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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 26 September 2000

26 September 2000

26 September 2000 A British academic and bioethicist has suggested that the technology used to clone Dolly the sheep could be used to enable male homosexual couples to conceive a child without the need for a woman's DNA. Dr Callum MacKellar, lecturer in bioethics and biochemistry at Edinburgh University and head of European Bioethical Research, a non-profit organisation, said that cell nuclear replacement could be used to create a child with two fathers. A surrogate mother would carry the child to term. The process would involve the removal of the nucleus from a donated female egg and its replacement with the nucleus from a man's sperm. The sperm from another man could then be used to fertilise the 'male egg' in vitro. Experimentation would be necessary to perfect the technique as embryos of non-human mammals generated without maternal DNA have so far been unable to develop normally. Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, observed: "This is yet another example of crude genetic manipulation. Each new proposal of this kind involves the creation of embryos for experimentation. Many or all of these embryos will be discarded or destroyed without regard for their humanity." [Metro and Daily Mail, 26 September; SPUC media release, 26 September] Research carried out by a team in England has suggested that unborn children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy are more likely to suffer from wheezing once they are born. The scientists, led by Dr Andrew Lux of the Unit for Research in Paediatrics at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, discovered a higher incidence of wheezing in infants whose mothers smoked both during and after birth. [The Times, 26 September] There are reports that the embryologist at the centre of the scandal involving the disappearance of human embryos at a fertility centre in Hampshire, England, is now being investigated for financial irregularities. It has been claimed that Paul Fielding submitted claims for in vitro fertilisation treatment which did not take place. A spokeswoman for the private fertility clinic where Mr Fielding had worked as an embryologist said that they had been unable to contact him. The spokeswoman said that the issues involved in the case were "more about carelessness, not completing processes and never freezing embryos when he said he did." [Guardian Unlimited, 26 September] The Roman Catholic bishop of the Mediterranean island of Gozo, home of the parents of Siamese twins Jodie and Mary, has described the decision to separate the pair, which will result in Mary's death, as murder. Bishop Nikol Cauchi said: "It will allow for the death of other innocent children in similar circumstances." Meanwhile, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, England, said that the Court of Appeal's judgement "amounts to the direct killing of a person, whose basic right to life will be denied." It has emerged that Jodie and Mary are the third set of Siamese twins to be sent from Malta to Britain in the last eight years, the other twins having died either before or in the process of being separated. [The Sunday Times, 24 September; Catholic News Service, 22 September] A top official in the pro-life office of the US Catholic bishops has urged the passing of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act which is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives this week. Gail Quinn, executive director of the US bishops' pro-life office, said that the measure was needed to counteract an "appalling trend" towards outright infanticide following the US Supreme Court decision to throw out Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortions. [Catholic News Service, 25 September] Researchers engaged on the second phase of the Human Genome Project, aimed at producing a finished sequence of the human genome, have revealed that there may be fewer genes in human beings than expected. Some estimates had put the number as high as 140,000, but Dr Tim Hubbard of the Sanger Centre in Cambridge, England, said that results from several teams had suggested that the figure was about 38,000. The target year for the completion of phase two is officially 2003. [Daily Telegraph, 26 September]

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