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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 17 May 2001

17 May 2001

17 May 2001 Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the English high court's family division, yesterday gave permission for hydration and nutrition to be withdrawn from a patient considered to have been in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) for the past eight years, even though the criteria established by the Royal College of Physicians for the diagnosis of PVS had not all been met. According to the precedent set by the Bland case in 1993, patients in a PVS can be dehydrated and starved to death by order of a high court judge. Dame Butler-Sloss called for a thorough review of the criteria used to judge whether a patient should be deemed to be in a PVS. [The Times, 17 May ] The British Labour party's manifesto includes a commitment to "ban by law human cloning". The manifesto was published yesterday ahead of the UK's general parliamentary election on 7 June [which Labour is widely expected to win]. An SPUC spokesman commented: "By failing to mention that the proposed ban on cloning would apply only to reproductive cloning while allowing the creation and destruction of human clones for research purposes, the Labour party is attempting to manipulate and corrupt terminology to mask its commitment to human cloning." [SPUC, 17 May] The United States House of Representatives has voted by 218 to 210 in favour of retaining the ban on federal aid for international organisations which either provide or promote abortions. President Bush re-introduced the ban with an executive order on his first full working day in office, and had pledged to veto the bill to provide funding for the state department if congress had included a clause which reversed the ban. The National Right to Life Committee, the Family Research Council and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops were among those who applauded the vote. [Zenit , 16 May; AP, via Northern Light, 17 May ; Pro-Life Infonet, 17 May] A baby who was born 112 days prematurely in London, England, 16 weeks ago is to be acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as the lightest baby ever to have survived. Christopher Williams, who now weighs over nine pounds, was born at Whipps Cross Hospital in east London weighing just one pound, five and a half ounces. [The Times, 17 May ] Christopher was born after less than 24 weeks' gestation, the legal time limit for most surgical abortions in Britain. A member of the South African Law Commission has claimed that many doctors in his country would be willing to perform euthanasia if it were legalised. Willem Landman, speaking at a symposium on euthanasia at the 16th World Congress of Family Doctors in Durban, also claimed that euthanasia was already being practised although not on a large scale. Dr Landman equated legalised euthanasia with legalised abortion because both entailed the balancing of the right to life against the right of a person to have control over his or her body. [News24, 16 May ] An American company involved in animal cloning has revealed a catalogue of defects observed in clones. Jim Robl of Hamatech, based in Massachusetts, said that the defects included enlarged tongues, squashed faces, bad kidneys, intestinal blockages, diabetes and shortened tendons. A team involved in the cloning of mice at the University of Hawaii has revealed that all the clones have had "some sort of errors". Dr Ian Wilmut, who created Dolly the cloned sheep, warned that there were animal welfare as well as food safety issues at stake in forging ahead with animal cloning too quickly. [Daily Telegraph, 17 May] Experts have predicted that the cloning failure rate in humans is likely to be even higher than in animals. The draft document prepared by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) ahead of the UN General Assembly's special session on children in September has been criticised for its indirect references to a right of access to abortion for children. Maria Sophia Aquirre, professor of economics at the Catholic University of America, claimed that language included in the document promoted the drafters' agenda of reproductive rights, such as when it urged governments to "ensure access by... children themselves to a full range of information and services to promote child survival, development, protection...". [EWTN News, 16 May ]

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