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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 29 May 2003

29 May 2003

29 May 2003 A court in the Australian province of Victoria has given doctors permission to stop feeding a 68-year-old woman suffering from a rare form of dementia, according to a BBC report. After two days of submissions and a week of deliberation, Judge Stuart Morris ruled that tube feeding constitutes medical treatment and can therefore be withdrawn, legalising the removal of artificial hydration and nutrition in the province for the first time. Pro-life campaigners have warned that the case sets a dangerous precedent and that the lives of thousands of vulnerable patients could now be at risk. [BBC News, 29 May ] An inheritance case put before the New South Wales Supreme Court has called into question the legal status of frozen embryos created by IVF. Justice Peter Young was asked to determine whether or not two frozen embryos could inherit a share of their grandmother's estate alongside their four born siblings. Though Justice Young commented that the grandmother would probably have wished to benefit all her grandchildren, he interpreted the term 'survive' as referring to children born before the grandmother's death. Gordon Salier of the NSW Law Society, stated, 'these IVF matters are going to happen more and more and you have to do the best you can to anticipate people's wishes. It may be we have to look at the definition of what life is.' Paul Tully of SPUC commented: "We hold that IVF is wrong because it puts human embryos in an anomalous and invidious position. Although in this case the embryos have been frozen, it is the fact that they were created in the test-tube that is the key moral issue. The judgement goes against biology and human dignity." [Sydney Morning Herald, May 29 ] The Texas House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bill that would allow lawsuits and criminal charges to be brought on behalf of unborn children killed as a result of accidents or criminal activity. A quorum of one hundred members was needed for the bill to pass and in spite of attempts by some Democrats to break it by walking out, the bill passed 100-1. Jessica Farrar, the only member to vote against the bill, stated. 'what the bill will do is begin to break down Roe v. Wade. I think we've reached a time when we're going to see the end of a woman's right of choice." Ray Allen, who sponsored the bill, disagreed, saying that it 'has absolutely no impact on legal abortion.' [Houston Chronicle, May 27 ] A study published in Nature by researchers at the University of Tokyo has found that dioxins, pollutants produced as the result of many industrial processes, may have harmful effects on human beings exposed to them at an early stage of development. Studies on mice have suggested that dioxins, which have been found in breast milk and can cross the placenta between mother and unborn child, produce similar effects in the human body to oestrogen and may cause health problems such as impaired fertility or immunity. However, in an accompanying commentary, Professor Malcolm Parker and Dr Jan Brosens from the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College, London, have expressed caution about the findings and called for improved diagnostic tests and larger populations studies to be carried out. [BBC News, May 28 ]

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