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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 16 April 2004

16 April 2004

16 April 2004 Spain's prime minister-elect intends to make abortion more easily available. Mr Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is expected to be sworn in tomorrow. [Telegraph, 16 April ] A brain test could distinguish types of coma. Scientists at Liège university, Belgium, suggest positron emission tomography could find out if a patient was in a so-called minimally conscious state or in a so-called persistent vegetative state. The former condition is a shallower type of coma and is taken as an indication of possible recovery. Patients in the latter condition are sometimes considered candidates for death through dehydration and starvation. Our source describes the case of a woman who was rendered unable to blink by a stroke. Blinking is used to determine consciousness but her condition was correctly diagnosed and, when her eyes were opened for her, she could respond to stimuli. It is suggested that the scanning technique could avoid mis-diagnosis. The Belgian scientists suggest that, by detecting a minimally conscious state in patients, they could be given electrical brain stimulation which could increase their level of consciousness. [Guardian, 15 April ] The detection of various states of consciousness could be used not just as a basis for providing treatment but also a pretext for euthanasia by withdrawal of basic sustenance. Improvements in the way in which IVF embryos are cultured are said to be enabling fertility experts to implant single embryos and thus reduce the number of multiple births. Research has been carried out at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Massachusetts. One third of pregnancies in the USA involve reproductive technology. Multiple IVF births can lead to health problems among children. [New England Journal of Medicine on Medical News Today, 15 April ] Technology could detect if a mother was feeling pain during a caesarian section under general anaesthetic. Australian doctors have been evaluating the use of an electrode on the forehead which helps produce a type of electroencephalogram. Glasgow university, Scotland, has developed a device which periodically stimulates the brain so that the effectiveness of anaesthesia can be measured. Our sources include accounts of women in Britain and Australia who have been conscious during caesarians. [New Scientist on BBC, 14 April , and BBC, 15 April ]

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