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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 14 August 2003

14 August 2003

14 August 2003 An elderly couple committed suicide together because they did not want one of them to die before the other, the BBC reports. Rona and Helmut Mey-Hilton were found dead in their car having gassed themselves. A post mortem later confirmed that they died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Mrs Mey-Hilton's younger sister said: "It was true that Helmut was a hypochondriac. He was obsessed with the fear of ill-health. He would always say that he would not suffer the effects of ill-health and spoke incessantly of euthanasia... My sister was of the same belief. They were never going to be parted from one another." [BBC, 13 August ] A man has been refused a request to have his grandchild's umbilical cord blood stored. Paddy Hamilton asked Leeds General Infirmary to collect the blood cells, a procedure which takes just three minutes, so that he could pay to have the cells stored in case his grandchild developed a life-threatening illness later in life. Mr Hamilton's request is being backed by the Hashmi family, who recently went to court to create a designer baby whose cord blood could be used to treat their son's blood condition, and Josephine Quintevalle, director of Comment on Reproductive Ethics. However, a spokesman for the hospital has said that there are no documented benefits to the storage of cord blood. [Leeds Today, 13 August ] Chinese researchers have reprogrammed human cells by fusing them with rabbit eggs, the Financial Times reports. The team, led by Huizhen Sheng of Shanghai Second Medical University, hope that reprogramming adult human cells to assume an embryonic state could provide an alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells. Doubts have been expressed about the stability of the reprogrammed cells from some quarters but Robin Lovell-Badge, head of genetics at the National Institute for Medical Research, expressed admiration for the research. [Financial Times, 14 August ] A Boston biotech company is starting clinical trials looking into the possibility of freezing human eggs, Reuters reports. Whereas human sperm and embryos have been frozen and thawed for years, eggs have proven problematic because of their fragility. The company, which is known for freezing umbilical cord blood, believes that a technique that could safely freeze eggs would be useful to cancer patients and women who want to postpone motherhood. [Reuters, 14 August ] Church leaders are opposing a new California law that prohibits the sale of church-owned health facilities if the seller restricts the services the buyer can provide. The law will make it impossible for Catholic hospitals to prevent buyers from performing procedures such as abortion and assisted dying and has been described as "an unprecedented interference in the sale of property." [Catholic News Service, 13 August ] The Chinese Department of Health plans to ban surrogate motherhood and restrict IVF, Taipei Times reports. The bill would put an age limit on those permitted to undergo IVF treatment and regulate payment for sperm and ovum donation, but opposition is expected from some activists and medical experts. [Taipei Times, 13 August ]

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