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News, 2 June 2000

2 June 2000

2 June 2000 A new study has demonstrated that it may not be necessary to use cloned human embryos in order to produce cells and tissues for transplants. The research, carried out by Dr Jonas Frisen and his team at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and published in the journal Science, suggests that adult stem cells may be as versatile as embryonic stem cells and so could be converted into different types of cell without the need for an embryo to be produced by cloning. Professor Richard Gardner of Oxford University said that the discovery might change the nature of the cloning debate. He said, "I think therapeutic cloning is not terribly realistic. This other approach makes sense." [Daily Telegraph, 2 June] The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church has told its priests to refuse Holy Communion to doctors and midwives known to perform abortions. The synod's letter stated: "Abortion is a grievous sin before God, condemned by the Scriptures. As such, it threatens the entire Serbian nation with biological extermination." Abortion is legal and widely performed in Serbia, and the birth-rate has declined sharply. [International Right to Life Federation newsletter, May 2000] George W Bush, Republican candidate for the American presidential elections in November, has said that he would uphold the ban on federal funding for stem cell research on human embryos. His main rival, vice-president Al Gore, said that he would attempt to remove the ban and allow federally funded researchers to use embryonic stem cells produced by researchers who were privately funded. [Wall Street Journal, 30 May; from Pro-Life Infonet] The national ethics committee in France has recommended to the country's lawmakers that euthanasia, though remaining illegal, should be tolerated under certain conditions. [International Right to Life Federation newsletter, May 2000] An Australian doctor plans to provide euthanasia on a boat anchored in international waters. Dr Philip Nitschke, who assisted at the deaths of four people in Australia's Northern Territory during the brief period when it was legal, is seeking advice on the idea from lawyers following an initiative by the Women on the Waves Foundation in Holland to offer abortions offshore. [LifeSite Daily News&Agence France Presse English, on Pro-Life E-News, both 31 May; and other sources] Pro-abortion groups in America have expressed concern that Catholic healthcare chains are expanding rapidly and taking over a growing number of secular hospitals which then no longer offer abortions or fertility treatment. Catholic hospitals and healthcare systems now constitute the largest non-profit provider of healthcare in the USA. Last year the group calling itself Catholics for a Free Choice complained that only one in five Catholic hospitals offered [so-called] emergency contraception in cases of rape. Many have since introduced it, including those belonging to Catholic Healthcare West, but a survey carried out last December showed that most Catholic hospitals in New York still have not. New York senator Eric Schneiderman has introduced legislation requiring any licensed emergency facility to provide the [abortifacient] drugs, and he said, "I think this is the most offensive possible intrusion of religious doctrine into situations of medical necessity." [Mojo News Wire, 1 June]

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