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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 14 July 2003

14 July 2003

14 July 2003 14 July 2003 Following the deaths of the Iranian conjoined twins during separation surgery, two Egyptian boys joined at the head are to undergo surgery in the next few months. Ahmed and Mohamed Ibrahim are joined in such a way that it will be difficult for them ever to walk and at only two years old stand a higher chance of survival. Dr Kenneth Salyer, the US surgeon who has been treating them for a year, has said that the operation will be exceedingly dangerous but the medical team is confident that the twins can be separated successfully. [The Scotsman, 14 July ] The German committee on prescription drugs has recommended making the morning after pill available over the counter, Deutsche Welle reports. In order for this to come about, the health ministry will have to approve a statute that will then have to be passed by Germany's upper legislative chamber, the Bundesrat. Though the article notes that it is uncertain whether greater availability of the morning after pill will slow the pregnancy rate or decrease the number of surgical abortions, women's groups and family planning organisations have welcomed the decision. [Deutsche Welle, 11 July ] Italian researchers trying to treat muscular dystrophy using gene therapy and embryonic stem cells have said that it will be many years before their research bears fruit, Reuters reports. Dr Giulio Cossu of the Stem Cell Research Institute in Milan and the University of Rome said that stem cells had been used to strengthen the muscles of mice with muscular dystrophy, but a major breakthrough is still years away. "The results are interesting but we do not want to raise hopes ahead of time," he told a news conference. "I'm convinced this is an important result, but this is still not the therapy, for the mice or for patients." [Reuters, 14 July ] Schools in Scotland are to be banned from distributing the morning after pill to girls following a public outcry. Health minister Malcolm Chisholm stated in an interview: "We have to take account of people's views. The morning-after pill in schools is not on the agenda at all. I think people can be reassured. There is obviously a lot of concern about that among parents and I think we have to look at different ways of dealing with those issues." [Scotland on Sunday, 13 July ] SPUC Scotland director Ian Murray welcomed the decision. "Scottish parents will be relieved by this news that their children's schools will be an abortion-free zone," he said. "However, we remain concerned that schoolchildren may still be offered, or even pressured into using, abortion-inducing birth control by so-called sexual health clinics and drop-in centres deliberately located near school premises." [Independent Catholic News, 14 July ] Clinical trials involving sixty women at a Cambridgeshire clinic have suggested that use of Leukaemia Inhibitory Factor may increase the chances of IVF embryos implanting. Speaking at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Madrid, Peter Brinsden, the clinic director, said: "From our initial trial, carried out in collaboration with the Care Clinic in Nottingham, we believe LIF has exciting implications for increasing the chances of pregnancy in couples in whom embryos have previously failed to implant." [Cambridge News, 11 July ] The New York Catholic Conference, which represents the 8 Catholic diocese of New York State, has withdrawn its objection to legislation which obliges hospital emergency rooms to provide abortifacient drugs to rape victims. The objection was withdrawn on condition that "the drugs are not contraindicated, the woman is not pregnant and it is within a medically appropriate amount of time from the attack." [LifeSite, 11 July ] A SPUC spokesman commented: "by making these stipulations, the Conference appears to be trying to avoid Catholic hospitals being placed in the position of providing the drug under circumstances that would cause abortion. However, it is difficult to see how these conditions could be applied on a practical level." [SPUC source] The British Medical Association supports the pre-implantation selection of embryos to treat a sick sibling, according to the British Medical Journal. The BMA's annual representative meeting endorsed the Hashmi judgement, which permitted a baby to be specially selected so that the brother could be treated with the cord blood. "We need to have this facility to use this technique when it is needed," said Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the medical ethics committee. However, Dr Gregory Gardner, a Birmingham GP, criticised the selection and destruction of embryos as "eugenics with a vengeance." [BMJ, 12 July ] In a report to the Anglican General Synod in York, the Bishop of Norwich, Graham Jones, asked the Synod to "affirm the sanctity of the human embryo and therefore the need to treat it with profound respect" and "to ensure the ethical imperatives in embryo research are never forgotten." He also asked the Synod to recognise the "different but principled and sincerely held views among Christians" on the subject of embryo research. Bishop Jones commented: "Sometimes it seems that the sophistication of our medical science is not matched by an equally sophisticated understanding of human psychology or interest in ethical reasoning." According to the wording of the report, Bishop Jones appears to recognise the sanctity of human life whilst at the same time condoning some forms of embryo research. [Yorkshire Post, 14 July , Synod Agenda, 12 July ] A survey conducted by Mother and Baby magazine has raised concerns that mothers may be depriving their babies of the types of food necessary for healthy growth because of fears that they may become overweight. Luci Daniels, a state registered dietician, said: "The research suggests that some mums are using their knowledge of adult weight loss and 'healthy eating' when choosing what their babies eat, without understanding that it could be damaging for their child." [BBC, 14 July ]

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