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News, 11 March 2004

11 March 2004

11 March 2004 A parliamentary committee is to be set up to consider the issue of euthanasia. Last night the House of Lords, Britain's upper house of parliament, held a short debate on Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, which would legalise assisted suicide and active voluntary euthanasia. Following an agreement between Lord Joffe and some anti-euthanasia peers, the House agreed to allow the bill to pass without a vote to consideration by a select committee. Supporters of the bill hope that the select committee will reverse the decisions of the 1994 report of the House of Lords select committee on medical ethics, which opposed the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The government claimed "neutrality" on the bill, said that it "welcome[s] and listen[s] closely to the debate" on euthanasia and assisted suicide and recognised that "some noble Lords are disappointed" that there was not "a substantive debate" last night on the bill. [House of Lords Hansard, 10 March ] The Catholic bishops of England and Wales and Catholic Health Australia have commented on attempts to legalise euthanasia in both the UK and Australia. Catholic Health Australia accused the Australian Democrats of 'electoral opportunism', whilst the Christian Responsibility and Citizenship department of the bishops' conference of England and Wales released a strongly worded statement against the Joffe bill, which would permit assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Archbishop Peter Smith described the bill as 'a deeply misguided and unnecessary measure.' [Cathnews, 9 March , Catholic Communications Service, 8 March ] Researchers in South Korea have stopped using stem cells from bone marrow to treat heart attack patients amid fears that it could cause side effects. Though the patients involved in the therapy showed marked improvement, some patients developed abnormal growths around the devices used to open their arteries. Concern has been expressed at the development, though the trial is said to be too small to give a clear indication about the efficacy of the treatment. [The Guardian, 11 March ] A survey of 5000 UK teenagers has found that young people are more pro-life than their parents and are concerned about the sexualisation of society. The survey, conducted by Bliss magazine, found that two thirds of young people thought there were too many abortions and that of the 25% who had engaged in sex by the age of 15, four in ten regretted it because they were too young, drunk or felt coerced. [The Telegraph, 11 March ] A spokeswoman for SPUC commented: "The results of this survey encourages SPUC all the more in its new outreach to young people." [SPUC source] The number of physician-assisted suicides in Oregon increased by about 10% last year. 42 terminally ill patients were helped to kill themselves in 2003, compared with 38 in 2002. Approximately 133 people have ended their lives in this way since euthanasia in this form was legalised in 1998. [The Guardian, 10 March ] A bill to legalise assisted suicide in Hawaii has been withdrawn until the next session. House Judiciary vice chairman said that members are divided over the issue and that there was disquiet about tackling such a bill in an election year. [Lifenews.com, 10 March ] Research published in the scientific journal Nature has suggested that women may not be born with a set number of eggs that run out over a period of time causing the menopause. Experiments on mice found that female mice could generate fresh eggs to replace those damaged by chemicals, raising the question as to whether the same could be the case in humans. The findings fly in the face of an established biological rule and could have widespread implications for the future of infertility treatment. [BBC, 11 March ]

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