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Defending life
from conception to natural death


27 September 2004

27 September 2004

27 September 2004 Scientists have created 'biological' pacemakers using human embryonic stem cells, the Independent reports. Researchers from Israel and the US grew the embryonic stem cells and coaxed them into becoming heart muscle cells, which were then injected into the hearts of pigs. However, before any serious attempt is made to put the research to clinical use, a number of obstacles need to be overcome such as ensuring that the new cells do not develop into tumours. [The Independent, 27 September ] A study published today in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth has claimed that policies in Canada to reduce the incidence of spina bifida by fortifying certain foodstuffs with folic acid have proven successful. In the province of Newfoundland, the proportion of babies born with neural tube anomalies dropped by 78% after the Canadian government introduced a policy of having folic acid added to flour, cornmeal and pasta. [Medical News Today, 27 September ] However, it should be noted that the study does not appear to report the numbers of babies with neural tube anomalies that were aborted before birth. [SPUC source] A Liberal Democrat local councillor has advocated implementing a global one-child policy, including forced abortion and sterilisation, claiming that the world's resources are running out. Owen Dumpleton's views were dismissed as 'eccentric' by Clare Philipson of Wearside Women in Need, who drew attention to the gender imbalance caused by China's one-child policy, Europe's rapidly dropping population and the need for children in the developing world to support rural communities. [Sunderland Today, 24 September ] Leading scientists have questioned whether a woman who gave birth to a baby girl after an ovarian transplant may in fact have regained her fertility naturally. Ouarda Touriat had ovarian tissue removed before beginning chemotherapy and had it transplanted seven years later. Her menstrual cycle resumed as normal and she gave birth after natural conception last week. However, Kutluk Oktay, a fertility specialist from Cornell University in New York, pointed out that Mme Touirat had ovulated three times prior to the transplant and that the risk of sterility associated with the cancer treatment she received is between 12 and 47%. Dr Oktay said: "We think there's no reason it can't be done, and it is very possible that this has worked, but we need more evidence to prove that it has." [The Times of London, 25 September ] Cells derived from umbilical cord blood can be used to reduce significantly the damage caused by stroke, according to researchers from the Medical College of Georgia and University of South Florida. The team administered the drug mannitol to breach the blood-brain barrier in an animal model then delivered the stem cells intravenously, causing the size of the stroke to decrease by 40%. [Medical News Today, 25 September ] Pro-abortion campaigners gathering in London for a conference this week are to claim that the government is reluctant to permit chemical abortions to be performed at home because of pressure from the pro-life lobby. Abortion specialists are pushing for women to be allowed to take the RU-486 abortion drug at home without medical supervision rather than at an abortion facility. [The Observer, 26 September ] A spokeswoman for SPUC commented: "The British Pregnancy Advisory Service claimed in a press release last month that women prefer RU-486 because 'they find it a more "private" and "natural" experience.' Perhaps BPAS could explain what is so 'natural' about taking a powerful and potentially dangerous drug that disturbs a woman's physiology and kills an unborn child? It is regrettable to see campaigners who claim to be 'pro-woman' pushing a DIY abortion drug that will leave women to deal with the physical and emotional consequences alone." [SPUC source] A pro-life campaigner from the Channel Islands has called on Peter Roffey, the Health Minister who wrote a minority report in support of voluntary euthanasia, to reconsider his position. Cindy Kennedy of Channel Islands Right to Life said: "The minority report is fundamentally flawed and if Deputy Roffey truly believes what he writes, that life should not always be regarded as sacred, he should question whether or not he should be head of the Health and Social Services Department." [The Guernsey Press, 27 September] A study released by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the US claims that teenagers who make abstinence pledges are less likely to be sexually active whilst at school or to engage in risky sexual activity. They are also less than half as likely to experience pregnancy as those who do not make a pledge and have half the number of sexual partners on average. Differences in behaviour were found to be similar even when race, socioeconomic background and religion were factored in. [The Heritage Foundation, 21 September ] Four leading academics have warned that legalising euthanasia would be a 'slippery slope' through which 'purposeful killing would be a professional option'. In a letter to The Times of London, professors John Haldane, John Finnis, John Keown and Alasdair Macintyre exposed the flaws in the pro-euthanasia argument, reminding readers that patients could have their pain and distress eased without the necessity of being killed. [The Times of London, 27 September ] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's political secretary commented: "Although Lord Joffe's Bill currently only applies to persons deemed to possess mental capacity, many who support the Bill also support the killing of persons without mental capacity, which would be permitted under the government's Mental Capacity Bill. All the dark dreams of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society would become reality if these two Bills were passed together, and therefore the pro-life movement is facing its greatest challenge since the passage of the 1967 Abortion Act." [SPUC source] Researchers at Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts have taken stem cells from human embryos created at Harvard University and coaxed them to form retinal cells. Dr Robert Lanza, Advanced Cell Technology's scientific director, said that the cells could eventually be used to treat some forms of blindness and could form one of the first embryonic stem cell therapies. Dr Lanza attacked President Bush for his pro-life stance on embryo research, stating: "If there's no money there is no research that can happen." [Reuters, 23 September ] The Pontifical Council for Health Care has announced plans for an international conference on palliative care for the terminally ill to take place in Rome on November 11-13. The conference will examine the Christian understanding of suffering, pain control and the pastoral, spiritual and psychological needs of patients facing death. [, 24 September ] A New Hampshire pharmacist has been criticised for refusing to fill a prescription for the morning after pill on moral grounds. Todd Sklencar of the Brooks pharmacy in Laconia, allegedly told Suzanne Richards that he opposed dispensing a pill that could end the life of an unborn child. Gene Rudd of the Christian Medical Association says that 45 states have conscience clauses for doctors and that they would like to see protection extended to pharmacists, as is the case in Illinois and South Dakota. [, 27 September ] A bioethicist has expressed concern over the Florida Supreme Court's decision to strike down the law keeping Terri Schiavo alive, Zenit reports. Father Gonzalo Miranda, dean of the Faculty of Bioethics of Rome's Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, said of the ruling: "It is very sad and worrying that a defenseless person's death can be caused by a technical problem and that the juridical system is unable to protect Terri Schiavo's life." He added: "Assuming that the ruling is technically correct, I think that the position presented by Judge Barbara Parente is gravely inexact: the problem does not lie in choosing between 'emotions and rules' but between defence of a human life and the rules." [Zenit, 24 September ]

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