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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 4 July 2000

4 July 2000

4 July 2000 Three relatives of a severely disabled boy have been convicted of assaulting hospital staff and causing actual bodily harm after they saved the boy's life. David Glass, aged 13, was admitted to St Mary's hospital in Portsmouth, UK, in October 1998 suffering from a chest infection. The hospital decided that David should be given diamorphine, a heroin-based pain-killer and sedative which has the side effect of depressing breathing. Carol, his mother, objected but medical staff continued. Once David's lips had turned blue, the relatives unfastened the pump and a fracas broke out. David, now aged 14, is today still very much alive. The three relatives may be given prison sentences, despite the fact that doctors admitted that the family had prevented David from dying. The case now goes to the Court of Appeal on 21 July. [Catholic Herald, 30 June&SPUC handicap division] Three of the four independent members of the Irish parliament (TDs) whose support is propping up the government of Mr Ahern have demanded a new referendum on abortion. Ms Mildred Fox, one of the TDs, said: "This issue has been kicked around long enough by the government. It is time to finally make a decision. The Taoiseach knows perfectly well what my views are. If there is no referendum, I will be withdrawing my support." The all-party committee on the constitution which is looking into the issue will resume its deliberations tomorrow. Its report is expected to be delivered to the government in September, when it had been expected that the government would announce its intentions on the matter. However, Mr Ahern has suggested that the final report may be referred to a cabinet sub-committee. [The Irish Times, 4 July] A report on 648 cases of assisted suicide in the United States has claimed that "complications" occurred in 7 percent of cases, and "problems with completion" in 16 percent. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, contrasted these figures with direct euthanasia in Holland where such problems only occurred in 3 and 6 percent of cases respectively. The study also claimed that doctors often had to kill patients directly when assisted suicide failed. [International Right to Life newsletter, June 2000] The scientists who created Dolly the cloned sheep have succeeded in producing the first sheep with selectively modified genes. Only three of the 14 clones survived, although this was blamed on the quality of egg cells rather than the gene alteration. The technology could be applied in a number of ways, including the assisting of transplanting organs from animals into humans. Professor Keith Johnson of Glasgow University said that it could also lead in the future to treatments for human conditions by genetically 'correcting' and reimplanting the genes of people with genetic diseases. [The Herald, 29 June] Doctors from around the world who are meeting in Rome for an international conference on medicine and human rights plan to present the Pope with a 'charter for human rights for medicine' which enshrines respect for the dignity of the person. Domenico De Virgilio, president of the Italian Association of Catholic Doctors, said that the 5,200 participants from 44 countries would address the need for technological developments to correspond with proportional development of moral and ethical life. On the topic of human rights, he observed that many countries "have denied the right to life with permissive measures in the areas of abortion, genetic manipulation, euthanasia and restriction of individual liberty." [Zenit news agency, Rome, 3 July]

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