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Defending life
from conception to natural death


News, 17 February 2004

17 February 2004

17 February 2004 The US food and drug administration has postponed a decision on whether to make the morning after pill available without prescription. Opponents of the proposed change have argued that it would encourage irresponsible behaviour and the spread of STIs, whilst the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America described the delay as "an ominous sign." [Reuters, 16 February ] Britain is facing a sexual health crisis, according to the Independent Advisory Group on sexual health and HIV. 10% of young people are thought to be infected with chlamydia and the HIV rate has increased by over 20% for the second year running. By contrast, in Uganda the ABC approach encouraging abstinence and fidelity has resulted in a nationwide change in sexual behaviour and a steep reduction in the HIV rate. [The Times of London, 17 February ] A police investigation against the former chairman of the voluntary euthanasia society has been dropped, Isle of Man Online reports. Dr Michael Irwin was arrested along with the widow of euthanasia campaigner Patrick Kneen after it emerged that he had agreed to help Mr Kneen to die. However, Mr Kneen, who had terminal cancer, died naturally because he was too ill to swallow the necessary pills by the time Dr Irwin arrived. Neither Dr Irwin nor Patricia Kneen will face charges. [Isle of Man Online, 16 February ] Dr Irwin told the BBC that he had helped patients to die and would consider doing so again. [BBC, 17 February ] Dana Rosemary Scallon MEP has called on the Irish Prime Minister to permit a debate on embryonic stem cell research at a European Council of Ministers meeting in March. She said that funding should not be allowed until such a debate took place. [Irish Examiner, 17 February ] A biotech conference in New Zealand has called for a relaxation of the ban on human embryo research. Some have urged the New Zealand government to allow embryos to be created for research purposes, whilst others have asked for 'spare' IVF embryos to be used. The head of the national ethics committee on assisted human reproduction has said that no requests have been received from scientists to extract embryonic stem cells, though researchers from Auckland University have used adult stem cells to grow brain cells. [The New Zealand Herald, 16 February ] The US court of appeals for the fifth circuit in New Orleans will consider Norma McCorvey's motion to overturn Roe v. Wade on 2 March. The court will hear Ms McCorvey's case and make a decision that afternoon. [, 16 February ] The Spanish central government has objected to the opening of an embryonic stem cell bank in Andalucia. Javier Arenas the deputy prime minister said that the government opposes human cloning for medical research, whilst the ruling party of Andalucia accused the central government of pandering to Catholic groups. [, 16 February ] Researchers at Duke University in the US have used stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood to treat children with heart, liver and brain disorders, BBC reports. Scientists are increasingly discovering the potential of cord blood at a source of stem cells to treat disease and the UK's national health service is investing in storing cord blood at birth. [BBC, 17 February ]

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