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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 11 June 2003

11 June 2003

11 June 2003 A Sydney company has applied to the ethics committee of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide to send foetal tissue from aborted babies to the Dutch biotech company, Crucell. Australia is one of only four countries in the world capable of providing foetal tissue free from CJD contamination, but the plan appears to contravene National Health and Medical Research Council's guidelines on the commercial use of foetal tissue. Margaret Tighe, spokeswoman for Right to Life Australia condemned the proposal. "Not only do we kill babies and use Medicare funds for it but here we are contemplating making money and trading in the bodies of these poor unfortunates. How much lower can we sink in our lack of respect for human life?" A spokesman for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital said that the application had been withdrawn but Crucell maintain that it is ongoing. [The Daily Telegraph, 9 June ] China Daily has reported the case of Wang Mingcheng, a cancer sufferer from the Shaanxi Province, who has asked for the right to die. He was accused of persuading a doctor to give his mother a lethal injection in 1986 after she became ill with cirrhosis of the liver. He was found not guilty of murder by the Supreme People's Court in 1991. "I cannot bear the suffering and want to die in the same way as my mother," he said. The lawyer who worked on Wang Mingcheng's case has called for the legalisation of euthanasia. [China Daily, 9 June ] A US federal judge ruled on Monday that Delaware state law, requiring doctors to observe a 24-hour waiting period before performing an abortion, is unconstitutional and unenforceable. US District Judge Sue L. Robinson said that the law should make exceptions in cases where waiting could harm the mother's health even if her life were not at risk. The Attorney General's Office may appeal the decision or ask state legislators to modify the law. [Delaware Online, 10 June ] A 20-year-old man was charged on Monday with attempting to kill his ex-girlfriend's unborn child. Jacqueline McCay was 14 weeks' pregnant when she was allegedly assaulted at her flat in Omagh. The baby was born healthy in January this year. Ryan McLaughlin denied the charge and Judge Jeffrey Foote told the jury that the law required them to find McLaughlin 'not guilty'. He pleaded guilty to five other charges, including theft and unlawful wounding, and has been remanded in custody. [NorthernIreland.co.uk, 10 June ] Pregnant women who engage in vigorous work out programs such as weightlifting have been warned that they risk impairing foetal growth. Women often feel pressurised to regain their figures quickly after birth, but new research suggests that high levels of strenuous exercise in pregnancy may produce smaller babies. Other studies, however, suggest that exercises such as aerobics can have positive health effects including cutting the risk of premature birth by up to 50%. [This is London, 9 June ] Researchers at the University Health Network in Toronto have discovered a type of adult stem cell that could help repair immune systems after cancer treatment. Scientists injected stem cells directly into the bone marrow of mice whose immune systems had been removed. The result was the production of new blood cells several weeks faster than normal. "If you can reduce the amount of time a patient is without a functioning immune system, that is an important discovery," said Dr Michael McBurney, director of research for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Center. [Canada.com, 9 June, Iafrica.com, 11 June ] This research is another example of the possible benefits that may arise from adult stem cell research without using human embryos. The Kyoto University law professor, Ryuichi Ida, has called for more public debate regarding bioethics issues, the Japan Times reports. A specialist in international law, Ida has expressed concerns that bioethics is misunderstood in Japan and that debate is being monopolised by a tiny minority of experts. He is particularly worried about government approval of the 'biobank' gene data bank project, a decision that was made without public debate. He said, "humankind could lose its way if (such research proceeds) without ethical principles." [The Japan Times, 11 June ]

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