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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 4 July 2003

4 July 2003

4 July 2003 Experts at a gathering of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology in Madrid have condemned the creation of human embryos that are part-male, part-female. Dr Norbert Gleicher of the Centre for Human Reproduction in Chicago and his team created the embryos by injecting female embryos with up to three cells from male embryos. The dual-sex (or hermaphrodite) embryos survived for six days and Dr Gleicher claims that the creation of "chimeric people" could provide a way to treat genetic disease in IVF children. However, other fertility experts denounced the work as impractical and harmful. Professor Alan Trounson of Monash IVF Clinic in Victoria, Australia, described it as "flawed" and potentially damaging to public perceptions of fertility research. "It could cause some harm because it's difficult to argue why that experiment's been done," he said. [The Guardian, 3 July ] SPUC Comment: "The objections expressed to Dr Gleicher by his colleagues ring hollow. It is now routine for those in the forefront of IVF, who themselves are responsible for the deaths of countless embryos, to condemn any new atrocity that hits the headlines. But these condemnations are not followed through, and the atrocities are later quietly absorbed by the mainstream," said Paul Tully. The New South Wales Parliament has approved research on discarded IVF embryos. Science and Medical Research Minister Frank Sartor welcomed the move. "We are only talking here about excess human embryos created in IVF programs that otherwise would succumb anyway and the research is about finding cures for very important diseases like diabetes, spinal cord injury and Alzheimer's disease," he said. [ABC News, 2 July ] Sheffield Today reports that a new stem cell research centre is to be opened in the town. The centre will be one of six new centres set up in the region for research involving stem cells taken from aborted foetuses, human embryos, umbilical cords and adult sources. Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam University will be heavily involved in the work. The director of the stem cell centre will be Sheffield University professor Peter Andrews whilst Professor Jack Yarwood of Sheffield Hallam University will direct the Materials Analysis and Research Services Centre (MARS). Sheffield University will also be involved in the work of two of the other new centres. [Sheffield Today, 2 July ] A man on trial for the murder of his stepdaughter killed her during an argument after she told him that she was pregnant, Cardiff Crown Court has heard. Mark Dando, the cellmate of the accused, claimed that the accused, Michael Baldwin, had admitted to him that he hit Jenna Baldwin, breaking her neck, after she had reacted furiously to his demand that she have an abortion. Mr Baldwin, of Pontnewynydd, Pontypool, denies murdering Jenna in September last year, claiming that she fell down the stairs. He also claims that panic drove him to bury her body in secret. [BBC, 2 July ] US researchers have used embryonic stem cells to treat paralysed rats successfully, the BBC reports. Dr Hans Keirstead and his team from the University of California at Irvine claim that trials on humans with spinal injuries could begin within two years. Thomas Okarma of the US biotech company Geron Corporation stated his belief that only embryonic stem cells will prove successful in such treatments and doubted the potential of adult stem cells in regenerative treatment. [BBC, 2 July ] Dr Gregory Pike of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, contradicted Okarma's claims about adult stem cells, citing numerous studies that have shown the potential of adult stem cells over embryonic cells (see for further details) as well as reports showing the versatility of bone marrow stem cells. "It is most likely that a spokesman from Geron would exclusively support embryonic stem cells given the huge investment that Geron has put into ES cells and the political value in such a statement for Geron," stated Dr Pike. [SPUC source] UK government ministers have announced plans to raise the default retirement age to 70, the Independent newspaper reports. With population growth below replacement level and an ageing population, the UK, along with many of its European counterparts, is facing a pensions crisis and a major shortage of younger workers. However, the government's plans have met with criticism from unions and some sectors of the media. Union leaders claim that the government should be encouraging people to retire earlier and that a change in retirement age will pressurise people into working until they are older, whilst analysts have voiced concerns that employers will exploit the new rules to spread the pensions burden and penalise those who opt to retire at 60. [The Independent, 2 July ]

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