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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 14 July 2000

14 July 2000

14 July 2000 A spokesperson for the British Medical Association has called for greater freedom to be given to doctors to end the lives of patients in so-called persistent vegetative states (PVSs). At the moment an individual high court order must be obtained in each case, but the spokeswoman said: "There are a lot of patients in conditions with no hope of recovery which place doctors in a difficult ethical dilemma. I don't think it would be right for every difficult case to go to court." The comments came after a London hospital was given permission yesterday to withdraw hydration and nutrition from a lady who has been in a PVS since giving birth in 1978. Doctors in England were first given permission to dehydrate PVS patients to death in 1993 following the Tony Bland case, and since then the legal precedent has been used to issue court orders for between 18 and 20 other patients. [The Guardian, 14 July] The Ministry of Justice in Holland has withdrawn a proposal to allow children as young as 12 to opt for euthanasia against the wishes of their parents. The clause, relating to children between the ages of 12 and 16, had been part of the bill currently before parliament which would officially legalise euthanasia, even though euthanasia is already tolerated according to government guidelines established in 1993. The move is expected to make passage of the bill easier, though some analysts have seen it as a ploy to win approval for other controversial provisions including legal euthanasia of those with Alzheimer's disease. [Associated Press, 13 July; from Pro-Life Infonet] The Catholic Church has insisted that 'foetal reduction', whereby some unborn babies are aborted to improve the survival chances of the others in cases of multiple pregnancy, can never be justified. The Pontifical Council for the Family has released a statement stressing the full dignity of every human being from the moment of conception, and rejecting any "direct and wilful elimination of an innocent human being". The statement also warned of a eugenic mentality whereby embryos might be selected for abortion "according to the parameters of normality or physical well-being". Cardinal Trujillo, who heads the council, wrote: "The moral prescription remains even in the case in which continuing pregnancy would bring a risk to the life or health of the mother and of the other brothers and sisters in the multiple pregnancy. It is never licit to do evil, even in view of attaining a good." [Zenit news agency, Vatican City, 13 July] The recent stabbing of Dr Gary Romalis, an abortion practitioner in Vancouver, Canada, has been condemned by pro-life groups. A statement issued by the American Life League expressed sadness at the attack on the abortionist and added that they are praying for his speedy recovery, while Campaign Life Coalition (Canada) offered a reward of 10,000 dollars for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved. [American Life League, 12 July; Canada NewsWire, 13 July] The US House of Representatives yesterday voted to maintain its ban on American aid for non-governmental organisations which perform or promote abortions overseas. The proposed amendment to the US foreign aid bill was defeated by 221 votes to 206. The ban has so far prevented the payment of more than 1 billion dollars to the United Nations. [Reuters, Yahoo! News, 13 July] The American state of Virginia is resisting moves to throw out its partial-birth abortion ban after Nebraska's similar ban was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. The legal team of General Mark L Earley, Virginia's attorney general, have identified what they consider to be important distinctions between their own case and the case affecting Nebraska's law. [Zenit news agency, Richmond, 13 July]

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