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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 23 June 2004

23 June 2004

23 June 2004 The Medical Research Council Cambridge Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine has been granted £1.5 million worth of government funding to conduct embryonic stem cell research. Professor Roger Pedersen's centre will be focusing on juvenile diabetes and Parkinson's and is being supported by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. [The Guardian, 21 June ] A report into a mistake made at Leeds General Infirmary's IVF department has said that 'human errors' and 'systems failures' led to mixed race twins being born to a white couple. Professor Brian Toft's report stated that the sperm samples were incorrectly identified. It also revealed other mistakes such as the loss of embryos through a failure to check liquid nitrogen in a cryogenic freezer and the discarding of embryos due to an administrative failure. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said they had carried out 85% of Professor Toft's recommendations. [BBC, 22 June ] The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics (SCHB) has called for an end to human embryo research, saying that laws regulating the area are outdated and unclear. In a report submitted to the Parliamentary Select Committee for Science and Technology, the SCHB state: "The complex and grave ethical problems raised by the new procedures emphasise the urgent need for more discussion and consultation among the wider public. In this regard, it is unfortunate that one of these new procedures, parthenogenesis, has already been given a licence by the HFEA without any serious or appropriate ethical debate taking place either in Parliament or among the general public." [Scotland on Sunday, 20 June ] The British Medical Association is to clarify guidelines on babies born alive during abortions after newspapers reported that babies are being left to die in UK hospitals if late term abortion procedures fail to kill them. The BMA conference in Wales next week will hear calls for full neonatal care to be given to abortion survivors. A spokesman for SPUC said: "Surviving an abortion should not be seen as a mistake but as an opportunity. It should bring home in the first place that we should not be carrying out abortions in a civilised society." [Sky News, 22 June ] An investigation by the Sunday Times revealed a number of cases, listing the hospitals where they took place. The report includes the diary of a midwife who wrote: "Sometimes the aborted babies were alive at birth. There was an unwritten policy on the unit that babies would not be given assistance." [The Sunday Times, 20 June ] Children in Nottingham as young as 13 are to be given greater access to condoms and the morning after pill through a C-card distribution scheme. However, David Paton of Nottingham University has argued repeatedly that there is no evidence that such schemes work. The scheme is now being introduced throughout the county at a cost of up to £30,000 in its first year. [This is Nottingham, 19 June ] A report in the Times of London has revealed the social problems being caused by India's growing gender gap. As a result of widespread sex selection abortion, India is thought to be missing 40 million girls with as few as 600 females to 1000 males in some areas. Men are unable to find wives and women's groups have reported cases of wife-sharing within families and increased sexual violence towards women. Dr B S Dahiya, a government official predicted: "Violence against women is rising. We'll have more unnatural practices, such as brothers sharing a wife. In a few years, no woman will be safe. There will be abductions and rapes, even of minors. Even married women won't be safe." [The Times of London, 22 June ] A group of 48 Nobel Prize-winning scientists have endorsed John Kerry for President, claiming in an open letter that President Bush 'has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare.' They add: 'John Kerry will change all this. John Kerry will restore science to its appropriate place in government.' The Bush campaign responded by pointing out that the US was the world's scientific leader and that the Bush administration had boosted research funding. [Reuters, 22 June ] An inquest has been held into the deaths of a mentally ill couple who travelled to the Swiss Dignitas clinic to commit suicide. The couple were found in one another's arms after taking pento-barbitone, a drug used to put down animals. Both had health problems but neither was terminally ill. Mr and Mrs Stokes' son David said: "I didn't know they intended to kill themselves. I know my parents were not terminally ill. The only terminal illness they had was inside their heads." The coroner recorded that they took their own lives with the help of a 'euthanasia assistant.' [This is London, 22 June ] The US Court of Appeals has rejected an appeal for the euthanasia advocate Jack Kevorkian to have a new trial. Mr Kevorkian has been in prison since 1999 and is serving up to 25 yeas for second-degree murder after he filmed himself poisoning a man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. He admitted having assisted in at least 130 deaths but promised not to do so again if he was released. [The Guardian, 23 June ]

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