells, such as the umbilical cord and the blood of the placenta. [Zenit news agency, 20 August] A consultant anaesthetist in England has suggested that patients considered to be brain-dead might still feel pain when their organs are removed for transplant. Dr Philip Keep, who works at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, observed that during operations to remove organs, brain-dead patients have been observed to start wriggling around and their pulse and blood pressure also shoots up. Dr Keep said: "I am not saying these patients are alive, I am not saying that these patients can feel pain. I am saying I do not know whether these patients can feel pain in some sense and, under those circumstances..." The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that other anaesthetists have been uneasy about the fact that brain monitors attached to supposedly brain-dead patients often show signs of activity in the higher brain when organs are removed, and that no-one knows what these electrical impulses mean. [Sunday Telegraph, 20 August] Legislators in Mexico City have approved the mayor's proposals to liberalise the city's abortion laws. Following the lead given by Mayor Rosario Robles, district legislators voted by 41 to 7 (with one abstention) to allow abortion in cases when the life of the mother or her unborn child [sic] is threatened, or when the woman has been impregnated by unauthorised artificial insemination. Abortion in the city had already been legal in cases of rape. Prison sentences for women who have illegal abortions were also cut from five to three years. Pro-life campaigners protested outside the legislature as the proposals were passed. [AP, San Jose Mercury News, 20 August] An American newspaper group has reported on the use by universities of aborted unborn children in research programmes. The Asheville and Jackson Tribunes reported that a growing number of public universities are using tissue from aborted babies, such as the University of Nebraska's medical centre which used the brain cells of aborted babies in the study of Alzheimer's disease. President Clinton ended the federal ban on research using foetal tissue in 1993 and now more than a million dollars is granted to such projects each year by the National Institutes of Health. The report suggested that a number of universities involved did not publicise the nature of their research. [The Tribune Papers online, seen on 21 August] The makers of Norplant have suspended all shipments of their birth control implant after tests indicated that they may be faulty. Kits produced since last October have been found to have a lower shelf life stability and so may be less effective. It is reported that 6 million women worldwide use Norplant, including one million in the USA. [Reuters, Yahoo! News, 17 August] One of the ways in which Norplant is thought to work is by preventing the implantation of a fertilised egg into the womb. It should therefore be considered as an abortifacient.

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