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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 19 June 2003

19 June 2003

19 June 2003 A child has been born after being selected at embryo stage for his suitability to provide tissue to treat his four-year-old brother. Jamie Whitaker's British parents went to Chicago for the procedure because it was not allowed in Britain. Charlie, Jamie's brother, has the rare diamond blackfan anaemia. Reports differ on the possible outcome and treatment of the condition, some saying that tissue-based therapy is essential for survival while others state that Charlie is being kept alive with five injections per week. John Smeaton, SPUC's national director, said: "While our hearts go out to everybody involved, and we welcome Jamie's birth, there are profound issues of concern here. Human beings who were not the perfect match were simply discarded and a child has been created with the primary purpose of benefiting his elder brother. This does not conform to Jamie's human dignity. Mrs Whitaker said that, as she held her new baby, she was holding UK history. What matters, though, is that he is a human with a right to live - a right denied to his embryonic brothers and sisters. Indeed, what happened to his unwanted embryonic siblings? Were they flushed down the sink? Frozen? Used for experiments?" The child was born in south Yorkshire on Monday. [Ananova , BBC and Daily Mail, 19 June] Dr Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP, has called for parliament to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act to allow treatment such as that which the Whitakers got in America. [ic Croydon, 19 June ] In April, the English appeal court ruled that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority could authorise the creation of so-called designer babies to serve as tissue donors for sick older siblings. The judgement allowed the Hashmi family of Leeds to create a number of IVF embryos and then use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select those who would be able to provide a bone marrow transplant for their son who has thalassaemia. [SPUC, 8 April ] MPs want to reduce the number of caesarian sections in Britain. The House of Commons health committee says that women should not be able to choose the procedure and that medical staff should only provide it for medical or psychological reasons. In Britain, one birth in four is by caesarian section but the World Health Organisation recommends just one in 10. [BBC, 18 June ] A condition which can stop embryos implanting in the womb could one day be treated, according to research by the US National Institutes of Health. Endometriosis causes tissue which normally lines the womb to grow in other parts of the abdomen and can make the womb hostile to recently-conceived embryos. The study found that women with the condition lacked an enzyme which helped L-selectin molecules to adhere to the uterus and thus enable implantation. As many as 15% of women of reproductive age are affected by endometriosis. [HMG on Discovery Health, 18 June ] r Michael Wilks, the chairman of the British Medical Association's ethics committee, is standing for chairmanship of the association's council. [Hospital Doctor, 19 June ]

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