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News, 19 June 2002

19 June 2002

19 June 2002 Dutch government figures which appear to indicate that the number of euthanasia cases fell for the second consecutive year in 2001 have been treated with scepticism. There were 2,054 official reports of euthanasia in the Netherlands last year, down from 2,216 in 1999. The law which officially legalised euthanasia in the Netherlands only came into effect on the 1 April this year, before which euthanasia was tolerated as long as reporting and other requirements were met. A spokesman for the Dutch health ministry suggested that the decline may have been due to increasing knowledge of palliative care, but Cry for Life, a Dutch pro-life organisation, said that the willingness of doctors to report euthanasia was decreasing. One report has suggested that cases of euthanasia may be going unrecorded because doctors consider the administration of pain relief with the intention of ending life to be "normal medical treatment". [CNSNews, 14 June ] A prominent Swiss advisory panel has supported government proposals to authorise destructive stem cell research on human embryos. It is thought that the vote by members of the National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics makes it more likely that the government proposals will be approved by parliament later this year. The panel recommended that strict rules should apply to the research, including the condition that embryos must be killed after five days' development. [Reuters, 19 June ] The United Nations Population Division's updated review of global abortion practice claims that there are 50 million induced abortions in the world each year [although this figure is not backed by good statistics and may be considerably exaggerated]. The review also observes that 98% of the countries of the world permit abortion to save the life of the mother, 63% to preserve the mother's physical health, 62% to preserve mental health, 43% in cases of rape and incest, 33% on social and economic grounds, and 27% on demand. [LifeSite, 18 June ] An Israeli doctor is developing a treatment for heart disease which involves the transfer of a patient's own bone marrow stem cells directly into the heart. Dr Ran Kornowski developed the technique during a sabbatical in New York and has now used it to treat a patient at the Rabin Medical Centre in Petah Tikva, central Israel. Dr Kornowski and his team extracted about 30 million stem cells from the patient, which they hope will trigger the production of new blood vessels in the patient's damaged heart muscle. [The Jerusalem Post, 17 June ] Adult stem cell technology constitutes an ethical and more promising alternative to the use of stem cells extracted from embryos and so-called therapeutic cloning.

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