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Defending life from the moment of conception

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22 December 2004

22 December 2004

22 December 2004 The parents of a young Californian woman who died last year of septic shock after taking the RU 486 abortion drug have filed wrongful death and product liability lawsuits against Danco Laboratories, which supply the substance under the Mifeprex brand. Ms Cynthia Summers, Danco's marketing director, has repeatedly denied any causal link between Mifeprex and Holly Patterson's death. Dr Lester Crawford of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that death was due to the drug. The FDA has received nearly 700 complaints about the effects of RU 486/Mifeprex on women so far, resulting in warnings of increased intensity being attached to the drug. [, 21 December ] The Western Mail, a Welsh newspaper, has attacked Baroness Warnock's recent pro-euthanasia statements. Ms Denise Robertson criticises Lady Warnock for suggesting that the elderly should "creep off and get out of the way" and that nursing homes are "a waste of money". Ms Robertson writes "I don't believe in the unnecessary prolonging of life. I wouldn't want to live as a vegetable. I was glad when people I loved desperately escaped the final throes of terminal illness. But that is a long way from suggesting that someone suffering from nothing more than aging or premature birth has no right to fight for life." [Western Mail, 21 December ] The South Carolina Supreme Court has rejected the 'wrongful life' lawsuit of Jeannie Willis, who argued that doctors did not adequately inform her of her son Thomas' disabilities, which would have allowed her the opportunity to terminate the pregnancy. Ms Willis said she would have had an abortion if she had known that part of her son's brain was missing. The court said, in a unanimous decision: "We embrace the reasoning espoused by a majority of courts rejecting a wrongful life cause of action". The court "conclude[s] that being born with a naturally occurring defect or impairment does not constitute a legally cognizable injury in such an action.". 27 other US states have so far rejected 'wrongful life' lawsuits, although California, New Jersey and Washington allow them. [, 21 December ] Doctors at the Karolinska Research Institute, Sweden, have used fetal stem cells to treat a child with brittle bone disease while she was still in the womb. Patients with osteogenesis imperfecta are abnormally prone to fractures, but the little girl, now two and a half, has suffered just three. Genetically unmatched stem cells were transplanted from another fetus. Celia Gotherstrom, leader of the team, said "The big advance is that we have given stem cells that are completely unmatched and they have not been rejected... It means we could give stem cells from any person to another person." [Medical News Today, 21 December ] It is not clear from the source whether the treatment involved any harm to the donor child. The removal of tissue from embryos is customarily fatal to them. A company in Hull, East Yorkshire, due to open next year will offer expectant parents the chance to see 4D ultrasound films of their unborn children. The technology, frequently used in the US but still rare in the UK, shows foetuses yawning, smiling and moving in the womb. The films can be copied on to DVD. Ms Jayne Gamble, director of RSG 4D Baby Imaging, said "Our service will be available to all mothers after 20 weeks of pregnancy as, by that time, all the standard scans and checks for development of the foetus are completed. This is a fantastic opportunity to view the foetus as the baby's features and mannerisms develop." Her fellow director Nicola Scott described the images as "like looking at the baby with your own eyes; it's wonderful.". [NetDoctor, 21st Dec 2004 ] An investigation by the Washington Post has found that at least 1,367 pregnant women and new mothers have been murdered since 1999. According to the study, many perpetrators are the fathers of unborn children who are killed with their mothers who have refused to have an abortion. One example cited is that of Quinnisha Thomas, shot dead when eight months pregnant by her ex-boyfriend who, prosecutors argued, was afraid fatherhood would harm his musical career. [, 21 December ] Research at Pittsburgh and Louisiana led by Dr Jay Kolls may lead to ethical stem cell therapy for cystic fibrosis. Dr Kolls' team succeeded in coaxing stem cells from bone marrow to differentiate into the type of cells that line the lungs and airways, which malfunction in cystic fibrosis patients. Therapies developed with this technique would not have the risk of patient rejection since epithelial cells derived from the patient's own stem cells would be used. [, 21 December ]

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