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News, 6 May 2004

6 May 2004

6 May 2004 A survey conducted by the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University has claimed that 61% of Americans approve of embryo testing to provide a tissue match for a sick brother or sister, Medical News reports. However, the majority disapprove of using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select the sex of a baby. PGD involves the removal and testing of cells from IVF embryos. It can determine the embryo's gender and some genetic diseases. [Medical News Today, 4 May ] Researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre believe that the high levels of a protein in breast milk could reduce the risk of obesity later in life, BBC reports. The protein, adiponectin, affects the body's ability to process sugars and fatty substances, with low levels of adiponectin linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Dr Lisa Martin who led the research said that exposure to the protein early in life could have an impact on adult disease. [BBC, 2 May ] Some US Catholic bioethicists appear fazed by Pope John Paul II's recent statement that the removal of nutrition and hydration from patients in a Persistent Vegetative State was "gravely immoral", LifeSiteNews.net reports. Fr John Paris, bioethics professor at Boston College reportedly said: "I think the best thing to do is ignore it, and it will go away," whilst Fr John Strynkowski, executive director of the secretariat for doctrine and pastoral practices, said that the US Catholic Conference of Bishops would have to study the statement along with previous statements and documents before there was any change in policy at Catholic hospitals. [LifeSiteNews.com, 3 May ] Researchers at Duke University Medical Center and the Medical College of Wisconsin in the US believe they may have found a way to prevent lung damage in premature babies. Very premature babies often have difficulty breathing, but oxygen ventilation can cause lung damage and trigger a prolonged immune response. Many steroids prescribed to treat damage can cause lung and brain growth to slow. However, it is now thought that a protein called superoxide dismutase could be used to protect against lung damage. Further studies are being planned in the area. [BBC, 3 May ] The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne has said that he would only withhold communion from a Catholics if their disagreement with Catholic teaching was 'public and notorious'. Archbishop Denis Hart's comments came after he was asked if he would give communion to Victoria's Premier Steve Bracks, who has been described as 'cautiously pro-choice.' [Cathnews.com, 2 May ] A woman from a remote Mexican village is thought to be the only woman in the world to perform a successful caesarean section on herself to save her child. Ines Ramirez drank two glasses of alcohol before cutting open her womb with a six-inch vegetable knife when she went into premature labour and knew that she would not be able to reach the hospital in time. She then pulled the baby out by his feet and a man attempted to stitch the wound with a sewing needle. Mrs Ramirez and her baby eventually received medical attention after hours of travel and miraculously suffered no ill-effects. The case was subsequently reported in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. [The Sunday Telegraph, 25 April ] The convener of a public forum held last year to counter the media attention given to pro-euthanasia campaigners, has reacted with surprise after New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark returned the booklet they sent to MPs. Sue Seconi responded by asking if it was appropriate for a Prime Minister to reject a gift but by returning the book rather than simply setting it aside, Ms Clark's actions have been construed as a political statement. [Cathnews.com, 3 May ] A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has called for genetic screening to select embryos with specific characteristics to become a standard procedure, Financial Times reports. The report was authored by Mohammed Taranissi, a UK specialist who has threatened legal action after the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority refused permission for a couple to use genetic screening to create a baby to treat their son's rare blood condition. [FT.com, 5 May ] Archbishop John Myers of Newark, New Jersey, has issued a hard-hitting statement on abortion, stating: "There is no right more fundamental than the right to be born and reared with all the dignity the human person deserves. On this grave issue, public officials cannot hold themselves excused from their duties especially if they claim to be Catholic. Every faithful Catholic must be not only 'personally opposed' to abortion, but also must live that opposition in his or her actions... One should not permit unjust killing any more than one should permit slave-holding, racist actions, or other grave injustices." [LifeSiteNews.com, 4 May ] A group of Mexican doctors have issued a statement criticising