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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 23 July 2003

23 July 2003

23 July 2003 The English high court has told a health authority that it can stop giving food and drink to a 38-year-old woman who has been in a coma for nearly two years. Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the senior family judge, invoked the 1993 House of Lords judgement concerning the late Mr Anthony Bland in the case of Miss Teresa Innes who is in hospital in West Yorkshire. As well as referring to the medical view that Miss Innes could not recover, Dame Elizabeth mentioned testimony by the family to the effect that she would not have wanted to live in her present condition. Miss Innes's coma was caused by her being given pencillin to which she is allergic. If the Bradford health trust now fulfils its intentions, the patient could die within two weeks. [Femail, 23 July ] John Smeaton of SPUC said: "The Bland judgement began the practice of starving and dehydrating patients with PVS. Lord Mustill, one of the judges in that case, said it left the law 'morally and intellectually misshapen'. Yesterday's judgement is part of that trend and it makes it now all the more urgent that we oppose the government's Draft Mental Incapacity Bill which will extend this practice to patients in a broad range of types of incapacity." The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is reviewing the practice of women's donating their eggs in exchange for cheap IVF. Ms Suzi Leather, authority chairman, insisted that she did not want to limit treatment given to women but wanted them to get full information. Egg donation can involve more treatment cycles than basic IVF. [BBC, 22 July , and Femail, 23 July ] On 8 May we reported on how clinics had been criticised for allegedly encouraging poor women to donate eggs. Four-month-old twin girls who were joined at the spine have survived being separated at the Singapore hospital where adult conjoined twins died recently after a similar procedure. The father of Min Sa-Rang and Min Ji-Hye, from South Korea, was told they had an 85% chance of survival. Ladan and Laleh Bijani, 29, from Iran, died at the Raffles hospital 15 days ago. [BBC, 22 July ] A woman jailed for life for suffocating her grandmother claimed that she performed the murder at the 89-year-old's request. In a conversation secretly recorded by her sister, Ms Julie Keynon, 46, said how Mrs Irene Waters had begged to be killed. The police said that Ms Kenyon, of West Yorkshire, England, had lied and Mr Justice Grigson told her: "Whatever your motive was - and I doubt that it was mercy - the [life] sentence is the same." [Scotsman, 23 July ] German academics could be subject to their country's restrictions on human embryo research even if they work abroad, according to a legal opinion obtained by the national research foundation. The conclusion is based on the fact that university researchers are public servants. Germany forbids embryo research on cell lines generated after 2001 and a committee must approve work with other lines. It is reported that Germany has constitutional protection for all human life. The opinion was from a Bonn legal firm and the Max Planck institute, Freiburg. [The Scientist, 22 July ] Two Australian universities are to study stress on embryos caused by problems in the womb and fertility treatment. The National Institute of Child Health and Development has awarded more than $1 million (US) to the universities of Adelaide and Queensland for a five-year programme involving animals. Dr Jeremy Thompson said that he and his colleagues had already found evidence that changes to a foetus's environment caused stress and affected development. [The Age, 22 July ] The pro-euthanasia Hemlock Society of Colorado is to change its name to End-Of-Life Choices. The organisation supports assisted suicide and has published a book on how to die. [AP on Newsday, 21 July ] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's political secretary, commented: "It is important to note that the Hemlock Society endorses death through starvation as a form of euthanasia (see ) The British government's definition of euthanasia includes acts such as lethal injections but excludes omissions such as starvation. If the British government is genuine when it says it has no plans to legalise euthanasia, it must admit that death by starvation is euthanasia and must therefore amend its draft mental incapacity bill to outlaw this and all other forms of euthanasia."

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