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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 8 September 2004

8 September 2004

8 September 2004 Leading figures in UK bioethics have added their voices to the growing protests against the Mental Capacity Bill. Dr Helen Watt of the Linacre Centre was joined by Dr Nigel Cameron of the Centre for Bioethics and Public Policy and Dr David Jones, senior lecturer in bioethics at St Mary's University College, Surrey, in warning about the dangers posed by the Bill to incapacitated patients. [The Guardian, 7 September ] A letter to the Times by the author of Professional Ethics: the Consultant Professions and their Code, has described the Mental Capacity Bill as 'dangerous', stating that 'it is one more blow at the ethics and autonomy of the medical profession'. Francis Bennion points out that it is impossible for a person to tell what their circumstances would be like in the future or to know what decision they would take. Laurence Oates, the Official Solicitor whose role is to provide legal representation for the mentally incapacitated, stated that if the Bill were to be amended to meet pro-life concerns, it would deprive the new Court of Protection of any jurisdiction to deal with end-of-life issues. [The Times of London, 8 September ] Britain's Royal College of Nursing has rejected the legalisation of assisted suicide and active voluntary euthanasia. The College said that a consultation of its members had received an "overwhelming response" opposing Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Bill and "reaffirm[ing] the core principles which lie at the heart of nursing: valuing life and ensuring patients are well cared for." The College said that Lord Joffe's Bill "normalises the concept that some lives are not worth living which is contrary to a core nursing belief in the intrinsic value of life." [Royal College of Nursing press release, 6 September ] The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and the Church of England House of Bishops have issued a joint statement to the House of Lords select committee on Lord Joffe's Bill. They condemn the Bill as 'misguided' and 'unnecessary', warning that such a law "would fundamentally undermine the basis of law and medicine and undermine the duty of the state to care for vulnerable people." In a covering letter, Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, stated: "We believe very strongly that respect for human life at all its stages is the foundation of a civilised society, and that the long term consequences of any change in the law to allow euthanasia in limited circumstances would be immensely grave." [Catholic Bishops Conferences of England and Wales , 6 September] The vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life has condemned proposals to allow euthanasia for children under 12 in the Netherlands. Bishop Elio Sgreccia described reports about the proposed policy as 'profoundly disturbing', criticising an approach to medicine more concerned with economics than welfare. Dutch law currently allows euthanasia for adults and for teenagers who make a written request with their parents consent. [Cathnews, 7 September ] Lord Steel, the author of Britain's 1967 Abortion Act, has again repeated his call for abortion on demand to legalised in early pregnancy. Speaking on BBC Newnight, Britain's main current affairs television programme, Lord Steel claimed that the current law should be extended so as to encourage women to have abortions as early as possible in pregnancy. [BBC Newsnight, 7 September Real Player video ] Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented: "Lord Steel promoted unsuccessfully precisely the same liberalising proposals in 1990 and he is exploiting the current media coverage to tidy up his unfinished business on abortion." A couple from Northern Ireland have been granted permission to create a designer baby for their sick son. Joe and Julie Fletcher's son has Diamond Blackfan Anaemia, a blood disorder that requires regular blood transfusions and iron treatment. A number of embryos will be created via IVF in the hope of generating one who will a suitable tissue donor. [The Scotsman, 7 September ] An Italian boy suffering from the blood disorder thalassemia has been cured by a new type of stem cell therapy, using cells from the placenta of his newborn twin brothers. The operation was carried out at San Matteo clinic in Pavia. [Reuters, 6 September ] A Portuguese court has upheld a government decision to refuse an abortion boat permission to dock at any Portuguese port. The Coimbra court added, however, that the boat's crew were free to come to Portugal and engage in debate on abortion. Rebecca Gomperts, the founder of the Women on Waves Foundation, stated: "The law has forgotten Portuguese women, who are treated like criminals, humiliated and who are forced to put their life and health at risk when we can offer them a sure and dignified alternative." [, 8 September ] A spokeswoman for SPUC commented: "Dr Gomperts's floating backstreet abortion parlour is not remotely interested in women's health. It exists to capture headlines and destroy unborn lives. Since when did doling out abortion drugs on a converted tugboat constitute a 'dignified alternative' for women facing a crisis pregnancy?" [SPUC source] A Chinese man has been granted asylum in the US after his wife was forced to abort their first child because they had married under the legal age for marriage in China. Three years later, Xiao Lan Zheng and his wife Xiu Qin Wen had another child and officials demanded that Wen undergo sterilisation in accordance with the one-child policy. [Catholic World News, 6 September ] A white Italian woman who gave birth to black twins is demanding compensation from the IVF clinic concerned. Dr Annibale Volpe of the public hospital in Modena, Italy, where the error occurred was quoted as saying: "Clearly a dirty pipette which had already been used was not thrown away. We used it a second time and there must have been a few sperm left behind by the previous couple." Fertility experts urged understanding, saying that human error is an inevitable but small part of such a procedure. [The Guardian, 7 September ] A BBC survey entitled Healthy Britain has claimed that the majority of UK adults would like to see under-16s discouraged from having sex and would like to restrict the use of sexual imagery in children's magazines and television. However, the majority also supported more sex education in the classroom and government funding of free condoms. [BBC, 7 September ] A film about a back street abortionist in the fifties has been screened at the Venice Film Festival. Mike Leigh, the film director behind Vera Drake, claims it was not his intention to 'draw simple black and white conclusions' about abortion but made statements at a press conference such as: "The issue of abortion is, and always has been, a major one - no less now than at any time because the world gets no bigger but the population is ever growing" and "Before the law was changed in 1967 there was a legal (sic) way that anybody with money could solve the problem. It's as simple as that." [The Telegraph, 7 September ]

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