the Mexican Senate's decision to approve embryonic stem cell research according to Zenit. In the statement, the doctors warn against what has been described as 'a new form of racism' caused by the exploitation of human embryos and criticise the decision to invest 'enormous public funds in such research, taking them away from solutions to national tragedies such as the scarcity of basic medicines, the saturation of the health system, and the malnutrition of thousands of Mexicans.' [Zenit, 4 May ] Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa has described the Chilean Health Ministry's decision to distribute the morning after pill free to rape victims, as 'the free distribution of a medication whose objective is not to heal', recalling the 'very serious violations of human rights' in Chile's history and the need to create 'an environment that is propitious to life, in which institutions, communities, laws, customs, and families favor all that accepts, respects, encourages and support life; and all that is an expression of solidarity with it.' [Zenit, 4 May ] The evidence of abortion providers and other witnesses at the lawsuits opposing the partial birth abortion ban continues to provide a chilling insight into the attitudes of abortion practitioners towards human life, Lifenews.com reports. Abortionists have described the need to crush the head of the baby, the difficulties of the baby being delivered alive and the use of 'little hats' to cover damage to the back of the head, without emotion or difficulty. The only occasions where witnesses have become tense is when asked if the baby feels pain. Dr Kanwaljeet Anand, a pain specialist at the California trial, said that partial birth abortion would cause 'severe and excruciating pain' to the baby. [Lifenews.com, 5 May ] A new study suggests that women who have abortions have a less marked emotional reaction in the short term than women who miscarry but that the long term impact is worse. Researchers in Norway found that around 17% of women who had had an abortion two years before showed high levels of avoidance symptoms compared with 3% who had miscarried. This contrasted with the immediate aftermath, where 30% of women who had had an abortion experienced symptoms such as flashbacks and bad dreams compared with nearly half of women who had miscarried. Dr Anne Nordal Broen, who led the study, said: "Women with a miscarriage or an induced abortion should be encouraged to talk and allow themselves to have feelings about what happened." [Reuters, 5 May ] Uruguay's Senate has voted against the legalization of abortion by 17 votes to 13. The WHO claims that there are 4.6 million abortions in Latin America and the Caribbean every year, which would make it the region with the highest abortion rate. Some lawmakers who backed the bill claimed that the legislation was about educating women against having abortions, and making it safe. [Reuters, 5 May ] The Natural Fertility Service in Adelaide, Australia, has reported a dramatic increase in engaged couples seeking to learn natural family planning, Cathnews.com reports. Requests increased by 60% from 2001 to 2002 and 180% from 2002 to 2003, with the majority making their decision based on respect for their bodies and interest in natural alternatives. [Cathnews.com, 6 May ] The Italian fertility specialist Dr Severino Antinori has claimed that three cloned babies have been born, though he refused to give any evidence or details about the alleged births, citing legal reasons. Scientists have said that Antinori does not have the capability to clone a baby and such attempts are now illegal in Italy. [Breaking News, 6 May ] Children with the rare metabolic disease Hurler's Syndrome can be successfully treated using stem cell transplants from umbilical cord blood. The condition causes progressive brain and organ damage resulting in death by the age of six. However, according to a new study, cord blood transplants are more successful in treating the condition than adult bone marrow cells. Dr Joanne Kurtzberg, director of the Paediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Duke Cancer Center who wrote the paper found that cord blood transplants appear to repair more damage than adult bone marrow cells and do not need to be a perfect match because they are less mature. [Medical News Today, 6 May ] This is further evidence of the benefits achievable with stem cells obtained ethically from newborn babies, rather than by destroying human embryos. Fitting babies who have been starved of oxygen with a water-cooled cap significantly reduces the risk of severe disability and death, BBC reports. The international team of researchers involved in the trials came from New Zealand, the UK and Seattle, and the study involved 234 babies from around the world. Among the babies who were given the cooling treatment there was a significant reduction in disability and death, with cerebral palsy levels cut by half. However, the 20% of most severely affected babies showed no improvement. [BBC, 5 May ]

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