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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 28 January 2003

28 January 2003

28 January 2003 The chairman of the UK's Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES) has claimed that a third of all deaths in Britain are doctor-assisted. Dr Michael Irwin, who is a former general practitioner, said that he had congratulated fellow GPs who had administered lethal injections to terminally ill patients, but refused to identify them. Last week an internet poll of over 1,000 doctors conducted on behalf of the VES indicated that more than half of them believed that people should be allowed to seek medical help to die. Two in five respondents had been asked by a patient to help them to die, but only a third believed that the law should be changed to sanction assisted suicide. [Telegraph online, 26 January; BBC News online, 24 January ] Pro-lifers have reacted with astonishment after it emerged that an ancient Catholic university supports destructive stem cell research on human embryos. The Catholic university of Louvain in Belgium, which was founded by a papal bull in 1425, features a French-language document on its website asserting that parents can "in an ethical spirit of solidarity" donate their surplus IVF embryos to research. The document even appears to condone so-called therapeutic cloning. [LifeSite, 27 January ] John Smeaton, national director of SPUC, said that he was deeply troubled by the document and would be writing urgently to the Belgian bishops and to the Vatican about the matter. The Catholic Church is unequivocally opposed to any destructive research on human embryos, as well as to IVF, on the basis that all human beings from the moment of conception/fertilisation have a fundamental dignity by virtue of their Creator. Authorities in the Republic of Ireland are to start extradition proceedings against an American Unitarian minister who has admitted to assisting in the suicide of an Irish woman. The police have asked the director of public prosecutions to seek the extradition of Rev George Exoo, whom they suspect of pumping helium gas into a so-called exit bag fitted over the head of Rosemary O'Toole in Ireland last year. If the minister is found guilty under the 1993 Criminal Law (Suicide) Act, he could face up to 14 years in an Irish prison. Rev Exoo is suspected of assisting in the suicides of over 100 people around the world. [Observer, 26 January ] The annual report of the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative (PLI) has revealed that 526 babies have been saved from abortion since it was set up in 1997. The scheme, which was launched by the late Cardinal Thomas Winning, archbishop of Glasgow, offers financial and material support to pregnant women who would otherwise see no option other than abortion. 109 babies were born to 93 mothers helped by the PLI last year, including a record 16 pairs of twins. 20 mothers who have received assistance from the scheme are now running a nursery at the PLI's new centre in Glasgow. Praising the Cardinal's scheme, Frances Shand Kydd, mother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, commented: "There were those who said his scheme would neither last nor save many souls. Now we have 526 reasons to be grateful to his great foresight." [Sunday Mail, 26 January ] A county judge in Pennsylvania has upheld murder charges against a woman accused of killing a love rival's unborn baby of 15 weeks' gestation. The accused woman's lawyers had argued that murder charges should not be brought because the unborn child was not considered a person and could not have survived outside the womb. However, the judge ruled that the state's foetal homicide law allowed murder charges to be brought for the killing of an unborn child at any stage of pregnancy, and that the legality of abortion did not change matters because abortion entailed a free choice on the part of the mother. [AP, 26 January; via Northern Light ]

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