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News, 30 May 2000

30 May 2000

30 May 2000 A narrow majority of people in the UK disapprove of abortion if it is simply because a couple do not want more children or if the woman is unmarried. The opinion poll commissioned by the BBC also showed that 92 percent supported abortion if the mother's life were at risk, and that 65 percent supported the abortion of children who would be born physically handicapped. [Daily Mail, 29 May] John Smeaton, National Director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, observed, "Though we have not yet seen the full details of this latest poll, it is clear that it will be a disappointment to the pro-abortion lobby, which claimed in 1995 that only 24% of people disapproved of abortion on demand." A laboratory at the forefront of the global project to decode the human genetic code has announced the appointment of a new director. The Sanger Centre in Cambridge, UK, will now be headed by Professor Allan Bradley. The project is already 85 percent complete, and the important 90 percent milestone will probably be reached next month. The Sanger Centre is at the hub of the international and publicly funded Human Genome Project. Presently they are in a race with Celera, a private American company engaged in the same research, and Professor Bradley described the work as the biggest scientific and technological race since the drive to put a man on the moon. [Daily Telegraph, 30 May] Scientists have discovered a way of creating unlimited brain cells which could be used to reverse the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Dr Ronald McKay of the National Institutes of Health in America headed a team which turned stem cells taken from the embryos of mice into brain cells capable of producing dopamine, the chemical messenger involved in controlling movement. The same technique could be applied to human embryos. It would not be necessary to clone new embryos each time to produce brain cells for transplant to treat Parkinson's, although an embryo would have to be used to provide the original stem cells. [Daily Telegraph, 30 May] A British newspaper has reported that an old people's home conducted what it described as "a live-or-let-die ballot" among relatives of its elderly residents. The privately run Mayfield Nursing Home in Merseyside issued questionnaires to the families asking them whether paramedics should be called when residents had suffered "apparent death" or if instead they should be allowed to pass away "in dignity". The home insisted that the questionnaires were not intended to formulate policy. [Sunday Mirror, 28 May] The Catholic archbishop of Barcelona has condemned proposals by the Catalan parliament to accept euthanasia. Cardinal Ricard Maria Carles said, "That which worsens the person, which makes the person vile, is not progress, it is a step backwards." Countering those who present euthanasia as progress, he continued, "No, this is a return to the cultures of a thousand years ago." [EWTN News, 25 May] Campaigners for euthanasia in the American state of Maine have succeeded in obtaining sufficient signatures for a ballot on assisted suicide to be included in the main November election ballot. The question will read: "Should a terminally ill adult, who is of sound mind, be allowed to ask for and receive a doctor's help to die." The Catholic Church, the Maine Medical Association and the Maine Hospice Council are all opposing the initiative. [CNS News online, 28 May] American presidential candidate George W Bush has affirmed his opposition to abortion. In an address to the Catholic Press Association he said, "A truly welcoming society must be a culture of life. We must appreciate the dignity of life in all its seasons ... and look toward the day when every child, born and unborn, is welcome in life and protected in law." In a separate statement, the Republican governor of Texas also said that he would support the continued status of the Holy See as a permanent observer at the United Nations. He observed, "In world affairs the Holy See has long been an influence for the good and never more than in the last two decades." [Associated Press, Reuters, 26 May; from Pro-Life Infonet]

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