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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 18 July 2000

18 July 2000

18 July 2000 Nearly half of patients considered to be in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) may in fact be aware of what is going on around them and capable of communicating. A study carried out on 40 presumed PVS patients by the Royal Hospital for Neurodisability in London has found that 17 of them were misdiagnosed. Two thirds of those wrongly diagnosed were thought to be in a PVS because their eyes did not follow movement or failed to blink when threatened, but in fact this was simply because they were blind. All those studied had very limited movement, and so communication was difficult. Dr Keith Andrews, director of medical and research services at the hospital, warned that PVS patients "may spend a lifetime trapped in a damaged body, with poor quality of life". There are between 1,000 and 1,500 presumed PVS patients in Britain. Lorraine Lane, one such patient, was thought to be in a PVS and her husband was applying to the courts for an order to end her life until she squeezed his hand to prove some degree of awareness. [Daily Mail, 18 July] Doctors in England have been able to withdraw life-sustaining food and fluids from PVS patients since the case of Tony Bland in 1993. This new study suggests that those killed may have been aware of what was happening and could have recovered. The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has initiated a new population stabilisation policy which includes penalties for families who have too many children. From next year, families who have a third child will be excluded from government welfare schemes and become ineligible to hold elected offices or government jobs. Two prominent Hindu priests responded by claiming that the policy arose out of "immorality and unlimited lust" rather than any desire to limit population growth, and condemned abortion as "a sin worse than murder". [CWNews, 17 July] The US National Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a letter denying claims that Catholic Relief Services, their official charity, supports the pro-abortion World March of Women 2000. Staff at CRS had apparently confirmed their support for the march, the aims of which included rights of access to abortion, yet the bishops were quick to deny this, and Fr John Geaney, director of church affairs at CRS, confirmed that CRS "does not, has not, and will not support the March of Women." [CWNews, 17 July] The participation of Catholic groups in the Canadian arm of the march has been a matter of controversy in that country. Former American president Gerald Ford has urged George W Bush to pick a pro-abortion running mate. Joining the debate surrounding Bush's choice of who will stand for vice-president on his ticket, Ford gave his backing to Tom Ridge, the Catholic governor of Pennsylvania, whom he described as "a responsible pro-choice candidate". Bush himself has said that the most important quality required in a running mate is the ability to take over as president should the need arise. [New York Daily News Online, 17 July] The United States Food and Drug Administration has embarked on a public consultation process with regard to proposals to make the birth control pill and the morning-after pill available over the counter without a doctor's prescription. The public has been invited to submit written comments during the process, which ends on 25 August. [About, The Human Internet, 15 July]

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