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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 3 January 2003

3 January 2003

3 January 2003 500 human embryos have been destroyed by mistake at Israel's largest in vitro fertilisation (IVF) facility. The embryos died after the founder and head of the fertility laboratory at the Rabin Medical Centre - Hasharon Campus in Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv forgot to seal the container in which the embryos were kept in frozen storage. The liquid nitrogen then evaporated and the embryos died. Reports suggest that the incident is unprecedented, but IVF treatment has become very common in Israel. Every hospital has an IVF unit and IVF treatment is offered free on the national health insurance system for first and second babies. [BMJ, 4 January] The vast majority of human beings created by IVF worldwide die either in the petri dish, or in the course of freezing and thawing, or after transfer into a woman. Researchers in Germany have found that heart attack victims can benefit from injections of stem cells from their own bone marrow. A team at the University of Rostock extracted the cells from the bone marrow of six heart attack victims and injected them back into the patients' hearts. Although every patient was also given conventional treatment, doctors are confident that the stem cell injections improved blood flow to the heart by prompting the growth of new heart tissue. [BBC News online, 3 January ] This is yet further evidence that ethical adult stem cell technology has greater therapeutic potential than the use of stem cells extracted from embryos and so-called therapeutic cloning. Clonaid, the company which claims to have produced the world's first successfully cloned full-term baby, has announced that DNA tests on the child intended to prove that she is indeed a clone have been delayed because her parents [sic] are withholding their permission. Brigitte Boisselier, Clonaid's chief executive, had said that independent experts would conduct the DNA tests this week to allay the considerable scepticism on the part of many experts, but she now claims that the parents are reconsidering whether to allow the tests after a court in Florida was asked to determine whether they were fit guardians of the child. Clonaid claims that a second cloned baby is due to be delivered somewhere in Europe within the next few days. [BBC News online, 3 January ] An investigative report has accused the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) of widespread mismanagement and of secretly promoting abortion. The report, released by the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) and the International Organisations Research Group (IORP), cites internal UNFPA audits which accuse the organisation of failing to monitor the quality or reliability of 'reproductive goods' it ships to poor countries and of failing to account for up to 50% of its funds in 1998-99. The report also claims that UNFPA provides manual vacuum aspirators which its non-governmental partners then use to provide abortions even where they are illegal, and details UNFPA involvement in coercive population control programmes. [C-FAM, 3 January ] The new pro-abortion governor of Michigan was greeted by pro-life demonstrators as she arrived at an inter-faith service on her first day in office on Wednesday, and was then told about the fundamental right to life of the unborn by Detroit's Catholic archbishop. Governor Jennifer Granholm claims to be a Catholic, but has described herself as "100 percent pro-choice" and even supports partial-birth abortions. The main speaker at the interfaith service in Lansing's Catholic cathedral was Cardinal Adam Maida, who alluded several times to the issue of abortion and insisted that the Catholic Church would "continue to raise questions about human rights and ways to promote them, especially the most fundamental of all rights, the right to life, from the first moment of conception to the last natural breath". [Detroit Free Press, 2 January ; other sources] Nurses and physicians' assistants can now dispense the RU-486 abortion drug in California after a new law came into effect on 1 January. Other new laws which took effect on New Year's Day in California promote destructive embryonic stem cell research and ban human cloning [but only for reproductive purposes]. [KXTV news, 1 January ]

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