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News, 26 March 2002

26 March 2002

26 March 2002 The Catholic Church in England and Wales has asserted that the recent case of Miss B, who was given a right to be taken off a life-support machine by the English high court, has nothing to do with euthanasia. Speaking in his capacity as chairman of the department for Christian responsibility and citizenship of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff said: "The court was asked to rule whether [Miss B] was legally competent to make a decision to refuse life-prolonging treatment ... It is important to be clear, however, that this case did not involve questions about euthanasia or assisted suicide and has set no precedents in respect of either." [Zenit, 25 March ] The US federal government's attempt to invalidate Oregon's assisted suicide law continued in court last Friday. John Ashcroft, the US attorney general, effectively quashed Oregon's law last November when he ruled that taking the life of a terminally ill patient was not a "legitimate medical purpose" for federally controlled drugs. However, the state of Oregon took the matter to court and a district judge issued a restraining order preventing Mr Ashcroft's directive from taking effect until the matter could be properly resolved. Oregon is arguing that the federal government has no right to interfere with the state's Death with Dignity Act, which was approved by voters in referenda held in 1994 and 1997. Six prominent disability rights groups have filed an amicus brief with the court in support of Mr Ashcroft's decision. District Judge Robert Jones will issue his ruling within 30 days, although subsequent appeals could take years. [Various sources, compiled by Pro-Life Infonet , 23 March] The judiciary committee of the US House of Representatives has voted by 19 to six in favour of a bill that would make it a crime for anyone other than a parent to transport a minor into another state for an abortion if the minor's home state has a parental notification or consent law. It is the third time in four years that the committee has approved the measure. [Reuters, 21 March; via Medscape ] The case of a terminally ill woman who plans to take her life within the next few weeks has prompted a debate on euthanasia in Australia. Nancy Crick, a 70-year-old cancer sufferer, told a pro-euthanasia rally yesterday that she would kill herself once she got hold of Nembutal, a powerful barbiturate. It has been argued that anyone present when she kills herself could risk prosecution for advising, counselling or assisting someone to take their life. Pro-euthanasia campaigners are selling copies of her front door key to frustrate attempts by the police to discover who is actually present at the death. Margaret Tighe, national president of Right to Life Australia, condemned the tactics as a "bizarre media stunt aimed at pressuring the Queensland government to legalise patient killing", and called on the police to take action. [CNSNews, 26 March ] Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the USA, has revealed that its abortion facilities in parts of Texas are transporting minors from their home counties to other counties where judges are more likely to agree to abortions without requiring parents to be notified. Texas has an abortion parental notification law, but the law includes provision for so-called judicial bypass whereby a judge can waive the need for notification. Harris and Dallas, the state's two most populous counties, have Republican judiciaries which are thought to be more likely to interpret the law strictly. On account of this, Planned Parenthood staff are taking minors to other states with more liberal judges. Peter Durkin, director of Planned Parenthood of Houston, defended the practice, which he described as "court shopping". [Houston Chronicle, 24 March; via Pro-Life Infonet ]

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