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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 18 April 2001

18 April 2001

18 April 2001 Scientists at Cambridge University in the UK claim to have discovered a new way of promoting the regeneration of cells in the brain and spinal column. Damage to the central nervous system is permanent because nerve fibres do not re-grow naturally, leading to paralysis. Researchers led by Dr James Fawcett of the Cambridge University Centre for Brain Repair have discovered that a bacterial enzyme called chondroitinase can break down the scar tissue which forms at the site of spinal injuries and prevents the regrowth of nerves. The team found that rats with injured spinal columns which were given injections of the enzyme subsequently recovered much of their lost neurological function. [BBC News online, 17 April ] This is another development which demonstrates the potential of alternatives to embryonic stem cell research and so-called therapeutic cloning for the treatment of neurological injuries. The French health minister has signalled his intention to push for the legalisation of euthanasia. Bernard Kouchner claimed that French public opinion was now in favour of the move and said that he planned to visit the Netherlands on a fact-finding mission. The Dutch parliament is at present the only democratic national legislature to have voted to legalise euthanasia, although similar legislation has also been drawn up in Belgium. An opinion poll published in France last weekend indicated that 38% were in favour of euthanasia in cases of unbearable suffering or terminal illness, although a further 50% would support giving doctors the right to end lives in certain [undefined] cases. [ABC News, 16 April ; futher info. from Zenit, 15 January ] An official Vietnamese newspaper has reported that the country's abortion rate is declining. However, the figures published in Lao Dong indicate that there were still 679,000 abortions performed in Vietnam last year, a total which equates to over half the number of children born alive. The government of Vietnam aims to reduce the abortion rate to 25% of the number of live births by 2010. [The Times of India, 18 April ] Pope John Paul II has urged Brazil to use its presence at the United Nations and other international organisations to promote the cause of life. Addressing the new Brazilian ambassador to the Vatican, the Pope observed that Brazil was assuming an ever more important role among the Latin American nations and said that he hoped it would promote principles which were "directed according to criteria whose fundamental objective is the respect of human dignity, especially in the case of unborn human beings, today seriously threatened by reproductive technologies which attempt to attack human life..." [LifeSite, 17 April ; VIS, 7 April ] The government of South Korea has said that new guidelines issued by the country's medical association which would allow doctors to withhold life-sustaining treatment from terminally ill patients contravene criminal law. An official at the ministry of health and welfare said that it was "too early" to launch a debate on assisted suicide. The Korean National Council of Churches issued a statement stating its opposition to euthanasia. [EWTN News, 17 April ] The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda used his Easter homily to condemn the abortifacient morning-after pill. Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, archbishop of Kampala, said that the decision on 8 March by the country's health ministry to authorise use of the drug gave women "the liberty to terminate human life in its most defenceless form". The cardinal stressed that it was contradictory to condemn killing but to allow the killing of newly conceived human beings. [EWTN News, 17 April ] US President George Bush has endorsed changes to medical privacy rules which give parents the right of access to their children's medical records, including records on abortions. Pro-abortionists had wanted to protect the right of minors to obtain abortions without their parents' knowledge. [AP, via Yahoo! News, 12 April ]

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