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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 4 September 2000

4 September 2000

4 September 2000 The case of the siamese twins known as Jodie and Mary is being heard today in the English Court of Appeal. The twins' parents are seeking to overturn an earlier ruling that their daughters must be separated, a procedure which would result in the certain death of Mary. In written evidence, the parents said: "Everyone has the right to life, so why should we kill one of our daughters to enable the other one to survive?" The latest news is that Mr Justice Johnson, the judge who is presiding over the appeal, has asked for further medical opinion. He said: "I cannot but wonder (whether) a second opinion might be of value if only to confirm the views already expressed and to allay any public concern." [Guardian Unlimited, 4 September; BBC News online] Guidelines on how the elderly should be treated in hospital are to form part of reforms to Britain's national health service. In an interview for The Times newspaper ahead of an announcement in the autumn (fall), Alan Milburn, the health secretary, said that the guidelines would address ageism and stipulate when so-called 'do not resuscitate' orders were appropriate. [The Times, 4 September] Concerns were raised earlier this year that the routine issuing of 'do not resuscitate' orders constituted creeping euthanasia. Al Gore, American vice-president and Democratic candidate in November's presidential election, has admitted to personal reservations about Oregon's euthanasia law. When asked about the state's Death with Dignity Act, Mr Gore said: "I am personally opposed to physician-assisted suicide. However, I don't want to see the criminalising of doctors' ability to deal with severe pain." Joe Lieberman, Mr Gore's vice-presidential running mate, is a primary sponsor in congress of the Pain Relief Promotion Act which has been viewed as a way of preventing so-called assisted suicide. [Catholic News Service, 1 September] A doctor in Lima, Peru, has been indicted on four counts of attempted aggravated murder after trying to cause the death of his unborn child. Dr Maynard Muntzing is accused of slipping contraction-causing drugs into his girlfriend's drinks on four separate occasions after she refused to seek an abortion. Dr Muntzing, who at the time was seeing another woman whom he has since married, has been indicted on 16 counts in all. His new wife has also been accused of assisting her husband in the acts. Ms Baker, the woman at the centre of the case, is now 17 weeks pregnant and tests have not yet determined what impact the drugs have had on her unborn child. Dr Muntzing faces a possible prision sentence of 104 years. [Toledo Blade, 31 August] Anti-euthanasia campaigners have mounted a protest outside the hotel in Boston, USA, where the 10th annual world conference on assisted dying is taking place. Among the protesters was Diane Coleman, founder of Not Dead Yet, a disability rights group opposed to the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia. She said: "People are so ready to think that a disability is the reason a person wants to die, when the real reason is depression over things like economics and relationships. Unfortunately, it's more cost-effective for HMOs [Health Maintenance Organizations] to let someone die than it is for them to help someone improve the quality of their life." [Boston Herald online, 3 September; Not Dead Yet website]

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