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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 29 December 2003

29 December 2003

29 December 2003 The archbishop of Dublin, government ministers, members of parliament and the senate, and some 400 private citizens wrote to the Irish deputy prime minister to urge her to oppose European Union proposals for human embryo research. Cardinal Desmond Connell led lobbying of Ms Mary Harney and also had exchanges with Mr Bertie Ahern, the prime minister. The letters have been made public under Ireland's freedom of information law. The ministers who wrote to Ms Harney were Mr Pat Gallagher and Mr Ivor Callely. Ireland supported proposals which the church opposed and on which the EU did not decide. [Irish Independent, 24 December ] Guidelines for doctors in Britain on the withholding and withdrawal of patients' food and drink are being challenged by a man who is in the early stages of a degenerative brain disease. Mr Leslie Burke, 43, of Lancaster is concerned that doctors following General Medical Council (GMC) rules could end his life as his cerebellar ataxia worsens. He will go to court in February and his lawyers are likely to cite the 1993 Bland judgement which said that doctors needed court approval before they could stop feeding and giving drink to patients. The GMC guidelines do not appear to correspond with the judgement in the case of Mr Anthony Bland, a victim of a football ground disaster, who died after his food and drink were withdrawn with court approval. [Guardian, 23 December ] A physician who is seen by some as the front-runner for the Democrat nomination for the US presidency has said that he does not advocate assisted suicide. Dr Howard Dean made the statement to a new group of medical colleagues who support him. points out, however, that in August Dr Dean said that individual states should determine policy on the matter and that doctors and patients should decide in particular cases. He said he would not give a lethal dose. [LifeNews, 22 December ] It is unclear whether Dr Dean is being inconsistent or has changed his mind. A Catholic bishop has accused an Irish health authority of complicity in "an evil and sinful act" after reports that it arranged for a 14-year-old to travel to Britain for an abortion. Rt Rev Michael Smith, bishop of Meath, is quoted in a newspaper as saying that the Midland Health Board carries a major share of responsibility for the alleged termination. He understood that the matter had not even been raised at a board meeting soon after the abortion. Dr Smith cited the Irish constitution which protects unborn life. [Irish Independent, 24 December ] Health authorities in Wiltshire, England, are carrying out a consultation on the proposed shutting of two maternity units run by midwives. The National Childbirth Trust says the possible closure of facilities at Devizes and Malmesbury is part of a worrying trend. There are reportedly shortages of midwives at hospitals in the area. [Sun, 24 December ] Researchers in California say they can make adult cells change into immature cells from which a range of tissue can be grown. Scientists at Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, claim that a synthetic molecule can be used to cause cells to reverse their development. [Telegraph, 24 December ] It is argued that immature cells are best obtained from embryos. A technique such as this could provide an ethical alternative.

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