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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 16 July 2004

16 July 2004

16 July 2004 The French Parliament has passed a new law permitting embryonic stem cell research but banning both 'therapeutic' and 'reproductive' human cloning. Philippe Douste-Blazy, minister of health, said: "For the first time, thanks to the law on bioethics, reproductive cloning is very clearly made a crime against the human species, and therapeutic cloning an offence. Protecting human embryos is an explicit goal of the civil code." However, under the new law, scientists will be permitted to import human embryonic stem cells for research purposes. Research on 'spare' IVF embryos is expected to be authorised within five years. [The Scientist, 15 July ] German politicians are attempting to block plans to build what locals have called a 'Nazi Breeding Farm.' Jurgen Rieger, a lawyer who has defended holocaust deniers, says that his proposed centre will help people of the 'same breed' to meet and procreate. He says that it will be funded by The Wilhelm Tietjen Foundation for Fertilisation which is registered in Britain where surrogacy is legal. The Mayor of Dorverden, the town where the centre would be situated, said: "We will try everything we know to keep neo-Nazis from implementing such a scheme." [The Times of London, 16 July ] The parents of Terri Schiavo have filed a brief at the Florida Supreme Court, arguing that she has 'the right to change her mind' about her treatment. Terri Schiavo has been at the centre of a bitter legal battle since she mysteriously collapsed in 1990 and suffered severe brain damage. Mrs Schiavo's husband insists that she told him she would not want to be kept alive and is fighting to have her tube feeding removed. Her parents dispute this and contend that her condition could improve with therapy. In their brief, they point out that even if she had expressed a wish to die in the past, she may have changed her mind. [The Guardian, 16 July ] The UK's Human Genetics Commission (HGC) has launched a nationwide consultation on issues such as 'designer babies' and the genetic testing of embryos. The HGC produced a discussion document to mark the launch, outlining the issues and their possible implications. Martin Richards, professor at Cambridge University's Family Research Centre, said: "We want people to say what they think, whether we've got all the issues covered, or if there are others we should be considering. There are certainly some people who believe things are going too far and clearly they have concerns." [The Guardian, 16 July ] The Dutch government is considering new penalties for doctors who break the law on euthanasia. Only half the number of euthanasia cases carried out every year are reported by doctors, but the public prosecution service currently distinguishes between doctors who ignore 'procedural' guidelines, such as not consulting a second doctor, and 'material' guidelines, such as the need for a voluntary request. The health minister wants the Healthcare Inspectorate to be able to discipline doctors who break procedural guidelines. Meanwhile, discussion continues over euthanasia without request such as terminal sedation. [BMJ, 17 July ] Tony Abbott, Australia's federal Health Minister, has applauded feminist calls for a constructive debate about late-term abortions. Mr Abbott said: "I'm pleased that some of Australia's leading feminists seem to be having a rethink about the abortion culture. If moves were made to unambiguously ban late-term abortions, I would sincerely support that as a move worthy of consideration." [The Australian, 16 July ] 400 cases of euthanasia have been recorded in Belgium since its legalisation two years ago, according to official figures. Abuses have been noted, such as the assisted suicide of patients with Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease even though this is prohibited under Belgium's euthanasia law. [, 15 July ] Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark has welcomed the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to drop charges against a pro-life campaigner who displayed a picture of an aborted baby during a peaceful demonstration. Archbishop McDonald supported Kevin O'Neill when he was charged with having 'committed an act of a lewd, obscene and disgusting nature and outraging public decency by displaying images of aborted and dissected foetuses'. He stated: "I am delighted Kevin has been cleared of all charges. The fact that the law might find pictures of aborted foetuses obscene and offensive simply proves the validity of Kevin's protest against abortion." [Catholic Communications Service, 9 July ] The Free Tibet Campaign is to stage a hard-hitting protest in Edinburgh against a decision by organisers of the Tattoo to invite a Chinese People's Liberation Army band to take part in this year's show. The protest will draw attention to methods of torture used by the Chinese government and abuses such as forced abortion. A spokeswoman for the Free Tibet Campaign said: "The PLA have been responsible for the violent oppression of Tibetans for over 50 years. Torture is still endemic in China and therefore we do not believe it is right for Tattoo officials to engage with the Chinese Army." [Edinburgh Evening News, 15 July ]

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