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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 18 October 2001

18 October 2001

18 October 2001 Pro-lifers in the UK have welcomed today's ruling by the high court in London that no-one has a right to procure their own death. Mrs Dianne Pretty, who has motor neurone disease, had challenged a refusal by the director of public prosecutions to grant her husband immunity from prosecution if he helped her to die. Mrs Pretty's barrister argued that her right to human dignity, included in the Human Rights Act 1998, would be contravened if she had to let her disease take its course. However, the panel of three judges decided that the right to dignity did not entail a right to 'die with dignity', but simply a right to enjoy as dignified a life as possible. They noted that, if the director of public prosecutions had agreed not to take action against Mrs Pretty's husband, it would have been a "licence to commit a crime". A coalition of pro-life groups, including SPUC, had intervened in the case. [BBC News online and SPUC media release , 18 October] An English judge has told a schizophrenic woman that she cannot have her unborn child aborted. The woman, who is sectioned in a psychiatric hospital and cannot be named for legal reasons, had claimed that she would induce the abortion herself or kill her child after birth if she was not allowed a termination, but Mr Justice Wall of the high court sitting in Manchester ruled that an abortion would not be in the woman's best interests. He added that his decision may have been different had the woman's health authority made the application sooner than the day before the 24-week statutory gestational time limit. A spokesman for Voice for Choice, a pro-abortion campaigning organisation, criticised the judge and observed: "It sounds as if he's followed the law to the letter." [The Guardian, 18 October ] A spokesman for SPUC commented: "Evidently the baby is not thought to be handicapped or to pose a serious threat to the mother's health because, if these grounds applied, there would be no legal time limit for the abortion." Guernsey's board of health has decided not to seek the legalisation of euthanasia for the time being. Deputy Pat Mellor, a pro-euthanasia member of the States [Guernsey's parliament], was disappointed at the news but will not be challenging the decision. Peter Roffey, president of the board of health, revealed that two thirds of legislators who responded to a letter from the board had signalled their opposition to legalised euthanasia, and that the project could not proceed without a realistic chance of the measure being passed. [Guernsey Press, 10 October] The baliwick of Guernsey, comprising several islands, is in the English channel a few miles north of the coast of France. While under the British crown, it is independent of the United Kingdom parliament, but its external affairs are the responsibility of Britain. The Irish government is said to be determined to push its legislation to hold another referendum on abortion through the Dáil [parliament] by Christmas, despite misgivings on the part of some government coalition partners. The Progressive Democrats, who are supporting the Fianna Fáil government, are concerned that it might not be wise to proceed without consensus and thus risk losing the poll. Meanwhile, Rory O'Hanlon, a former Irish high court judge, has explained his stance against the wording of the constitutional amendment in an article for the Irish Times. He wrote: "...I look forward to seeing it collapse when its full significance dawns on the Irish people." [Irish Times, news and opinion sections, 18 October] Many of us may once have had a twin brother or sister but never knew, according to research carried out in England. Often when a twin dies in the womb, his or her tissues form a dry mass known as a foetus papyraceus attached to the placenta. Professor Peter Pharoah of Liverpool University has found that instances of foetus papyraceus are often missed by doctors, or not registered to save the feelings of parents. Professor Pharoah claims in the New Scientist magazine that accurate reporting of such instances could be important for the future health of the surviving twin because his or her sibling's death might be linked to a wide variety of birth anomalies. [BBC News online, 18 October ]

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