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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 26 August 2003

26 August 2003

26 August 2003 A Pennsylvania judge has upheld the conviction of a women convicted of third-degree murder after she attacked her husband's pregnant girlfriend and caused her to suffer a miscarriage. Corinne Wilcott, who attacked the woman after a graduation party, is serving a 7-20 year prison sentence. Pennsylvania is one of more than 24 states with foetal homicide laws. [, 22 August ] Terri Schiavo, a severely disabled woman at the centre of a highly charged legal battle, has been admitted to hospital in a critical condition for the second time in 10 days. Last Friday, the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear her case, a decision which allows a local judge to set a date for ending her life through dehydration. The family are said to be 'completely devastated' by the decision and hope that governor Jeb Bush will intervene to prevent the removal of her feeding tube. [, 23 and 25 August ] An experimental treatment for Parkinson's disease using tissue from aborted foetuses has caused over half of the patients involved to develop irreversible severe and uncontrollable limb movements, LifeSite reports. However, Dr Thomas Freeman of the University of South Florida who co-authored the study, said that 'cell therapies are coming closer and closer to being useful'. Two years ago, a similar study showed that the treatment had "disastrous side effects", prompting researchers to move away from such treatments altogether. [LifeSite, 25 August ] The professor of Cancer Studies at the University of Wales College of Medicine has put the case against the pro-euthanasia Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill currently being debated in the UK Parliament. Dr Tim Maughan reflects that many of his patients go through periods of depression or a sense of hopelessness, either at the time of diagnosis or as their illness develops, but this is temporary and the patient usually pulls through and accepts the situation. He fears that if euthanasia is legalised, many of these patients would be helped to die and that the new law would be widely open to abuse. [The Western Mail, 25 August ] The Kentucky Supreme Court has overturned two "wrongful life" lawsuits, reports. The lawsuits were filed against doctors by parents who claimed that they would have aborted their children if they had known that they were suffering from physical disabilities and were denied the opportunity to do so. The two Kentucky judges said that the idea of 'wrongful life' was reminiscent of Nazi Germany and that the lawsuits were examples of discrimination against those with physical disabilities. [, 26 August ] The former Singapore health minister has been put in charge of a committee to boost family size after figures revealed the lowest national birth rate in 26 years. Economic reasons have been cited for the decline but the chairman of Family Matters! Singapore, Chan Soo Sen, commented that programmes offering financial incentives for having more children have largely failed and that, for many, having children comes second to building a successful career. [, 20 August ] Hopes have been raised that Peru's coercive population control policies may come to an end after the congressional Health, Population and Family Commission elected a pro-life president. Hector Chavez, who presided over the commission that accused President Fujimori of violating the human rights of women through forced sterilisation campaigns, was elected after heated debate. [Zenit, 24 August ] A disability rights commissioner who is herself severely disabled has asked for better care for the disabled rather than legal euthanasia. In an article entitled Choose Life, Jane Campbell criticises the negative portrayal of disabled people's lives as 'tragic' or 'burdensome' and states that what is needed is not an assisted dying bill but an assisted living bill which ensured that people with disabilities received essential services. She writes of being hospitalised with severe pneumonia and refusing to sleep for 48 hours because doctors assumed that she would not want to be treated if she lost consciousness. She concludes: "Without our lives being seen as having equal value, any attempt legally to sanction hastening our death will exacerbate a culture that fears incapacity so much that it wants to extinguish it." [The Guardian, 26 August ] Russia has restricted legal abortion for the first time in decades, the New York Times reports. Since 1955, when Stalin's ban on abortion was lifted, Russia has had some of the most liberal abortion laws in the world, with abortion commonly used as a form of birth control. New laws restrict some abortions to 12 weeks though abortions can still be obtained after the time limit on grounds such as severe disability, rape or death of husband. "It's a first step," said Aleksandr C. Chuyev, a member of the lower house of Parliament who plans to sponsor a bill granting the unborn child the same rights as a born child. [The New York Times, 23 August ]

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