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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 2 August 2004

2 August 2004

2 August 2004 A man suffering from a degenerative brain condition has won a legal challenge against the General Medical Council in the High Court. Leslie Burke argued that the GMC's guidance allowing doctors to withdraw food and fluids from patients in some cases contravened the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically the right to life. Mr Burke argued that he wanted to be given food and fluids. According to the BBC, Mr Justice Munby's judgment means that the guidelines will have to be redrafted with the presumption that a patient wants to live. The GMC may appeal against the judgment. [BBC, 30 July ] The UK government has issued guidelines to doctors and health workers stating that they can refer and carry out abortions on underage girls without informing parents. Pro-family and pro-life campaigners have criticised the guidelines, saying that it interferes with family life and leaves young people vulnerable to abuse. Paul Tully of SPUC said: "In the vast majority of cases, the support that a teenage girl needs in these situations is the support of her parents." Michelle Smith, a 14-year-old schoolgirl who hit the headlines earlier in the year when she underwent an abortion without her mother's knowledge, said that if she had another chance, "I would probably have kept the child and let my mum know." [The Telegraph, 31 July, The Guardian, 1 August ] A member of the Scottish Parliament is said to be drafting a bill to legalise euthanasia, based on Oregon's euthanasia law. Jeremy Purvis MSP said that the legalisation of euthanasia would be a 'natural progression' to rules already permitting the withdrawal of treatment. The bill has been welcomed by pro-euthanasia groups but condemned by the Catholic Church, who described it as "a licence for the legalised killing of people, possibly against their will." [ Sunday Herald, 1 August ] An article in a leading journal The Annals of Pharmacotherapy has argued in favour of the US Food and Drug Administration's ban on over-the-counter distribution of the morning after pill. Gene Rudd MD argues that unsupervised access to Plan B puts women's health at risk and encourages an increase in sexually transmitted infections. He also states that the note to patients that the drug is not abortifacient goes against the scientific evidence and does not offer women correct information about the drug. [ Medical News Today, 30 July ] A report published in Australia has raised concerns about end-of-life care for Aborigines. According to the report, many Aborigines nearing the end of life find themselves in metropolitan hospitals far away from their families because of the limited health services available in remote communities. As a result, they are left feeling confused, lonely and afraid of the treatment they receive. Many are unfamiliar with western medical practices and live in fear of euthanasia. [ Herald Sun, 29 July ] A report released by the US State Department has revealed that the Bush administration repeatedly asked the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) to make changes to its programme that would allow the US to resume funding. However, according to the report, the UNFPA has not asked China to 'eliminate coercive "administrative" or "disciplinary" punishments' against women, 'thus continuing to reflect UNFPA's support for China's coercive programme.' The report adds: "Despite several rounds of discussions with US representatives, UNFPA and China decided not to make substantive changes to the proposed UNFPA fifth country program. For example, UNFPA did not condition the start of the program on the elimination of social compensation fees." The report lists other areas in which UNFPA has aided China's coercive family planning programme, such as supplying equipment and supplies and training officials in awareness of the law. [ C-Fam, 30 July ] The President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund has delivered a speech endorsing John Kerry at the US Democrat Convention. Gloria Feldt said that John Kerry and John Edwards were "running a very positive campaign", promising "John Kerry won't prevent you from getting the reproductive health care you need. John Kerry won't corrupt science with ideology... He will lift the global gag rule and stand up for women around the world." [ PPAction, 26 July ] John Kerry is the first presidential candidate to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood, the leading US pro-abortion organization. Police in Italy have uncovered a baby smuggling ring after posing as medics at a Milan hospital. The gang brought pregnant Bulgarian women to Italy where they gave birth and refused to acknowledge the children. The babies were then collected for between 5,000 and 17,000 Euros, depending on gender. The global child trafficking market is thought to be worth $1.2 billion a year and may involve over 1 million children. [The Guardian, 2 August ] A recently published book has warned that countries such as India and China face instability and increased violence due to the male/female imbalance. The book 'Bare Branches', co-authored by Andrea den Boer of the University of Kent at Canterbury, details the practice of female infanticide in India's past and argues that the current shortage of women due to female infanticide and sex-selective abortion will cause a similar escalation of social problems such as violence against women. [BBC, 28 July ] A survey to be published in an Australian public health journal has found that women who are victims of violence are more likely to suffer miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion. Julie Quinlivan, an obstetrician at the Royal Women's Hospital, said that the higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth may be linked to the increased risk of STIs faced by women in violent relationships, whilst higher abortion rates might reflect fears about bringing up a child in a violent relationship. [, 2 August ] A government report has found a high rate of teenage pregnancies among young girls in coastal towns. The study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills has found that of girls aged between 15 and 17, 74.8 conceptions have been counted per 1000 girls, compared with the national average which is 42.6 per 1000 girls. Academics from Hull, Liverpool, and Brighton universities have claimed in their report that "carnivalesque excitement" in these tourist areas is a major factor in fuelling high pregnancy rates. [The Telegraph, 1 August ]. The North Derbyshire Health Promotion Services has been given a £20,000 grant to research the relationship between sexual diseases, teenage pregnancy, and deprivation. [BBC, 1 August ]

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