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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 2 May 2002

2 May 2002

2 May 2002 New guidelines on life-prolonging treatment being drawn up by the UK's General Medical Council (GMC) will mean that doctors could be struck off for continuing to treat a critically ill patient, especially if it is against the patient's express wishes. Professor David Hatch, chairman of the GMC's working group on the guidance, explained: "We work from the position that mercy killing or euthanasia is contrary not only to the law in this country but [also] to the ethics of medicine. But prolonging life unnecessarily, especially if it is prolonging distress and discomfort, is not good medicine." Professor Hatch made his comments after it was announced that Miss B, who was given the right by the High Court to have her life-support machine turned off even though she was not terminally ill, had died. [Daily Telegraph, 1 May ] American researchers have suggested that women who consume too much fatty food or alcohol during pregnancy could be increasing the chances that their unborn child will develop a condition closely related to diabetes in later life. The research, carried out on rats by Dr Sam Pennington at the Brody School of Medicine of East Carolina University, adds further weight to the theory that an unbalanced diet during pregnancy affects unborn children to such an extent that they can experience serious health problems in later life as a result. [BBC News online, 29 April ] Federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research in Canada has been held back for a year. The Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) has announced that it is postponing grants for embryonic stem cell research until next April, and Genome Canada, another federal agency, has announced that it is doing the same. The delay comes after Alan Bernstein, president of CIHR, was strongly criticised for releasing guidelines on stem cell research before the federal parliament had legislated on the matter. [LifeSite, 30 April ] The Vatican's representative at the United Nations has called on both liberals and conservatives to broaden the scope of their respect for life. Archbishop Renato R Martino, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, made his comments after receiving an award at a pro-life event in New York City on Tuesday evening. He said: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if liberal civil servants could muster up as much love for unborn children as they do for baby whales or seals or trees? And wouldn't it be great if conservative civil servants realised that Jesus's command to love applies to criminals and refugees as much as it does to ... unborn babies?" [CNS, 1 May ] Norwegian scientists claim to have made skin cells change to look like nerve cells. Writing in the Nature Biotechnology journal, researchers at the University of Oslo say that adult cells appear to be more flexible than had been thought. When the team took skin cells and incubated them in extracts taken from nerve cells, the original cells started to look like nerve cells. They now have to ensure that the cells also function as nerve cells. If the technique does allow cells from one part of the body to be reprogrammed into other types of cell, it could be used to treat a range of degenerative diseases and provide an alternative to adult and embryonic stem cell technology, including so-called therapeutic cloning. [BBC News online, 30 April ] The last two urns containing organs taken from children murdered in the Nazi euthanasia programme have been buried in Vienna's central cemetery. They were released by the Austrian prosecutors' office earlier this year after it became clear that the last man accused of the killings would be unable to stand trial because he had senile dementia. In all, 722 children were classified as unworthy of life at the Vienna Spiegelgrund children's hospital. They were killed and their organs made available to researchers for almost 60 years. [Daily Telegraph, 29 April ] 1,833 unborn children were legally aborted in England and Wales in 2000 on the grounds that they were "seriously handicapped". [Office for National Statistics ]

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