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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 20 August 2002

20 August 2002

20 August 2002 New guidelines prepared by the UK's General Medical Council state that patients have a right to refuse life-sustaining treatment and care, according to a report in The Times newspaper. The guidelines, which were drawn up by a working group led by Professor David Hatch, state that patients "have the right to refuse treatment even where refusal may result in harm to themselves or in their own death and doctors are legally bound to respect their decision". The guidelines also claim that when patients becomes unable to decide for themselves, a previous decision to refuse treatment made when the patient was still competent remains legally binding. [The Times, 20 August ] A member of Swaziland's parliament has proposed the legalisation of abortion. Senator Mbho Shongwe claimed that Swazi women were either going across the border for legal abortions in South Africa, or undergoing unsafe "kitchen table abortions" at home. However, reports indicate that Senator Shongwe is the only public figure in Swaziland to have spoken out in favour of abortion, and even he does not expect the law to be changed soon. King Mswati, the ruler of Swaziland, has promised to introduce a new constitution later this year, but Prince Mguciso, a member of the Swazi National Council, confirmed that abortion would remain forbidden. [Inter Press Service, 16 August] Legislation to regulate destructive embryonic stem cell research will go before the Australian parliament tomorrow. The major parties have allowed their members a conscience vote on the bill, but disagreements have arisen over whether a conscience vote should also be allowed on a proposal to split the bill into two pieces of legislation, one to regulate embryonic research and the other to prohibit human cloning. [ABC News, 20 August] A last minute appeal by the American federal government against a ruling which obliged the US Navy to pay for a late-term abortion has failed. A federal judge had ruled that a regulation preventing department of defense money from being used on abortions other than to save a woman's life did not apply to abortions of unborn children with anencephaly [see digest for 15 August ]. The US department of justice appealed to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, pointing out that the regulation implementing the law had specifically stated that foetal anencephaly did not qualify as a threat to a woman's life. However, the court threw out the appeal even before lawyers had set out the woman's argument. [The Dominion Post , 18 August ] A woman in Dominican Republic has given birth to a healthy 6.8 pound baby despite having a large tumour in her uterus for the past three years. Doctors delivered the baby on Saturday by Caesarean section, and removed the tumour at the same time. The weight of the tumour was more than double that of the child. Doctors had advised Isabel Santana, 28, to have an abortion, but she refused. [AP, via Yahoo! News, 19 August ] A group of walkers have completed a 3,100-mile trek across the United States to bear witness to the pro-life message. At a Mass to welcome the walkers in the Catholic National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, bishop Francisco Gonzalez Valer said: "Life is a gift from God, and because it is a gift from God, we must proclaim it." [CNS, 19 August ]

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