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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 30 April 2002

30 April 2002

30 April 2002 In the wake of the decision by European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to uphold laws preventing assisted suicide in the case of Dianne Pretty, the British media has headlined the consultation process on refusal of medical treatment which the UK's General Medical Council (GMC) launched in May last year. A spokesman for the GMC said that the guidelines had been under preparation for some time and would be considered for final approval next month. Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC, said: "The media seem to wish to counteract the forthright judgement of the ECHR which defended the right to life of severely incapacitated patients under the European Convention on Human Rights." [BBC News online and SPUC, 30 April] SPUC has congratulated Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, on his being made one of the seven cardinal bishops of the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal López Trujillo took possession of the titular see of Frascati at an installation ceremony on Saturday. John Smeaton, SPUC's national director, attended the installation and said afterwards: "It was an enormous honour to have been present at this very significant occasion. The elevation shows the very high regard in which Pope John Paul II holds Cardinal López Trujillo, who has been at the forefront of those who always insist that the right to life of the unborn is non-negotiable." Former US President Gerald Ford has entered the debate on human cloning by urging President Bush to support it for medical research. In a letter to the incumbent president, former President Ford stated his "strong opposition" to legislation that would prohibit cloning for all purposes. He said that so-called therapeutic cloning held "enormous potential" for medical treatment and claimed that, unlike reproductive cloning, it "would never produce a cloned human being". [AP, via Siliconvalley, 26 April ] A spokesman for SPUC commented: "The former president is wrong. All forms of cloning are reproductive because a new and individual human person is brought into being in each case, regardless of the purpose." A teenager with cancer who refused to have an abortion when she became pregnant and delayed treatment until after her child was born has died in a London hospital. Kelly Byrne, a 19-year-old former beauty queen from Essex in south-east England, first developed leukaemia at the age of 13. Doctors thought that she had made a full recovery, but when the leukaemia returned, Kelly refused to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy so that she could carry her baby safely. Her son, Logan, was born last August. [London Evening Standard, 26 April ] Dr Panayiotis Zavos has said that he will be the first to attempt human cloning for reproductive purposes, rather than his former partner Dr Severino Antinori. Dr Zavos asserted that Dr Antinori's claims of progress were untrue because he had no laboratory, no patients and no doctors for his programme. Dr Zavos, who had originally made plans with Dr Antinori to produce a cloned baby [see news digest for 9 October 2001 ] before falling out with him, said that he would "definitely" attempt to implant a cloned human embryo inside a woman before the end of this year. [Daily Telegraph, 27 April] The RU-486 abortion drug regimen was introduced in India a month ago, although it is reported that doctors remain very cautious about prescribing it. The drug is being marketed by three companies, but concerns about misuse and potentially life-threatening complications have meant that the companies are not promoting its use. [Indian Express Newspapers, 29 April ]

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