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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 27 January 2003

27 January 2003

27 January 2003 A Scottish doctor has reportedly told a London newspaper that he has helped eight terminally ill patients to commit suicide. The family doctor from the south-east of Scotland, who contacted the newspaper anonymously, also claimed that six other doctors had told him that they had also helped patients to die. The report comes after ITV1, a British national television channel, went ahead with plans to broadcast a programme on Friday evening which followed Reginald Crew as he went to Switzerland to die in an assisted suicide. At least 12 Britons are thought to be planning to die in assisted suicides in Zurich within the coming months, and a bill before the Swiss parliament to stop so-called death tourism will take at least another 18 months to pass. [Scotland on Sunday and The Observer , 26 January;, 24 January ] SPUC has condemned proposals to allow sex selection in conjunction with in vitro fertilisation, describing it as "a method of social control". SPUC made its comments in its response to a consultation by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). SPUC's submission criticised the very concept of sex selection in conjunction with IVF, but condemned in particular the use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) which entails the killing of embryonic children of the undesired sex or who have sex-linked inherited conditions. [SPUC, 27 January , SPUC's submission, 22 January ] Religious leaders in Indonesia have condemned proposals to liberalise the country's abortion law. In a joint statement, representatives of five religions objected to a draft bill submitted by the ministry of health which would remove the present requirement for the father of an unborn child to give his consent to an abortion in cases when the continuation of a pregnancy would endanger the mother's life. Umar Syihab of the Indonesian Ulemas Council, the country's highest Islamic authority, said: "Under no circumstances is abortion condoned by any religion. It is prohibited by all religions, as it can be categorised as murder." [Jakarta Post, 23 January] Pope John Paul II's legate to the World Meeting of Families in the Philippines has urged Catholics to fight abortion "with all your might". In his closing address, Cardinal Alphonso López Trujillo told a crowd of hundreds of thousands: "Do not convert mothers' wombs, which are fountains of life, into tombs.... Laws all over the world should respect the gift of life and not conspire at death, in the cruelty and shame of procured abortion." The cardinal-bishop, who is president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, also referred to a "fundamental battle between light and darkness" and warned that experiments which tinkered with human life could "become nightmares to humanity". [Zenit, 24 January ; AP, via Borneo Bulletin, 27 January ] A prominent Chinese scientist claims to have created more than 80 cloned human embryos for the purposes of destructive research. Lu Guangxiu, who heads a team of 60 scientists at a laboratory in Changsha, Hunan province, said that four of the embryos had been kept alive to the stage when they could have been transferred into a womb. If the claims are true, the Chinese team is well ahead of researchers in the West. Dr Lu's nearest rivals are thought to be at Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) in the US, but ACT only claims to have produced three single-celled human embryos to date. [Sunday Times, 26 January] Doctors at the Liverpool Women's Hospital in England are testing a drug which may allow pregnant women to smoke without harming their unborn child. The manufacturers of NicoBloc claim that it blocks 99% of nicotine and tar, and 25 pregnant smokers have taken the drug so far as part of the six-week trial. However, the department of health has refused to endorse the trial, which has been criticised by health experts who say that the participants could be putting their unborn children at risk by continuing to smoke. [Femail online, 26 January] The chairman of the US president's council on bioethics has criticised those who differentiate between human reproductive cloning and cloning for experimental or so-called therapeutic purposes. Writing in the New York Times newspaper, Leon Kass observed that supporters of cloning research had "tried to confuse the issue by euphemistic distortion - claiming that the production of cloned embryos is not really cloning, that the embryos produced are not really embryos at all". Dr Kass urged Congress to pass a comprehensive ban or, at the very least, a moratorium on all human cloning, and warned: "If we do nothing now, human cloning will happen here, and we will have acquiesced in its arrival." [Kaiser Network, 24 January ] 200,000 people participated in last week's annual March for Life in Washington DC, according to the official estimate. However, pro-life groups have complained that the mainstream US media either failed to cover the event at all or presented a biased picture of what happened. [LifeSite, 24 January ]

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