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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 24 September 2001

24 September 2001

24 September 2001 The supreme court of Alaska has ruled unanimously that there is no constitutional right to assisted suicide. In upholding a state law which equates the act of assisting suicide with manslaughter, the court stated last Friday that the right of the vulnerable to be free from deadly coercion outweighed the demands of some terminally ill people to have help in dying. The state of Alaska, several medical organisations and the Catholic Church had intervened in the case to oppose assisted suicide. [Anchorage Daily News, 22 September ] Exit polls have indicated that yesterday's general election in Poland was won, as expected, by the Democratic Left Alliance (DLA). In a letter read out in every parish church one week before the election, the Polish Catholic bishops had warned: "A Catholic society cannot support a political group that has stated directly its intent to introduce laws taking aim against the basic right to life." The DLA has indicated its intention to repeal the 1997 law which restricts legal abortion in Poland to cases of rape, incest, foetal abnormality and danger to the life of the mother. [BBC News online, 24 September ; LifeSite, 21 September ] A conference in England will hear today how doctors have succeeded in treating injured knees by removing healthy cells from the area, growing them in the laboratory and then reimplanting them at the site of the damage. Professor George Bentley of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, Middlesex, will explain that when healthy cartilage cells are cultured in the patient's own blood serum, the number of cells can multiply ten-fold. The innovation provides yet more evidence of the potential of ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell technology and so-called therapeutic cloning for the production of new body tissue. [BBC News online, 23 September ] A British national newspaper has highlighted the case of Ji Huansheng, a four-month-old girl who has survived despite all the efforts of Chinese population controllers to kill her. The Independent reports: "They tried to abort her, but she survived. They took her from her parents and left her to die, unclothed and unfed. But Ji did not die, and continues to trouble the authorities who ordered her death." Ji, whose mother had already exhausted her legal quota of babies, was saved by nurses and journalists after surviving an attempted abortion at 35 weeks' gestation and being left in a dying room. The Independent describes China's population control policy as "a sorry catalogue of forced abortions and infanticides". [Independent, 24 September ] The Minnesota Medical Association is split over whether doctors should be required to dispense abortifacient drugs to rape victims. The association's convention ended on Friday without agreement on two motions which would have declared access to so-called emergency contraception as the standard of care for sexual assault victims and called for a change in the law to oblige doctors either to provide the morning-after pill or to refer patients to another doctor who would provide it. Dr David Strobel, a member of the association, said that he considered embryos as patients and stated: "If this passes, I would resign my membership. If it is put into law, I would disobey it." [Star Tribune, 22 September ]

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