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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 22 March 2002

22 March 2002

22 March 2002 The English high court has ruled that a paralysed woman who is not terminally ill has the right to have her life support machine turned off. Dame Elizabeth Butler Sloss, president of the high court's family division, ruled that doctors had been wrong to refuse a request by a 43-year-old woman, known only as Miss B, to let her die. Dame Elizabeth awarded nominal damages of 100 pounds to Miss B for "trespass" against the doctors who had sought to keep her alive, and said: "One must allow for those as severely disabled as Miss B, for some of whom life in that condition may be worse than death." Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC, commented: "We are profoundly concerned because the legal issues raised by this case weren't properly aired in the legal hearings. This case is different in very significant ways from previous cases in which Dame Elizabeth Butler Sloss has ruled that vital care can be withdrawn. On the face of it, the decision could radically change the doctor-patient relationship. Public policy mustn't be formed on the basis of individual cases of his kind where medical evidence is not properly examined or challenged." [BBC News online and SPUC media release , 22 March] An American study has found that the life expectancy of people with Down's syndrome has doubled since the early 1980s. A team at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the average age at which people with Down's syndrome died had increased from 25 to 49. [BBC News online, 22 March ] Dominic Baster of SPUC commented: "Tragically, 95% of unborn babies found to have Down's syndrome in Britain are aborted. Mothers of unborn babies found to have the condition are often put under great pressure to have an abortion because a judgement is made that people with Down's syndrome have a poor quality of life and will be a burden on society. Even if this were so, abortion could never be justified. However, the reality is that people with Down's syndrome, although living with an impairment, can lead long, happy and fulfilled lives. It is wholly wrong to deny such individuals their right to life on the basis that others judge their existence to be socially unacceptable." Legislators in Kansas are asking the state's supreme court to declare that life begins at conception. Members of the state's House of Representatives voted yesterday by 70 to 50 in favour of a motion directing the attorney general's office to file a lawsuit with the Kansas Supreme Court affirming that unborn children are entitled to the rights afforded to all other citizens in the state's constitution. Rick Rehorn, a pro-abortion legislator, attacked the move as "a direct attack on Roe v Wade", the 1973 US Supreme Court decision which declared a constitutional right to abortion. [AP, via Yahoo! news, 21 March ] Pro-abortion members of the US congress have introduced a bill that would force all hospitals, including private and religious hospitals, to provide abortifacient morning-after pills to victims of sexual assault. The measure is being called the Compassionate Care for Female Sexual Assault Survivors Act. Diana DeGette, one of the co-sponsors of the bill in the House of Representatives, said that religious hospitals were trying to force beliefs that were out of the American mainstream on patients by denying them access to so-called emergency contraception. However, pro-life campaigners have disagreed, pointing out that morning-after pills can cause early abortions. [CNSNews, 21 March ] It is reported that support for a ban on all forms of human cloning in the US is gathering momentum from both pro-life and pro-abortion quarters, as well as from environmentalists, feminists and human rights activists. For example, Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth, said: "Dangling cures for a host of diseases, [pro-cloning researchers] seek to throw open a Pandora's box of technologies that could easily do more harm than good." Jeremy Rifkin, head of the Foundation on Economic Trends, said: "The problem with therapeutic cloning is that it introduces commercial eugenics from the get-go." [The Boston Globe, 22 March ]

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