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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 17 October 2000

17 October 2000

17 October 2000 Doctors in Spain have used pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select only male babies to be implanted inside a woman with the purpose of ensuring that they could not pass on haemophilia. The children's father has haemophilia, a blood condition which the daughters of affected men can pass on, but not the sons. By destroying the female embryos, researchers at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and the Cefer Institute of Reproduction prevented the disease from being passed on to the couple's grandchildren. PGD can already be used in the UK to reject those unborn children who have haemophilia. Josep Santalo, a member of the Spanish team, denied the equivalence of rejecting embryos on the basis of PGD and aborting them after implantation. He said: "We don't think it is an ethical problem, because we are just selecting the sex. We are dealing with embryos, which are not real human beings, only potential human beings." [Guardian Unlimited, 17 October ] It has been reported that the deaths of "at least 10 patients, and possibly as many as 50" are being investigated by police in connection with the doctor who has been suspended on full pay from Basildon hospital in Essex, England [see news digest for 9 October ]. Reports have indicated that Ann David, a consultant anaesthetist, is suspected of practising euthanasia. A source at the hospital was quoted as saying: "This is not psychopath stuff--if anything it is helping people to go gently and it is going to be a very grey area." [The Independent, 16 October ] Pope John Paul II has criticised the modern idea that couples have "a right to a child" as this can lead to the denial of the rights of the children themselves. He said: "The tendency to take recourse to morally unacceptable practices reveals the absurdity of the 'right to have a child' mentality, which has substituted the just recognition of the 'right of the child' to be born and grow in a fully human way." [Zenit news agency, 15 October] The premier of British Columbia, Canada, would be prepared to use government intervention to ensure that pharmacists dispense the morning-after pill without a doctor's prescription. Premier Ujjal Dosanjh said: "I want to make sure we have the morning-after pill ... readily available and I want the doctors and the pharmacists to work together to end the jurisdictional squabble. I just want them to speed it up." Cristina Alarcon, of Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience, replied: "This abortion-causing drug was developed primarily to act against implantation of a live human embryo. It is a product that professional pharmacists should refuse to dispense for medical, ethical reasons, or on moral or religious grounds, not to mention liability concerns..." [LifeSite Daily News, 16 October ] An opinion poll conducted in the US state of Maine has suggested that two thirds of voters are intending to vote in favour of an assisted suicide measure on 7 November. The only other state to permit assisted suicide is Oregon, while voters in Michigan, Washington and California have rejected similar proposals. Meanwhile, Don Nickles, Republican assistant majority leader in the US Senate, is hoping to insert language restricting assisted suicide into a budget bill which must pass Congress before it adjourns. Democrat senator Ron Wyden has pledged to do everything he can to block the measure, and President Clinton has not yet decided whether to sign the budget measure if Senator Nickles' provision is included. [Zenit news agency, 16 October; AP, Capitol Hill Blue, 16 October] Al Gore, the pro-abortion Democrat candidate in next month's US presidential election, has said that he supports "common-sense steps" to reduce the number of situations which lead to abortions, and that the decline in abortion rates over the last eight years was "a good thing". He also signalled his willingness to sign a federal ban on partial-birth abortions as long as exceptions to safeguard the life or health of the mother were included. [Catholic News Service, 16 October ]

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