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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 27 June 2000

27 June 2000

27 June 2000 The British Medical Association at its annual meeting in London will today (27 June) consider a motion which would require all doctors to obtain the explicit consent of a patient before making the decision not to resuscitate. Other motions put forward for debate at the conference include calls for the BMA's guidelines to be amended so that doctors are no longer able to withdraw and withhold treatment from terminally ill patients. Some have argued that the present guidelines [which allow the withholding of treatment, hydration and nutrition in some cases] could be illegal and leave doctors open to criminal prosecution. [BBC News Online, 27 June] The completion of the first draft of the human genetic code [reported in yesterday's digest] has concerned many who foresee possibly adverse developments. Steve Jenkins, a spokesman for the Church of England, said: "The idea of designing humans from scratch along with the prospect of an enormous increase in abortion is not the world we want." Richard Nicholson, editor of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics, commented: "Like climbing Mount Everest, it will benefit few people, leaving most untouched. But unlike climbing Mount Everest, it has the potential to damage large numbers of people." Agnes Fletcher, of the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, voiced concerns about increased abortion of unborn children with 'undesirable attributes' and greater discrimination of those who are less than perfect. She said: "Disabled people feel a responsibility to raise the alarm." [Reuters, 26 June&Daily Telegraph, 27 June] Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, commented: "We welcome discoveries that may lead to curative treatment for people with genetic diseases. However, we would sound a note of caution, living as we do in a world where the practice of abortion and IVF techniques designed to eliminate disabled babies are widespread. Knowledge can be used for good and evil, particularly in this area." The British secretary of state for international development has confirmed that the UK spent 40 million pounds last year on 'reproductive health' and family planning projects as part of its overseas aid contributions. Clare Short, in a written answer to Ms McCafferty's question in the House of Commons, also said that 42 million pounds was used for this in 1998, and 38 million in 1997. Over the same period, an additional 15 to 17 million pounds was spent annually for work connected with HIV/AIDS. [House of Commons Written Answers, 26 June] [According to the technical definitions prepared for the International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, 1994, derived from the World Health Organisation, "reproductive health" entails access to "methods of fertility regulation". "Fertility regulation" in turn is defined as: "Delaying childbearing, using contraception, seeking treatment for infertility, interrupting unwanted pregnancies and breastfeeding." The term "interrupting pregnancies" is simply a euphemism for abortion on demand.] The International Planned Parenthood Federation has accused the Catholic Church of waging "a kind of war" against women by opposing abortion. Meeting in Rome, the Federation's European Network issued a letter to the Vatican criticising it for its stance at the recent UN conference in New York and urging it to respect women's need for access to 'reproductive health'. The letter read: "The opinion and actions of the Holy See in regard to sexual and reproductive health and rights are seen by many as a kind of war, a war that contributes to the suffering and deaths of millions of innocent people, a war not conducted with guns and fire but with condemnation and psychological terror." [Reuters, 24 June; from Pro-Life E-News] The number of young, unmarried women seeking abortions in Hong Kong has risen strikingly over the last five years. The Hong Kong Family Planning Association claimed that 6,298 single women under 26 visited its three centres last year, compared to 3,907 in 1995. 35 percent of them were seeking abortions and the rest wanted advice on [so-called] emergency contraception. [South China Morning Post, 27 June]

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